The interplay between Pedestrians, Drivers, Cyclists here is like a dangerous crazy-ass ballet. It is based around the same precepts as queuing and perambulating on a busy sidewalk. Fill any unused space, DO NOT make eye contact, act like you own the place and yield to greater numbers.
Only a couple of days ago (after having to jump quickly out of the way of a taxi) did I realize that there are no stop signs. Head towards the intersection at full speed, slow if there is something bigger, merge right in, any lane will do. Pedestrians dive, bicycles dodge, horns honk, and weirdly, I have seen only one accident. Morag has seen one between two scooters and a cyclist, the one I saw was just a single vehicle (black Mazda Five with Roof Rack - Nicci, are you following me?) that managed to get itself rammed up on a median. Morag and I try to cross with a group of locals, if you follow their lead it is comforting. I was busy looking at a map yesterday and when I looked up Morag and the gang were already halfway through a multi-lane havoc-full crossing. I had to make the journey by myself, and I didn't like it. Cars seem to left and right turn on red lights, scooters can ignore any red light, and even if the little green man is flashing for you to cross, cars have the right of way and you have to be prepared to move out of the way fast. I am not saying it is bad driving - everybody seems to follow the same rules and know what is going on, it is just really foreign to me.
A lot of people smoke here. No smoking signs seem to mean - Keep it to a minimum. The slow train had plenty of no-smoking signs, but as long as the smokers kept out by the bathrooms, where there wasn't a no-smoking sign they figured they were safe. 8 people smoking in a 75cm x 200 cm space can really fill up a train car with smokey goodness, fast.
There isn't as much horking, honking, snorting and spitting as I had been led to believe (oh there is plenty, trust me, but not the levels I expected).
Green vegetables get cooked to within an inch of their lives (at least at every restaurant we have been to.) Also, green vegetables seem to come from the Green Vegetable fairy, and not the supermarket. Every supermarket we have visited is about 98% packaged food. One or two has a few wilted veggies, but nothing like the produce aisle at home. Yesterday, walking down a tiny side-street in the French Quarter we happened upon a little veggie market, and the produce was healthy looking, vibrant, plentiful and weirdly clean (the carrots looked ready to go into surgery), but this one market in Shanghai can't be feeding everybody, where is it all.
Tofu isn't a vegetarian threat to meat eaters here like at home. Tofu is a wonderful squishy addition to most any meal you get. Sadly, for us vegetarians it is usually cooked with some form of meat. We were on our tour of the Terra Cotta Warriors and Zsa Zsa our guide was busy being aghast about our vegetarianism, literally shuddering at the idea of giving up meat, and I said "but you eat tofu", she looked at me like I was an idiot and said "yes, tofu is delicious". So different than at home.
Sweets aren't very sweet here. Mildly sweet, usually bean filled or seed filled, and chewy or flakey, but not North American High-Fructose Corn Syrup Super Sweet. The only chocolate bars I see regularly (except in the lah-dee-dah richie-rich grocery stores) are Snickers, M&M Peanuts and various Dove things.
Ramen Instant Noodles are the food of choice for travelers. Every train and bus station I have been to has big piles of instant spicy noodles in cardboard buckets. All different flavors (how many types of meat can you dehydrate? All of them!), and colours and seemingly eaten by everybody.
People prefer hot water to cold water. Every hostel we have been to has a hot water dispenser, only one has had a water cooler. It is good to have plenty of hot water dispensers, you never know when you want to eat some Ramen.