Regular readers know that I lived in China for eight months. I moved back to America in July 2017, which means I’ve now been back for over six months. That’s hard to believe! It feels more like two weeks sometimes.
Honestly, I don’t know how some Americans live in China for years and years. The lifestyle is vastly different. And I was excited to come home.
But now that I’ve been away for a while and have some perspective, I can honestly say there are plenty of things I miss.
More about life in China:
10 Things I Miss About Living in China
1. Feeling Important
Look at the above image. It says, “Miracles happen every day,” and it features my husband and me. Do you know what we’re doing? Making some traditional Chinese snacks at the primary school where we worked.
A child’s mom took these photos and made this collage. She posted it on social media, and all the teachers at our school saw it.
At no other point in my life will someone care enough about my making a snack that they will take multiple photos, make a collage, then brag about being with me on social media. Maybe if I ever become a celebrity. Maybe.
In America, I could run into the streets naked, and maybe a few people would be like, “Ugh, some dumb chick streaked today.” Public nude shenanigans would receive less attention than my simply existing in China. Because people are baffled by foreigners. Never again will I be perceived as that important.
Sometimes, always being stared at sucked. But it was kind of nice to feel like I mattered.
2. Street Food
Eating street food is the way to go in Asia! It’s always authentic, usually cheap, and occasionally weird enough to spark a conversation with the next English-speaker you see.
It was so nice to be able to decide what I wanted to eat at the last minute, because something smelled good at a food stand one block away.
3. Weird Food
Honestly, sometimes I don’t miss the weird food. I like knowing exactly what to expect. My taste buds love cheeseburgers, sandwiches, salads, and ice cream.
But every meal was an adventure. Especially because lots of restaurants didn’t have English menus. So I just had to hope for the best.
Some of the weirdest foods I ate in China? Pig brain. Tripe. Lotus root (which smells like urine, by the way).
4. Having a Two-Bedroom Apartment
The Husband and I moved back to America because he got into an awesome graduate program. (Yay!) Now we live in graduate student housing. Granted, it’s much better than the dorms of my undergrad days, but it’s still a dorm. It has those depressing, white, cinderblock walls. It is also fairly small.
For just a little more money than we’re currently spending on this place, we had a spacious two-bedroom apartment in Shenzhen, China. Having that much space was really helpful our first year of marriage. We worked in the same office and spent a ton of time together, so being in tight quarters at home would have been rough.
We are also both extremely messy people. From my desk right now, I’m gazing at a sofa with three blankets, a coat, a backpack, three pillows, a computer case, and some mysterious papers strewn across it. There isn’t even anywhere to sit.
When we had a bigger apartment, life felt less messy. There were more places for us to throw our dirty clothes, so it took longer for the mess to pile up.
We would never be able to afford that kind of place in America. Which leads me to my next point.
5. Being Able to Afford Almost Anything
I’ve addressed that The Husband and I were completely financially unprepared for moving to China. However, once we got settled in and had a couple paychecks under our belt, life got super comfortable.
In fact, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to live that comfortably again. It makes me sad to think about, but it’s true. By the time we are actually that financially stable again, we will probably be in our 30s. Then we’ll have kids, and that will change everything.
To give you an idea of what life was like there … we traveled to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, and three Chinese cities outside Shenzhen. We ate out every day. We went out for drinks frequently. We bought a motorbike. We joined a gym. And none of that was financially stressful.
And we still came home with a hefty amount of savings!
6. My First Graders
I cannot describe how adorable Chinese six-year-olds are. I don’t even like kids, but I got major baby fever being around Chinese children all the time. Then I moved back to America, and American kids were a much-needed slap in the face. Man, kids are a lot.
But my first grade students were young enough that they really looked up to me. They also loved to hug. And they were so excited to be learning English that they just kept saying the same things over and over to me because they wanted to impress me! I miss them every day.
7. Playing Badminton
Wow, I’m bad at sports. So, so bad. Including badminton, which I never used to think of as a “sport.” I thought of it as something my friends and I would half-ass while we sipped beer in a back yard.
But Chinese people take badminton pretty seriously. I had never seen badminton played so skillfully!
So I bought a racket and asked some Chinese coworkers to teach me. I was terrible. But slowly, I got better. And it was fun. Really fun. I miss my weekly badminton dates with my Chinese friends.
8. Learning a New Language
I love languages! I studied French for seven years. I was excited to learn my first tonal language, which bears no resemblance to English or French.
Chinese is difficult, to say the least. In some ways, it’s actually easier than English. Did you know you don’t necessarily need a subject in a Chinese sentence? If you have a subject, you don’t need a verb. That’s laziness at it’s finest.
But tones are a whole different story.
I never became fluent in Mandarin. Or even proficient. But learning Chinese was a fun game to play.
9. Our Motorbike
Waiting for the bus is terrible. Riding a slow subway is terrible. Sometimes driving is terrible. But you know what rocks?
Riding on a motorbike.
Especially in China, when bikers can get away with anything. Regardless of the law, they take it upon themselves to reap all the benefits of both drivers and pedestrians. And the police never did anything about it.
Life was much faster with our motorbike.
10. Having Free Time
Sure, I have free time now. I mean, come on, I work from home. My main source of income is teaching in my PJs, which I finish by 9:00 AM.
But it was different in China. I was in the office 40 hours per week, but I only taught 15 hours per week. I spent a few lesson planning. And the rest of the time I could do whatever I wanted.
Usually, I wrote. Sometimes I socialized. Occasionally I watched TV or read. Talk about relaxing.