Scams are a huge concern in China, since there are countless Chinese businesses that exist to make money illegally through counterfeiting and deceit. Know that just about all supposedly brand-name items for sale in small shops or on the streets are not the real deal. Also assume that the first price a shop owner throws out is way above what he’s willing to sell the item for. Everybody bargains, so be prepared to do so. Take small bills with you when shopping, since having exact amounts helps. If you’re worried about not recognizing a scam, shop only in larger stores and malls where everything has a price tag and bargaining isn’t allowed. Be wary of people who approach you on the street. Many con artists offer one thing, such as a place for tea or a look at an art show, but then try to trick you out of your money.
Counterfeit money also is not uncommon–you’ll notice taxi drivers and shopkeepers will almost always scrutinize the money you hand them before accepting it. All the bills except the one yuan note have metal ribbons from top to bottom, a little left of center. These should be visible as a silver line on the front of a shadow when looked at from the back. Also, the flower design near the middle of each note and Chairman Mao’s jacket image are textured, so you should feel some slight bumpiness when running your finger over them.
Contrary to how Chinese are so often portrayed in martial arts films, they are actually a peaceful people, typically aggressive only in business dealings. The majority of people you meet will most likely be genuinely interested in getting to know you and even practicing their English with you. Don’t let stereotypes get in the way of enjoying the Chinese people and their country.
Despite some horrendous traffic in major cities, most travel around China is safe. Trains, buses and planes are as safe as anywhere else. Taxi drivers in big cities move fast and aggressively, but you can ask them to drive a bit slower (“Man yi dian,” in Mandarin). Wear the seat belt if there is one, but be sure to wipe it off before you stretch it across your white shirt. Otherwise, you might end up with a brown stain of dust from the rarely-used safety device.