This year, the Nicholson holiday was to visit me in Beijing. My parents flew over from the UK after my move 7 months ago.
*I do also have a younger sister, but she didn’t come. I didn’t go with them to Sri Lanka a few years ago, so it was my turn!
It’s funny to admit that I was excited and nervous all at the same time. Ringing my friend on the morning of the arrival because I needed girl approval that I looked nice and smart! To which I had a lovely reply:
“It’s your parents, not the Dalai Lama.”
Spending so much time without my family made me realise just how much I missed them, and I definitely knew my Mum missed my by the death grip she held around my neck and she lunged, hugged and sobbed at first sight!
We had a fantastic week and I loved getting to be a tourist in Beijing. I have realised a few things that we really good to prepare, or maybe I should’ve accounted for..
1. Welcome Gift Bags
Before my parents arrived, I went to a few local stores and picked up a few things that I though were necessities or cute to give to my parents when they got here. For China, there are definitely some mandatory items. In the gift bags, I put in:
- Selfie sticks
- Glass Tea/Water Bottle
- Subway Map
- Baijjiu (Chinese liquor)
- Dried Meat Snack
- Pocky – chocolate coated biscuit snack
- Pollution Masks
The other things I should’ve added in ways Tissues and Hand Sanitiser, as my mum stocked up on those every minute she got!
2. Take It Easy At First
I wanted to hit the ground running and do some sightseeing ASAP, because they arrived at 11am and we could’ve done something in the afternoon. However, I didn’t think about the time difference and the jet lag (because I’m a wonderful daughter, obviously…). The first day, we walked about the Hutongs and had coffee by a lake. We returned nearer the end of the holiday, and they don’t remember some of the places!
3. Prepare your parents on cultural differences
Before my parents arrived to China, I would often tell them about some of the differences between the UK and China that might be unsettling. For example, the toilets. They aren’t pleasant. You will find the usual western toilets in some restaurants and areas, but a lot of the time, you have no choice and have to squat to a hole in the floor. My mum was not impressed by this, but only because the hygiene of many toilets isn’t pleasant, you might not have a door and no available toilet paper.
Other aspects of China could include the fact they don’t queue, and often push to the front. We had this at the train station, where a girl pushed in front of us whilst we were talking to the English speaking kiosk (despite the next kiosk being free).
When they got here, they asked me about tipping, which was something that never crossed my mind. In England, it is common practice that we tip people who help us, such as taxi drivers, waiters or bell hops. In China, it is actually rude to offer a tip as it is implied that you believe they are poor or they are not valued by their employer. The only exception for this is if you have a tour guide, who may sometimes want a tip. Usually, many restaurants will apply a service charge to the bill instead.
4. Organise Transport
Pretty easy to explain. I sorted out transport from the airport and for some excursions to the Great Wall. At lot less stress, and meant we could nap after a long day of hiking!
5. Know the Language
I do speak SOME Chinese… It’s not great, but I try. I know enough to get by in shops, restaurants, taxis and cafes, but my parents kept pushing me to speak more and more which made me laugh, then I didn’t want to speak any because of the pressure!
Know a good few key phrases to keep them off your back!!
6. Don’t Take Them To Your Favorite Student Restaurant
By student restaurant, I mean cheap and close to where you live. For months, me and my friends go to this restaurant next to our uni because it’s reasonable and the food is good. Now, you’re wondering “Hayley, why would you take your parents there?” Well, my dear readers, it is because at this restaurant, at least once a week I eat this particular dish of green beans because it is so delicious and I always text pictures of it to my Mum. She said “We HAVE to eat there!” So, upon her request, I take her to this restaurant.
My parents made me notice things about China that I never realised, or have just pushed into the back on my mind and stopped caring. They soon informed me of how disgusting this restaurant was, and now I no longer want to eat there.
Plus, the beans weren’t good that day. Disappointing.
HOWEVER, I did take them to my favorite baozi restaurant, to which they were VERY impressed, so, you win some, you lose some.
7. “Mum, can you bring me this?”
I hit the jackpot on this one, I will say. I asked for a few things to be brought out, as I was missing a few special items and my parent’s went all out on this! I asked for a few things from home, like chocolate, biscuits, contact lenses, my cat…. Okay, I wasn’t allowed my cat, but everything else was just as good!
This was just the food! Branston pickle, jammie dodgers, giant bars of Dairy Milk, cereal, ravioli…. Yum!
Hope you enjoyed my thoughts about what to do when your parents visit. Have any other ideas? Let me know in the comments!