After that post, I was meaning to do a happier post about why we actually like living in China, but I've been too busy enjoying living in China since then that I didn't get around to it.
So like 6 months later, here it is: The Top 10 Reasons Why I Love Living in China
10. You can push people.
And it's not considered rude. Lunch time at our school cafeteria is seriously like a mosh pit. You just have to dive right in, otherwise you'll never get your food, and minor pushing is permitted and even expected. If you elbow someone in the gut, they will give you a dirty look, but non-painful squirming through a crowd is totally par for the course. You want to get somewhere? No polite waiting at a respectable distance. Just get there already! Once you get used to this different cultural way of moving through lines, it can be a lot faster than polite American lines.
9. You can cross the street whenever you feel like it.
Except when a bus is coming. Don't try that. Busses always win. But any other time, if you can make it, you can do it. Jay walking is allowed (and again, often expected). You don't have to wait at the red light for your little green guy to light up. If you see an opening, just go already!
8. You learn to be flexible.
When I first came to China to teach, I freaked out for the first two semesters because my teaching schedule was given to me about a week before I actually had to start teaching. For a naturally inclined advance planner like myself, this was horrifying. Now, here I am, three days before the next semester is supposed to begin, and I still have no idea when I'm teaching next week. But I'm actually emotionally fine with that. Living in China has moved me out of my control freak comfort zone. Now, I'm learning to see last-minute information as a fun surprise rather than crucial information I need ahead of time. The attitude here is: it will happen when it happens. No big deal. And I'm learning to relax into that philosophy.
7. You can (sort of) live naturally.
We live in a city of millions, but there are still chickens that wander around everywhere and probably end up in local dishes. Matt posted about the market where all the produce and meat is local and (usually) fresh. Our ground beef here tastes very different from American ground beef. It has a much more earthy taste, which I've read online probably means that it is grass-fed beef. So we get all these perks and we don't even have to pay for organic! On the other hand, a lot of favorite Chinese snacks are loaded with nasty preservatives and who knows what else. So it's not all good, but at least we know our meat is fresh and natural (because we just saw it wandering around outside).
6. Rules are ambiguous.
China is not only a flexible place when it comes to schedules; it's also flexible when it comes to rules. Relationships are more important than rules, so if you're a friend of someone who is supposed to enforce rules, this can be a good situation for you. Especially when said rules are needlessly complicated, confusing, and pointless. This aspect of China life can also lead to corruption, as most people and the media tend to focus on. But I for one am a fan of this part of Chinese culture. I find it much easier to cultivate good relationships than I do to follow all the rules. And I like knowing that if I think a rule is pointless, I can pretty easily get out of it by being friends with someone. The flexibility and freedom that provides is quite refreshing compared to the justice-oriented letter of the law that is common in the States.
Most people in China don't seem to "exercise" regularly, but they do get a lot of exercise. By this, I mean that you rarely see people out jogging, except for a few people from the community who come jog around the track at our school. People go to gyms, but the gyms aren't really busting at the seams considering how many people live here. However, everywhere you go, you'll see people of all ages walking and biking everywhere. That culture is unfortunately changing a little bit as electric bikes and cars get more popular here, but still, you can always see tons of people walking and biking on any street in Tianjin. We walk and bike so much more here than we ever did in the US, and my body feels much healthier for it.
Why do we bike and walk more here? We don't have a car! Most of our expat friends in China don't have cars, including our friends with kids (some of them even have 4 or more kids, and they manage to bike with all of them!) For people in the US, that would be insane. And it is more difficult. We had to adjust to the fact that we could not get everything we wanted at the supermarket. If it won't fit on your bike, you can't get it in that trip. But after awhile, we realize that it's really not that hard to get by without a car or a clothes dryer or a microwave or these other "necessities" that we would never have gone without in the US. You can get by with less, and that's a comforting thought in case the world ever ends and we have to figure out how to do things for ourselves again.
3. If you learn to communicate anything in Chinese, you feel like a superhero.
Chinese language is difficult. I've also studied Arabic, and I feel like Chinese is WAY harder to learn. So, although that can be a really frustrating part of living in China, it also makes you feel like Batman when you actually effectively communicate something in Chinese. Why, yes I did just order that bottle of water without using any English at all. Booya.
Chinese food in China puts Chinese food in America to shame. The variety here is awesome (and I don't even like spicy food, so imagine how much Matt enjoys ALL of the food here.) And I have to say, I never really lived until I discovered Xinjiang food. (For those who don't know, Xinjiang food consists of a lot of lamb and other meat, often on skewers, round bread called nang, and delicious yogurt. At least those are my favorite dishes to get.)
The number one reason I always give anyone who asks why we live in China is - Chinese people. We recently got back from Thailand, and Matt and I talked about how being in Thailand highlighted for us again why we love Chinese people so much. As a whole, we find Chinese people treat us with hospitality, kindness, curiosity, friendliness, and sincerity. (Not every expat in China feels like that...in fact, one of our co-workers always says, "Chinese people lie all the time!") But we feel like if you can understand the culture and the ideas of saving face and building guanxi, you can see past the apparent "lies" of people here and build really incredible relationships. For most Chinese people we know, if we treat them with kindness, respect, and dignity, they will reciprocate with fierce loyalty and sacrificial kindness. We love our Chinese friends, and we are so grateful that we get to be here, building relationships and learning about community from a whole new perspective.