3 Things I wish I knew before coming to China
Living in China for several years causes your view of the world to shift – and then it is no longer possible to even remember what life ‘before China’ was truly like. Because of that, I find it hard to provide better insight to you than this simple advice.
Ryan over at Lost Laowai has put together a blogging project called “If I knew then what I know now“, asking you and me to come up with posts about the way we mistakenly saw China in the past or what we wish we had known then. If you have a blog and are an expat in China, I encourage you to submit a story before the deadline (this coming Monday).
Here goes… three things I wish I knew before coming to China:
1. China is loud
Make no mistake about it, China is one of the loudest places to live or work (although I hear India is no picnic either). If you are preparing to come here for any significant amount of time, get ready for some acoustic shocks to your system.
So what are some of the loudest things in China?
- Firecrackers at Chinese New Year anytime of the day for days on end
- Extremely loud truck horns
- People shouting in cell phones or at each other anywhere and everywhere
- Incessant sales pitches in any large shopping area (Hello, DVD, Rolex, etc.)
2. Teaching English can be pointless
I’m not saying everyone who teaches English in China has a pointless job. Instead, I’m saying vast numbers of teaching jobs are almost pointless. And will remain that way, despite your best efforts or intentions.
I wish I had known this before coming to China, because I would have either found a truly meaningful teaching job (not easy), or worked my way into an internship or other job (not easy either).
Having a pointless job is okay if you only spend one year doing it, but it doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to go. There are other ways of getting to China, and they should be pursued if you don’t want your useful skills and abilities to degrade instead of developing along a career path of your choosing.
My unsolicited advice, however, is to figure out what you really want to do before you get to China, and then work that into going to China instead of waiting to sort out everything after getting here.
3. It’s not always easy to leave China
This doesn’t apply to that many people, but it applies to enough to merit a mention. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either. After being in China for three years, I am starting to thoroughly enjoy it once more. But I couldn’t pick up and leave right now without regrets. How so?
One thing that has kept me here is my wonderful girlfriend. It’s just hard to save up enough money (on a China salary) to get ready to move back to the States with a girlfriend in tow and find a job without starving. While this situation is more gender specific, it’s worth mentioning.
The last thing that keeps me here is that even though China can drive you crazy, it feels like there is a lot missing when you go back home. Everything seems so slow, so quiet, and everyone seems nearly the same. And China begins to feel like home.
What about you?
Nothing too profound. What about you? Are there things you wish you knew before coming to China (or want to know about China because you haven’t been)? If you have something better (and I’m sure you do), write your own post about this as part of Ryan’s project mentioned above or leave your thoughts in the comments below.