7 Things You’ll Realize About Yourself Only After Leaving China

7 Things You’ll Realize About Yourself Only After Leaving China
Aug 22, 2019 By Degen Hill , eChinacities.com

Life in China is so busy and fast-paced, we rarely stop to take stock of the things we’ve learned and the changes we’ve gone through as people. Often, it’s only after we leave and look back at our time here that we realize the impact China has had on our lives. Here are seven things you’ll realize about yourself only after leaving China.

1. How much your patience has increased

Believe it or not, your time in China has bestowed you with more patience, or at least you’ve become more accustomed to waiting around. Think about the Chinese expressions you hear the most:

等一下 – děng yī xià - Wait a moment!
等一会儿 – děng yī huìr – Wait a bit!
马上来 – Mǎshàng lái - Coming Soon!

All these expressions will expand, or at least exercise, your patience. Things that used to annoy you just won’t anymore. After you’ve lived in China, with its bustling cities, crowded restaurants, and epically annoying issues with visas, you’ll realize that China taught you to be patient beyond belief. Or perhaps you’re just better at waiting around.

2. You thrive in an international environment

Although China is predominantly made up of Chinese people, the foreigners that live here come from a variety of countries. When you go home after a stint in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or a similar sized city, you’ll appreciate just how international your professional and personal relationships were in China.

Sure, being back home around people who all speak your native language has its advantages, but going out in China and connecting with people from myriad cultures and countries is a unique experience that has, hopefully, enriched your world view.

3. How organized you’ve become

Ever been to your local police station and not had a copy of a required document on you? Bet you made sure not to do that the next time! Living in China takes a certain level of life management and organization, including balancing work, your social life, vacations, and a whole lot of visa-related bureaucracy. Add this to the fact that there are so many other confusing things going on around you — there’s no room to NOT be organized!

After you go back home, you’re unlikely to have to deal with anything even remotely as mafan as you experienced in China. Normal life admin will seem like a breeze.

4. You have a “just do it” attitude

Figuring out housing, setting up your cell phone and internet, figuring out online shopping, and, god forbid, transferring your work visa are all time-consuming and challenging tasks for expats in China. The hours of hassle and stress aside, navigating these obstacles has likely given you a sort of “get it done” attitude.

There are certain things in China that just need to be done, whether it’s making time to go to the PSB, learning to read Chinese characters so you can finally go to the hot pot restaurant with the Chinese-only menu, or figuring out how to use Taobao. When you leave China, you’ll realize you no longer procrastinate in the same way.

5. You’re more flexible / open-minded

You’ve done things in China you never thought you’d do. You’ve traveled to other countries, tried all kinds of cuisine and made friends with people from all walks of life. Living in China has opened your mind, but it’s not until you’re out of this environment that you really learn that about yourself.

It’s easy to come to China and stay in your expat bubble, but many foreigners dive right in and learn to adapt along the way. This attitude (or ‘perspective’ if you prefer) will stay with you no matter where you go in the world. Personally, I think that has a lot of value.

6. You start to think in Chinese

Even if you don’t plan to learn Chinese while in China, there’s a strong chance you’ll pick up at least a few key phrases. There are some Chinese expressions that just seem to work better in certain situations. When you leave China, there’s a good chance you’ll think, or perhaps even say, the following:

太麻烦了 – Tài máfanle – Troublesome / Annoying
对啊 – Duì a – Yes / Correct / Of Course
没办法 – Méi bànfǎ – No Way (to do something)
没有 – Méiyǒu – No / Doesn’t Exist / Don’t have
好的 – Hǎo de – Okay / All right
当然 – Dāngrán – No doubt / Definitely / Absolutely

7. You’ll miss China

You say you won’t, but you will. Fact: foreigners complain about China, but there’s also a huge level of convenience to living here that isn’t available in other parts of the world yet. Inevitably, once you leave, you’ll realize that you miss China, or at least some aspects of it.

Let’s not pretend that you won’t wish you had Taobao, WeChat, Alipay, or Baidu Waimai (or one of the many alternatives). Yes, not having to use a VPN will be a newfound luxury, but I guarantee there will be at least one Chinese social media service you miss.

Or maybe you’ll miss the culmination of China — the busyness, the noise, the jianbing guy on the corner, and the old ladies dancing in public squares. We’ll all likely leave China one day, but there will be some aspect of it that will forever remain with us.

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Keywords: after leaving China


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I loved the article! There are so many good things about China, and whenever I think about going back to my home country I start missing China already haha.

Jul 21, 2022 01:57 Report Abuse


nice article ...

Mar 24, 2020 14:02 Report Abuse


I worked from 2007 to 2013 in Suzhou, Jiangsu province. I love this place and I still miss it very much. I also miss my Chinese friends. Chinese are amazing, kind people.

Dec 26, 2019 20:04 Report Abuse


I am afraid that I have to disagree with this article... I have always been patient and my resilience has only gotten stronger since I came to China. I simply refuse to do this work visa nonsense and a lot of employers are also tired of this useless hoop to jump through in order to be legal/legit/in compliance. Yes, I applied for a student visa when I was studying in Beijing, but the requirements were very straightforward at that time: medical check, tuition payment confirmation, university invitation letter, and copy of current visa page. It took two weeks to complete... no biggie... What inevitably happens when you burden your talent with cumbersome regulations and delay? well... it's simple, people either go elsewhere or they work illegally. You cannot regulate an industry to death and expect there to be good results... guess the gov't is still working out the details of the great leap forward. I mean seriously, get with the times and stop inconveniencing your talent... no need to mafan people into a coma... that's why China is losing the trade war... the great leaders think they can "make in china" their way out of this debacle... listen Xi Jing Ping, you don't have a patriotic population... your socialist pillars are just pillars holding up the great void... nobody has time for that nonsense... people want a BMW and a good Merlot... not to be lectured about socialist materialism... get it together China, or you are going to be back in 3rd place... good luck trying to join the G-7... even those Commie Canadians are tired of your shenanigans...

Aug 26, 2019 19:32 Report Abuse


Hi, Thanks for the article. I thought the title was well put... how we are different after China. To be honest i only share two of the changes on the list. I guess each laowai can have their own way to be influenced. Think in Chinese and miss China for sure.

Aug 24, 2019 19:11 Report Abuse


There is an old saying " No matter where you go, there you are" If you were a lazy asshole before you went to China, you'll most likely be a lazy asshole after you leave too. And that goes for responsible, hardworking people too...you will be the same when you leave, just a few more stories to tell. Not everyone I guess, some people change. Although that is just adapting to their environment, once they leave that environment the "traits" they picked up usually stay behind. If anything China ruins a lot of people, especially English teachers. If you ever leave china and go back to your own country, its not like you can do that same job in your country. You're forced to do other things and if they have been in China long enough teaching English, they don't really have any marketable skills in their own country. It seems lots of people get stuck teaching English for life, and if you like doing it, that's great. I'm talking about the people who thought they would come here and travel the world but get stuck and become jaded, bitter people. Although I could think of worse fates for people. I guess teaching English is a lot better than a lot of jobs they could be doing...like working at Micky D's.

Aug 23, 2019 16:38 Report Abuse


so true

Aug 23, 2019 15:15 Report Abuse