What is it like living in China?

Version 2

Dried (whole) fish and other special treats at the local Walmart.

We get this question periodically and I thought it might be fun to share just a few (Top 10) items that have been on my mind the last few weeks.  It’s been just over 6 months since my last blog posting, so it seems about time to post an entry.  Language learning has been my primary focus for the past several months (in addition to soaking up culture) so things have been quiet on the blogging front.

These entries are brief, so please feel free to post Comments (or email me at kevin@yunev.co) if you’re interested in more detail on any of the following:

Today’s Top 10 Questions re: “What is it like living in China?

  1. Do you ever find yourself struggling to keep track of different currencies when transferring and tracking funds between various accounts (one in US dollars, another in Hong Kong dollars, and a third in Chinese Yuan)?  Me too.
  2. Do you occasionally find yourself in the shower, ready to rinse off the soap, when the water supply is cut off…without warning…without explanation…with no real certainty when the water supply will return?  Yeah, me too.
  3. Do you ever find yourself at Walmart thinking “Hmmm, I feel like I really want a whole dried fish, whole dried squid, whole dried eel…!”  Me either.
  4. Do you ever wish you could just drop your toilet paper in the toilet bowl (rather than in the waste basket) and flush?  Yep, me too.
  5. Do you ever wonder what’s the best transportation option when it rains or snows?  Our choices are:
    • A.) Walk,
    • B.) take the bus (and then walk),
    • C.) ride a bike (and then walk), or
    • D.) ride the scooter (and then walk).
    • When the weather is bad, we typically opt for the bus.
  6. Do you ever dream about what it might be like to have unlimited access to the Internet?  Even with our relatively modest (low) bandwidth (and a very good VPN), the idea of being able to freely visit sites that you select is virtually impossible most days (and nights).  Some call it the “Great Firewall” effect.  I call it the new “normal”!
  7. Do you ever find yourself without any personal space at all (on all 4 sides) and you’re not even uncomfortable about that anymore?  That’s a big YES for me (remember, one of our family vehicles is the local city bus!).
  8. Do you ever find the temperature inside your home below 50F and you just want to reach for the thermostat and turn on the heat…but there is no thermostat…and there is no heat?  That’s a daily experience for us in Dec, Jan and Feb.
  9. Do you ever find yourself snacking on sunflower seeds with friends thinking “Wow, this is so simple and such a wonderful way to get to know people in a more relaxed setting than our normal busy schedules.”  I love it when this happens!  It’s always a special experience when we visit local friends’ homes and even when waiting for the food at some restaurants.
  10. Do you ever ask yourself “What am I doing here?!”?  (You might fill in the blank with your current “location”, your current “job”, a particular “relationship”, your “house”…or whatever situation you may find stressful or difficult or puzzling).  On the worst of days, do you say to yourself: “This has got to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever done.”?  Then…the very same day, do you realize how thankful you are to have the incredibly rare privilege of disconnecting from the busy-ness, comfort and convenience of life to learn a new language and culture along with all the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and wonderful people that are a natural part of that process?  I must admit I’ve taken a ride on this emotional rollercoaster in China…at least once or twice!  Others tell me it is a normal part of living cross-culturally.

Copyright © Kevin Beaty, YUNEV and “Feet on the Ground…”, 2016.  All rights reserved.


  1. Thank you, Kevin… I’d been wondering what you were up to lately. But honestly, this didn’t tell me what you’d been up to lately! How’s your immersion language learning coming along? Have you learned to like a food you had no idea you would ever eat (think geoduck)? Do you feel a part of the neighborhood, or are you sitting on the fringe? What’s the frequency, Kenneth? So many questions…



    1. Hey Don, thanks for the comment! The Chinese prefer to under-communicate (while Americans typically over-communicate) so perhaps my lack of content and detail is a sign of cultural assimilation! Language learning is coming along, but it’s a slow process. I’ve developed a theory that Chinese is 3x harder to learn than English (watch for upcoming post on this topic!), so we’re hoping to set ourselves up for lifelong learning. On the other hand, I feel like cultural learning has been more significant than I had originally expected. I typically eat just about anything, so not sure anything specific comes to mind. However, I find myself eating (and enjoying) and lot more Tofu and Eggplant than before. I threw a surprise Birthday Party for Gienah a couple of weeks ago and there were just over 40 people there – almost all were local Chinese friends, so that felt like an indicator that we’re not totally sitting on the fringe (unless people want to engage in serious conversation!). Hope that helps…a little!



    1. Hey Don, after my earlier reply, it did occur to me that while I will eat just about anything, there are 3 things I have not (yet?) eaten since being in China:
      1. Raw Pork – this is a favorite delicacy among the local Bai people (ethnic minority). While I love 99.9% of all Dai foods, this is where I draw the line!
      2. Durian – this is a big fruit with a smell so strong (not a good smell) that many fine hotels throughout SE Asia ban the fruit from their premises. Yet, the fruit is wildly popular among those who like it. More at: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian
      3. Weasel Poop Coffee – OK, the official name is “Kopi Luwak” but basically, it amounts to having weasels (their official name is “Asian palm civet”) ingest coffee beans, ferment the beans in their tummy, then poop the beans back out. Believe it or not, this is a trendy drink among many (including some local friends), but my policy is simple: “No thank you.” More at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak



  2. Really glad to hear you are thriving these days.
    My 2 benchmark for China learning must be:
    1) the summer I learned that fried cicada’s were a delicacy
    2) that the sense of humor you shared could be applied time and again
    Be well



  3. Kevin, we can absolutely relate to all ten! Although we’ve lived in China for six years, we discussed #10 again yesterday (“what are we doing here?”). It is quite a wake-up call to be plucked out of a “normal” Western life and be inserted into this dramatically different culture. No more mindless coasting…



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