Being An ExPat In China

being an ex pat in china

Maybe you’ve dreamt about moving to another country, maybe you know somebody who has done. But what is it like living in another country, especially when they speak a different language. The idea is so exciting and thrilling, then BAM you find yourself living in a foreign country.

I was born and raised in Arizona, I knew that I didn’t want to stay there forever but I never imagined that when I moved it would be to China. I always thought it if I moved out of the country it would be someplace like England or Australia because of the accents. Like many recent grads I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, despite the fact that I couldn’t decide what to have for dinner.

I was looking for something and I found K-POP, which is short for Korean Pop. I was swept away with the catchy beats, amazing dance routines and cute boys. I had just been introduced into a world and culture that I knew next to nothing about. In my quest to learn more about K-POP I ended up learning about Korea and other Asian cultures. One thing I learned was that they are desperate for native English speakers.

The education business in Asian is booming. More and more schools are hiring native English speakers to teach English, and more parents are going to private companies and tutors to help their kids with English. If you’re a recent grad and a native English speaker this is great news.

There are many different companies, schools and locations to choose from. Find one that best fits you, and pack your bags.

But what is it like living as a foreigner in China?

I live in relatively small city in China with about 1 million people.  You may have heard stories that people take pictures of foreigners, and try to get their kids to take picture with them. This might happen in small towns, but you are more likely to get people pointing and people nudging their friends telling them to look at you. I’ve found that the best thing to do is to stare back. No one likes being stared at, and by staring at them you are letting them know you know what they are doing and its rude without being aggressive.

As you can image the hardest part is the language barrier. The hardest part for me is ordering food, which is important. Because you can’t speak any Chinese, you can’t say what you want or don’t want; you try to be clear but pointing to what you want can only get you so far. Because my Chinese is limited, I can’t ask what is in the food or if it is spicy. Ultimately you have to accept the food they give you because it’s not their fault if they don’t understand you, and you couldn’t complain even if you wanted too.

I think the most difficult thing in China is trying to ask questions.

Very few people can speak English, and if they can it’s not helpful for asking questions, especially directions. It’s easy to get lost in China especially when you can’t ready any of the signs but thank heaven for translation apps. One of my favorite things about Chinese people is their willingness to help others. They don’t know you and you look very different to everybody around them, but they will try their hardest to help you.

I went to a nearby town and on the way back I got lost. I didn’t plan ahead and didn’t know which bus to take to the train station. I came across a teenager and her grandmother, who worked tirelessly to make sure I got to the correct place. The rest of the day went on like that. Every place I went I asked someone how to get to a certain place or where something was, and they all went out of their way to help me get back home.

Chinese people are kind, trusting and helpful which makes the transition from America to China easier. I still have days where something that should be simple and easy is incredibly hard, and I have days where I feel right at home. The most important thing I’ve found is to applaud yourself for even the little accomplishments and ask for help when you need it.