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Expat Files: China... The Good, The Bad, And The Crazy


So I am fully aware that when you move to a new country, you must try to immerse yourself in the culture. You must keep an open mind and try to learn their customs. You know, the whole... "When in Rome"thing.

As much as I've tried to acclimate myself to China and the ways of the Chinese... there are still some things that I will never understand. Here's a list of the things that baffle, frustrate and amuse me.

1. Staring

In the US, it's not polite to stare at people. In places like New York City, staring at someone could get you punched in the face. Really, try staring someone down on the subway... you may not get punched.... but you will definitely get cursed out.

Here in China, there is absolutely no shame in staring at someone. People will literally break their necks and get whiplash just to stare at a foreigner. And I'm not just talking about kids, full grown adults do this as well. Maybe some of them have never seen a Black person in real life... and it shows. Sometimes I nod and smile, or say good morning. But some days I just want to throw my hands in the air and shout "WTF are you looking at!!!!"

2. Gender Confusion

99.9% of Chinese women are petite with long flowy hair. They also very feminine in the way that they dress. It's very common to see a Chinese woman wearing sparkly high heel shoes and a party dress while shopping for groceries at 11:00 in the morning. (Like... really, where are you going lady???)

So when they see ME... a rather tall, bald headed woman in a jeans and a t-shirt... they get CONFUSED. I mean UTTERLY confused!

I will never forget a domestic flight that I took from Guangzhou to Chengdu. I happened to get extremely sick right before the flight (travel tip: if you get food poisoning, it's best to take Immodium AFTER you poop your insides out. If you try to take it prematurely, and then board a plane for 3 hours... all of that loveliness will be stuck in your gut. You're insides will feel like DEATH). I was doubled over in pain for the entire flight. The flight attendants saw my obvious discomfort and made sure to check on me frequently. They were very well meaning... but if of of them asked me "SIR, are you okay" ONE... MORE... TIME... I was going to scream directly in their faces "I AM NOT A MAN!!!!"... before pulling the hatch and throwing myself off of the plane.

To add insult to injury, when I tried to used the ladies room in the airport, a woman ahead of me in the line very politely informed me that I was in the women's bathroom. And I politely told her "NO SH*T SHERLOCK, I'M A WOMAN TOO!"

Had I been wearing a nice frilly dress, some f*ck me pumps and a purse... maybe there wouldn't have been so much confusion. But I was wearing jeans, a leather jacket and a baseball cap and a hiking backpack. Despite what I was wearing, I highly doubt that I wouldn't been repeatedly mistaken for a man anywhere else in the world. Because even when I'm wearing women's clothing... they still think that I'm a man. I've been called sir while wearing a bright yellow dress and a full face of makeup.

Once as I checked into my gym, that I go to almost EVERY DAY... the receptionist gave me a pass to the boys locker room.