Things I didn’t do before moving to China

28 Jan
What to write next?  Who knows?

Do you think I look Asian?

This post was inspired by a post by Girl in Florence about how she has changed since moving to Italy.  To check out her post please click here.

China has changed me.  When we got our wedding pictures back people started to say I looked Asian.  I’m not so sure that’s true, but there are certain behaviours that I know are different.  After reading my cousin’s thoughts on moving to China as a newbie, it made me think even more about those changes.  Here are a few.

  1. Drinking hot water – this is a very Chinese thing and something I do now on a regular basis.  I understand now it is actually very healthy to drink warm water, especially in the morning.  This is something I’ll do in warm and cold weather now, much to the surprise of my family.
  2. Wearing my coat when eating – Shanghai does not have central heating and many small restaurants are cold.  I have gotten used to eating wearing my coat in situations like that which never would happen in Chicago or Michigan.  It doesn’t throw me at all.  This is the time of year when it becomes a regular occurrence.
  3. Cooking over a gas flame – growing up and when I moved to Chicago the ranges I cooked on were electric.  No one has an electric range here – how would you use a wok?  It took a while to get the hang of it, but I really enjoy the control it gives me and both western and eastern flavors.
My first independent fried rice - eggs, onion and Taiwanese sausage

My first independent fried rice – eggs, onion and Taiwanese sausage

  1. Using a squat toilet – I had used squat toilets before moving to China, but now I will use them without a second thought.   In train stations, airports, restaurants – sometimes they are the only option and often they are the cleanest option.  A nice clean western style toilet is something I notice now – and am pleasantly surprised when there is toilet paper.  I don’t take it for granted any more.
  2. Working on weekends – Not working overtime – this is the quirk of the Chinese calendar when they reshuffle standard work days and Saturday or Sunday becomes a normal work day.  I understand why they do it to give people more consecutive days off, but this is one change I don’t like.  I do it grudgingly, but I do it.
  3. Being obsessed with blue skies – Regular readers know how I love blue skies.  This started from my first trip back to the US after I lived in China for 9 months and is still going strong.  I have rubbed this off on my coworkers as I post on WeChat sunsets and blue skies – which they are now doing too!
A snap out of a cab window - the pearl tower with a couple puffy clouds behind

A snap out of a cab window – the pearl tower with a couple puffy clouds behind

Those of you who know me – have you noticed any other changes?  I tried not to pick the obvious answers like speaking in Mandarin or traveling to many Asian countries or eating parts of animals that I had never even heard of.  When you have lived somewhere for a while – how has it changed you?

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19 Responses to “Things I didn’t do before moving to China”

  1. ggnitaly84 January 28, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    Honored that my post inspired yours! Thanks so much for the mention and I loved reading your list. Those squat toilets are quite difficult to get used to but I remember having to use them in China.. will check out your blog!

    • gkm2011 January 28, 2014 at 8:48 am #

      Thanks for stopping by! I have enjoyed your blog for a while now and that post really made me think. The squat toilets are fun! (Not always….)

      • ggnitaly84 January 28, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

        I actually taught in China for a few months back in 2005 and I am super happy to have found your blog. Back to coffee and squat toilets (theme of the hour) 😉

      • gkm2011 January 29, 2014 at 7:22 pm #

        Really? What a small world. Happy accidents.

  2. ladyofthecakes January 28, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    I need my (black) tea with a splash of milk. Two decades in the UK, what can I say 😉

    • gkm2011 January 28, 2014 at 8:50 am #

      My husband lived in the UK for six years and even though we live in China his guilty pleasure is tea with milk. Who’d have thought?

  3. Every Day Adventures in Asia January 28, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    Except for drinking hot water (just room temperature here rather than ice cold water which is the norm in Canada), every other item on your list rings equally true for India! Plus the usual things like taking shoes off at the door, etc.

    • gkm2011 January 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

      Interesting – I didn’t realize India would have similarities! You should do a similar post.

      • Every Day Adventures in Asia January 29, 2014 at 11:18 pm #

        I will… post Malaysia… It’s been mad busy getting a new company setup for consulting work along with a completely crazy other venture… that just might work!?!

  4. sarahinguangzhou January 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm #

    Yes all those things certainly rang true when I was in China, but they soon disappeared once I left. The hot water things was particularly annoying. After working all day I was thirsty and wanted something cold to drink. An eggcup full of warm water does not quench a thirst built up from talking all day. But then I don’t like hot drinks anyway.
    I still carry my own tissue into a bathroom; habit i guess.

    • gkm2011 January 29, 2014 at 7:30 pm #

      That is an interesting thought – how many of these behaviors are temporary and how many are stuck with me from now on. Only time will tell!

  5. expatlingo January 28, 2014 at 10:15 pm #

    I wish I could remember to bring my own toilet paper… I also have come to enjoy hot water 😉

    • gkm2011 January 29, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

      I have heard that warm water is actually easier to digest. Who would have thought?

  6. pollyheath January 29, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    We ate in a real Chinese restaurant while we were in Kyrgyzstan — everyone kept their coats on. Guess they keep the tradition alive even when they’re not in the homeland!

    • gkm2011 January 29, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      I assume the restaurant was “on the breezy side”? Chinese people are nothing if not practical. 🙂

  7. thenakedlistener January 29, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    Actually, you do have an air of Chineseness about you – or maybe you’re an expat time traveller from Sixties Hong Kong.

    I have to say that drinking hot water definitely is a very, very Chinese thing. I personally have hot drinks but never plain hot water, so I guess I’m nowhere near as ‘Chinese’ as you are.

    I’m Hong Kong-born but grew up in 13 different countries around the world, so you’ll know I’m a bit schizophrenic. I’m not a particularly changeable person, but the thing that has changed in me after living back in Hong Kong is how much more money-minded I’ve become. I guess that’s a consequence of living in a highly expensive place in a flat the size of a shoebox.

    • gkm2011 January 29, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

      I have had friends get very worried about a 10 RMB difference in price where it’s less than 2 dollars, but haven’t noticed that one about myself. Thanks for commenting!

  8. buildingmybento February 4, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Everyday at my Shenzhen middle school, a student would amble on by the teachers’ desks, leaving us “gifts” of warm (powdered) milk and yoghurt.

    Every cup of water handed to me was lukewarm or worse, lukewarm AND from the tap.

    One time, after a tasty meal of 刀削面, I opened the door to leave. It was a glass door, and fell. “mei shi, mei shi.”

    One of those three scenarios doesn’t fit with the other two. But they all mesh well with an expat’s experiences in China.

    • gkm2011 February 5, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      Very true- an expat in China has to stay on her toes! There is no “normal” for many things.

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