China Travel – A Westerner’s Viewpoint
China Travel – I have a great friend who is currently traveling abroad. Lately she has been doing these cool little updates on interesting things she has been experiencing. She includes info comparing American culture and just generally reports on the new things that she has learned and discovered. There are several of us who have been following the saga, thoroughly enjoying her updates so I thought it would be entertaining to interview her and ask her some more questions about her travels.
In addition to these periodic questionnaires I will include quotations from her updates on Facebook starting from the beginning of her travels to catch you up to speed. Next, I plan to ask her a few more questions about herself so that you can get to know her a little better to get a better feel for her personality, which will make reading these updates all the more fun and entertaining. I will also include a link to her Instagram account so that you can see what she is doing in real-time and I’ll make sure to add some photos of her travels to her updates here too. Continue reading below to see the answers to the first set of questions I have sent her.
China Travel: Some Compelling Questions About Kristen’s Journey
1/28/2017 – Here is our dialogue:
What made you decide to go to China?
“I suppose a many number of things played into my decision, but ultimately, I came because I had an opportunity. As westerners, we don’t have much access to real Asian culture. I was excited to move somewhere that has a vastly different way of life, even if I don’t always agree with their methods. And… I’d be lying if I said that Pandas had nothing to do with my decision. I’ve been passionate about Pandas for over a decade now, and I actually have a chance to hold one now.”
What is your favorite thing about China?
“In three days, I’ll be able to say that holding a panda is my favorite thing about China. But as for now, it’s the idiosyncrasies that charm me. Almost everyone has an electric bike that they drive on the road and on the sidewalks– going in the wrong direction more often than not.”
What do you miss the most about the U.S.?
“Being able to use the restroom almost anywhere and knowing it will be moderately clean. I’ve adapted okay to the squatty-potty method, but the restrooms smell so bad. I intentionally stay dehydrated if I know I’ll be away from my home or workplace for a significant amount of time.”
How long have you been there and how long do you plan to stay?
“I’ve been in China for almost four months now. I plan on staying at least 2 years, maybe longer. I don’t feel I’ve lived here long enough to make too many long term decisions yet.”
How many Chinese words do you know now?
“That depends on who you ask! I think I know many more than the natives think I know. The problem with mandarin is that it uses four tones and one neutral tone. So you can say the correct word, but if you use the wrong tone/pitch it changes the word. It’s very confusing.”
What are they?
“So far I can (kinda) say: thank you, no, yes, dog, cat, panda, this one (often used when ordering from a menu), tree, swimming, running, man, woman, child, little girl, little boy, drink, eat, rice, juice and light. I can also count to ten.”
What is your favorite type of authentic Chinese food?
“It’s the same here as it is in the USA: dumplings. Also, dumplings are just about the only authentic dish I’ve ever had at an American Chinese restaurant. Aside from dumplings, I’d have to say Hot Pot is my favorite authentic dish. It’s basically a huge pot on a fire that has an extremely spicy broth inside of it. You then add whatever ingredients you want to the pot. Meat, vegetables, tofu… Anything.”
What is shopping like there?
“Grocery shopping is a bit of a battle for me. I live in a city with five-million people in it, so there is never a good time to go. Considering I can’t read Chinese, I take a little longer than the average person when trying to figure out what I am buying. This doesn’t bode well with locals in a rush. Also, the ingredients the cooks with –including the cuts of meat– are so different from what I’m used to I often just eat out. As for clothes shopping, it’s fantastic. With the population as large as it is, I have five shopping centers at my disposal, and these are just the ones I’m aware of. The downside is, I’m a lot larger than the women here and that makes finding clothing in my size difficult. But I’m just using it as motivation to lose some weight.
Oh– one of my favorite things about shopping here is the free storage lockers! Most malls have a grocery store in the basement. So when you go to the grocery store, you can leave all your bags in a secure locker for free until you’re ready to go. I will take a picture for reference at a later date.”
How do people treat you being a foreigner particularly from the U.S.?
“Honestly, it’s a little overwhelming. Westerners are not common in tier 3 cities. I always get looked at twice because everyone is so curious. I went to get my hair colored and I had four people working on my hair while another was literally force-feeding me fruit. It was so bizarre. A week ago I went to get my nails done and the girls brought me a bowl of soup because they thought I was sick. They all go the extra mile to communicate with me. Everyone is incredibly accommodating and want to make sure I have the best experience possible. As for being from the USA, they love to tell me how much they love our former president, Barack Obama. They are all very worried about Trump being POTUS.”
What do the Chinese think about people from U.S.?
“I’m not really sure what they think about the people. I’m the only one that most of them have met that’s from the U.S. but they seem to think we only eat burgers. And to them, a burger is a chicken patty. Really. When they ask me about our cuisine, I try to explain to them that we eat all sorts of international cuisine, authentic or not. I try to explain that we are melting pot of culture so we have a little of everything.”
Like what is their general attitude about us?
“This isn’t really a conversation I’ve had with any of them so I can only base this off my personal experience. It’s almost like they think we are all celebrities. At least that’s the way they treat me, and from what others have told me, they have the same experience. It’s like being a unicorn, I guess. I think it’s hard for us to really understand what they are feeling when they see a Westerner because in the U.S. we are constantly surrounded by multiple cultures and skin colors. But for them? A white girl isn’t a common sight.”
Is there anything about life in China that you are having a difficult time adjusting to?
“The local beer has less than 3% ABV, and man, that’s a buzz kill. But really, the squatty potties are the hardest part, and that’s only because in highly populated areas they smell terrible.”
How do you think this will help your job prospects when you get back to the U.S.?
“Unless I go into education when I get back, it’s probably not helping me at all.”
What do you think you are going to miss the most about having to return to the U.S.?
“The aesthetics. Everything here is built to impress and it really shows. Marble floors, stone buildings, everything is lit up beautifully.”
Do you think that it is more affordable to live in China than the U.S. right now?
“Living in China is definitely cheaper than living in the U.S.– If you’re American. I think if I made average wages it wouldn’t be any easier. But I don’t, so yes, it’s more affordable for me. ”
What is healthcare like there?
“I haven’t been to the doctor since I’ve been here, so I can’t tell you much about that. But as for the locals, they think that water, ginger, and fresh air is the cure for everything. Which is strange since the air is so polluted there is nothing fresh about it. They don’t take daily medications for allergies or any pain medication. I think they’re crazy, but ya’know, to each their own.
China Travel: Kristen’s Facebook Updates
Starting from January 9th here are a few screenshots of some of Kristen’s awesome China travel updates and tips all the way up to where we last left off with the Pandas.
Here are some cute photos of Pandas from her trip to Chengdu, China:
Here is Kristen’s Instagram account: You can ask her permission to follow if you’d like to see more China travel pics.
Well, there you have it! Stay tuned for more. I’ll be checking in with Kristen periodically reporting back on what’s new. Thank you for taking the time to read about my friend.
I will continue to update this page about her and her China travels throughout the time she is there and is able to report back to me. I am excited to see what she has to say next. Subscribe for updates and feel free to bookmark this page. If there is anything that you want to ask Kristen feel free to message me here on Facebook, shoot me an e-mail here, or comment below. If you have any interesting travel stories that you would like for me to publish on my page, along side of hers just let me know by one of the methods of communication mentioned above.