Habits You Should Strive to Adopt as an Expat Living in China

Habits You Should Strive to Adopt as an Expat Living in China
May 25, 2021 By Andrea Scarlatelli , eChinacities.com

We’ve all heard about the habits we should avoid picking up as an expat living in China, but what about those things we should learn? Those habits that would benefit us long after our stint in China is over? Below is a list of common Chinese customs that may well improve your life.

Habits you should adopt as an expat living in China
Source: Chris McMillon

Being Thrifty

Everyone knows the Chinese, particularly the older generations, are notoriously steadfast savers. Expats living in China are often able to follow their example by putting a chunk of money aside from their jobs each month and keeping an eye on their spending. How much you’re able to save will of course depend on your lifestyle and exactly where in China you're living, but for most people, it's perfectly possible to keep costs low. From taking advantage of a city’s cheap eats to shopping around for the best deals, if you carry your thrifty China tricks over into "the real world”, your finances will stay in good shape even after you leave.

Daily Exercise/Meditation

If you've ever gotten up early enough to see the ayis and shushus practicing taichi in the park, you know it's a beautiful sight to behold. While most of us in the West tend to shuffle into old age with our backs bent and our spirits broken, the Chinese religiously look after their bodies and minds throughout their lives. So make like these shockingly sprightly old folks and endeavor to do some form of mindful exercise each day. You don't necessarily have to start banging your back against trees or pummeling your legs as you hoist them onto impossibly high railings, but remember to take a bit of time out of your day to challenge your body and relax your mind.

Continued Learning

Most expats in China learn at least a little Chinese while here. The habit of continuing to learn into our adult years is great for the brain and a social activity that can open us up to vastly different cultures. While Mandarin is by far the most widely spoken language in the world and therefore certainly not a bad thing to learn, once you’ve left China, you could learn Russian, Arabic, chess, or anything else instead. Brain training of any sort is an investment that’s nearly always worth the time put in.

Open-Minded Eating

Chicken feet? No problem! Stinky tofu? Not my favorite by a long shot, but whatever, bring it on! Living (and, more importantly, eating) in China will open you up to a whole new culinary and cultural world. And even if you don't like all the local delicacies on offer, at least trying them will expand your palate and leave you more open to life’s other colorful experiences. Adopting open-minded eating habits while in China will mean you’re never afraid to try something new when you leave.

Being Prepared

As an expat living in China, one of the first things I learned was to carry a pack of tissues on me at all times. Whether used as toilet paper, napkins, or for quick cleanups, those little packs saved my skin on multiple occasions. That got me thinking about all the other ways in which living in China has taught me to be prepared for anything at any time – whether it's a random rain shower in the middle of a sunny day or a no soap situation in a restaurant bathroom. I’ve learned to carry an arsenal of emergency items on my person, which, at the very least, will make me an excellent mother one day.

Eating Smaller Meals, More Often

How do the vast majority of the Chinese stay so skinny when they always seem to be snacking? While unfortunately a lot of it can be put down to the unsatisfactory answer of "genes," there are also some external factors at play here – one of them being the habit of eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Many Chinese eat small-portioned meals and snacks four to five times a day, which keeps blood sugar levels stable and helps ward off that ravenous hunger that can lead to over eating. What’s more, the Chinese tend to eat more at breakfast and lunch than they do at dinner time, giving their bodies more time to work off the calories they put into it. Given the state of obesity levels in many Western countries, I dare say it wouldn’t do us any harm to adopt some of the eating habits we pick up in China.

Shameless Persistence

While it may be a pain when you're haggling with street vendors or tuk-tuk drivers, not immediately taking "no" for an answer will actually improve your chances of success in life. Let those pushy women at the fabric market be an example to you the next time you encounter rejection. Sometimes we’re far too quick to admit defeat and give up in the West. Good luck achieving your dreams with that attitude!

So next time you're wondering what effect this country has had on you, take a minute to think about all the smart, savvy and downright useful habits you have (and will) pick up during your time as an expat in China. Look at them as the ultimate souvenir…

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Keywords: Expat Living in China


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So educative! I will have to thusly do when I get there! Am longing to work in China. This really helped me. Thank you!

Jan 16, 2022 15:44 Report Abuse



Eating and small things meal everyday

Oct 11, 2021 09:27 Report Abuse



Yes it is good excessive

Sep 30, 2021 20:23 Report Abuse



Constant exercise and eating a little meal

Sep 27, 2021 14:34 Report Abuse



eating small meals 5 times a day would not work for me,i lost weight by doing the keto diet and fasting.cut out 99% of carbs,use to be 116 kg now Iam down to 92kg.

Jul 14, 2021 07:14 Report Abuse



hey i know a few good ones. first of all pretend you do not know (ting bu dong) second state you do not have (wo mei you) third say I do not know (bu zhi do) fourth...insult the foreign looking person under your breath...fourth point 1 (4.01) if you are rumbled - deny and threaten. Sixth. offer poor countries money to build housing complexes (see Gerogia). want some more you? or want to say seventh (all foreigenres are racists towards us).

Jun 07, 2021 03:41 Report Abuse



I agree with the thrifty part. especially since pandemic kicked in. the phrase 'rainy day' (saving money) finally happened for everyone. on a different tangent though what we are looking at now is a new era. the 2010s are over the decade of short lived travel for cheap...its gone. The future is this: plan well - conserve money - and make the most of that occasion when you do do it. The decade of bums from Canada going to places like Wuxi to 'teach English' are long gone. Anyone smart enough to stay put will know that being thrifty is the way ahead (IG influencers in Abu Dhabi the exempt of course!!)

May 29, 2021 01:43 Report Abuse



you are VERY specific about your comments regarding Canadians - or do you mean ALL foreigners? Thrift is not a trait exclusive to Chinese. Many Chinese i knew were broke all the time because they were more concerned with 'face' and having the right phone/clothes etc. Whereas the majority of foreigners i knew in China saved a good proportion of their monthly salary. be careful about making general statements - I base my comments on my experience.

May 30, 2021 15:41 Report Abuse



i guess you are the kind of man that you think ll all women love.

May 29, 2021 01:47 Report Abuse



@ 'guest' sadly this poster resorts very quickly to personal insults and said in another article that (in his opinion) women DESERVE to be harassed on the street. Hardly something anyone could respect in a man. Do not expect a direct response.

May 30, 2021 15:36 Report Abuse



tell you what. try saying that to someone in London or New York. after telling them what 2020 was like for you. my guess is you will either deny / threaten / criticise that person.

Jun 07, 2021 03:48 Report Abuse



it is quite patronizing to generalize about foreign workers and assume that they have none of the above habits. And it is equally false to imply that Chinese people HAVE all these habits. ECC is doing itself no favours in the eyes of the people it wants to attract if it continues to be 'insulting' and ignorant and have such articles. just laziness I guess. Come on ECC - you CAN do so much better if you try, and it is not too difficult to be SO much better. This was such a great site a few years ago, vibrant and fun, and USEFUL. Now it is less than a shadow and this is down to zero Admin and zero engagement. I am really rooting for you but you fail at every opportunity.

May 25, 2021 15:21 Report Abuse



@sorrel..you are a respected poster on here. means respected in the fact people read what you say and can appreciate it as a person who speaks / thinks a lot of common sense.

May 29, 2021 01:35 Report Abuse



"respected" ? - I'm sorry that makes me laugh. Truth is more important than respect. I suggest you use your alias when posting - I can see it so why so shy?

May 30, 2021 15:56 Report Abuse



try to be nice? and it gets me what..a diss? ok. how about this then? stop posting here and do some clam slamming instead. it is probably why you came to china in the first place. wanna act like a cretin you get the reply. but im not far off am i? i wont be back hereit has descended into wu mao vs clam slammer.

Jun 07, 2021 03:51 Report Abuse



@nkane (I can see your alias even though you have selected the 'guest' setting). Very quick about resorting to the insults and name calling. Would you have the courage to repeat all of this face to face? This site has devolved years ago from being a useful place to useless thanks to poor Admin and the recycling of poorly written articles such as this one. ECC used to be a vibrant community but now it is a place dominated my people with short-fuses. Many regular poster urged the Admin with suggestions on how best to improve, but were ignored. Most of the new accounts are spammers and appear to be fake. there are probably many much better sites than this one, but then that is not too hard to be better than ECC is now......... Good luck finding them.

Jun 07, 2021 14:14 Report Abuse