Tomorrow I’ll be leaving China. It has been a truly incredible experience and I’ve learnt much about the culture and history. However, there are some things that I can safely say I will not miss from this country.
Pollution in China is bad. Not everywhere and not all the time. Spring has brought with it cleaner air, as well as humidity and rain. Still, the day before Christmas eve, the PM2.5 level reached over 400. This basically means the air is “hazardous” to breathe. Of course, not every day was like that but, in the winter months, I would find myself breathing in brown air as I cycled to school. Long-term exposure to polluted air does have dramatic effects on your health. Check out Mitch’s Air Pollution in China YouTube video for more info.
2. Stinky Tofu
Have you ever smelt food that smells like it belongs in the toilet? This is stinky tofu. This is the literal translation. If you go to Hong Kong you will see this is what it is labelled as. Needless to say, I haven’t tried any here. Just the smell makes me want to throw up.
3. Ridiculous Roads
Did you ever play the game Frogger on the PlayStation? If you have, this is what crossing roads can be like in China. I had to have my wits about me while cycling to school. While the cycle lanes are good, I will never understand why you can cycle straight ahead and a car has a right turn at the same time. Recipe for disaster.
4. Sneaky Photos
Some people in China have never seen a Western person before. While I’m sure it is quite miraculous to see me walking down the street, or sat there having my lunch, it does not give someone the right to take photos of me. I’ve gotten used to it now, but it still bothers me. Some people ask for photos, especially with their children, which I usually oblige to. But those people who casually turn around with their phone, or get their friend to stand near me while they take a photo, can be very annoying and I’m pretty tired of it.
5. Being Treated Differently as a Foreign Teacher
Students do not act the same with me as they do with Chinese teachers. Of course, I understand why. My Chinese is limited and I can’t call their parents if they really step out of line. However, even friends I know who do speak good Mandarin still face the problem of students treating them differently. The other teachers know it too.
Teaching has been challenging this year for me and I am glad the teaching year has finished. I may try it again in the future but, for now, I’m happy to end the teaching-in-China chapter of my life.
6. The Great Firewall of China
A lot of websites are blocked in China. The blocking of so many websites has generated the name “The Great Firewall of China”. Naturally, there are ways around it. It was a few days into our life in China that Mitch and I both purchased a VPN. This means our server looks like it’s coming from a different country. However, it’s not always 100% reliable. It can cut out now and again and, sometimes, waiting for it to connect reminds me of the 90’s pre-broadband life, where you had to sit and wait for your dial-up connection.
Does it sound like I’m complaining a lot? Well, it’s not all jumping for joy about leaving China. In fact, read my 6 Things I Will Miss in China.