First of all we were told most people would speak English, this is very much not true in Jinan. Some of the students, yes, but most of the merchants do not. It typically ends up to you pointing and them holding up the fingers for how much. If it gets over 10 communication drops significantly. The convenience stores and grocery stores have labels on the shelves for how much and the mall most things are tagged but the street markets, which are the most fun and inexpensive, in my opinion, do not. However, many merchants have a mobile phone and will try to use a translator to help you order. Thank you translator apps for making the world a smaller and even more remarkable place!
If you want data you will need to get a plan with your carrier or have a phone that is UNLOCKED, which typically means not an iPhone, and buy a China sim card. As many of the students on this trip had iPhones they didn’t realize they couldn’t put in a sim card. So we all went in to buy routers for our dorm rooms, this required several hours and five different passports. This still doesn’t give you mobile data though and you still need to find WiFi hotspots. This was upsetting to a few of the students. We were told the campus would have WiFi. Then they changed it and said well there is only an international student coffee shop that has WiFi but if we brought an Ethernet cable we could have network in our rooms. Well there are no Ethernet plugs in our rooms and the coffee shop has been closed down. There is WiFi everywhere but you need a China phone number (read Sim Card) to access it. They have assured us that having the routers would allow us access to the WiFi’s in other areas but I am not sure how.
All I can say is be prepared to not have internet access, if you do great, if not you will be ready. Try to remember you are half way around the world trying to talk to someone via who knows how many cell towers and/or networks. We are so spoiled in America and it is sometimes difficult to have patience when we are used to technology at our fingertips.
Also, be prepared to try new things! Of course the food will be different! Try it! Of course the stores will be different! Why would you come if it was just like home?