1. It’s the things you can’t predict that are the hardest to adapt to.
All your friends back home want to know how you cope with the squat toilets, not being able to read Chinese, and all of the strange foods (live turtles in the supermarket, anyone?), but mentally you were prepared for those challenges before you ever got onto the plane. What you didn’t know was that cultural challenges run deeper than that.
In China, school holiday dates are determined a few weeks before they begin (at best), so don’t even think about booking your plane tickets early. Weekly schedules will be given to you a day in advance and then changed halfway through. And don’t get me started on the pre-conceptions locals have about all ‘Westerners’ (“Why are you cold, foreigners are used to the cold!” “You are white; you can’t be from South Africa.”). Whether it’s the ever-shifting nature of plans, or the locals’ insistence that your cold / asthma / upset stomach was caused by drinking cold water instead of warm, it’s the things no one told you about that will irk you the most.