If you’ve been living in China as foreigner for at least 1 year, I think you’ll have insight when I say living in China can be pretty (or even super) challenging. Not easy to elaborate, but I’d say it is most likely related to not only cultural but also (mostly) language barriers. At least that’s in my experience. My saying is probably irrelevant if you’re a foreign national with fluent Chinese, or having/living with Chinese spouse.
The challenge of living in China, be it paying bills, opening bank account, activating online banking, getting mobile phone credit, opening the access of your mobile phone to international call/texting, selecting and saying menu at a restaurant, uncertainty with information, being forcefully and systematically dependent to local people due to local language inability, or many more, has been giving me quite frequent and constant frustration. Culture shock was not a strange or unfamiliar term before I moved to China, but honestly, I only understood it for real when I actually live in China – like they say, knowing and understanding are totally different things!
Happy to say that I’ve been feeling much better in the last 2 years (out of total 5.5 years). I did know that I had to be peace with what I think and feel as ‘ridiculous’, ‘ancient’, ‘doesn’t make sense’, ‘stupid’, ‘inhumane’, ‘uncivilized’, and so on.. but I believed nothing to be forced, so when thing has to change it has to be changed naturally. Thing has its own journey to a change…
Long story short, after a while I finally found some timbits of relieve of my living in China. Some of you might be wondering ‘why timbits’? To me it’s simply because they’re just like Tim Horton’s timbits; tiny things that usually don’t count but or even forgotten. They don’t make you full right away. Instead, they let your tongue dance for their various and yummy flavors, you enjoy bit by bit with joy, then you’ll feel full eventually.
So, coming from that philosophy, here are my joyful timbits of living in China that and I am so happy about..
1. Being able to do online shopping with Taobao/TMall/JD, etc.
2. Being able to do online banking.
3. Having local friends who (sincerely) wants to make friends only – without any business agenda/intentions.
4. Finding a LIBRARY with ENGLISH books!! Well I can’t expect there is Indonesian books in a foreign country that doesn’t have super strong and sweet relationship with my country.
5. Having a taxi ride with a happy and friendly taxi driver.
6. Being able to answer the delivery man’s phone call in very basic Chinese (for my online shopping parcels). I’m not a shopaholic but I work on some little online business, so I online shop for my customers.
7. Being member to a book club of the city where I can discuss about books with likeminded people…in ENGLISH!
8. Having a friendly happy small talk with strangers on the bus, street, shop, market, hospital, in English.
9. Being at the park. Just be there and enjoy what the park offers – except the barking security guard who doesn’t accept our dog to be there.
10. Having a friendly open and honest talk with local friends who has the ability to jump out of the box and crack some self-criticism.
11. Every time I get new Chinese words – that I can easily relate to other words I’ve known.. I learn Chinese by myself from random sources, so this is maybe the joy of self-learning! 😀
12. Every time I get information from locals about what I’ve been wondering about but you can’t really get from public sources.. – it’s not always easy to get information or truth behind public/common things in this country.
13. Being in China nature; they’re just beautiful!
14. Every time I heard people talking in Chinese and I can catch some of words I know!
15. Listening or overhearing kids talking on the bus, street, everywhere – they’re my lovely teachers in learning Chinese 🙂
16. Being able to order food from the restaurants next-door, in (a very basic and broken) Chinese! lol.. I got so much fun and joy from this doing this simple thing.
17. Every time I close the deal with the online shopping – because communicating with the taobao seller with Google broken translations are soooo challenging; it’s just frustrating, time, and energy consuming!
18. Each time I see the Xian city wall, or any other ancient building… they’re just so historically exotic and appealing to me! Inviting me to take my drawing book and start sketching..
Uhmm..what else? I am sure there are a lot more, I’ll add up next time.. 😀 So, how about yourself? Can you add up some more from your own experience living in China? Or maybe from living in different foreign countries?…Please feel free to share..