5 Things that Most Annoy Expats in China

5 Things that Most Annoy Expats in China
May 13, 2021 By Fred Dintenfass , eChinacities.com

Living in another country is a difficult, baffling, and sometimes maddening experience. All expats in China have suffered “Bad China Days”, those days where everything seems so complicated and confusing. I asked a diverse group of expats to share what they most disliked about living in China. Here are the results:

expats in China

The Pollution

Surprise, surprise! One of the things all of the China expats I spoke to agree on is that they hate the pollution. They hate the perennial haze, the hacking coughs and the need to run an air purifier at home pretty much 24/7. While China has come a long way in terms of air pollution over the past decade, the average AQI is still well above most Western countries, especially in the winter when coal is used to heat homes in rural areas.

The Traffic

Nobody loves the traffic in China’s busiest cities; the stretch buses, cars, mopeds, tricycles, scooters and bikes, all grinding together like honking rocks in a bag. The general inability of people to stay in lane and be patient sends foreigners who drive here crazy, as does the unfortunate human traffic custom of charging onto the subway car before anyone can get off.

Open Display of Bodily Functions

While it’s true that there are certain things the Chinese find gross about us, many expats in China have a hard time accepting the common sight of adults spitting on the street and children in split pants running rampant and doing their business where they please. No matter how long we stay here, it’s hard not to wince when an old dude walks past us and unapologetically lets a loud, wet fart rip from his padded PJs.

Unbridled Bureaucracy

“You told me yesterday to come back today and now you’re telling me to come back again tomorrow?” We’ve all been here in our attempts to manage life admin in China. Whether opening a bank account, renewing a visa or even just adopting a pet, expats in China have to jump through a whole lot of burning bureaucratic hoops to survive here. In many instances, bureaucratic inefficiency is also happily married with a complete lack of flexibility — a kind of “computer says no” mentality. The two together are indeed a Kafkaesque joy to behold.

Indirect Communication 

Chinese people are known for having a whole lot of round-about ways to say “no” or “I don’t know”, particularly in a workplace setting where everyone wants to appear informed and willing. Often in an effort to “save face”, you’ll find yourself given questionable or completely wrong information, just because the person you asked doesn’t want to admit they can’t help. This can lead to countless misunderstandings with foreigners who tend to accept what they’re being told on face value. Silly foreigners!

For many expats in China, the things we find most uncomfortable, unfamiliar and difficult to accept are those we can’t see. We can turn away from a child pooping in the street and ignore the phlegmy expulsions of our cab drivers, but the differences in mentality are harder to pin down and less easy to avoid.

In a bid to mitigate this divide, some expats throw themselves headfirst into the local way of life, while others wall themselves up in compounds full of foreigners and have their companies or schools handle everything for them. Most of us, however, sit somewhere in between.

Wherever you find yourself on the scale of assimilation, just try to remember that it’s these differences and quirks that make China the adventure we came here to find in the first place. Failing that, here are some anger management tips!

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Keywords: Expats in China


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Funny but true talk

Oct 03, 2021 14:31 Report Abuse


On the way to my work place I meet burping and coughing in my face grannies, endlessly roaring motorcyclists on the sidewalks , unreasonably beeping buses that leave me deaf. And in all this I blame myself. It's my problem that I work somewhere in a suburb area of a creepy town.

Jun 18, 2021 06:55 Report Abuse


amazing but true

May 30, 2021 19:55 Report Abuse


the 'stalking' that goes on. Chinese women think 'stalking' is 'adorable' showing 'he cares'. No it is not. "Not interested" means just that, so don't follow me, try calling me after conning my phone number from friends, or leave me childish 'gifts'.

May 18, 2021 23:19 Report Abuse


Please Please Help

May 17, 2021 21:03 Report Abuse


the 'gaslighting' that many Chinese indulge in is the most annoying habit. It just makes people seem even more untrustworthy.

May 17, 2021 14:47 Report Abuse


1 word. Banking.

May 16, 2021 16:48 Report Abuse


hello , i see so many people are complaining about china , at the same time they live in china and they are having fun also making money having a great life that they cant have it in there own country i just want to say to foreigners china is a different country it has a diffrent culture than yours if you dont like it just go back to your country no body is forcing you to stay , seriously guys at the end its there land and we are visitors , you cant go to someone.s house and keep complaining and saying bad words about his house its actually the same things , guys please be polite and stop complaining at the end we are in there country

May 16, 2021 08:31 Report Abuse


I have been here 21 years my wife is Chinese and so is my son.sometimes its good to complain.if I didnt complain sometimes I would go crazy.

May 16, 2021 16:50 Report Abuse


its really funny , its just like you choose a tshirt and you bought it and you are wearing it everyday , and then you complain oh this tshirt is so bad its ugly balabala , why you choose a chinese wife if you dont like the country and you dont like the chinese people thats psycho pfffff

May 19, 2021 08:25 Report Abuse


I'd refrain from judging other people's family affair...

May 19, 2021 10:59 Report Abuse


complaint about com[plaints. nice. if u dont like complaints dont read the comments. see the logic here? i doubt it

May 19, 2021 13:46 Report Abuse


@andy, a poster called 'kenneth' has been more than a bit triggered by my recounting my experiences, and the experiences of other foreign women of being sexually harassed in China. why is it China persists in behaving like a child and does not want to ask or talk about the difficult topics?

May 19, 2021 14:23 Report Abuse


i never said i didnt like it here i never said i didnt like the people either.

May 20, 2021 06:09 Report Abuse


China is basically a child. Despite the 5000 years of history modern China is still young.

May 20, 2021 09:48 Report Abuse


kennenth is a wu mao

May 20, 2021 09:49 Report Abuse


@andy, and not even a very good one. Can't keep a consistent 'story'. must be depressing to have a job like that !

May 20, 2021 13:37 Report Abuse


You can never trust them 100%

May 16, 2021 05:26 Report Abuse


I get annoyed by the way people ride ebikes,cut you offf run red lights as you are about to pull out to go across the crossing.no one gives a crap about there own safety or other peoples.people riding into on coming traffic,riding at night with no lights. I ride an ebike to take my son to school everyday and I have have lights on my bike so i can be seen.we wear helmets.I cant get over that the parents that dont put helmets on there children,they would rather put them in the front basket.or the parent is the only one with a helmet on and the child is not wearing one. something really needs to be done.,educate the schools and kindergartens about road safety.I wish the traffic police here in Shenzhen would do more and pull people up for not wear helmets.

May 15, 2021 12:52 Report Abuse


this article ... what is the point of it? anyone who knows - truly knows the 'mentaily' will know that it is considered funny to see a foreigner either 'hate' something or get angry about something. it helps justify the chip on shoulder and conceited attitude to see that. So there are two ways to combat this mentality. 1) do not get angry or show your feelings of contempt. 2) laugh at them when an attempt to do something that is considered cool....such boasting about travelling abroad or how learning German makes someone a superior being.

May 14, 2021 12:34 Report Abuse


Unbridled Bureaucracy, quite true LOL

May 13, 2021 14:29 Report Abuse