Guest Post: 4 things I underestimated about china – Justin Light (Inky n the Brain)

A month ago I had the pleasure of guest-posting on Inky n the Brain run by a very nice chap called Justin. Today it’s Justin’s time to return the favour.

Justin’s site is about practical positivity and motivation which is why I posted about ADHD but Justin is also a travelling kind of a guy and travel, with respect to new cultural experiences, is just what kenthinksaloud is about (well, one of the things anyway!).

So sit back and learn about a country I’ve always wanted to visit (I’ve been learning the language, on and off, for several years): CHINA!

Over to Justin…

If you have ever considered living in China, here are some things I underestimated while teaching English abroad. Prepare to be tantalised.


When people think of China initially people visualise:

  • Traffic congestions that make you wonder if anyone ever gets to work
  • Pollution that blankets an afternoon sky, resembling that of an oncoming apocalypse.

For me, I visualise hundreds of KTV (Karaoke) bars that line the streets stuffed with expats and diehard Chinese locals. From the raging street culture, street food and fashion to the ancient monolithic landscapes of Xingping, Dragonback Rice Terraces and mountain top religious Buddhist temples.

After teaching English for 3 months here are my top four things  I underestimated while living in China.

1. Diversity and Cost of Food

Planning a trip to China? If you are you might ask, “does that mean I get to eat lemon chicken and honey chicken like all the time?! OOO! And Springrolls?” No you won’t. That’s Hong Kong, don’t go there, it’s boring.

In China you experience a whole range of cuisine! From, cat to dog, bird and rats! Well the thing is, you simply DON’T KNOW what you’re eating because it’s all in Chinese but if it’s not one of three symbols 鸡肉,牛肉 or 猪肉,  its safe to say you should be spending your yuan elsewhere.

2. Public Transport is so reliable

This is definitely true! Hooray, clap clap… The problem is, china’s public transport is that reliable that EVERYONE USES IT!!!!!

I don’t know about you but I live in a place called Australia where the population density is 3 people per square kilometer. Add this to our population of pet kangaroos and there’s still plenty of room to play with.

Now, imagine squeezing 30 million people into ONE city and then encouraging them to use the one singularly effective method of commuting, the underground train network. 30 MILLION!? We have less people than that in my whole country..Crowded Guangzhou Metro

So prepare yourself for moshpit mondays, pushing through gigantic crowds (or being pushed in directions you don’t want to be going) to get to where you need to go. ‘Peak hour’ is definitely not ‘happy hour’.

Despite the overcrowded rails, I was never late to work because trains ran every 5-10 mins (2 in every direction, and at every stop). That’s a lot of trains…

3. Cost of Living is incredibly low

Well, I knew it was gonna be cheap but discovering 50c full-plated breakfast noodles made me tear up with joy. I honestly don’t know how their food economy can thrive but my word it does and it never seemed to disappoint.

Other than food, the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen are famous in China for their thriving commercial centres, markets and plazas filled with name brand copies and local threads. I could pick up a pair of jeans and a shirt of reasonable quality for about 15-20 $AUD. Anything lower and the quality was starting to suffer, mind you anything that you are buying is a quality risk especially in the street markets. Nevertheless, picking up a pair of $5 converse high-tops is pretty good no matter the quality!

Check out these guys and how they travelled China comfortably on $32.50 a day per person!

Link-to-Goats-on-the-road

4. China’s nightlife

My home town, the city of Sydney has a light show every year but for Guangzhou, it’s every night! Thanks to the photography skills of Vincent Loy, you can see the skyline on the pearl river, which I use to cross every night on my way home. You can also expect top notch expat bars from all cultures across the globe. In Guangzhou particularly, Liede and Taojin feature some of the most interesting and exciting bars i’ve ever seen. 04bd0f98 (1)

Inky Wrap Up

There are many misconstrued ideas about how the western world perceives China. My challenge is for you to go and experience China for yourself. Sure, you have to live amongst the huge crowds, the spitting, the smells and the pollution but when the smog fades around your preconditioned eyes you’ll begin to find this crazy nation-wide dichotomy a country of fascination, history and a very rapidly developing future.

Ken says…

Thanks Justin for this quirky tour through your experiences of China!

Don’t forget to pay Inky n the Brain a visit and do press those ‘like’ buttons and maybe leave a comment or two – his posts are very readable. In particular try out his recommended posts on being an ambivert or even take the test!

Finally, if you didn’t look at my post on ADHD do go take a look. Then have a read of my friend Doug’s rebuffal of the post on his site – ADDadultstrategies. I shall be giving my own reply to that post here on kenthinksaloud soon (possibly the next post I do if other things don’t get in the way) and I promise you it’s going to be gritty!

Ken

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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One Response to Guest Post: 4 things I underestimated about china – Justin Light (Inky n the Brain)

  1. nimi naren says:

    Wow..totally loved reading all.this about China. Lovely, Justin.

    Liked by 1 person

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