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No room at the inn: Shanghai edition

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10 Things China made me love about America

These things may not make the thanksgiving list of the average American, but they are definitely on my lips every time I come home for a visit. The things I comment on missing seem to be strange to my friends and family, who then roll their eyes at yet another story beginning with, "where I live in China..." Nevertheless here are some simple joys my life in China has made me love in my homeland.

1.Hot sink water Washing your hands in cold water during the winter makes the surprise of warm tap water all the more delightful. This comfort would be seen as a wasteful luxury in China where most homes have only one water heater for the shower and even that is only turned on 10 minutes before you hop in the shower, and then switched off immediately after.

2.Outside air

I have noticed the difference in air quality moving around the US between city and country, but even the big city air seems glorious compared to China. Not to say that all of China has the pollution problems of Beijing bu…

Forever Foriegn

"A fish can love a bird, but where will they live?" The phrase always seemed silly to me until I faced the idea of being a life-long foreigner. The current political climate of USA and China have often brought this question up for my husband and I, especially now that we have a daughter who will be forced to choose which citizenship she will claim and which she will renounce. My husband recently said, "If China goes to war we can always move to Pakistan, they are good friends with China!" I laughed out loud that that would be the last place I would be accepted as an American. I joked back, "Japan is friends with America. Do you want to live there?" When we first decided to get married I asked a couple from our church here in China to give us some advice in lieu of the premarital counselling required for church weddings in the West. Instead of the standard church advice, they focused on dealing with cultural differences. The husband was American and the wif…

Make yourself at home, but don't touch anything

Not long ago I got this text from my husband, "My sister called, she's at our house. My dad let her in." I was automatically filled with questions;

Did you know she was coming?
How long is she staying?
Did she bring the kids?
Is everything ok?


His answer, "I didn't know and I don't know." As if that would satisfy my unrest!


Now I like my sister in law, Meimei, she is probably my favorite of the in laws. She makes an effort to speak to me directly even though my Chinese is not good enough to keep up with the group conversation. She is kind and playful. Her 2 children are sweet to me and mostly well behaved. I enjoy her visits but cannot understand why she would show up unannounced when it takes at least 4 hours to travel here! And she is a repeat offender.
The most intrusive occasion was when my daughter was less than a month old and Meimei called from the bus, announcing she and her 2 small children were on the way. I was struggling with post-partum as well…

Disadvantages to Privilege

Now that I am a mother of a half American half Chinese baby I often wonder how the world will view her.Will her diverse background be a benefit or obstacle for her?As a white female living as a foreigner in China, I imagine Chinese will treat her much like they have treated me. As a foreigner my pale skin and light hair are seen as beautiful, along with my high status as an American I often receive special treatment. I have been invited to banquets and fancy business parties, regardless of my position in the company. I have been referred to as the “foreign friend” at weddings and given a seat of honor or asked to speak or sing, although I may not even know the bride or groom. Strangers continually ask to take their picture with me or their children.
My English level is seen as superior based not on my education or background but rather from my skin color. As the foreign teacher in public schools, senior local teacher will ask me for advice in how to teach or correct a grammar point.…

Hostile Hospitality

Not long after I came to China I realized that what I considered fighting was actually part of Chinese hospitality. People would publicly argue over who paid the bill at restaurants, escalating to pushing and pinning each other's hands down. Aside from the forcefulness that we wouldn't consider polite in the West, winning meant you get to pay for the meal. Whereas bets in the West always state that the loser pays.
In China it seems paying for others shows your position, being able to take care of others makes you appear more financial stable and respectable. Allowing someone to pay for you without a fight can make you seem either greedy or as if you accept this lower position in the relationship.

In the US, I would not allow my guy friends to pay for me when hung out. To do so would make the outing seem like a date and I may feel indebted to the guy. But in China it is not even an argument; the man is always expected to pay. If a woman tried to pay for her male friend it wou…

Don’t nobody wanna see that

So a few grievances I have with my school. The top of the list would be the bathroom situation. They do have a teachers’ bathroom, which is quite a nice upgrade from my past schools. However, this bathroom, like many Chinese bathrooms, has no toilet paper or soap. Grr.
But on top of that there are no lights! There is one window at the end of the room and 8 stalls. So if you close the stall door there is no light! Also of the 8 stalls only 2 have working locks. I have figured this out by accidently opening the stall door to find one of my co workers crouched down inside. And then they wanna talk about it later! No thanks I am working as hard as I can to erase the entire memory. So the unspoken rule is that you never open a stall door, ever. If they are all closed you assume they are all full and wait for someone to leave the one with the lock. But even with this fool-proof system, yesterday I walk in to the bathroom with all the doors swung open and one of my coworkers doing her busines…