Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life in China isn't that Hard

It occurs to me that many people in the U.S. assume that living in China as an American must be inherently more difficult than living in America. I don't think that's true. I bet almost anyone could do it, and like it, and have just as good a life as if they stayed where they were.

(So come on over.)


  1. I beg to differ. Cross cultural living isn't always a walk in the park because it's so different than what we've learned or done our entire lives in America. That being said, it's a ton more rewarding!

  2. But is it hardER? I think for every challenge that we gain by being in China, we lose a challenge of living in America.

    For example, it's harder to get some foods here. On the other hand, it's easier and cheaper to get fresh, healthy produce.

    On one hand, it's hard to navigate all the layers of Chinese culture. On the other hand, I find that my foibles and problems are more often smoothed over by friends here than at home.

    It's harder to get some things done. On the other hand, living away from busybusy America and all your connections there allows me to choose to do less.

    The big challenges for me of living in China are the ever-present language and culture barriers. But it's also a simpler, quieter, less busy life in which I find it much easier to focus on the relationships that matter to me.

    I started thinking on this subject when I thought of all the people who say things like, "I could never live in China." I always think, "Really? Why not? What is there about living in China that most people couldn't do?"

    Unless they get terribly homesick or are absolutely dependent on Western-style health care or amenities, I think life here would be doable for most Americans.

    Other thoughts?

  3. I agree w/most of what you said, especially the part about the benefits of simplification (which can be applied anywhere you live with some resolve). I also agree that the common materialistic connotation tied with "standard of living" has little to do with happiness. I would add that you are viewing your experience through the lens of someone privileged with American citizenship and appearance. I know from my own travels that skin color alone confers special treatment in 2nd / 3rd world countries.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't blame Americans for assuming it's a huge sacrifice to live in China, because the reality is that most Chinese live a very hard life. Having visited and spent a few days "in your life" I think you are rightly appreciative of your quality of life. I think if you were relegated to a crowded city, 12-hour working days, squat toilets, cold water, no A/C, smells, bed bugs, etc. then this post would be more about life in "Real China" and how He rewards great sacrifices on His behalf.

  4. Good point. That's why I made sure to say "living in China as an American," which is in almost every way different than living in China as a Chinese.

    Although, hard life or not, I've always thought that in a nationwide survey of satisfaction/happiness, Chinese would probably score a little higher than Americans. I think this is partly due to the fact that most Chinese are seeing their lives get better and better, whereas Americans tend to view things in America as getting worse and worse.

    I can only speak from my own experience, but I would not call my current life harder than the one I lived in America. Given the large number of Westerners who come to China for a short time and find themselves staying for decades, it seems there are plenty of people who feel the same.

  5. I think that wherever one is called to live, he/she will be equipped to live there. Therefore, if one isn't called to live in China, it would probably not be as good of life or as rewarding as it is for you. Things like homesickness and difficulty adapting to different cultural ways and standards would most likely become significant issues to deal with.

  6. Good post. Living as an American in China can be challenging, but He gets us through. Many people won't come here to live -- whether it were difficult or not -- because they are afraid to leave their comfort zone. And one thing about adjusting to life in China: It's not always comfortable.