A while ago, when I was winging about China-this and China-that, I was challenged by a friend (who does not live here) to come up with some things that I do like about living China. There are actually many positive aspects to living here and I thought you’d like to know a few of them.
1. I can bike or walk to buy 99% of what I need for daily life here. Fresh fruit and veggies are within a 5 minute walk from my apartment. It is probably 100% but I’m sure there is something I’m missing…
2. Chinese friends are among the most loyal I have ever had. When you get beyond the guangxi, or other people wanting to use you to practice English, the Chinese take friendship quite seriously and it is beautiful. I will dearly miss people like Gujian, pictured here with me.
3. The dress code here for just about anything is pretty informal and that suits me, the fashion felon that I am. When the doctor may not bother wearing a shirt under his lab coat on hot summer days, I’m pretty sure that I can’t go wrong.
4. Most things are quite a bit cheaper here than in the States – except the imported items (food and non-food) where the price may be over 3x what you would pay in America
5. Traffic is really bad and the drivers are not very good, but at least they are not freaked out by bicycles (or donkey carts, or loaded 3-wheeled push-bikes, for that matter) on the road and don’t act aggressive toward you just because you power your own way to work or play.
6. Crazy “Chinglish” always makes me laugh. Or the strangely named products you find (Bimbo brand bread), as well as the products that are just plain strange (such as banana-flavored Cheeto-type snacks).
7. I get bragging rights for being able to speak Chinese (and read a little bit as well).
8. Although it is often a disadvantage to be a foreigner here (like getting ripped off), there are some advantages as well. One can get away with things that locals (or even Asian foreigners) can’t. I can pretend I don’t understand and just do what I want (like going into a store and not checking your bag).
9. I appreciate grass, parks, clean fresh air, safe food, and reliable health care even more than I did before.
10. I like the challenge of living as an expat in a culture that is nearly opposite to my own. The cultural chasm can produce profound frustration and stress; but sometimes a cultural “a-hah!” moment really makes my day. It is a discovery of the cultural similarities as well as the differences. We can be so much alike on the inside, yet have such different outward expressions of the same thing.
Living in China is not hard in the same way as living in the Democratic Republic of Congo is hard, but it is still very hard. At rest, you idle perhaps 25% higher rpm than when you’re in your home country. Adrenaline junkies who do crazy stunts or take adventure vacations probably have boring jobs. They probably would like to live here to live on the adrenaline high every day. In this way, I have become an adrenaline junkie. You are always on your toes because there is so much you don’t understand, so much of which you are unaware. You know that you are unaware, but you are not sure how or where the pitfalls lie. After a while, this becomes normal and you are comfortable with it, but there is still a higher energy cost.
Point #10 may seem like a negative, but it is in fact a positive, at least according to me. It is the daily discovery, the potential adventure that is in everyday life that makes life never boring (like having to go to work or the store on my bike in a downpour). It is challenging and fun – even if you don’t see the fun while in the midst of the challenge!