For most of us, coming to live in China was a gamble. For those who returned home after a few months or even a year, it may not have been a paying one. But for the rest of us, still here in the Middle Kingdom, there's something holding us back from packing our bags and leaving. Sometimes we're not even quite sure what. What we do know, however, is that we wrestled something good out of our gamble. And having done that gives us even more of a reason to reflect on life here. Here are five question posted by fellow expats on living in China, and five of the most interesting answers.
I think copying is the worst habit I have picked up. I don't mean copying intellectual property, because that isn't classified as a bad habit here. I mean copying people's cultural differences, which is just downright rude.
If someone shows me the courtesy of staring at me, I stare back, but not with courtesy. I feel bad about that afterward. The same when I stare into their shopping baskets at the supermarket. I also feel bad about that later, but just can't help it.
If they push me, to acknowledge my presence and show closeness towards me, I tend to push back, forgetting I am bigger, and often causing surprised little grunts as they bounce backwards. That makes me feel ashamed.
If they cough or sneeze in my face, to show respect (like the Europeans kissing the facial cheeks), I automatically return the greeting. I forget that they don't expect it in return from a foreigner, and appreciate that they scamper away quickly so both of us can avoid embarrassment.
So far, I have not been tempted to copy the 5,000 year old traditions of spitting, urinating and defecating in public, as I realize that some things are just too sacred to copy.
- Road rage down (because I don't drive here)
- Patience up (because you just have to be patient in China)
- Apathy levels down at the beginning (because there're so many poor people here). Apathy levels are higher now because I'm told that nothing that happens in China is my business, and it's true. So, not my problem.
- Disgust with humanity up (because some people will do absolutely anything for money)
- Faith in the institution of marriage down. First marriage fell apart due to being perceived as an ATM AND a philanderer, second marriage is a lot of pressure thanks to a "talks the talk but can't walk the walk" Chinese mother-in-law.
Life IS like a box of chocolates - no matter what you get, it's going to make you feel good for a short time, then you'll crash. You'll get fat. Total strangers get to decide what's in your box and it's not always pleasant.
Definitely communication. Just being in an elevator full of fellow residents of your apartment block, all chatting away and you not understanding any of what they are saying can have a negative impact. Going to the bank, getting a haircut, shopping for good meat, shopping in general, grabbing a taxi, chatting in a restaurant, tossing a bit of road rage at Chinese drivers (and I use the term driver loosely), all these normal, everyday things that you do involve communication. You gotta learn the language! Simple.
The rest of the stuff is tolerable and some quite enjoyable.
Question 4: What do you LOVE most about life in China?
The best part of China is walking around late at night down those cold and quiet streets that were once bustling with activity. Changing your normal route to find yourself suddenly in the local wet market with tons of awesome food and everyone laughing and drinking happily. Seeing the people who look at you with confusion and fear at first, but when you speak some Chinese to them… they light up like a Christmas tree with happiness.
I think the part of China I love the most is the absolutely random illogical chaos that I never knew existed. It is both frustrating and stressful but very fascinating. It's also the innocence and sort of childish manner some of the rural folk have. Very humbling.
Question 5: Do you ever regret coming to live in China?
Pogger 34's answer:
I really enjoy China a lot. I know there's a lot of ignorance and discrimination (I've experienced it first-hand, and it doesn't feel good at all), but I have more fun there then I've ever had in my life. I love learning the language and culture, meeting new people, making friends, eating the food, and exploring! I learn something new every day, and I'm really happy there.
Although I've experienced some pretty horrible things and have had my heart broken, I refuse to give up. There are times when I regret meeting certain people, or regret behaving badly (we all have our moments... right?), but in general it's been a pretty positive experience.
I've seen nearly 300 cities worldwide, and nothing really grabs my attention like China does.
Some of you may think I'm being overly optimistic, but I really feel that China will soon improve. It's my dream to open or work in a school that helps disabled people of ALL ages attain a western-level education. Not only do I want them to learn how to read and write their own language, but I also want to help them learn mine. I used to think it wasn't my job to try and change China, but there are ways I can do this without getting involved in politics. This is one of them.
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Keywords: living in China bad habits in China expat life in China great things about China how China changes us
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