Of course I miss my friends, family, and dog above all else, but what THINGS do I miss most? I thought for sure it’d be Mexican food and not having to use VPN to access my favorite websites, but I was wrong! Here’s the top 10 American things I miss while in China:
1. Access To Alternative Diet Ingredients
I especially miss the selection at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods! Here’s how I see it… America is a melting pot of ethnic backgrounds and food preferences, so the ingredients and dishes available to us are endlessly varied! 92% of the population in mainland China is made up of Han Chinese people. Is there variation within this culture? Absolutely, but certainly not as much as there is within American culture as a whole. I just feel that the options for me at the supermarket here in China are much narrower, and that restricts my diet quite a bit. I’ve been thinking of trying out veganism again, and it feels near impossible to do here.
2. Being Able To Read
Of course I can still read English, which is way more prevalent in China than Mandarin is in America, but the majority of the things I purchase have Chinese labels. I didn’t realize I was missing English until one day when I picked up my American brand face wash and realized I could read the ingredients list. It felt like such a luxury, and reminded me of what I missed most about American products.
3. Conversations With Strangers
I’m an extrovert, so naturally I end up having random conversations with strangers. However, the fact that I live in China and don’t speak Mandarin has caused that to stop almost entirely. The silver lining is that if I’m not in the mood to get involved in a conversation, I have a great excuse not to and I can fully tune out, but I still miss those opportunities to chat with new people.
4. American Music
I have full access to American music on my own, but I’m not around it all the time when I walk into a store, get in a taxi, eat at a restaurant, or grab a drink with Eric. I guess I never noticed before, especially because when I lived abroad in Ireland, American music was everywhere.
5. Clean Tap Water
The tap water here in China runs clear enough to do dishes with, but it’s not safe to drink. To get drinking water we either have to boil tap water or buy bottled water and haul it up the 6 flights of stairs to our apartment. Because of the odd taste of the first option, we’ve spent a bunch of money, time, and energy lugging water from the store to home. I never appreciated the luxury of drinking from the tap until I lived here.
6. Forests and Beaches
Life in China for me, as it is for many other foreigners, is limited to the city. In San Francisco we were just a 10 min drive from the beach and a 45 min drive from a redwood forest, but the cities here are a lot different. They’re bigger, there are more people, and the public transportation tends to stay where the masses of people are. Lakes and city parks are easy to find, and of course there are forests and beaches somewhere in China, I just haven’t found the ones that remind me of my beloved hiking and beach time spent in the West Coast outdoors.
7. Fast, Reliable Internet
I knew the internet speeds would be slowed here due to the fact that in order to access my favorite websites, I have to use VPN, but I didn’t realize the regular internet in China isn’t as reliable as internet in the US. I doubt all foreigners in China agree with this, but that’s been my experience.
8. Not Being Stared At
I’ve been over this a bunch of times in different blog posts, but it’s just so damn real. I get stared at every single time I leave the apartment and it’s literally only because I’m white. It’s just reality, and it’s possibly the thing I miss most about America – the ability to blend in with the melting pot.
9. Craft Beer
China has a growing craft beer scene, and we’ve had some really good stuff! However, we were so spoiled in the US with all the amazing craft beer options, and I miss the variety, especially all the micro-breweries.
10. Thrift Stores
I still haven’t seen any thrift stores in Nanjing, you guys! I saw a few in Hong Kong but never had the chance to pop in. When I’m in the states and have the time, I love to hunt for clothes at thrift stores, and I miss the opportunity more than I expected to.
Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon,