If you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting the colorful, vast, and ever-changing country that is China, you know just how stark the everyday differences can seem to us Westerners. Yep, the most populous country in the world sure is a dreamy place full of contradictions and charm.

Now, if you don’t have plans to visit this part of the world in the future, we think you should get a closer view of the country—even if it’s just from your armchair. Here are 9 common things that are unremarkable to the Chinese, but are utterly amazing to us…

  1. Large vacant cities aka ‘ghost cities’

    Over the past several decades, the Chinese government has made plans to relocate some 300 million rural residents to large cities.

    To achieve this massive effort, hundreds of cities were built to serve as the new homes for the displaced people, but somewhere along the way, the plan ran into quite the roadblock—the cities were built, but the residents wouldn’t, or in some cases, couldn’t relocate. Because of this, hundreds of these new cities sit vacant to this very day.

    Photographer Kai Caemmerer documented these creepy empty towns in a highly-atmospheric photo series called “Unborn Cities.”

  2. Surgical masks galore

    According to the popular Chinese publication VISION TIMES, the Chinese have taken to wearing surgical masks on the street and even in the office for three main reasons: 1) to protect themselves from breathing in harmful pollution, 2) to stop the spread of illness, and 3) to look cool. Now that’s a fashion statement we could get behind!

  3. Air pollution so opaque it resembles fog

    It’s no secret that China has a serious problem when it comes to its lack of clean air. Over the past decade or so, the country has felt the pressure from other nations to clean up its act—but that doesn’t mean things are now as unpolluted as they should be.

    Let’s look at early January 2017, for example. In the first week of the new year, residents of Beijing suffered through one of their worst bouts of pollution they’ve ever experienced. The air quality index reached 482 out of a possible 500, putting the city in the deadly “maroon” category. Sad stuff!

  4. Proud pajama-wearers

    Believe it or not, some folks like to wear their pajamas out and about in China. This phenomenon started gaining traction in the mid-2000s and, like any new cultural trend, it annoyed a heck of a lot of people.

    In fact, special neighborhood committees were even formed with the express goal of reprimanding the nighty-wearing offenders.

  5. Counterfeit stores

    Sure, we have our own problem with counterfeit goods here in the U.S., but China has a whole different beast to deal with—counterfeit stores. Just check out the image above; that ain’t no genuine Apple Store!

  6. Water towns

    China is chock-full of ancient ‘water towns’—cities built into water features where residents use boats instead of cars. For the most part, the architecture in these towns has stayed the same for several centuries. How cool!

  7. Week-long traffic jams

    Well, to be more precise, two-week-long traffic jams! China has a HUGE problem with its highway systems, particularly when it comes to crowd control during rush hour.

    In 2010, thousands of unlucky motorists became stuck in one of these epic examples of gridlock for close to 2 weeks, with cars only making about 1 km of progress each day. And you thought your commute was bad!

  8. Rented mates

    Like anywhere else in the world, young people in China feel pressure when it comes to finding a mate and settling down. That said, Chinese parents are known to be particularly hard on their adult kids if they’ve yet to secure a husband or wife by a certain age.

    To ease the burden, some young people choose to ‘rent’ a fake boyfriend or girlfriend to bring home to—and hopefully appease—their nettling folks. Hey, it might not be a permanent solution, but it works.

  9. Sharks and bushmeat at local Walmarts

    China sharktt.mop via Brightside

    Did you know that you can buy some pretty weird stuff, like shark meat and African crocodiles at some Walmarts in China? Apparently, the Chinese consider these meats to be delicacies. No kidding!

If this list doesn’t make you want to see this part of the world, we don’t know what will! We can’t wait to hear your take on this list. Have you ever spent time in China before? If so, how was your experience? What is the most interesting country you’ve ever visited?