Susan Bradley, blog author
Susan Bradley

There's been numerous posts about what documents you'll need to come to China and all of those have highlighted things like your verified degree, your TEFL, your criminal background check, and your health checkup. And there's also been the posts about what to pack (and what not to pack) and have included things like your OTC medications, deodorant, and the like.

I want to share some of my humble insights about five different things that you may or may not have thought about China.

1. Put aside any preconceived ideas about China

As a young girl I had lived in Japan for 5 years with my family traveling throughout Asia and I loved the experience. Though I hadn't been to China, my ideas of China had most definitely been impacted by the media. These ideas haven't jibed with what I have actually experienced since coming here to teach English and living here for going on 4 years. I had a notion that because the country is communist that there would be blatant infringements on personal freedoms here in China. For me I observe people doing and being what they want. I have met many educators and artists that freely express themselves through their art and teaching. There is little discussion about what the government is or isn't doing or whether people are happy with it or not. What I do see though is a citizenry that appears happy as they make their way through daily life in the cities. I see families getting kids to school and picking them up, children playing and doing daily activities in a pleasant manner, and businesses operating successfully. My impression of the Chinese people is that they are generally feeling happy and doing well financially.

Put aside any preconceived ideas about China

2. China is a safe place for foreigners

My experience here in China for nearly four years and living in 2 different provinces and in 3 different cities, is that China is one of the safest countries I have lived in and traveled in. China does have what is referred to as CCTV or cameras at every intersection and around the city and I have found this to actually be a comfort since I mostly travel on my own. As a woman I feel totally safe here in China and have had no discomfort or concern making my way home on foot alone around 9:00 pm on a Saturday after teaching all day.

China is a safe place for foreigners

3. China is still a developing country

Though the country manufactures what seems as every thing under the sun (including solar energy components). China is a huge and vast country with an ever-growing population. This is evident with all the construction of high-rise apartments in every major and minor city. This is also evident in the condition of city streets and sidewalks which are mostly in disrepair, uneven, and plain and simply worn from the use of so many people. City infrastructure (street repair and maintenance and even with regulation of curb height and materials used, etc.) seems to be in a developing stage compared with most western cities.

4. There is no recycling in China

The government has been installing and implementing recycling efforts for a couple of years now. Currently the government has stepped up efforts at education regarding recycling and the different types of recycled items from plastics and glass, to food and plant waste, to unrecyclable items and what to do with them. Every apartment community, every neighborhood has designated recycle areas with special waste bags and collection bins. Every street corner has garbage bins designated for different types of waste. This month as a matter of fact our school hosted students speaking about recycling and we are participating in a community recycling event in my city! Recycling is happening in China!

5. You will need to keep tissues in your pocket or handbag

This is a funny thing for a westerner, but in China most restaurants do not have napkins on the tables and most public bathroom facilities do not have toilet paper or paper towels. So be prepared and have packages of tissue on your person at all times! Enough said!

There could be a couple more things I might share like “you can find any product you could want or need” here in China either in the city or on the online shopping site called Taobao. And, “give yourself time to adjust to the differences in food, thinking, and just being here in China”, and you too may find you're quite simply happy to be living in a less stressful manner and in a safer place, too.

 You will need to keep tissues in your pocket or handbag

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