Published on:
April 12, 2021

by: Elyssa

Guest Post: Reverse Culture Shock – Top 7 Things You’ll Miss After Living in China

This week’s blog comes from Adam DiFrisco, a VP of Marketing who spent 5 years living between Beijing and Inner Mongolia. In this post, Adam shares some of the top things you don’t realise you’ll miss about China when you return to your home country.

I recently moved back to America after living in China for 5 years, and without a doubt the prospect of going back to my home country was exciting to my very core. First let me say that I absolutely loved living in China, and under the right circumstances, I could see myself living the rest of my life there. But growing up as a Chicago sports fan in a big Italian family, something deep within me will always stir when waking up on NFL Sunday to the smell of Italian sausages and the announcers talking about the day’s Bears game. Of course, living in China there are lots of small things like this that I missed about America, but what they don’t tell you is that it works the other way too! Here are the top 7 things I miss about life in China, and don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get over. 

1. Cost of Food 

This one is first on my list for a reason. Of course, this will depend on where in China you lived, and where in the world you’re moving back to, but there’s no denying the unbelievable feeling when ordering a bowl of noodles from the corner shop for 10 RMB (just over $1.50USD/£1GBP). Here in America, the cheapest fast food dinner will normally run you around $10USD. Moving back to America, this was not only the first thing I noticed, but something I think about daily as the cost of buying or making three meals a day is daunting. What I’d give to have a tiny Chinese breakfast jianbing stand permanently placed outside my office.

2. KTV

This one may sound silly, but it’s something that took me a while to admit that I missed. And in order to truly understand how much I missed KTV in China, I had to first experience American Karaoke. The horrible song choices, the nerves, the lack of disco lights and your own personal attendants; it all felt so wrong in America! There was nothing like the go-to weekend hangout spot for friends and co-workers, where we would pile into the room, sing, drink, and laugh for the entire night. 

3. Feeling of Safety

Again, this one could differ quite a bit depending on where you lived and where you’re returning to, but I often tell people that I’ve never felt safer in my life than in Beijing, and it’s true! Now, living in a house in America, if I hear a noise outside I immediately jump out of bed and go to check out if there’s an intruder lurking around. In China, with the unlimited amount of strange noises outside my apartment door, it never once crossed my mind there was somebody there with bad intentions. Seeing cops in China never filled me with any anxiety, yet when I see a police car here in America my palms automatically start sweating. The feeling of safety I had living in China was unparalleled, and will certainly be missed. 

4. Travel Opportunities

Little known fact about China; its 14 neighbouring countries make it the country with the maximum amount of shared borders. That is just one indicator to how many international travel opportunities there are while living in China, let alone travelling within the massive country itself. I would say that travel within China was actually quite similar to travelling in America. Beaches, mountains, deserts, lakes, different styles of food, different cultures all there for the exploring, but it’s international travel that really gives China the edge. (Click here for some top tips on travelling through Asia).Hoping on a quick flight to Thailand, Vietnam, Japan or South Korea, was a definite luxury that Americans lack. Our only neighbouring options are Canada and Mexico, which can get old quick in my personal opinion. 

5. Transportation

That leads me to my next topic: transportation. Cheap flights are just the start to China’s unparalleled transportation solutions. In my everyday life, I miss riding my little scooter into work and being able to take shared bikes around historic parts of Beijing. Being in America and having to rely completely on my expensive, gas guzzling car is something I thought I would love, but ended up longing for the China way. Not only the local transportation, but the amount of long-distance buses and trains were not only convenient, but reliable and reasonably priced.

6. The Language

As an avid Mandarin learner, one of the most appealing things about life in China was being able to immerse myself in a foreign language every day. Being able to improve to the point where you understand the people around you, and can navigate the most foreign of countries was exhilarating. And there was nothing like seeing the faces of friendly locals lighting up when you begin speaking Mandarin with them. Moving back to America and speaking strictly English is just so…boring. Even if you find a local Chinese restaurant, there’s a 50% chance they speak Cantonese, and a higher chance that their English is better than your Chinese!

Do you need to be fluent in Chinese to teach in China? Read more here

7. Spring Festival

Having spent the last 5 Chinese New Years with the same Chinese family, I really began to feel like part of the celebration. The energy and traditions surrounding the Spring Festival, in my opinion, surpass Christmas in America. There was nothing like bundling up and going outside to light fireworks, jam into an extremely noisy and upbeat local restaurant, and visit relatives in the countryside. The whole experience was something that was extremely confusing at first, but became very nostalgic as the years went by. Something I wish I would have cherished a bit more before returning to my home country. 

So there they are, my top 7 missed things about China. The list could go on forever, but these are the ones I end up thinking about at least once a week. If you’re currently living in China, my advice to you is cherish it! I know life in China can also be hard at times with the inevitable “bad China day” or two, but when you return to your home country or move away, there will certainly be things you’ll wish you could experience again. 

Adam lived between Beijing and Inner Mongolia for 5 years, working in the travel marketing industry. He is now the VP of Marketing at Cannsult, an international business consulting company, where he runs a modern-day Business Improvement Blog 

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