March 19th was my one-year anniversary of living in China, and although I spent that day in Bangkok, it was nice to reflect on the year and what has changed since I first arrived.
Adjusting to a move of any sort can be frustrating at times – unpacking into a new space, finding out where the nearest grocery store is, researching new doctors and hair stylists – the little things begin to add up and sometimes it can be completely overwhelming.
I remember when I first got to China and all I had to eat for for 24 hours was an apple that the apartment building left for me as a “welcome” token – I didn’t have cell service, my wifi wasn’t working in my room, I had no idea where to go for an ATM, and I had just left my boyfriend-now-fiancé halfway across the world. On top of that, I had a serious case of hardcore culture shock.
When I arrived, I thought I had an idea of what life would be like here after spending six months in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, I was very wrong. If you ever plan on living in China, here are some helpful tidbits of the good, the bad, and the interesting .
1. Gift Giving
Of my 21 years on this earth, I have never met a culture that, as a whole, have perfected the love language of gift giving. Whether it be for a birthday, Chinese New Year, they just went on a vacation, or for no reason at all, it is not uncommon to receive a gift or souvenir when living in China and interacting with locals. It truly inspires me to be better about implementing gift giving, my number one love language, into my everyday life. From earrings, to miniature Chinese instruments, to foreign food brought back on vacation – I am always surprised at how freely they give to the ones they love.
2. Cheap Taxi Rides
While drivers at times pretend to be Speed Racer, the cost of a cab in China is completely affordable in comparison to places like the USA or Tokyo. While cabbing to and from the airport can rack up on the meter more so than other places, for a 40 minute ride, it won’t cost me more than $30USD in the day, plus an extra $6 at night. Meters start at 14-16RMB, and typically increase 2.50RMB per kilometer until you reach 15km, then it goes up to 3.75RMB per kilometer. Keep in mind $1USD is equivalent to approximately 6.67RMB.
3. Chinese Herbal Teas & Traditional Chinese Medicine
Seriously – take advantage of their knowledge about the human body. They have the most interesting perspectives and remedies for anything from stress relief to the common cold. Learning from locals about the different herbs and roots that have healing properties and how to steep them into teas has been one of the most helpful things I have learned while living in China. Ginger root and turmeric have become a staple in my house. Not to mention China is the best place in the world for acupuncture and other natural forms of healing.
This is something I still haven’t gotten use to – the hacking is a bit obnoxious. It doesn’t matter where you are – outside, on the metro, in a theatre audience – I’ve seen it all. It’s not uncommon seeing a woman hack up a lung, either. Spitting does not discriminate against gender nor age.
Much like spitting, you will see kids peeing, or even worse, in the most crowded of places. It is very common to see toddlers wearing pants split through the crotch to make relieving oneself anywhere at anytime a little easier.
3. Pushing & Shoving
Most of the time I can tolerate the spitting and the peeing in public, but the disregard for personal space or lack of courtesy is probably my least favorite thing about China. If you are claustrophobic, avoid the metro at all costs. The heinous amount of people you can pack onto a single box car of the train in Shanghai still astounds me, and don’t expect for anyone to let you through to get on or off. Be prepared to use your elbows, or you’ll be trampled.
1. Group Dancing
Now this is probably the cutest thing you will see in China. Walking down the street in the mornings past public parks, you will more than likely see a group or ten of older men and women doing aerobic/zumba-like dancing to traditional Chinese music – and sometimes with fans. Tai Chi is very popular as well, although I can never tell the difference between the two. Either way, it’s adorable and completely normal.
2. Warm Water
Getting accustomed to China can be an interesting transition – especially with going to a restaurant and realizing that your water will always be lukewarm-to-scalding-hot unless you can ask for “iced water” in Chinese. The Chinese believe drinking cold water is bad for your health – especially for women. They believe keeping the uterus warm by drinking warm water and eating warm foods can help with cramps and fertility health, and promotes better health and immunity overall.
3. Snack/Drink Flavors
Since being here, I have noticed that snacking here is as popular as it is in western culture – and maybe even more-so. The one major difference would have to be the flavors of their snacks, such as BBQ Squid Lay’s chips and Tomato Seafood Bugles. If you enjoy Starbucks, it is worth checking out their seasonal flavors – Springtime has brought flavors of Lavender Earl Grey Lattes which has gone over pretty well. Although, Autumn flavors were a bit skeptical with a Lemon Cheese Latte that was as disgusting as it sounds. As a lover of desserts, I was intrigued by their array of scones, muffins, and cakes – but was slightly disappointed as I bit into what I thought was a chocolate chip scone that turned out to be a Red Bean scone – very common flavor for desserts in China. I am not a fan of Red Bean anything, but I know many friends who enjoy the asian delicacy, so your bets are about 50/50. Along with their gift-giving nature, the Chinese LOVE sharing their snacks with you – just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
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