5 Reasons I am back in China: Reverse Culture Shock is Real

5 Reasons I am back in China: Reverse Culture Shock is Real
Dec 16, 2015 By Cynthia Lopez , eChinacities.com

Every expat will eventually have to face the difficult decision of whether to stay abroad or return home. Last year I chose to return home. After I returned home, I realized home was not what it used to be, so I decided to return to China. And now, I feel more at home then I did in the States. Many expats will experience culture shock when they move to a foreign country. A number of expats will experience reverse culture shock when returning home. Here are a few reasons I returned to China:

Finding a job back home is not easy
The unemployment rate in the US has greatly improved since the global financial crisis of 2008, but getting a decent job has not gotten any easier. It can take months of two to five interviews, drug tests, reference checks, and background checks before an employer offers you a job. I tried finding a job with a job similar to the one I had back in China, but instead I had to settle for a lower position (after six months of not working) where I made only a few dollars over minimum wage, and endured a long and strenuous interview process. To top it off, my role wasn’t nearly as fulfilling or challenging as my previous job in China was. I felt stuck in my career and no longer growing professionally. Getting a decent job in the US can be arduous work, take an abundance of preparation, and in the end the job isn’t even guaranteed.

The cost of living is much cheaper in China
When you include tax, tip, and transportation costs (including the price of parking) into the cost of your meal, you could end up paying anywhere from $25 to $60 (160 RMB to 390 RMB) every time you eat at a nice restaurant in LA. There are plenty of fancy, expensive restaurants in China; however, tax and tip are usually not factors to consider when paying the bill.

Rent is another pricy expense in the US. San Francisco and New York City are infamous for being the priciest places to rent in America. Shanghai is one of the most expensive cities in Mainland China, but it’s much more affordable when compared to the most expensive cities in the US.

I hate driving
When I went back to Los Angeles, I knew driving was inevitable. I’ve been living abroad since 2009 and I occasionally drive when I visit home for the holidays, but this time I was home for a whole year and driving for an hour plus on the freeway while everyone was going outrageously fast was nerve-racking. Everyone in LA has a car and traffic is horrendous. Public transportation is not the best way to travel in the Los Angeles area, it can take hours to get from one place to another and it’s quite costly. Oh, and taxis in the US are ridiculously expensive and unaffordable for most residents. Although, thanks to Uber and Lyft cab prices have become more affordable, however, they are still not as cheap as taxis in China and not as readily available as they are in cities like Shanghai.

Guns are illegal in China
The number of mass shootings in the US has quickly escaladed in the recent years. The most recent mass shooting in California was close to home and affected people I am acquainted with. Worrying about gun safety is not a concern I have in China—guns are illegal in China. Due to America’s deeply embedded gun culture and the NRA’s influence, guns will probably never be illegal in the States. Sure China isn’t perfect, petty crime thrives in many tourist areas, but I’d rather have an iPhone stolen than get shot by a gun. It’s staggering to see that not much is being done to prevent these shootings. So as long as there’s no gun control in the US, I’m staying overseas.

No one else understands the expat life
I’ve changed a lot since I left home. My social norms are different, I don’t say excuse me while passing by someone and I’m not the cheerful, bubbly Californian I used to be. I’m no longer familiar with American pop culture or Justin Bieber’s latest song—to be frank, I don’t know any of his songs. I’m interested in what’s going on around the world or the political affairs between the US and China. My friends and family back home don’t understand what it’s like to live in a foreign country, to try ordering food in a foreign language, or to truly feel homesick.

These are just some of the reasons I decided to move to China, but maybe my move was because home is no longer home, and there’s a chance that it may never be home again. China, and living abroad in general has opened my world to a different way of living, where I don’t have to tip the person who brings me my food.

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Keywords: reverse culture shock return China


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Lot of negativity in this thread towards OP and the subject at hand. Nevertheless I'll add my 2 cents to this slightly dated topic. I'm in the same situation having returned from China after 14 months with a wellpaid, highly specialized job and find myself having fallen back into the same boring life I'd behind left last year. Of course there are many reasons for the boredom in my life back then, the slow job market as a result of the economical crisis in Europe being one. Definitely experiencing the reverse homesickness described and with my (Chinese) wife not having much prospects in Europe the decision was made to return to China soon. What I will do there I'm not sure about yet, maybe teach, look at business opportunities that I believe to be much more present than back "home" with all its crazy rules and taxing. Finally, it's rather short sighted to label everyone teaching English in China a "LBH" and even though I'm not ruling out a few may be just that I applaud them for taking that step into the unknown.

Oct 25, 2016 20:58 Report Abuse



Yes, returning to the US from China sucks, especially if you were there for a long time. It will probably take a long time to land a decent job (took me a year), and things will probably be a bit boring. The deciding factor for me to stick it out was the fact that I have no intention of staying in China forever, and that the transition back to the States is easier when doing it in your mid-20's than in your 30's or later. Employers seem to be a bit kinder to people who have been out of the US workforce for a short time - or have no experience at all - when they are younger. Teaching ESL for a few years looks decent on a resume, but it starts looking bad after that, unless you plan on a career doing it. Ideally, if you're looking to work in China in another capacity, I think it would be better to return home and get some new skills that employers really appreciate, then try and go back to China. That's what I'm trying to do now.

Jan 26, 2016 07:19 Report Abuse



I'm definitely with Cynthia on the employment opportunities in China and on the cost of living. I'm from the Bay Area where rent is ridiculously high. One other reason I want to live in China is the food.

Jan 18, 2016 08:43 Report Abuse



It seems like the writer picked up some nasty chinese mentalities before she left china. Out of the five reasons three have to do with money with the other two being driving and guns which sound more like excuses. Not once did she mention quality of living; internet cencorship, general traits of people living around you such as yelling into mobiles, defacating on streets, hostility against foreigners, and happiness index of the country.

Dec 22, 2015 11:38 Report Abuse



What "hostility against foreigners" are you talking about? I've been here for quite a while and people have treated me with respect.

Dec 23, 2015 11:48 Report Abuse



She is right about the hiring process back home. It took me a year to land a 50k job in the USA with 55 work hours a week, 30 percent of my income taxed automatically, then other fees like sales tax, tips, gasoline taxes, insurance, and $1000 crap apartment. In China I make around 35000, I have much more savings at the end of the month plus more vacation time and the extra money to actually see some new places. I think the writer makes a lot of sense.

Dec 21, 2015 19:58 Report Abuse



Guns? Really? Your chances are about 10000x higher of being run over by a manic Chinese truck or bus driver not looking both ways than getting within ear range of a mass shooting or gang land altercation. I'm calling shenangians!

Dec 19, 2015 23:26 Report Abuse



China will kick us all out in five years when all those uni students return. nothing to argue about then.

Dec 19, 2015 11:59 Report Abuse



I think they are going to try to do it faster. They are trying to put a greater emphasis on Chinese employees, especially what I have been reading about English and Engineering jobs. For English they are convinced still that Chinese will replace english as the global language and for engineering it goes back to "Chinese can do anything foreigners can, especially with our wonderful education style".

Dec 20, 2015 15:35 Report Abuse



yes make more in the states but cannot live without a car there but easily in china. after paying for the car and weekly if not twice a week to gas station at 60 to 80 dollars to fill the tank, depending on the every changing price. this will quickly eat up income. not many in the US live near work! someone may comment of cost of raising children high in china...not at all. clothes couldnt be cheaper and couldnt be more expensive in the US for even toddlers. Food so much cheaper here if you buy at the local markets, and always fresh. Health care in china is cheap, especially preventive medicine. MRI $200.usd with results and consultation the same day. Colonoscopy including sleeping during the process. 110USD. Heart sonogram 40USD with results and consultation...etc... USA is safe yes and generally boring. People only have work friends and few true friends in the states. China is like the USA was 100 years ago and throw in the latest technology. I traveled all over china and no one has ever told me to get off their land or questioned what was I doing around their houses or village as I ride my moto through. I gave up a house and high paying School District job with all kinds of health insurance etc.. to be in china and experience it all before it all changes in the near future. The food in the states has no flavor that's why so many people are overweight, trying to get satisfied by eating more. Crazy expensive. no one on their death bed ever says, "I wish I spent more time at the office, or I wish I made more money." Do what you love and the money will take care of itself!

Dec 17, 2015 22:13 Report Abuse



That's was a bad choice to give up a house and high paying job. You can't be in China forever.

Dec 17, 2015 22:32 Report Abuse



there are other jobs, and china will not be the same in five years. I can get money back but never the years. As for a house, its only a building. I can't be on planet earth forever either....he he

Dec 18, 2015 18:58 Report Abuse



Sounds like you are an LBH in China. You failed back home so you are looking to create a new identity in China. A building appreciates during time and you can rent out that building and get passive income. That was stupid of you to give up that house and a high paying job. Are you going to retire in China? It sounds like you are chasing a fantasy. You need to grow up.

Dec 23, 2015 11:44 Report Abuse



how could I be a loser back home if I had a house to sell and a job to give up???? and really, you even said I had a house and a high paying job. Furthermore, there are other investments than houses!!!

Dec 29, 2015 17:04 Report Abuse



You had a house in the ghettos and you were about to get laid off from your job. Most people who come to China are LBH!

Dec 29, 2015 17:29 Report Abuse



House on a golf course in California. You are a cry baby!!!

Jan 06, 2016 03:04 Report Abuse



I guess you can say anything you want on the internet. You don't have a house on a golf course, maybe a miniature golf course. LBH!!!!

Jan 06, 2016 15:59 Report Abuse



get some money from your mommy and bet me on it!!!! you are probably 15 years old anyway........

Jan 17, 2016 21:10 Report Abuse



Most of you foreigners in China are losers. You think you're the shit, you're just a piece!

Dec 17, 2015 13:49 Report Abuse



And Chinese males like you are real winners by and large.... Hokay there Mr. Wang

Dec 17, 2015 15:19 Report Abuse



Ignore the trolls...

Dec 17, 2015 20:49 Report Abuse



Unless you're a foreign executive from a fortune 500 company working in China, you're just a loser. dong1ben4ren2 - I see a lot of Chinese people in China driving luxury vehicles. I don't see any foreigners in China driving luxury vehicles. Most, if not all, use public transportation. Who are the winners? One of these thing is not like the other. Hooookay there ben4ren2!

Dec 17, 2015 22:36 Report Abuse



You can insult me in your own language, congrats. You seem to be trying to argue that Chinese are richer than foreigners in China, which simply isn't true. Even first year teachers with no qualifications or experience make at least double the average Chinese worker. You can call them losers for taking the bus but what does that make 90 percent of Chinese? Oh and in most parts of the world there are factors other than money to think about.

Dec 18, 2015 10:18 Report Abuse



I make enough to buy a car, but why would I when people here drive insane? I prefer to take subway or bus. The other problem is if I return home, how do I get the car back or do I just sell it. It's much more convenient for most to just use buses or subway compared to driving. Having a car here doesn't make you special, just means you bought a car. Most foreigners can afford a car, just most choose not to buy one.

Dec 20, 2015 15:32 Report Abuse



But he's on to something there, unless you are a foreign executive from a blue chip corporation, self-made businessperson or an in-demand salaried professional (by that I mean one who can travel to many different countries and command significant compensation like professional consultants, doctors, experienced engineers), then aren't we just sponging off of a cake where we're entitled to a few more crumbs than others, but still crumbs nonetheless? I wouldn't say that we're losers, but yeah, nothing to write home about. If you need to work to live, ensure that your bills are paid on time and maintain a semblance of a decent lifestyle, then are you not also working class? If you work for your money then there's not much that you can say to a supposed LBH, you're genuinely not very different from them. When your money works for you, now that, that is a different matter entirely.

Dec 20, 2015 23:27 Report Abuse