A sense of humour – Let’s face it, as tourists in China, Jez and I stuck out like sore thumbs. They knew it, we knew it and the best encounters we had were with people who accepted our mistakes and our apologetic smiles.
A sense of humour is also invaluable for your encounters with traffic. If at first you don’t see the funny side of the way the driver packed twelve people and their suitcases into a minivan with tetris-like precision, then I guarantee you will by the end of the ride.
An open mind – There are so many things that are done differently in China. Traffic and queues and food are just the surface. If you constantly compare things to ‘the way it’s done at home’ you will limit yourself and risk ruining your time overseas. What’s the point of traveling then? Go with the flow, observe and save your judgements for later.
An above-average skill for charades – If you don’t speak the language, draw from your dinner-party game repertoire and mime the heck out of what you need. If not, make sure you have a pen handy so you can draw or write numbers.
A thick skin – In general, don’t take things personally. There is lots of pushing and queue cutting in China. That’s just the way it goes. There is lots of horn beeping and cars not giving way to pedestrians in China. That’s just the way it goes. Shrug your shoulders and you’re on your way.
Tissues – Don’t leave home without them. You may find yourself in a squat toilet sans toilet paper and then there is trouble! Again, don’t leave home without them.