Expat life to many seems to be very different and special, however, there are many similarities with life back at home, even though, yeah there are some differences.
We work, we eat, we sleep – just like any other person on the Earth but what’s different for us?
Most of the time (if you don’t work in the embassy) the majority of people surrounding you are the locals speaking a different language, following different etiquette and just in general are different.
If you are not fluent (sometimes even if you are), you don’t understand what the heck is going on in the office. Chinese is not a language you can simply guess… Every time you’d need to ask what is happening there to make sure you are up to date.
One of my observations is that the Chinese like to complain about how busy they are and how they can’t handle everything in time. But it would not stop them from taking a 1 hour lunch break where they will finish eating within 10-15 minutes but spend the rest of the time playing phone or gossiping. After they come back to the office the complaining whining starts again.
Otherwise, most of my colleagues are quite hard-working, sometimes I can be “lost in translation” because simply, some of them are kind of afraid of me, some – don’t understand me and some just don’t care (which is absolutely normal as there are people like that everywhere).
Working in a team with a Chinese team in general is great – no one really bothers each other, envy and jealousy is not that wide-spread, people are supportive and helpful.
Surely, if you have to take metro to work, you will understand the main difference – the number of people. The metro is so packed that on peak hours you most likely cannot even breathe. That also means a lot of lines, queuing , waiting and wasting time. Normally, you just accept it… If not, you stop using metro (I use Mobile instead), learn the best time to go shopping and make advance reservations.
You will be annoyed a lot. Believe me, even if you are easily adaptable person, very loving and kind, you will still find yourself hating being here sometimes. Why? Because you will probably feel like The Chinese have definitely decided to kill you in a car/pedestrian/bicycle crash…
If not in a car crash, then maybe using suffocation by pressing you from all possible sides. Believe it or not, it might be much more creative than this.
Otherwise, finding supermarket is easy, finding what you need in supermarkets is not. Getting food is easy, getting cheap food is possible, getting good cheap food is not.
When you leave outside of residential compounds in local houses you find out that the Chinese love singing, especially love singing the National anthem, sometimes at 6 in the morning they consider the best time!
It is no secret to anyone that the habits like farting, burping and slurping in public areas are widely accepted. So don’t be mad when you come to a restaurant with a set menu for RMB1000 per person and find yourself hearing all of those.
If you stay in Beijing, it will take you about 4-6 months to cover all the attractions of the city. After that you might want to start traveling to other cities. You get a lot of means of travel – buses, various trains and planes. But, what differs it from the rest of Asia, you will not find a low-cost here. So expect that your traveling expenses will be comparatively high.
Well, my leisure on my time of main consists of cooking, eating and watching movies on lazy days. On an active ones it is either Mobiking or exploring the sights. Make sure you download a lot of movies and series before you go. You can hardly download anything here. But you can buy DVDs for RMB 12-20.
You can also hire a Chinese teacher to use your leisure time wisely. That will cost you RMB 100+ per hour, but they will come and teach you anywhere you need.
What I love about being here is that you can come out with no makeup in a bathrobe in Beijing and no one will ever judge you. But at the same time, the young Chinese dress in the most ridiculous way. The work convenience does not exist – at least it seems like. Clothing here is surely a way of self-expression.
As for you, depends on what you like, you can do it! No one will judge, which is amazing. In comparison to the UAE and Indonesia, where I had my expat life before, this is a great feeling of your expat life in China.
There are many other things you come across, which become part of your daily Chinese expat life. I will get back to this article in the future to share more. But mainly, I would really advice everyone moving to China, make sure you do your research before you come. Why? Because you will know what to bring, how to act and what to do. The life is no different here, but different!