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From the USA to China: China-Mike

08 July, 2019 11:37  Erin Erin

China MikeI’m “China Mike”, the guy behind the China-Mike.com website. I’m from the United States but have spent significant years in Hong Kong and traveled to many other parts of China.

1.    Why did you move abroad?
Man, that was so long ago it’s hard to remember! I think I initially moved abroad for the adventure. Life in the US seemed too…planned out. You get a job, you marry somebody, you take a vacation one or two weeks out of the year and then you retire. I wanted something different.

2.    How do you make a living?
Similar to many expats I know, I’ve done a number of different things in order to make ends meet while traveling. I’ve taught English, I’ve taken on odd jobs, I’ve earned money writing online. The truth is that most of what has made my lifestyle possible is the way I save and spend, not necessarily how I make the money.

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?
For me it’s every week, but I have a very engaged family. I think it’s different for everybody. My family loves to see what I’m doing, where I’ve been and hear about my next adventure. We’re really close and I love that about them.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in China?
China is just an interesting place to live. You can say that about any country in the world, I’m sure, but China has a certain, you know, craziness about it. It’s not very easy to live here, at least compared to other Asian countries I’ve been to, so it takes a level of grit and resolve to be here. That also creates a strong sense of community among the foreigners here. We’ve all got what it takes to be in this interesting place and we’re determined not to let it beat us down. Ha!

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in China?
I’d say the worst thing about being an expat in China is that when you really get to the heart of it, China doesn’t really care whether we’re here or not. We as expats are useful, to be sure, but we’re not wanted. We serve a purpose of teaching English or spending money on travel, but they’re just as happy to see us leave. I think this is one of the main reasons why so many expats get bitter toward China if they stay here too long.

6.    What do you miss most?
I miss being part of a more permanent community. It feels like every part of an expat’s life is so transient: friends, places, jobs, etc. I’ve become used to it, but I do miss that feeling of belonging to a more permanent community.

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
You just have to be bold. Heck, if you’ve moved all the way across the world you’ve already made it pretty far – why in the world would you all of the sudden become an extreme introvert? I love finding where people are gathering, whether that’s parks, restaurants or other places and just inserting myself like I belong. Before too long, you’ll be treated like you do.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?

You know, there is so much about Chinese culture that is strange or weird and after living there for such a long time, you tend to forget about it. I think what makes me shake my head most often is seeing poorly-translated English signs. I mean, seriously…there are plenty of native English speakers here that could tell you “Pestroom” is not a proper translation for “Restroom”. I’ve seen plenty of these kinds of weird translations on Chinese bathroom signs and I can’t believe somebody doesn’t just call me and say “Hey, could you come down here and look at these real quick? We’d like to get your opinion”.

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?
Most people should already know this by now, but it’s still a popular myth: The Great Wall of China cannot be seen from outer space. Astronauts (even Chinese ones) have confirmed the fact that they can’t see the way. Don’t get me wrong: it’s an impressive structure, but it’s not so wide that it can be seen from space.

10.    Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Definitely lower, but it really depends on where you live in China. There are some cities/neighborhoods that are just as expensive as a western country, if not more so. Hong Kong is a great example. An apartment in a good part of Hong Kong can be insanely expensive, particularly if you’re comparing cost per square meter! However, if you go into inner China, you could rent a mansion for a crazy low price.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Figure out your “why”. Why are you living overseas? Are you hoping to gain certain experience? Get a certain skill? (such as a language) Are you saving money for a particular purchase? If you don’t understand why you are subjecting yourself to a different and often challenging lifestyle, it’s way too easy to get burned out and bitter.

China Mike 12.    When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog a number of years back when I was first living in China and doing as much research as I could about the place. China Mike was a creative outlet for me that gave me a place to put all that research and a creative outlet for my writing. I love it when people email me and thank me for the information that they were able to find on the site!
 

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