What Do China Expats Like Most About Their Lives?

What Do China Expats Like Most About Their Lives?
May 11, 2021 By Fred Dintenfass , eChinacities.com

Us China expats tend to do a lot of moaning and groaning about our lives here. We find it somewhat therapeutic and it serves as a regular bonding exercise. But most of us end up staying here for at least a couple of years, and some a whole lot longer. There are, therefore, obviously a lot of things we like about life in China. I spoke to a bunch of China expats to find out what they are.

China expats
Source: Fred Moon 

The Kindness of Strangers

One of the things China expats love about life here is the generosity and friendliness of the Chinese people. Liz from Chicago speaks for a lot of expats when she says, “I love China because so many Chinese people are willing and open to share with you – be it food, conversation, or the excitement of seeing ‘other’. The hospitality is amazing.”

My sister, who studied in Russia for a year, was amazed by the friendliness of the people she encountered on her first trip to China. When visiting the Great Wall one day, our driver offered to take us to his home to see how people like him were living. My sister was envious of the opportunities I have to learn the local language and culture from the source.

While there are of course A-holes everywhere, we’re sometimes blind to the kindness and patience bestowed on us each and every day. Since most of us are far from fluent in Mandarin, the pains many Chinese people take to accommodate our bumbling attempts are more than just a nicety — they are crucial to our advancement in the language and the success of most of the things we do here.

The Food Culture

Like all great things in life, evidence of the warmth and generally inclusive nature of China can be found around the dinner table. “The eating culture has changed my life,” says Liz. “Sharing food, eating in groups, serving other people before yourself… I love it.”

Even on our darkest most confusing Bad China Days most of us are revived by a table full of yummy dishes and a group of friends armed with darting chopsticks and big appetites. “Food becomes a new substance, something more than nourishment,” one expat told me.

The Safety

Another thing many of us love about China is the feeling of safety. As Vera from Indonesia puts it, “I can walk on the street anytime I want. You just need to be careful of the traffic.” I have rarely met a foreigner, either a visitor or an expat, who doesn’t comment on how safe they feel here.

Despite the typical income disparity between foreigners and locals and the amount of expensive toys we tend to carry around, no China expat I know has had anything worse happen to them than the occasional stolen bicycle or a taxi scam.

Some of us, in fact, worry about returning home and having to relearn the wariness that Western cities dwellers rely on. Contrary to popular belief in China, not everyone in the US has a gun. There are, however, enough guns and enough crazies to make many American cities at best nerve-racking and at worst lethal.

It’s Never Boring

Among the favorite things of many expats is the ever-changing state of China itself. With a constant turnover of new venues, concepts, and cuisines in China’s biggest cities and a society that’s progressing at warp-speed as a whole, living here is always interesting.

Due to the ever-changing landscape and the manic push towards modernity, it sometimes feels like we’re living in a house that’s still being built. Every day, we wake up to new rooms, new furniture, and windows with new views. Gordon, a US national working in Shanghai, says, “My favorite thing about living in China it is the rapid pace of change. I’ve lived through what would take a whole lifetime to experience in America in just a few years.”

The Challenges

Surprisingly, one of the things China expats love about life here is the fact that life can be tough. “I love China because I am so completely out of my element and that forces me to feel, think, and be aware of being alive on so many levels all the time,” says Colman, who moved from LA to Beijing.

Liz agrees, pointing out that with great challenges come great opportunities. “When you speak your native language and are in familiar surroundings and situations all the time, it's easy to live habitually and become numb,” she says. “There's something beautiful about living in a place where a simple trip to the post office is a learning experience each and every time.”

As much as these challenging daily transactions might drive us a bit crazy at times, each trial does indeed represent a chance for us to test ourselves and discover how we fare. Are we the kind of person that packs it in the first time someone doesn’t understand our garbled Chinese or when a picture-less menu is placed in front of us? Or do we rise to each little challenge with perseverance, ingenuity, and a whole lot of sign language? For many expats living in China, the experience of overcoming these obstacles gives us thick skin and a confidence we might not have acquired so quickly in our home countries.

What do you like most about living in China? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Keywords: China expats


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Ooh after reading this Iam going to do my best to get a job in China.I want to experience what I have read,it sounds so delicious,so charming and so challenging that I will no give up in my hopes to work and live there.For sure Iam going to taste it.

Sep 07, 2022 23:10 Report Abuse


I always wonder why people get so upset and 'triggered' when women recount their experiences of 'casual' sexual harassment. Many guys i know would want women, even those they don't know, to be safe and feel safe when walking on the streets. And I would certainly advise women of what to be aware of when in China - that is the compassionate, caring and human thing to do. The fact that there is poster who 'demands' evidence is itself a symptom of the misogyny in China. Apparently women 'deserve' to be harassed in public. God knows what women 'deserve' to have done to them in private !! as I said, most normal guys would not respond in such a hostile or triggered manner. Sadly it confirms a lot of the experience not only of myself but also ALL the foreign women I knew in China when walking on the streets during day-light. and the longer the 'victim blaming' mentality persists. Grow up China, the first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one.

May 19, 2021 17:03 Report Abuse


debunking. points in chronological order. 1: butt kissing is required first to acheive that 2. hygeine, food safety- say no more. 3. safe? yes - because cameras in every single corner and doorway everywhere. 4. only cities worth being in are BJ SH and possibly Shezhen. The rest ARE boring to live in. Sure a visit or a trip isnt but living outside those three places and you will eventually run out of things to do apart fron internet and beer. 5. Challenges actually means a place the loves to be different on purpose and make things difficult for outsiders to accomplish. I could go on but there is my 50 cent worth.

May 13, 2021 14:10 Report Abuse


I would like to think that someone(s) was(were) trying to stir a debate out of this article, so this website gets popular again. As a Chinese, I'm getting ignorant of what's happening every day, some days I appreciate what life offers me, other days I get pissed. But as a foreigner, how you feel indeed gives a new perspective, it is welcome.

May 13, 2021 10:35 Report Abuse


when people visit my home country, I will point out the dangers to be wary of as well as tips and tricks to make life easier. If a foreign visitor points out something they don't like I listen to understand their frustrations / upset etc and see if I can help in any way. Chances are they are spotting the same thing local people don't like as well. It is never pleasant when flaws in a country are obvious to non-natives, but the ADULT thing to do is listen and TALK in a civil manner, and try to find a solution.

May 13, 2021 21:51 Report Abuse


well my family is one of the good things,my wife is Chinese we have been married for 8 years.our son is 7 years old and he goes to a good public school. I got my play station 5 for my birthday with out any trouble. China is ok it has its good points and bad points,most of the time i dont really think about it i just do my own thing.

May 13, 2021 05:30 Report Abuse


of course personal experience of life in China as a foreigner is also valid. But then that does not matter does it, if it does not fit into the image China wants to portray to the rest of the world, does it? I'll help you out with what you want to hear - " China is the most wonderful place to live in the world. I miss being told how to behave and what to think and anyone who says China is not perfect is a BAD FOREIGNER" Here is some more: "China is perfect in every way. All foreigners are liars and bad people. I have to stop all the lies about China, even if they are based on someone's personal experience." That good enough for you? LOL. Cue 'hurt feelings".

May 12, 2021 14:07 Report Abuse


I would like to ask you, why do you think it is ok for people to ignore the sexual harassment of foreign women on the street that occurs at a greater rate in China (to me it occurred every day in China DESPITE the fact that i dress a lot more modestly than local Chinese women) when compared to other countries. But then I know you will ignore this question and probably get 'upset' at my responses. Should this sexual harassment be ignored? Or do you just think there is nothing wrong with it? I would not class myself as a 'victim' as the majority of the (Chinese) men who sexually harass women could not really be described as 'men', but I would say I am someone constantly amused at those who persistently deny or childishly get upset when people point out uncomfortable truths about China. Maybe you have never been sexually harassed by creepy (Chinese) guys (I don't know), but pretending that it does not happen because it does not fit in your image of China is amusing. I suspect that you will just give me a 'down-thumb' and not actually address my points. ;o)

May 12, 2021 14:27 Report Abuse


I await your response with anticipation - you are such a stimulating correspondent.

May 12, 2021 15:51 Report Abuse


thanks for your reply - straight to the name calling again, whereas I can remain civil ! Kudos. I wait for your civil response - if you are capable of it. I notice you don't address my points about the sexual harassment of foreign women in China AND you dismiss not only my personal experiences but the personal experiences of the majority of foreign women of my acquaintance. Well done ! you never fail to disappoint with your language.

May 12, 2021 18:56 Report Abuse


OK, I will remember to treat 'guests' in my house as poorly as some people are treated in China. I also love the way you to dismiss personal experiences. Are you one of those so-called 'men' who thinks it is acceptable to sexually harass women? Just asking, because I notice you don't condemn when this happens. LOL, congratulation's on trying to divert the conversation by name-calling and the 'if you don't like China then leave' response. Well done. You would have more credibility of you actually responded to the actual point. You have not disappointed at all with your replies.

May 12, 2021 19:14 Report Abuse


Your answers sound quite defensive in the way you don't even acknowledge the issues foreign women (and ALL women) face in China. "China is not as bad as blah blah blah" and "if you don't like China then leave". Are you a foreign woman in China? Are you a woman? Thought not, so just because this is outside your experience you resort to dismissing the sexual harassment that women are subject to. This is not an article about other countries than China, it is about China. I recounted my experiences of sexual harassment in China (which is not unique to foreign women) and you have responded true to form. PLEASE keep it up !

May 12, 2021 19:27 Report Abuse


thanks Kenneth for replying using the 'guest' alias - yes I know it is you replying ! you say 'who cares about my situation' ? WOMEN would care because it is WOMEN you are being subject to the sexual harassment. So you are dismissing the experience of 51% of the worlds population? Are you saying that you don't care about women? Yes sexual harassment happens in every country but it happens openly in China and as your comments seem to confirm, casually dismissed as not important. So you would dismiss your mother/sister/cousin the same way if they said they were sexually harassed (in public), Would you also demand proof from them? Do you want pictures, witness statements? are you "china's police' ? You seem quite triggered by the fact that I can point out that China is not perfect. Neither is my home country, but i don't get 'upset' or 'aggressive' or 'defensive' when someone points that out. I try to understand the problem from the other person's point of view - you know the EMPATHIC thing to do. Thankfully I am no longer in China, but i can still share my experiences of life there with others (and you). You are such a joy to know !!

May 12, 2021 19:45 Report Abuse


so you can not have a civil discussion. How sad for you. Would you give the same sort or responses if this was a face to face conversation? Or would you have completely lost any semblance of patience and hit me ? If you had actually bothered to engage in a civil conversation you would certainly leave people with a better impression. as it is, your lack of civility does no one a disservice but yourself. Have a nice day and my best wishes to you.

May 12, 2021 19:57 Report Abuse


Love you too ;o) And remember, civility costs nothing, especially online.

May 12, 2021 19:59 Report Abuse


Just love the way you can not engage with basic common courtesy, even when someone disagrees with you or recounts an experience different from yours. I don't care in the least what you think - or say. But feel free to continue. And don't forget to use name-calling, abusive language or whatever. This sort of response does nothing but reflect upon your character. Whereas I am willing to engage in a civil conversation with anyone. PLEASE continue.

May 12, 2021 20:08 Report Abuse


you are entitled to believe and think what you want, as am I. My life experiences are just as valid as yours. I don't need to demand evidence from you on any of your life experiences that you recount. Do you want photo's, witness statements, evidence? Would you demand the same from a sister/mother/cousin, or is it that just because I have shared some uncomfortable truths that you are so triggered? Such lack of empathy in another human is so sad.

May 12, 2021 20:13 Report Abuse


this is a public forum and i have enjoyed reading your comments. You are hardly on the 'high moral ground' with the language you have used. So you are now blaming me (a woman) for being the recipient of sexual harassment ? Got to hand it to you, just when I thought your comments had reached a new low with ANY lack of basic humanity, you out-do yourself. !! Well done, you are a credit to guys everywhere !!

May 12, 2021 20:20 Report Abuse


at least i learnt not to resort to name-calling, or abusive language when responding to people online, unlike....... wait a minute, did someone with the name of 'Kenneth_taytc' call what i wrote 'bullshit', or call it 'barking' or call me a 'wild stray dog'? I understand that is some cultures such langauge it is deemed offensive or insulting, to use such language, the sort of language that it is easy to use when not face to face with someone. Pot - kettle. Certainly not the langauge of someone who wants to be thought a civil and courteous person, Thankfully i was taught to keep things civil.

May 12, 2021 20:34 Report Abuse


So you think some people 'deserve' to be abused? do you also think some women 'ask' to be raped or harassed? You have consistently used abusive language, failed to address points raised and ignored questions. at least you are consistent in your responses and don't fail to disappoint. Congratulations you have managed to lower the bar again for men everywhere! Such a fine example of masculinity you are. Have a nice life - LOL

May 12, 2021 20:50 Report Abuse


You heard it here folks - the poster 'Kenneth_taytc' thinks that women 'deserve' to be harassed and abused. Clearly recounting not only my experiences but the experiences of other foreign women in China 'deserves' all the abuse we receive, because we don't have proof or evidence. And people wonder why China has such a bad image if this poster is an example of Asian males and their attitude to women !! YAY CHINA !!!

May 12, 2021 20:56 Report Abuse


@kenneth_taytc ... Very brave as an anon poster online, are you? Using peasant's English at academic discussion ... WOOW!

May 12, 2021 23:18 Report Abuse


u think this article isn't propaganda? get a clue Kenneth

May 13, 2021 09:57 Report Abuse


Do you want me to post pictures and give you sworn evidence? do you want witness statements of me being groped, 'up-skirted', verbally abused? Of course Kenneth, ALL women make up these stories because of course we 'deserve' to be sexually harassed, abused, have insults thrown at us by brave 'men' such as yourself. And of course we take evidence of EVERY incident, no matter how minor. Sure we are only women and of no value. All the rapes, physical assaults, sexual harassment and so on that women experience not only in China, but in EVERY country in the world - sure they are ALL lies because they don't have your 'evidence seal of approval' that you need. You can ignore the experience of women in China if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Why are you so triggered? Is it because I have recounted an uncomfortable truth about what life is like in China for women? In my experience a REAL man would at the very least be concerned as his girl-friend/wife/mother/sister could also be subject to similar sexually harassment. but that's ok if you don't care about women. (Maybe you prefer men, I don't know, and you know that's ok if you do prefer men - there is nothing wrong with that), and maybe this means that you don't care about women. I know caring about strangers and their safety is inconvenient. What an example of masculine virtues you are ! Please continue sharing your insights in how to behave - I am trying to understand your logic. Could it be that you are one of these men who thinks it is ok to grope a woman, verbally insult her as you pass her? Maybe you are a man that ACTUALLY does this to women and thinks nothing of it. Maybe you think for men to behave this way is ok, and that women should just accept everything a man does to her. Maybe you think it is ok for a husband to hit and abuse his wife and what triggers you is a woman who stands up. Who knows? I would like you to tell us which it is. Whatever the case is, your response does you no credit as a man. a man who thinks a woman 'deserves' to be sexually abused/harassed as you do (you did actually say this) "You deserve being treated such a way since you asked for it. " - your words. I am trying to understand what upsets you so much about me recounting something that THOUSANDS of women experience every day. I feel sorry for you and your sensitive attitude. I suggest you spend some time in a 'safe space' where you don't have to be confronted by the reality that thousands experience every day without the benefit of a man such as yourself to tell us to 'put up or shut up' or 'if you don';t like China then you can leave'. Your wisdom is noted !!

May 17, 2021 14:40 Report Abuse


keep digging your hole Kenneth !

May 17, 2021 14:41 Report Abuse