Four Facts About Everyday Life in China People Often Get Wrong

Keara Lou

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People often get nervous at the thought of living in China. They think about the censorship, the government, and the language barrier. To most people, China could sound like a scary place to live.

As someone who spent six years of her life in Beijing, I can confidently say that China is one of the most underrated countries on the planet. China has its own brand of uniqueness that makes it stand out. Often, I didn’t know what to expect every day when I left my apartment.

When I moved back home, people often asked me about life in China. Others would tell me how my life was when they never visited themselves.

People often get the wrong ideas when they think of living in Beijing. It’s part fear, part lack of knowledge. Sometimes, the media only shows the negative parts of China.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negative on the media. However, it takes away from everyday life in China. All of these facts affect daily life, and how exaggerated people’s claims can be.

Everything is cheaper in China

People said this one a lot. While there is some truth to it, it isn’t always the case. Some things were more expensive in China. Also, because I was a foreigner, some things were automatically more costly for me.

Western restaurants were more of a treat than an everyday thing. If I wanted to order food, I’d stick to a Chinese restaurant because they were cheaper. Imported shampoos and other products could be more expensive if you didn’t know where to look.

And don’t get me started on how expensive Apple products are. Easily, they’re more expensive in China than they are in the U.S. It’s better to buy a smartphone before you come to China.

Here’s where the truth comes in. In a city like Beijing, I felt like the cost of living was about the same as living in a small Northern Michigan town. If I lived in a smaller city like Chengdu or Tianjin, I could see why people say everything’s cheaper in China.

It all depends on which city you live in. I didn’t see it as necessarily true in Beijing.

You can’t find clothes in China if you’re not skinny

Anyone who tried to tell me I couldn’t find clothes has never heard of WeChat. I am a bigger woman, but in the plus-size world, I’m relatively small. Sometimes, I could go to a store and find a cute dress or top that fit. It was rare, but it did happen.

Shoes, however, were impossible. I have big feet, and they were near impossible to find. I’d wear men’s shoes for work and for walking around the city.

If I wanted clothes or a nice pair of dress shoes, I’d look around WeChat. WeChat is an app in China that works like Facebook, but it’s more private. I wrote a lot about WeChat in a previous article, so I won’t go into too much detail here.

WeChat was my go-to for clothes and dress shoes. Without it, I would need to spend lots of money on a tailor to fix my clothes.

Foreigners would have a hard time surviving life in China without WeChat. It’s one of the reasons living in China was convenient.

Nobody speaks English

This claim is only valid if you’re living in a village. However, English teachers are in high demand. At least three times a week, someone would stop me on the street to ask me to help tutor their children English.

If you live in Beijing or Shanghai, you could get through at least a year of living in China without learning the language. Life would be harder than if you learned basic phrases, but it can be done.

In smaller cities, I’d highly recommend learning Chinese. You don’t want to spend your time in China, depending on translation apps and WeChat translations. There are situations where you need translations, but you don’t want to depend on locals and apps the whole time you’re there.

You will lose a lot of weight living in China

This claim has some half-truths to it. A lot of it depends on where you are in China. In your first year, you will lose weight if you’re not used to a lot of walking. However, your body will get used to being more active, and you will have to do more to take the weight off.

In my first few years of living in China, I did lose weight. I went from driving myself all the time to walking and taking the subway. I also ate a lot of Chinese restaurants, so I was eating more vegetables.

But in my last year in China, I was starting to exclusively eat Western food. I was using DiDi, Chinese Uber, a lot more than walking, and I started gaining the weight back. Over time, you will need to keep doing extra things to keep yourself active to maintain your weight.

The Takeaway

Living in China was one of the most unique experiences of my life. Being alone in another country helped give me confidence. Now, I know I can do anything in my life.

China sounds like a scary place to live because it’s not familiar. The language, food, and culture are nothing like what we’re used to back home. However, it’s a country I’d encourage everyone to visit at least once in their lives. It’ll give you a new perspective on how you see the country itself.

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I'm a Forever Middle-Child who doesn't have the ability to sit still. I often write about travel, relationships, life, books, food, humor, and life as a fat woman. Women's issues are a passion of mine too. I often write a lot of opinion pieces about what's going on in the world with a little touch of politics. I'll write about anything that comes to mind.

Beaverton, MI
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