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I live in China. AMA

50 replies

ExpatInChina · 22/02/2020 14:32

Been living in China for 3 years (not in Wuhan), if you have any questions about what life has been like out here since the Corona virus outbreak (or just in general), please feel free to post a question!

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Dumbledoresgirl · 22/02/2020 14:43

OMG, how long have you got? My dd is due to spend a year in China starting in September and I am so anxious about it, even before coronavirus. She, on the other hand, can't wait.

How many questions am I limited to?

I suppose, first and foremost, i want to know how easy is it for you to buy dairy products? I know the Chinese don't culturally eat diary products and I have heard that a long abstinence from dairy products can lead to an intolerance to them. Dd isn't big on cheese, but I want her to drink milk regularly. How easy will it be for her to find any?

Which parts/cities in China do you know? (Hoping I can ask specifics about where my dd is going).

What are your experiences of street food? Is it safe to eat? How common is it to come across meats that would not be morally acceptable in the West?

What is the air pollution like where you live?

What were the differences you found hardest to adapt to, assuming you originated in a western culture?

Are you comfortable living in a state with dubious human rights?

On a more positive note, what are the main tourist attractions you would recommend on a visit to China?

Sorry, nothing about coronavirus, if that was what you were expecting. I am sure others will ask about that.

ExpatInChina · 22/02/2020 14:51

I'm in Shanghai and we have lots of import shops here, so getting products from home is relatively easy, it's just expensive. A carton of milk costs about £3, you can buy then from most local convenience stores.

Cities in China are very safe and easy to navigate. She needs to install the English language version of wechat and didi when she arrives. Didi is like the Chinese version of uber.

Air pollution isn't great. I'd recommend getting an air purifier for her apartment.

Chinese people are lovely, but, there are definitely cultural clashes in the workplace at times. For example you will have things dropped on you at the last minute, and you just have to get on with it. That can be a little stressful. But you get used to it.

I would advise against eating street food. That's where you are most likely to eat meat like cat, dog or rat. Bleurgh. Avoid avoid avoid

I'm sure she'll love it here. It's great fun (Corona virus aside!), lots of expats and fun things to see, do, explore etc

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Namechange32H · 22/02/2020 15:12

How was corona virus announced to everyone - had anyone heard of it before the media picked up the ‘story’?
What precautionary measures is everyone taking?

Dumbledoresgirl · 22/02/2020 15:29

Thank you ExpatInChina. I should have explained that she is a student of Mandarin and will be living in a university. So may be she will be a little bit protected from some aspects of life? She had the opportunity to go to Shanghai but rejected it on the basis of air pollution (chose Xiamen instead). I will definitely tell her to avoid street food, which I know she has been keen to eat, thinking it will get her out of the need to cook for herself! and ensure she has enough money to buy a few western things like milk.

LilyJade · 22/02/2020 20:27

Do you ever worry about the estimated 3 million Uighur people in concentration camps being 're-educated'; about the state sanctioned rapes of Uighur women by Han Chinese soldiers, & the reported use of Uighur people in camps for their organs??

Sorry I have no links for all this it's just stuff that's come up in my Facebook feed from various anti fascist organisations.
Apparently the British government have made strong statements regarding these issues to the Chinese government but that's it.

LilyJade · 22/02/2020 20:32

The camps are in Xinjiang apparently.

ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 00:28

We first heard about the Corona virus a few days before the Chinese New Year holiday. At that point, it was on the news and my school were handing out packs of masks to all the staff. People were talking about it but it hadn't got crazy at that point.

Then Wuhan went into quarantine. Wechat messages from expats stuck in the city started circulating online and news reports of how many people were infected started to get reported. My school started issuing advice on a daily basis about wearing masks if going outside, washing hands regularly, etc

And then it just got even crazier. Western media were running some really hyped-up stories that seemed to feed everyone's panic (it had been relatively calm up to that point). The rest of Hubei province went into quarantine. Bars, restaurants and shops in Shanghai locked their doors (although it was CNY so they were probably going to close anyway as Shanghai becomes a bit of a ghost town during the holiday as everyone travels to their home towns/provinces to visit their families). Then the flight carriers stopped running flights.

I think that that's when things started getting really stressful here, and a lot of expats started to leave. They were worried that they couldn't get out if they left it any later. I chose to stay though. This is my home, it's not as simple as just packing a suitcase and jumping on a plane.

As time has gone on, things have got a lot stricter. My compound locks its gate at 8pm to discourage people from going out at night. This was never the case before. I can still get in and out through the back gate though so it's not like we're completely restricted.

Also, you have to wear a mask if you go out anywhere. And all the bars/malls etc that have stayed open will check your temperature when you enter.

For a while in Jingan all the expat places closed, but things are starting to open again now which is a relief. Weirdly, it's actually been nice to have some downtime! Not having to work (or just work online) without the hectic commute, has been really nice. Its brought people together too. It's all everyone is talking about out here! The risk is very low in Shanghai though. I imagine it would be much harder in Wuhan. People are much more restricted there.

I'm looking forward to when things go back to normal in Shanghai. But I can say that's it been pretty interesting to live through this. The media have definitely blown it out of propertion though. I think the risks are over-stated, especially outside of Wuhan.

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lostinleaves · 23/02/2020 00:31

Do they have foreign food restaurants like we have Chinese food restaurants?

ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 00:38

@lostinleaves depends which city you're in. If Shanghai or Beijing you can't move for expat restaurants and bars. Other places/cities will have some, but not as many. Mainly depends on the expat population.

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ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 00:41

Chinese people don't see eat Western food though, not in the same way we eat Chinese food. They mainly eat at Chinese places. And Chinese food in China is completely different to what we eat in the UK!

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ifeellikeanidiot · 23/02/2020 00:46

My husband and I both teach and often see jobs advertised in China. DH is a boarding housemaster in the uk, with lots of Chinese student in his boarding house. I know he would love to work in China but I'm reticent. Why did you make the move? Would you recommend it?

LoveIsLovely · 23/02/2020 00:50

I have been to Shanghai and Beijing a few times, I LOVE Shanghai.

What's your favourite restaurant there?

I feel you on the Corona virus stuff, we are in Korea and people are definitely losing their minds about here, personally I can't get too excited about it, pretty sure it will pass soon.

ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 02:24

@ifeellikeanidiot do it! China is an amazing country and well worth a visit. I love it out here. Totally different to how the country is viewed in the west. I would definitely recommend it. But if you're unsure I'd advise moving to a big international city like Beijing or Shanghai, there will be a bigger expat community in these two cities.

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ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 02:26

Literally couldn't say which restaurant is my favourite, there are just too many!!

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nellyburt · 23/02/2020 09:11

Could you get in trouble for posting on here?

AllTheWhoresOfMalta · 23/02/2020 09:14

What’s been the hardest thing to adapt to?

ZenNudist · 23/02/2020 09:20

Are people still able to travel round the country fairly normally outside of the quarantine areas?

Do you know anyone getting sick?

Fere · 23/02/2020 09:20

Do you still believe that those were "Western media were running some really hyped-up stories". Or agree that this was just a description of days to come? As of yesterday, I believe, we have pandemic and even Chinese officials owned up that they made cardinal mistakes and sacked few officials. Covid-19 is an airborne disease which was confirmed by them yesterday.

DrinkSangriaInThePark · 23/02/2020 09:26

Would you be aware that you're living in a totalitarian state on a day to day basis or does it feel fairly free? Are there still strict laws about groups of people over a certain number in size not being allowed to meet together etc?

ClaudiaWankleman · 23/02/2020 09:27

Hi @Dumbledoresgirl I know Xiamen quite well, including Xiamen university (although I’ve heard that the foreign students courses have moved to the mainland campus so may now be less useful). Feel free to ask me about Xiamen. It’s a wonderful place.

ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 09:49

@nellyburt - no I doubt it. This forum is anonymous, and besides, I haven't said anything that would ruffle any feathers

Travel is pretty restricted and everyone is being encouraged to stay at home, although this is becoming less strict now

Honestly, no, it doesn't feel as though I live in a totalitarian state in the slightest, although there is definitely an 'expat bubble' for foreigners out here. Of course you can't discuss politics freely in public, but other than that, I can't think of anything that differs from life back home

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ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 09:53

The media EVERYWHERE has been hyping up this story. Outside of Hubei province the risk of infection is really low. And the symptoms are only dangerous to the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions, which makes it about as dangerous as the flu. Not something I'm getting worked up about. I don't know anyone who has caught the virus.

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ExpatInChina · 23/02/2020 10:01

Hardest thing to adapt to... Probably getting my head around how to communicate (especially the parents of students in my school). If they have an issue, they won't raise it, they'll just take their kid out of the school and tell you they're moving to America or something. They won't confront/discuss. So you have to communicate and check and ask them if things are OK. They need a lot of input from teachers and they expect a lot of communication and feedback, and they expect you to reach out to them. So that can be tricky to navigate.

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IjustbelieveinMe · 23/02/2020 10:06

Hey expatinchina I lived in Shanghai from 2002-2007 is the shanghaiexpat website crew still around? Chris Devonshire Ellis used to be around too, an absolute tool he was. Do you live in Puxi or Pudong? I lived in Puxi near the Sheraton in Gubai.

IjustbelieveinMe · 23/02/2020 10:07

By the way I was there when SARS affected China so have an inkling what you are going through now with coronavirus

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