It’s hard to decide to pick up and move overseas. The thing that makes change hard is fear, specifically fear of the unknown. We like things that are predictable. It’s the reason that Starbucks is much more appealing to me in China than it is in America. Everywhere in the world, Starbucks stores have the same green and brown color scheme and the clean, modern atmosphere. It’s familiar and it reminds me of America, which is comforting. When I go to Starbucks in America it reminds me of mediocre coffee and how I wish I was at Caribou Coffee.
To westerners, China is the epitome of the great unknown. We worry about what to bring with us, what won’t we have access to, what we’re going to have to give up, and what we’ll have to do without, and it starts to make living overseas seem like a big sacrifice. Usually it’s little things (like our favorite brands of shampoo or Taco Bell) that we miss, but really, giving up those sorts of things isn’t that hard. The great thing about moving to China is that when you get here you start to find things you love that you don’t have access to in your home country.
This is my list of things that I love that I couldn’t have if I lived in America:
- An Electric Bicycle. I love riding my e-bike to work and around the city in the summer time. I love that it’s quiet and fast (comparatively) and that when I get to work I’m not all sweaty like I used to be when I rode my regular bike.
- Hot/Cold Water Dispenser. Everyone here uses large Culligan-style water jugs for their drinking water. We’ve got a great dispenser that dispenses cold water for drinking or hot water for tea, both of which are already on-tap 24/7.*
- Gong Bao Ji Ding (Kung Pow Chicken—the real stuff). There are a lot of different food dishes that I could name, but truly I have never found authentically-good gong bao in America, and when I lived there I constantly craved it.
- Watson-Brand Ginger Ale. When I was growing up, I thought ginger ale was just another name for Sprite, but when I tasted Watson’s Ginger Ale, I realized I had been deceived. Let me just say that ginger ale should taste like ginger. Shame on you, Canada Dry.**
- No sales tax or tipping. No offense to restaurant servers—you guys work hard and deserve the tips that you earn, no question—but I love being able to walk into a restaurant here, look at the menu, see that my guacamole caesar steak wrap is going to be 52 RMB, and know that when I leave, I will have spent 52 RMB (plus 12RMB for my Watson’s Ginger Ale). No tax, no tip—just the price on the menu.
You’re always going to miss out of some of things that you loved about wherever you used to live, but you’ll gain new things wherever you end up. It just takes some faith to go and trust that there will be good things when you arrive, even if you don’t know what those things are yet.
For those of you who live in or have lived in China, what’s the best perk to life here?
*I know you can get water dispensers like that in the States, too, but I think if the tap water is drinkable, it’s an unnecessary luxury.
** I know that there are good ginger ales available in America, but here you can get Watson’s Ginger Ale at most restaurants that have any significant foreign patronage.