Author： EnglishTeacher 2022-08-09
6. You Have To Adapt To A Variety of Living/Traveling Conditions
Traveling in China isn’t always easy. Just navigating a new city with limited Chinese can be a challenge, and then you add in squatty potties and hard beds, and that will toughen you up and prepare you for travel anywhere.
This is one of the bathrooms at the university I used to work at:
Living in China will toughen you up, too. You’ll learn to hang all your laundry up (they don’t use dryers in China). You’ll side step the guy spitting on the street. Tune out the lady loudly yelling on her phone on the bus next to you. Won’t blink twice at the baby peeing on road (most of the time). You’ll start drinking hot water and pick up other Chinese habits. I can use a squatty like a pro now. Hard beds are the usual. Bring it on! (But also a mattress topper is highly appreciated.)
7. Meiyou Weishenme
My students used to say this to me after I asked them why they do things a certain way in China: “meiyou weishenme.” It’s rough translation is “no why.”
Chinese people wear their coats until May even if it’s super hot outside because they have to follow the Lunar Calendar. Why? No why.
There are some Chinese traditions you just won’t understand and can’t be explained. Ask a Chinese friend about traditional rules a woman should follow during and after her pregnancy – it will blow your mind.
8. Respect the Culture
I’ve met lots of foreigners in China, from just-arrived-in-China newbies up to 15-year expats and everything in between. There are so many interesting people from all over the world here! I really love hanging out with other foreigners, especially when they are open to new experiences, enjoy meeting Chinese people and learning Chinese, or just love living here as much as I do.
I’ve met a few foreigners, however, who are extremely rude to Chinese people, be it in restaurants or taxis or even meeting friends I’ve introduced them to. Even if there is a frustrating situation or you don’t understand everything about Chinese culture, there’s no need to be disrespectful to someone trying to help you. We live in China – their country!
9. Say Yes to Everything & Embrace Spontaneity
China is going to throw some interesting situations at you. You’ll get offered weird food. Strangers will invite you to their home – or ask you to visit their hometown. You might be asked to join school performances or city events or be interviewed by a Chinese news station.
Some of my favorite memories have been times I just said yes to something I wasn’t sure about. Go on a date with a Chinese guy. Eat some duck blood. If Chinese people ask you to join their table at a bar, join in and learn to play the dice game (a great way to practice your Chinese numbers!). Heck, try some baijiu.
Safety first, of course! If you’re really feeling unsafe with a situation or person, use your best judgement. But don’t let your fear of the unfamiliar hold you back.
10. Your Students Will Change Your Life
I never imagined I’d be a university English teacher right after I graduated, but somehow it happened. Teaching 18 years olds when I was 22 not only built up my confidence, gave me lots of public speaking practice, and challenged me to be creative in lessons, but I also met some of the most interesting, caring, funny, and inspiring students. I built some relationships with students that now, even 5 years later, I still keep up with.
One of my students named Emily became one of my best friends in China!
My students have shown me a different side of China, something I wouldn’t have seen if I had just been passing through. I’ve had countless hot pot parties, celebrated Christmas and lots of birthdays, hiked mountains, made dumplings, and traveled to different cities with many of my university students.
My students have also asked me some funny questions and opened up to me about their boyfriends and girlfriends, their family life, and their hopes and dreams for the future – these relationships are so special to me.
The same goes for my kindergarten students – it was a totally different experience teaching 3-6 year olds instead of teaching 18-20 year olds, but it was an equally amazing and unforgettable experience. Teaching them for a year melted my heart into a giant puddle on the floor and I still haven’t mopped it up.
Five Amazing Years
It’s impossible to fully sum up China! China is old temples and shiny shopping malls, 5000 years of history and a giant global market, old traditions mixed with new technology. For me, China is also the 600+ students I taught, it’s late night spicy Hunan BBQ after a night out, it’s traveling and making friends from all around the world.
China is nothing like what I expected – to be honest the only way to understand China is to be here and experience it. Sometimes there are cultural differences and traditions you can’t figure out, but that’s part of what makes China so special.
The past 5 years have been so fantastic and I’m thankful to have experienced a small part of China! There’s still so much I don’t know about China – but I’m looking forward to learning more and soaking in as much as I can.