Depending on your area of travel, there may not be an English-speaking person available to translate or capable of understanding you. In larger cities or near a university, you may find a number of volunteers eager to practice their English by speaking with you or offering assistance. Be wary, as some offers of help are made by people on the lookout for tourists and travelers, hoping to direct them to specific hotels, shops and restaurants. In some cases, they can be quite aggressive and insistent.
Chinese is a complex language, depending largely on pronunciation to differentiate among very similar words. Simply knowing the pinyin version of the language (the written pronunciation of characters) is not enough to ensure you will be understood when attempting to pronounce even common words.
While Mandarin is the most widespread form of the language, it is only one dialect of many. Do not expect to enter an area and have the ability to read the signs or to communicate if you do not have several years of intensive experience with the language.
Expect a more formal, conservative atmosphere for the most part, concerning both manner of dress and behavior. Travel agency tours may involve special events which require formal attire, so check before your departure to ensure you understand the requirements of your itinerary. Festivals are often formal dress occasions. If you visit a family home, make sure that your clothes are modest and not overly revealing.
Expect to be pushed to spend money, to browse and purchase souvenirs. While this occurs most baldly around tourist attractions, there are also high pressure salespeople found somewhat unexpectedly in more remote locations. Try to be understanding when possible, as some of those hoping to sell you trinkets are impoverished people trying to make enough money to meet basic needs.
Beggars are frequent and insistent in some areas. You may witness harsh scenes, especially in areas where tourism is common. Very young and very severely disabled people are often prominent beggars. The sight of their situation can be overwhelming and emotional. Giving to some can bring an even greater crowd to your area and may create a dangerous situation for you and for the people you are trying to help.