As previously mentioned in another article about China, there are several differences between living here and where we are used to. There are a few things that you notice straight away and other things that you might only realize once you have lived here a while. I’ve lived here for over a year now and feel comfortable in expanding on my thoughts. So here are just a few of the benefits to living a life in China.
One of the most obvious is the amount of fuss that seems to arise just for being western. In most circumstances I’ve encountered, notwithstanding the odd taxi driver, they have always been hugely positive. Chinese people seem to love Western folks. Since the first week here, I’ve noticed that I will be given preferential treatment in dealings with banks, customs lines in airports, drinks in bars and special attention in shops. The amount of times I’ve either been ushered to the front of a busy queue with no reason given or bought free whiskeys is uncountable. Strike this down to historical and cultural differences or plain friendliness is conjecture, but don’t question it – just enjoy it.
Aside from being given preferential treatment, a lot of the time people are just naturally friendly and relaxed. Wandering from place to place, especially if you are lost in any of the major cities, people will try and help you. On my travels through China, from Shanghai, Xi’an, Beijing, Hangzhou, Suzhou and Xiamen, countless people offered to ask if I was okay or if I needed help getting to where I was going. People in restaurants, if they can speak a handful of English words, will offer to aide you. With this, I have never felt worried or fretted that maybe I was in a spot of bother or in need of help – because there was always help all around! I think perhaps back home, most people are suspicious of strangers, but the strangers I have met here haven’t tried to sell me shares in a building project in Greece, but rather been incredibly helpful. Put down Google maps and ask a local – it’s easier and more enjoyable.
Opportunities outside of the classroom also add a positive dimension to your bank balance. The work for York School is very relaxed and the atmosphere this generates makes for an easy way for English teachers to make a little extra money on the side. You might find yourself conducting English lessons to two or more students privately, banking roughly twenty pounds an hour, or as a friendof mine has just accepted, he is going to do some advertising for a local fashion label. Not one to miss an opportunity, I also did some work for a local TV show and made a little extra cash. Although I’m unable to retire just yet, these small experiences really help make living here a lot of fun and quite interesting. Being in TV adverts was something I had never thought of doing back home but here; it is quite a noble way of making money. Don’t be a hermit – call an agent!
Speaking of opportunities, it should be said that the above is just a bit of fun and not something I actively seek. These things just happen to crop up.However, being in China is a great way of learning the histories of one of the world’s greatest civilizations. Talking to Chinese friends there is a varying degree of just how long it has been around. 5,000 years seems a bit farfetched and a more conservative, yet still incredibly long, history of about 2,000 years is more accurate. China has been the birth place of some amazing social and modern inventions, not to mention some of the world’s great engineering. To pass up on studying a little Chinese history or learn some of the language would be an opportunity missed – no matter what you’re level. Put down angry birds and pick up Confucius’s Analects.
Living in China is certainly a great experience and totally different to the UK. There are things that I miss, but a lot of the things I encounter are fantastic in their own right. This article seems a little short, but there are countless other things that could be listed – the weather, cuisine, culture and mentality. They all have their positives and negatives, but to focus on the negatives and pine for home is playing a defeatist game. You get out of it what you put in and positives vastly outweigh the minor negatives that I mentioned in the earlier entry.