10 Adjustments to feeling at home in China

If you’re considering moving abroad, you probably have a lot of questions about your future home.  What are the people like? What will my apartment look like? Do people really eat THAT?  So whether you embrace change or worry about its effects, here are a few minor adjustments, realizations, and misconceptions I encountered when moving to China.

1The internet in China

Internal websites are incredibly fast in China, and there are social network platforms, video on demand services and Spotify substitutes to suit your every need. That being said, if you need to access some of the more popular western sites you’ll have to find a workaround, deal with slow loading speeds or simply accept your internet fate. China offers some online services that are unparalleled. Chinese online shopping has entered a league of its own. You can order anything online from free-range eggs, fresh cuts of beef to computer parts and cheap Halloween costumes, all delivered directly to your door in the blink of an eye.

2 Over-Preparation and Over-Packing – You Can Buy That Here

Talking to my co-workers, I realized that we all worried about what we could and couldn’t buy here in different ways. One thought he would struggle to find clothes and shoes, so he stuffed his suitcase only to find that Tianjin’s malls hold more than he could ever want. Another utilized half her suitcase to bring feminine products, but trust me; you can use that space for something else.

I studied here in college and remembered not being able to find solid deodorant or milk and cheese, so while I didn’t pack dairy products in my suitcase, I brought a lot of deodorant. But nothing is hard to find if you know where to look.  If there’s something you crave, import stores and the internet will be there to supply you. Takeaway: you can pack light. Bring things that will help you feel at home (I brought books), and rest easy.

3Living In Chinese – Fluency Not Required

Naturally, it helps if you know some Chinese, but a majority of our teachers have no Chinese experience.  Street signs, menus, labels, etc. are usually in both Chinese and English. But still, it’s jarring when someone asks you a question in another language. If you try to learn and don’t understand, it can be frustrating.  And if there is no English translation, looking at Chinese feels like trying to read hieroglyphics. Just realize that these situations will come. Try to see it as an exciting challenge and learn basic words and phrases. A little effort will go a long way, and soon you’ll find a groove for pointing to pictures on menus and get creative with gestures to be understood.

4Tap Water – Not Always Warm, Not Safe To Drink

Small water heaters. I never thought I took long showers before, but my water heater disagreed. I learned to take quicker showers and sometimes wash my dishes in intervals allowing the water to heat back up.  Not a big deal, but a small inconvenience. Also, do yourself a favor and order water for your water cooler before you run out. But don’t worry; tap water can be used for cooking and brushing your teeth.

5Wai Guo Ren – You Will Get Stares

I wasn’t used to standing out in America. But here, if you aren’t Chinese, people will look at you. At tourist sites, people may even ask to take your picture. This bothers some people more than others, so just be aware that it will happen. Honestly, after being here for a while, you’ll start to realize why when you see another foreigner. We stand out. It’s easiest just to shrug it off and laugh.

6I Used To Bake – Now I Use a Rice Cooker

Like the heading suggests, my oven got a lot of use in the States, but my oven is non-existent in China, so I cook differently. You can buy counter top ovens if you really miss it, but you can also get creative. I use my rice cooker as a slow cooker, and make sort of mutant pan-fried cookies, but I stay away from frozen pizzas since they don’t fit in my microwave.

9Transportation – Bikes And Subways And Cabs, Oh My

If you’ve lived in a city before, this won’t be much of an adjustment at all. Taxis are plentiful and cheap.  The subway is fairly convenient and cheap. But best of all, Tianjin recently became an oasis of colorful bikeshare bikes. For a small deposit you can ride anywhere for (usually) less than 1 yuan, and since the city is pretty flat, biking is pleasant and easy.  Anyone here will be happy to help you set up the app.

10Bathrooms Embrace The Squat

No list of adjustments would be complete without a mention of Chinese toilets. Your apartment will have a western style toilet, but most places still use the traditional squatting style. For women this is a bigger change since you will have to squat for everything. Men, you’ll have a smaller adjustment since you’ll need to squat less often. But I promise it’s not that hard.