There’s no doubt that living in a different country is going to be a completely different experience from living in your home country. Here are some of the more interesting specific characteristics that I’ve noticed about living in China.
The Food – As many of my semester-long friends are set to return to the United States soon, our conversations about the things we’re all going to miss all inevitably return to one thing: food. It’s not that American food is inferior to Chinese food. American food, when it’s good, it’s really, really, good. And so is Chinese food. But even common Chinese food, the kind of stuff that you buy from a street vendor or a hole-in-the wall restaurant, is still really, really, good, in a way that cheap and easy American food just isn’t. And the prices can’t be beat either.
Shopping – Bargaining. Some people love it or hate it, some people are awful at it and some laowai (true story) have been known to be so “li hai” at it that word quickly starts spreading through the grapevine network of shopkeepers (who then all consequently emerge from their stalls to catch a glimpse at this rare creature). Don’t fret, if you’re aren’t a huge fan of bargaining, there are plenty of places that sell goods at fixed prices. And if you do find yourself to be especially “li hai” at it, you definitely won’t run out of opportunities to pick up good deals and impress your classmates.
The Smells – It’s not going to be uncommon for you to be taking a pleasant stroll down the street and all of a sudden, a nasty smell hits you. However, just as soon as you start to pinpoint where the smell is coming from, it vanishes as quickly as it began.
Dat fashion – Be ready to be blown away by the sheer number, not only of Chinese girls, but boys as well, who look like they’ve just stepped out of a music video or fashion advertisement. Rarely, if ever, will you see a young Chinese girl or guy looking frumpy, especially if they are out on the town. This makes people-watching super awesome, but can also make you feel like a super unfashionable person.
The hordes of people – China has the largest population in the world and in Beijing, there are definitely going to be times when you feel it. Usually this occurs in public transportation during rush hour times, but as long as you know where you are going, its really not as terrible as it sounds. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time if you plan to go across the city to Chao yang or Sanlitun, and it never hurts to have your iPod with you just in case you get bored.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Alexis Cobau is a Junior at the University of Michigan, majoring in Chinese and International Studies with a concentration in International security, cooperation and norms. She is excited to be returning to China for the first time since her original foray into study abroad in Harbin, China on an NSLI-Y State Department scholarship as a rising senior in High School. This will be her sixth year studying Chinese and she can't wait to spend it exploring Beijing. When not practicing her Chinese characters and tones, Alexis enjoys reading, writing, drawing and cooking.</span></p>