Note, Most people that approach you in China are being friendly and are not trying to scam you. However, if you are at a typical tourist place, there is a small chance that someone will try to take advantage of you, like everywhere else in the world.

My husband almost fell for the Tea House Scam. He was walking alone along the Bund in Shanghai when he was approached by a young man. The guy asked my husband if he could take his photo with his own phone. My husband of course said yes and the guy gave him his phone and posed as a tourist with the Shanghai Skyline in the background. He thanked my husband and started a Smalltalk. Asked where my husband was from and so on. He said that himself was from a Chinese Town somewhere in the middle of China and this was the first time that he was in Shanghai. It was the first time he met a foreigner and he was so excited about it. He said he was on his way to a Tea House to drink tea and proposed to celebrate this awesome event and go to the Tea House together. My husband said no, he was hurrying back to the hotel. The guy wouldn’t take no for an answer and begged my husband to come with, it would only take 10 minutes. My husband thought, 10 minutes is not so bad, this looks like a nice guy. Then the guy said follow me, the Tea House is close by. At this moment, my husband thought of 3 things:

  1. Don’t follow a stranger to an unknown place
  2. Strange that this guy, who has never been anywhere away from his hometown and never met a foreigner, can speak so good English. In China is hard to find a person who can speak English at all.
  3. Strange that this guy is so eager to drag him to a Tea House.

My Husband then said no, he is sorry, can’t go, his family is waiting for him.

The guy reacted upset and angry and then left in a hurry. He didn’t leave in direction to the Tea House. He continued along the Bund. His reaction was a confirmation that something fishy was going on.

Amazing Shanghai Pudong

The Tea House Scam is like this:

A friendly young Chinese Student, often a pretty girl, approaches you, asks you to take his/her photo, starts a friendly Smalltalk which leads to an invitation to a Tea House to something like a Tea Festival or Ceremony. This is most probably not a normal tea house and you will receive a horrendous bill for the tea. At this point it is hard to get out of the situation without paying a lot of money.

I think the probability of something like this is higher if you are alone. If you are in a group or with your family this doesn’t happen. We have often been approached by friendly Chinese people and it has never been any scam. They are surprised to see a family with 5 children. That hardly exist in China. For many years there was a rule of max 1 child per family. Now families are allowed to have 2 children. People always want to take photos of us. China is one of the safest countries in the world. You don’t have to worry about violence crimes.