I’ve been living in China for about two years now. Soon I will be celebrating 2nd anniversary of my love affair with China and its citizens. I really have a strong affinity for this country. My love for China doesn’t mean I’m doing well or I’ve realized all my dreams here. However, I respect the opportunity China has given me. My ancestors and I have not fought battles for this nation. I have never touched a brick of the gigantic monuments, buildings and road networks. But suddenly I came to this glowing nation and I’m enjoying everything in here.
Nonetheless, I’ve seen many foreigners who are very unhappy with this country. Some are doing well, while some are not. Shockingly, I’ve seen people having negative views about this wonderful country and its people. Therefore, I thought of sharing some points that I learned from being in this country for so long. I hope they work out for all of us to lead a happy life in china.
1. The fact that you are in a different country (away from home)
Be conscious about the fact that you are in a different nation, in fact a very different nation. The difference may be bigger than your previous experiences being abroad. China is a country of contradictions.
2. Discover the Culture
This should be obvious to most foreigners but actually is not. All cultures have their quirks and if you are going to live in their country, either accept the good, the bad, and the ugly, or stay home. China has a wonderfully rich culture, and 5,000 years of it to learn about. Taichi, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Wushu, Kong Fu, Calligraphy, Beijing Opera are all part of that beautiful culture. Enjoy them, and accept the small annoyances that come from the parts of the culture that most ‘laowais’ shy away from.
3. Learn the Language
Learn Chinese is not as hard as people make it out to be. It shows respect for the country you are living in or people you chose to live with. I’m not asking you to master the language; not everyone could do that, including me. But learn the basics. Be able to ask the name of a road, buy train ticket and such simple things.
This is important because most of the unhappy foreigners I’ve come across are unhappy because they can't communicate the simple things in Chinese. They don’t know the language and, most importantly, not interested in learning it. They keep thinking the whole world should understand their language, which presumably is “English”.
Don’t expect migrant saleswomen to understand your English with your accent. Don't expect security guards, taxi drivers and municipality workers to understand your importance. This self-sufficient nation with a billion like-minded people can survive even without knowing the word “hello”. Face up to that fact. This will give you the motivation to quickly figure out simple dialogue, which will make your daily life easier and it will bring you more happiness than you ever imagined.
4. Get Grounded
Find an expat group to be a part of. There are some organizations that conduct weekend events for expats. Do not hesitate to be a part of it. There are baseball, football and even basketball leagues. Joining an expat group is critical if you want to stay longer than one year. There will be times when no matter how much you love China, you will need to hang out with fellow foreigners.
5. Respect their biases towards white people (western world)
Whenever I run into a western guy, there would be a debate among my friends how long will it take him to date a beautiful Chinese girl. Perhaps less than one week. They easily win the affection of beauties of this country. I really have no idea where they pick up these girls. However, this makes other foreigners, apparently with a different skin color, unhappy. DO NOT BE.
We can’t change the collective attitude of the people, which build up over decades. Rather than complaining, fretting or being angry, we should try to find exceptions. Believe me there are jewels of people in this country, who care more about the person and his attitude/personality rather than the skin color or nationality. Try to find those gems. I found a lot after living in Nanjing, I’m loved by everyone. It is hard, but I’m sure there are many of them.
6. Escape from your Comfort Zone (Country mates)
I’ve seen many people here find their own country’s people and spend the whole of their days in China with their own people. They go out together, dine together and play together. They build their little town here in China (like the Chinatowns in US). This has to be avoided if you want happiness. What’s the point of being in a different country if you spend all of your life with your own people? You can do that back in your motherland. I agree this feels safe and comfortable at first. However, escape from this safe zone to realize the nirvana of being in China.
7. Eat the Food
But ask what it is first. I can't tell you how many stories I have involving Chinese food. Some of it surprisingly delicious, some of it disgusting, either way I have a story. Don’t think too much about the quality of food and beverages. Otherwise your happiness will be gone. Just don’t be scared to try new things. Some are amazing!!!
Well if I keep on telling, there would be plenty more to say. But these are some solutions to the common issues of foreigners. I hope it helps you during your stay in China. Trust me China is a mysterious but a magical country.
by Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson has experience in China as a student in China, studying in Nanjing. He also taught English in Nanjing Commercial School in 2014-15. He is currently in India awaiting his graduation and can't wait to come back to China again.
We’ve all heard all the reasons why we shouldn’t buy a home in China. The market is bullish... The market is bearish... Prices too high.. Quality too poor... Well, there may be some truth to all of it. However, there are also plenty of reasons why it was one of the best decisions of my China life... Scratch that, my entire life!
Of course, there were plenty of hiccups and headaches during the “ordeal.” Everything from shady material companies to useless workers will plague the process, but the final outcome will make the entire journey worthwhile.
The main selling point to buying a home in China is creating your own bubble in this chaos. A place you can go that is yours. A place that you have literally decorated from the bottom up, to your tastes. Where your school has no say in anything. We’ve all had those infamous Bad China Days that make you want to murder someone. Escaping to your own personal sanctuary might just save your sanity.... and freedom in case you are one to go overboard and act out on your anger! I can’t remember how many times I was frustrated beyond belief, arrived home, locked the 63 locks on my door, sat down (with a beer of course), and forgot everything.
When you buy a home in China, you basically get (not basically, you DO get) a concrete box. Nothing is finished. No floor, drywall, counters, appliances, nada. But this isn’t a bad thing! You get the chance to completely decorate your home to your specifications. Everything from choosing between tile or wood floors, to the shape of your toilets! Shopping around for counters, TVs, light fixtures, TVs, sinks, TVs, closets, and TVs, is actually fun! Especially when you convince your husband/wife to spend more time in the electronics store rather the door store...and yes there are door stores... So go to town, think outside the box, and make your TV, eerrr house yours!
Lastly, for those of us who have decided to settle down and stick around for the long run, owning a home here gives you a sense of belonging. You’re not just a laowai anymore (you are). You feel like you are an actual resident of your city (you aren’t). Owning a home is every couples’ dream, no matter which country you’re in, and China is no exception. Buying and decorating a home with your husband/wife is something that can really bring you two even closer together.
Yes, when you buy a home in China you will have an unimaginable amount of paperwork, and let me tell you it’s a bureaucratic nightmare. And yes, you must watch the workers’ every movement, or they will cut corners. I won’t lie, the decorating stage and working with the workers definitely tested my patience. But due diligence, some quick homework, and a watchful eye pays off. Turns out when you hound the workers non-stop, they can produce quality work! As for the paperwork, I just hope you have a Chinese wife/husband that takes care of most of it... If not, good luck...
There’s an old saying my good friend Biggy Smalls used to say (God rest his soul), “Mo Money, Mo Problems.” Well, unfortunately Mr. Smalls never stepped foot in China, because that just doesn’t apply here. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, especially when buying a home. For those of us who have been here for some time, we know all too well the “efficiency” of Chinese banks. For those of you who are still comfortably sitting in your home country, you will understand soon enough. Imagine that “efficiency” while asking about loans! 30% down, hukous, contracts, blood tests, urine samples, finger nail clippings, the works. If you can, avoid all this and pay cash!
Remember when I said your new home is simply a concrete box that you “get” to decorate to your liking? Well, chances are your “liking” will cost a few extra hundred thousand yuan. So don’t forget to add these costs into your calculations when buying a home. There is no sense in buying a condo in a beautiful neighborhood and having your stuff sit atop concrete floors.
All in All
Yes, buying a home in China can be a nightmare, but like all nightmares, it ends. Eventually you wake up in a beautiful home that you created with your own two hands... along with 30 other smaller Chinese hands, but who is counting right? Good luck!
by Paul Berger
Paul Berger is an American from California, currently teaching at Heilongjiang Bayi Agricultural University (黑龙江八一农垦大学）in Daqing, China. He's been in China for many years now and loving every moment of it! He feels that China can definitely make or break you, and so hopes he can help you start off on the right foot! Anything from teaching ideas to buying a home, he's done it, so don’t hesitate to ask! If you would like to contact Paul, then drop us a message here at RAY English.