How has living in China changed you?
Anderson Jacobus, Philosopher of Law
I have become a great believer in the power of the Chinese to create and sustain successful businesses. Before I came to China, I believed the ‘they can only copy stuff’ idea. Yes, some products are shoddy copies of a western original, but there are some truly great innovations in China. I don’t have to point all of them out, because there are plenty of lists out there.
I first came to China in 2006 and I loved the atmosphere, the ‘can do’ entrepreneurial spirit. I moved here permanently in 2009 and haven’t regretted it.
Most importantly, I find that doing business with my Chinese friends is great, once you’ve established a relationship, there is much less hassle than in the west and the dangers of getting cheated are much less once you have some Chinese protection in you network. There is no problem that cannot be solved with a good, old-fashioned bribe!
When I tell my European friends how people do business in China, they are aghast, but it works and it works much better than in Europe. European Socialism has created endless formalities and challenges for entrepreneurs. Chinese Socialism has created a truly boisterous market with ample opportunities.
Clive Green, lives in China (2007-present)
Well, after living here for 11 years, I’ve learned to completely distrust western mainstream news media accounts of China.
Before coming to the PRC, I used to feel rather superior about the ‘fair and balanced’ news reporting from the BBC. They often portrayed China as a frequently filthy, backward and nasty place. And this was in 2007. Needless, to say, I was filled with considerable trepidation upon my arrival.
But in the weeks and months that followed, I was continually surprised (and increasingly angered) by the BBC’s imbalanced, misleading and poisonous framing of China affairs. There was a blatant disconnect between the China I was living in, and the foul cesspit described in their ‘balanced reporting.’
Yes, yes, yes, I know — China faces some very serious challenges. All quite true. So what else is new? Care to take a close, careful look at the multitude of grave social issues facing the UK and the US right now? There is plenty there to be improved upon, that is for damned sure.
Be under no illusion: there are those in the BBC (and other western agencies) who have been working hard for years to create a nasty impression of a country they barely have any real understanding about.
Georgi Grancharov, lives in China (2012-present)
I believe the most important change that happens is mentally - you really start enjoying your life much more. I rarely see someone complain, about anything.
Look at your timeline on Facebook, all those people arguing about politics, global warming, gay marriage or whatever - people here don’t discuss those topics. They, or should I say ‘We’ don’t care.
It’s so nice just to sit with a bunch of people and not get into deep discussions. Drink, eat, enjoy and work the next morning. There are no ‘weekends’ here as we know them in the West. People work constantly, but they also have fun constantly. It is not as monotone as in the West.
I don’t remember the last time I had dinner just by myself. Usually there are always some (Chinese) friends, somewhere, and we eat together. When the bill is due, everyone wants to pay it - not the other way around like in the West. Money is not the number one priority here - it’s building up a network (guanxi) of friends and acquaintances, so you can help each other out in various situations.
I am not a teacher - I run a small design and advertising firm. After spending 6 years here, I cannot imagine moving back to Europe again. The things I would miss the most are the people - even just strangers, but they’ll treat you as family.
Many Westeners will never understand this, and that’s a good thing. In fact, we foreigners, who have ‘real jobs’ and really understand the Chinese lifestyle - we don’t want you here. Because the majority of foreigners just come here and they simply cannot adapt. Then they start complaining or even behaving publicly in a way that makes all foreigners look bad.
Pat Munday, Professor of Science & Technology Studies (1990-present)
My experience in China is based on living and teaching as a visiting professor at universities in three Chinese cities: Chongqing in “southwest” China, Yinchuan in “northwest” China, and Guangzhou on the southeast coast. I have also visited a dozen or so other cities and some remote regions such as rural Ningxia, the mountains of Yunnan, Zhangjiajie, etc. [I use air quotes on southwest and northwest because, looking at a map, we would think of these cities as southern- or northern-middle.
Three things about living in China have changed me the most: (1) deeper understanding of personal liberty and freedom; (2) awareness of how a long-settled and densely populated nation manages socio-economic growth; and (3) appreciation for the North American model of wildlife management.
It is true that in terms of official personal rights such as carrying/using firearms etc. that Americans enjoy great freedom. That said, Americans often abuse these rights, thinking that universal means absolute. Chinese citizens, on the other hand, enjoy none of these rights and live in a culture of self-censorship—they are very careful about what they say and to whom they say it. Nonetheless, at an everyday level Chinese citizens feel every bit as free as Americans and simply tend to ignore many laws such as traffic regulations.
Eric Miller, Ph.D. in Cultural anthropology, research professor and applied anthropologist
As with others, living in China has certainly changed my thinking on things. I’ve definitely realized the importance of rule of law
But I have also changed personally. For one thing, I am more willing to perform in public and not worry about what people will say or think. The thing is, in China, I was the center of attention just for being foreign. (This was more true 30 years ago when I first lived in China than it is now.) Since people were already pointing and staring at me, I might as well get up and sing off-key or do whatever it is I was going to do. Some of it is just silly things, but in China, men ride women’s bikes all the time. No one cares. It’s a bike. If they are pointing at me it’s because I am a foreign guy, not because I am riding a ridiculous little pink girl’s bike.
Also, I’ve always been a person who was very concerned to follow the rules, not get in the way of others and so on. Now I still am, but a little less so. In China, people worry less about this. People do what they want to do unless someone makes you stop. People ignore no smoking signs, park on sidewalks, block the aisle in the store. There’s more enforcement of the rules in big cities now than there used to be, so people obey the rules more, but generally, people are just freer to do what they want.
Jesse Patrick Booth, Author of 'The Twisted Guide' series
This is my fifth and final year living in China, which has caused me to become slightly philosophical. Nevertheless, don’t expect anything too profound from this answer.
In The Middle Kingdom I’ve worked different jobs, I’ve travelled, I’ve eaten, I’ve been to university, I’ve learned some Chinese, and I’ve even been assaulted. Only by other foreigners, though.
This is how I’ve changed:
First and foremost, China has woken me up to the games the media plays when shaping our views of other nations. It surprises me that I still have to try and convince friends and family that it’s quite modern here and some things, believe it or not, are better than they are in England. Yes, there are many poor areas of China, but if you are comfortable living in a city then your life is fucking golden. If you learn Chinese (as you should if you’re living here long term), the convenience of everyday living will astound you.
In China, the focus on the family unit has made me want to be closer to my own family. I love the independence my parents have granted me, but as I get older I realize how important it is to give something back to the people who raised me. I’ve been apart from my sisters for a long time as well, and we all still have a great relationship. It’s time to make some new memories with them.
It’s made me complain less. China is developing fast and they’ve never had it so good. It’ll keep getting better in a lot of ways, too. However, after being here a while I really started to tune in to my own ‘white people problems’ bullshit. For example, I’d need to wait in the Chinese bank a little longer than I would back home, and suddenly I’d adopt the demeanor of someone who’s dog had just been murdered. How dreadful it must be to send home an enormous paycheck for carrying out a third of the workload of my local colleagues? Living in China has provided me with the ability to not sweat the small stuff.
China has taught me what dinner time should be like. When I return home to England and walk through the supermarket, looking at all of the microwaveable dinners for one, I’m overcome by a deep sense of melancholy. We’ve taken the independence thing too far. In China, you eat, you share, you talk, you come together. They give dinner time the attention, respect and ceremony it deserves.
China has taught me what I want from a partner. As I see many of my foreign friends trying to navigate cross cultural relationships, it’s constantly reaffirmed to me that I’d prefer to date someone culturally similar to me. Perhaps I’m lazy, but it seems like too much effort dating Chinese people in China because we’re culturally very far apart. I have a lot of respect to the people I know who’ve found love over here and are happy settling in China long term - I just know I can’t do it.
Finally, China has taught me I need to go home. This country has given me so much and made me feel incredibly welcome. The relaxed criteria for teaching in China means they don’t get the best of the west, so you can forgive them for occasionally having a moan about English teachers.
China has made me realize how English I actually am. I’m dry, sarcastic, and weird. I like quality art in all forms which, lets be honest, isn’t the highest priority in mainland China.
I like damp walks in February. I like Sunday roast dinners. I like being able to watch the premier league at a normal hour. I like angry white girls shouting at me after too many tequilas. So, I’m going home to get them.
Thanks for having me China, it’s been an absolute blast.
Darryl Snow, Lived in China for over 10 years
James Ong, Lives in Shanghai
Living in China gives me more of the ability to appreciate myself. As a Han Chinese ethnic, I’m used to being misunderstood, underestimated, and misjudged by others. But here, I’m blending in. When my local friends know that I’m a foreigner, they still appreciate me as one of their own in an equal manner. So, it's kinda lifted a bit of an anxiety from my head. I don’t have to worry people put me into a ridiculous stereotype about Asians, don’t have to worry about not being on the promotion list just because I’m Asian, don’t have to worry for being verbally harassed by some bullies on the street, etc. It’s nice to accept who you are and be accepted by the society where you live.
Personally, I’ve become more tolerant of differences. Quite weird when it actually began here in a homogenous society. I just don’t wanna give other foreigners the same experience as what I got back when I was still living in the previous country. I respect other foreigners regardless of their skin colors, religious beliefs, etc. Maybe because the Chinese themselves don’t actually bother about those things. They’re busy with their own businesses and I eventually kinda have that in me as well. But of course, there are some individuals who are still into racism even when they’re completely different from the locals or the locals who just hate foreigners without a sensible reason. I don’t like those type of person. The “I hate those Chinese, Man! They’re blah… blah… blah…!” kinda of a person or the “我真的不喜欢外国人。。。” (I really don’t like the foreigner) kinda of person. Ridiculous mindsets which narrowed their own ability to think clearly about the fact that we all need each other.
But I’m happy that I’m here. It’s good to be here and I wanna stay here as long as I can.
Ray Comeau, lives in China (2009-present)
Thanks for request
To be brief, it has rekindled my belief that people can have a stable life, one of contentment without being wealthy or having the outward signs of materialism or having a formal education.
Neither humanity nor society is best served by unfettered individualism and self-interest.
Julia Jin, works at Expatriates
Living in China opened my eyes for my own country.
Germans LOVE to hate on their own country. They are literally taught to hate their own culture in a way in school.
I truly started loving my country, my culture, just everything when I was living abroad. It helped me alot.
Muhammad Imtiaz, BA International Current Affairs & International Current Affairs, SKKP (2007)
i dont live in China, but i have heard from friends , you will always hear positive things about life in China. As per my personal experience with Chinese and Russian, people, Chinese are very loyal like the people of Pathan in Pakistan. Russians are very civilized and courteous .
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