When I first made the decision to move to China, I knew that things would be different - the culture, the food, the people, to name but a few. However, I wasn’t fully prepared for the impact that living in China would have on my habits, behaviors and general outlook on life. Whether you’re here for three months or three years, here are four ways I think living in China will change you.
Photo: Kristoffer Trolle
It happened without me consciously thinking about it, but many of the airs and graces that were so ingrained in me are no longer part of my repertoire.
Even though there’s technically a Chinese word for “please”, how many of us actually use it? When in a Chinese restaurant, do you timidly wait for the waiter to come to your table or wave and yell “fúyuán” (waiter) louder than you would ever dare back home? Do you apologise to every person you bump into during rush hour on the subway?
All of these are by Western standards “bad habits”, but after a few months in China they’ll likely become second nature.
“Patience is a virtue” was something people always used to tell me as a child. I used to think, “Okay, it’s a virtue, but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish these people in front of me would hurry up!” Life tests our patience, but China takes it to the next level.
Whether you’re trying to understand a Chinese speaker who refuses to slow down, waiting in a line whose rules don’t seem to apply to anyone else, or attempting to navigate a Chinese hospital, your patience will be put to the test. In moments like these, it’s common to feel frustrated, stressed or even angry, but ultimately you’ll emerge from China with way more patience.
Maybe we just get used to things not going as planned, or maybe we realise there’s no point in feeling stressed. Whatever the reason, after some time spent living in China, don’t be surprised if you find yourself telling impatient children that “patience is a virtue”.
Most foreigners in China have to do a dreaded visa-run at some point. Popular choices include South Korea, Mongolia and Hong Kong. It was when I first set foot in Mongolia on one such visa run that I thought to myself, “I can’t believe I’m here”.
Living in China offers the perfect opportunity and a great base from which to easily explore the world’s biggest continent. After doing so, you will no doubt have a new appreciation for how big and unique this world truly is.
Many China expats make their way to Southeast Asia during the public holidays and notch up quite a few other Asian countries over the years. You’ll ultimately leave China with a good base knowledge about the countries you’ve visited and an increased curiosity about those you haven’t.
It’s inevitable that by living in a country, you’ll understand its culture and and its people better. Whether you loved your experience in China or not, you’ll walk away respecting and understanding it better.
Maybe it’s the culture, the people’s work-ethic or the fact that the Beijing subway runs up to 18 million journeys a day, putting London and New York to shame. Whatever your reasons, your respect for China will grow.
In the end, the subtle and not-so-subtle ways China changse you will depend on who you are, where you’re from, how long you’re here and the experiences you have. Rest assured, however, that changes there will be.
Let us know in the comments below how living in China has changed, affected or shifted your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.
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Keywords: living in China
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They can plan to take over all of Asia and do 5 year plans, but can't tell me the last day of school far enough in advance to buy a plane ticket. Many holiday schedules change at the last minute resulting in many foreigners not traveling and spending money in China and just typing on a computer in concrete box like I am doing right now. I had a better perception of China when I never came here, but after living here for 8 years, I can't even brag about the food back home anymore, the good news is I am not afraid of death and hell, because I already live there.
Jul 07, 2018 08:35 Report Abuse
I have noticed that, often, many schools don't offer much in the way of holidays. It's not much in the way of a base to explore the world if you only have 5 days holiday and a few public holidays. This probably adds to the teacher drought.
Jul 07, 2018 00:11 Report Abuse