What Inquiring Minds Want to Know – My Life in China
During my travels this summer I was often asked about living in China. People tended to have a lot of the same questions. I figured that you might as well. So in honor of returning to China this week, here my answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Why did you move to China?
Short answer: A job
Long answer: China is a top location for a lot of aspiring expats because of the low cost of living and strong salaries for foreigners. But that’s now why I moved here. I’d visited China twice before and knew that it wasn’t someplace I wanted to live. Somehow, I landed a job that I don’t really remember even applying for. The universe is funny like that. As much as I didn’t want to work in China, I had not received an offer from any position that I actually did apply for, so I took the gig and the rest is history.
Do you like living in China?
Not exactly…I don’t dislike living in here as much as I thought I would.
Where do you live?
I live in a small town of just under 8 million called Hefei, the capital of Anhui province.
Where do you work?
I work at an offshore Canadian school that is housed inside of a Chinese public school. The Chinese students I teach, in English, are getting the same coursework and diplomas as they would if they were attending a public school in Canada.
What do you do for fun?
Honestly, for the first few months I was here I didn’t do much in the way of “fun”. Due to the language barrier and the inability to use Google maps I can’t easily find the “fun” stuff to do. I mean, I still traveled and sewed but I did very little in and around Hefei. I’m hoping to change this in the upcoming months.
What are you eating?
I’m a very, very picky eater. Needless to say, finding food to eat in China has been a struggle. Other than my dietary staple (peanut butter) mostly I eat noodles and way too many fried dumplings.
How are you treated?
I’ve not experienced any really negative treatment other than being constantly stared at. I’ve taken to staring right back at them – which they don’t seem to like. Check out this post if you want to read more about what it is like being a foreigner in China.
Do you speak Chinese?
Nope! I arrived here being able to say hello, thank you and I don’t want that. I’ve since added the word for to-go food but that’s it. I gave up trying to learn.
How do you get around?
Mostly I walk or use share bikes. If I need to go across town or to the airport, I use Didi, a ride-sharing app similar to Lyft. I’ve taken the metro a couple of times as well. Taxis are much more difficult since I don’t speak the language, so I avoid them.
How long will you stay there?
I have no idea. My contract ends in June 2020 and I’ve yet to decide what my next move will be.
What is the weather like?
Hefei gets all four seasons. Summers are hot, 90-100 F. It’s very humid here too which is just tons of (sweaty) fun. I’m told that during the winter it is common to get snow/ice/sleet. As you can imagine, I’m not really looking forward to that – at all.
Are there other foreigners there?
Not many. Recently, I was told that in the entire city of 7.8 million there are about 5,000 foreigners in total. What that means in my everyday life is that few places have English signs, menus or English-speaking staff.
How do you manage with the squat toilets?
I don’t. I’ve not used one since I moved here. I don’t plan to change that.
Did you have to learn to eat with chopsticks?
As a kid, I would eat my ramen noodles with chopsticks because I was weird like that. Little did I know that the skill would come in handy many years later. Forks are not very common here, so you need to be able to use chopsticks.
What’s the best thing about living there?
My 2.5-hour lunch break
What is your least favorite thing about living in China?
The ick factor. I won’t rehash it again here, but check out this previous post where I mention some of the germ-a-rific practices (at least by western standards) that are common in China.
What’s the dating scene like?
Not that I’ve tried to date anyone, but I would assume that it’s pretty nonexistent from someone who looks like me. Chinese standards of beauty idolize white skin and straight hair (among other things) – none of which I have.
How bad is the air pollution?
It’s not great but it isn’t something I spend much time thinking about. There are definitely days when I can see the air.
Do random people take pictures of you?
Probably. I’ve not caught anyone, so I don’t know for sure.
Is the internet really blocked?
We do have internet access but it is heavily censored and pretty slow. Most western social media sites (Facebook, IG, Twitter, etc.) and all Google products are blocked. The government also monitors what people do online.
Do you have more questions or comments? Let me know below.
Loved reading this! Yeah the squat toilet and “no Google” would be difficult for me to overcome. Would you renew your contract for another year there?
If this job existed in another country I probably would extend my contract. I just don’t know if I want to be in China for another year.