You Know You’ve Lived in China When…

1. When you go home you take pictures of the sky and post them on Wechat.

Yes China has pollution, but it would be hypocritical to complain too much since we’re all quite happy to buy lots of stuff made in Chinese factories. When you eventually go home and see what the sky is supposed to look like you can’t help but take a few snaps and show them off on Chinese social networks.

2. You’ve seen a middle aged man straddling an OAP on the bus.

There is an interesting phenomenon in China. Everyone wants a seat on the bus but nobody wants to sit next to the window. After fighting to get onto the bus first people rarely occupy the seat next to the window. When someone wants to make use of the empty seat it would be logical to just move across one seat and let them sit down, but it seems that most people in China would rather stay put and let the other person climb over to get the seat. Similarly, if the person sat next to the window wants to get off the bus the person in the adjacent seat often refuses to stand up to let them past. The result is that people are forever climbing over each other on Chinese buses. I’ve literally seen OAPs being straddled by middle aged men trying to get off the bus.

3. You use sign language for numbers 6 to 10.

One to five is easy – you just hold up the corresponding number of fingers. But the Chinese have gone one further, there is a universally accepted system of hand gestures to indicate the numbers six to ten. They’re so intuitive you’ll pick them up in no time, and you know you’ve lived in China when you start using them without even thinking about it. And then you go back to your own country and don’t realize no one knows what the hell you are doing making these strange hand gestures at the shop assistant.

4 You own an e-bike but not a helmet.

Why cycle when you can strap a car battery and an electric motor together to make a sweet ride? In China you’re  either rich and own a Mercedes or you’re poor and own an e-bike. The four leaf clover of e-bikes is when you see a five person, three generation family on one single bike. It’s rare but when you do see it you know you’re in for a good day. Essential equipment for correct e-bike riding is a coat that is worn back to front. This will protect you from all danger so there is no need to wear a helmet, turn on your lights at night or drive on the correct side of the road.


you know you’ve lived in China when you wear your coat backwards

5. You would let your girlfriend walk home by herself at 1am.

There is a lot to complain about in China, and most expats have done their fair share of complaining. One thing you have to give the Middle Kingdom and it’s inhabitants credit for though is how safe it is. Admittedly your bike will probably get stolen if you don’t lock it and your pocket might get picked on the bus, but unlike many countries it is extremely unlikely someone is going to threaten or physically assault you. Chinese men are particularly unintimidating and there doesn’t seem to be such thing as a “rough neighbourhood”. Compared to many countries China is an incredibly safe place to live and travel. If I had to let my girlfriend walk home late at night in a mini skirt and a boob tube I wouldn’t feel too worried if it were a Chinese city. I couldn’t say the same about Britain.

6. You always put your bag on a chair.

If you put your bag on the floor of a restaurant in China you may well find a nice patch of spit when you pick it back up. The fact is China is dirty. Obviously China is very big and some places are much cleaner than others.  As a percentage of the population very few Chinese people find such behaviour as spitting and littering acceptable. Unfortunately 1% of 1.4 billion is still a lot of people, so the unspoken rule is that you always always always put you bag on a chair.

7. You think soy milk is just another drink option.

Some people grind coffee beans, brew it with hot water and drink it. Some people grind soy beans, brew it with hot water and drink it. Is there really such a big difference? In most western countries “soy milk” is considered a milk substitute for vegan hippies or people who are lactose intolerant. In China it’s just another drink like tea or coffee. It’s not uncommon for Middle aged men to start their day with cigarette and a glass of hot soy milk.

8. You stand in the middle of the road when you want to cross it.

Some people wait for the green man, some people don’t and just walk across the road. One strange habit among people in China to neither wait for the the lights to change nor cross the road. Instead they start out at the edge of the side walk and slowly shuffle forward into the middle of the road, where they wait for the green man. If you’re not careful you’ll find yourself being dragged along and waiting in the road with them.

9. You put plastic bags over your shoes.

For a truly immersive Chinese cultural experience you need to visit a Chinese apartment. Chinese people almost always take off their shoes when entering an apartment. As a special guest you’ll often be given the honour of not having to remove your shoes. You will, however, be expected to put plastic bags over your shoes, know as xié tào.

some snazzy xie tao for when your friends visit

10. You start calling yourself a foreigner.

For most English speakers a foreigner is a person from a foreign country who probably doesn’t speak English. After enough time in China you start using the word foreigner to mean someone who is white and speaks English. You even go as far as to start calling yourself a foreigner. But think about it, a foreigner is someone who comes from a different country to you. How can you come from a different country to the one you come from?

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