One Year Living In China | This Is Our Life
Can you believe it?
It’s officially been one year since we first packed up our bags and moved to China. Granted, we were traveling in Europe for one month of that time but we’ll politely ignore that.
I should also note that we’ve missed month 11 (just in case you were following along) as we were traveling and didn’t have time to write it.
In month eleven we took a weekend trip to Shanghai to get the papers clearing us for marriage! That means we’re one step away from getting a piece of paper that apparently proves we love each other, or something like that. I sound sarcastic but I’m actually really excited; and sometimes I catch Steven being excited – even when he’s trying to play it cool (which is always).
The big travel news was our trip to Europe of course! I hope you were watching us on Snapchat to travel around Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and Austria with us.
I can’t wait to share all of our holiday photos and stories with you. We’re sharing daily photos on our Instagrams of our entire trips, as well as our travel vlogs of course. As some of you may know I have my own Instagram separate of the They Get Around instagram and I have so many shots to share of my own. They will be more me focused, of course, and in a different style to what we share on TGA – more like your typical solo travel blogger photos.
The great thing about these two months is that we unexpectedly got to go on our European holiday, which was one of our dream trips. We had the best time but it made me realize that we don’t want to travel full time after we leave China, instead I want to move somewhere that is a hub for digital nomads and travel every couple of months. Eventually I would love that base to be back home in Brisbane, but I think initially we’ll have to choose somewhere much more affordable.
Another cool thing is that our Youtube channel is starting to take off – I guess that’s the thing with consistency. I love making YouTube videos and I finally starting to learn some editing hacks to make our videos better and better. I also have so many different ideas for our next few trips.
I can’t believe I almost forgot this, but by some sheer stroke of luck we have two more international trips coming up in the next four months – one in December and one in February. In December our boss decided that she would take all the teachers overseas, and in February we have our honeymoon (because we’ll be officially married at the end of November!).
I don’t want to announce the exact destinations as I like to have tickets in my inbox to be certain, but they will both be in Asia. For the December trip we will be traveling with twenty chinese girls and a couple of the foreign teachers, while for our honeymoon we want it to be romantic AF – you know, like paradise romantic. Actually we haven’t chosen the location for our honeymoon, so who knows where it will be, but we have a few places in mind.
Just to clarify China is weird in the way marriage is played out – the ceremony, the official documents and the photographs can all happen at different times. For instance, we will get the documents and be legally married on November 27, have or honeymoon in February, and our photographs in March/ April. We haven’t set a date for the ceremony but I think we’ll do that around the time we get the photographs. And this is all normal in China, which suits us perfectly.
I have to say that atleast 50% of the time I hated living in China during Month 11, the country just has a way of pushing your buttons. We returned home from work on multiple occasions to find our power and water switched off due to general incompetence.
The neighbour below us said we had a leak and would keep telling the guards to turn it off. All three plumbers who came to investigate insisted it wasn’t coming from the drain as we said, instead it must have been coming from our windows or ceiling. Eventually Steven convinced the last guy to look at our kitchen drain (AKA the place where water comes from) and surprise, surprise – it was actually coming from there and fixed in under a minute. This non event was three months in the making – great work guys.
The second bad thing that happened was during our Europe trip. We brought 5 cards with us, two Australian and two Chinese. Within an hour of landing in Switzerland my 1st Australian card had been eaten by an ATM and we completely forgot the pins to our two back up Australian cards. New pins take 5 business days to be sent out in Australia so we really needed to rely on our last two cards.
Fast forward to our arrival in Italy where none of our Chinese cards work. We lived off one euro for three days. On the third day I realized I could buy train tickets online (my back up card doesn’t require a pin for online) so we were able to see a bit of the area, although hungry. Luckily our hotel offered small bread rolls so we would split one a day so we weren’t running on empty.
It was a nightmare, we went from staying in the most expensive room in a five star hotel in Switzerland to living off 33 cents a day in Italy. Looking back now I find it ironically funny but at the time it was horrible. Finally our western union came through (Note: Italy closes on Sundays) and we moved onto Florence for a much better Italian experience.
I honestly felt like spending time away from China would make me feel happier about living here but I’ve only come back slightly less grumpy. It’s not that I don’t enjoy living in China, I do – but the cultural differences are constant and the seemingly small events build up over time. I think this explains why I’m mostly happy but then every few months I write about how frustrated I am. Sometimes living in China feels like your living in a world that is half asleep; so busy working and studying that no one is really truly present outside of those hours.
For example when ordering burgers the lady after us ordered one burger, but not only grabbed her tray but also ours with three extra burgers. Despite telling her twice and trying to show her our receipt on the tray she dismissed us without even listening. We told the clerk and he gave us a blank stare and didn’t do much at all. Fearing we would never get the burgers we paid for, Steven gently grabbed the tray and we walked off to a table. The lady simply shrugged and went back to her business. The thing is in Western culture I would have said she was trying to steal our burgers, but this lady had simply made a tired mistake, and once she had realized she refused to admit it.
Saving face is often the problem here. No one will ever admit any fault in anything, and it drives me insane – even when it’s so obvious and wastes so much time . It totally clashes with what I’ve learnt growing up in Western culture – to admit and apologies if you’ve made a mistake. I know how little of a deal that incident sounds like, but imaging having things like that happening almost every day over a year – it starts to grate on you.
The thing I’m really worried about is how much of these behaviors I will adopt and how they will affect my personality negatively. Things like being less sensitive and forgetting western sensibilities.
Is it rude to not knock on a toilet door before pushing on it to see if there’s someone inside? Am I meant to greet the entire office as I walk in at the start of the day? Will I forget that in western culture you’re meant to wait for everyone until you start eating? Will I move forward in line too fast if there is a gap? Will I ignore someone who is crying in the middle of the street because everyone else does here? Will I not apologize anymore if I accidentally bump someone? Is road rage acceptable in the west? If I have a small collision back home, will I check if the other person is okay or will I silently reverse and drive away?
I’m worried I’ll forget how things are meant to be back home, and that I’ll lose a piece of myself. And I’ll never fit in again. This happens as you travel, you change, but here in China, I feel like the effect is intensified. And somethings I honestly can’t remember how I used to act.
That got unexpectedly deep. Apologies.
In all honesty I didn’t keep that much track of our funds in the last month we had in China but we did try to be a little thrifty prior to our month in Europe. I’d take a guess and say we spent a little under 5000rmb.
In Europe however I have a pretty good idea of what we spent, as I made a budget. I’m hesitant to say how much we spent as on our last big trip we were on a backpackers budget, and this time we traveled in a totally different way. Also with the comped stayed and accommodation I feel like this throws off what a normal person would spend, so instead I’ll give you some averages of expenses we paid for. I will write a more in depth look in a future post.
- Hotels: We aimed to spend AUD100 a night on hotels (again, we are not backpackers so this may seem outrageous or inline with your expectations depending on your bidget / travel style). So 14*100= AUD1400 (the other half of our accommodation was sponsored).
- Food: We aimed to spend roughly 35EUR a day on food in total. We could have done this much cheaper or much more expensively but I felt like this budget was perfect for us. So 35*30= 1050.
- Transport: I budgeted about AUD500 for transport however I feel like we went over this a bit especially in Switzerland where some of the trains were ridiculously priced. Let’s guess AUD700.
- Plane tickets: AUD1600 from Nanjing to Zurich return.
- So in total we spent about $4750 for 14 nights accommodation, 30 days worth of food and transport to five countries.
We did a couple of cool blog related things this month. I’ll list them in dot points briefly below.
- It “funded” half of our European travels. When I started pitching I had no idea so many companies would actually agree to work with us, and because of it were were actually able to do so many amazing things and stay in beautiful places we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. I’m definitely at a place where I’m proud of what we built, but it blew my mind to think others were too.
- We’re focusing on Youtube quite a lot. In fact we’re now posting four times a week – see our schedule & Youtube channel here.
- We’ve allocated more time to work on our flagship travel photography course so expect that to come up within the next few months. We’re working really hard to make something that’s both genuinely helpful and with decent production quality (as it’s video) but we’ll share more details once it’s closer to completion.
Due to timing I had to pause the videos from our Sichuan trip (the ones from Huanglong and Jiuzhaigou) but once the sponsored content is up they’ll be coming out on the Friday slot in our schedule. I think this may be a little confusing but I don’t want to put them off until the end of our Europe vlogs as there are just so many coming up.