China life is amazing. There are so many benefits from taking an internship in one of the major cities. Life is fun, exciting, new and surreal. But that doesn’t mean of course, that you should not be vigilant. Like everywhere on Earth, there are things to be careful of and avoid. Whilst life in China is safe and violent crime is rarer than many western countries, unsuspecting foreigners often fall victim to what is known as “China Scams” in major cities. Whereby certain locals utilize deceptive or dubious means to “consensually” take your hard earned cash. Anyone going to live in a major Chinese city must be aware of these scams and the tactics they use. If you can learn to be streetwise in China towards these things, then there’s very little to trouble you. So, what do you look out for?
Being wary of strangers: Random people soliciting you on the street
Chinese people are very friendly to foreigners and you will find that many will be open to talking with you, even more so if you learn Chinese! However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be skeptical. Scams in China normally start out with people who randomly approach you on the street, specifically the biggest and most popular areas of a city prone to attracting tourists. Sometimes it is more than obvious, such as a man trying to sell fake watches or other counterfeit goods; but other scams can be more subtle, with someone approaching you in an overtly friendly and enthusiastic manner. It is not unusual to be suddenly approached by a young, pretty woman with good English skills, who will attempt to invite you to “a local Tea place”or “a KTC bar”. These two, the KTC or “tea ceremony scam” are well established scams in the biggest Chinese cities, which can result in the unsuspecting foreigner being coerced by thugs up up to 7000 RMB.
But that is not all, there are other things to look out for too. When arriving in a Chinese airport, you might be approached in the arrivals hall by men offering you a Taxi. These “Black taxis” are unlicensed and cost a fortune. Only get an airport taxi out of an established, staff regulated airport que. Also be wary of so called “monks” who will try and bless you for extortionate prices. The simple solution to all these China scams listed above? Just dismiss it and say no, utilizing the solid and abrupt Chinese saying “wo bu yao” (我不要) and stay on your way.
Secondly, going shopping? Know your stuff.
China has rich opportunities for shopping, not least in the major cities. Sprawling shopping centres, designer stores and markets are everywhere; but there is also a caution that must be applied to a foreigner shopping in China. Some merchants see a potential foreign customer and immediately up their prices, you need to be ready for it, as well as the enduring trap of counterfeit or faulty goods. If you plan to shop outside of the most famous, verified and well known stores and brands, then you need to have a firm knowledge of the product what you’re looking for, what local prices typically are and set limits on what you’re willing to pay. This applies even to the most simple and regular items such as fruit. One individual in Shanghai once ended up paying 20 RMB for a single banana from a street stall, a clearly inflated price even beyond western prices! In more unofficial outlets, be prepared to negotiate and hold your own against the sellers to avoid these forms of China scams. Getting past this pitfall, shopping in China becomes an enjoyable and beneficial experience!
Watch out for organised begging
Incredibly common in Chinese urban areas are a large number of beggars who tend to congregate around major sites such as Train and metro stations. Whilst some are genuine, many of them have a number of “patterns” to their appearance and behaviour. This may include a missing arm or leg, or they perform unusual acts such as hitting their heads on the pavement to gain attention. Sometimes on the metro itself whilst in transit, these individuals may appear, or someone will come round (sometimes pushing a disabled child) asking for money. What is tragic is that many of them are not genuine beggars at all, but are utilized by criminal organisations in order to raise revenue in exchange for substance. Thus, yet another variety of China scams. Sometimes the wounds of these people were deliberately given for this purpose. With networks of organised “begging”, these people are actually making far more money than someone with an actual salary, the victim doesn’t get a penny of it. Therefore, Don’t give to the beggars, as it isn’t really an act of compassion.
Conclusion: Have Common sense!
Life in China is a rewarding and exciting experience, but like everyone in the world it requires common sense. Crime, trouble and unexpected situations are capable of propping up anywhere on Earth, but through common sense, being careful, sceptical and being vigilant, you can always stay safe. Once you learn what to look out for in China, we at CGC promise you will love it and you won’t be “parted” from your money!