What you always wanted to know about living the expat lifestyle, in a place like China

Just when you think you're over China...

"Teachers wanted for international school.  Sense of humor needed." 

When you see this kind of advert then you know that you're in for some potentially tough situations where if you don't laugh, then you might just cry.  China is definitely one of those countries where you need that sense of humor.  Boy, do you need that sense of humor!  Take today for instance.  I've had this bothersome tooth for over a year.  I avoid going anywhere near the dentist as my medical insurance does not cover dental treatment.  Previously, when infection flared up in the tooth, I got over the counter antibiotics - the stuff you need a prescription for in the West, and after a day or so the pain subsided.  Well, today the pain flared up again.  So much so, that it feels as if someone has taken a chisel and started to chisel away at my cheekbone.  In fact, that whole side of my face feels swollen, like I've been punched.  (And yes, that has happened to me before so I do know what it feels like!)  Teaching nine year olds with toothache is not the most pleasant of experiences.  Every little shrill voice seems to jar your nerve endings.  Anyway, one of the other teachers happened upon a local Chinese dentist the other day whom he says cleaned his teeth well for a very cheap price.  So, after school, grimacing with pain, I made my way to the recommended dentist, only to find that the examination room was filled with workmen of all shapes and sizes, drilling away with giant jackhammers and hammering with hammers.  The brand new dental surgery, only open for a fortnight, was already being revamped.  Something you see quite often in China.  With the deafening noise sending spasms up my swollen cheek, I timidly advanced into the front office which was set out like a little pharmacy.  "Drugs," I thought to myself, "Need drugs badly!"

An old man who could have been the dentist, approached me and rattled out a few sentences in Chinese, which I completely failed to understand.  "Ting boo dong," I replied, wincing with pain as the jackhammers hammered away in the background.  That mean that I don't understand.  The old man smiled revealing severely rotting brown and grey teeth.  I hoped that he wasn't the dentist, as obviously, he'd never done any work on his own teeth.  It turned out that the old man could write English, even though he couldn't speak it, so he wrote down for me that the dental surgery would be re-opening on Sunday.  "Mmmmm, mmmmm...," I moaned holding my cheek in pain, hoping that if he noticed I was in pain then he'd be able to give me some drugs.  The old man smiled at me and nodded, opening his desk drawer he removed a slightly grubby flashlight covered in oily fingerprints.  He then reached inside his drawer again and removed a chopstick.  He opened his mouth with the grey brown teeth,  signalling to me that I must open mine, which I dutifully did.  I'm not sure if it was because my common-sense was dulled by the pain.  He used the chopstick as a tongue supresser and peered into my mouth, with one of his nurses holding the flashlight and shining the light into my mouth cavity.  He nodded to himself and wrote out a script in Chinese and gave it to the other nurse who fetched me some medication.  Three boxes, I seriously hoped that one had pain meds in it.  "P-R-N," he said slowly in heavily accented English, pointing to where he had written exactly that on the box.  He picked up the next box and read what he'd written, "B-I-D," he said slowly.  I was confused.  I had no idea what the old man was talking about.  "T-I-D," he said as he pointed to his writing on the third box.  Having lived in China for three years and asia for four, it took a while before I figured out what he meant.  P-R-N meant only take when you have pain.  T-I-D meant three times a day.  B-I-D means twice a day.  Don't ask me how I figured that out, but he nodded vigorously when I repeated that to him.

The medical encounters are just one of the things that makes China, China.  The other is split pants.  I have an aversion to split pants, probably because I've twice been in Walmart and seen toddlers pee through their split pants all over the bottom of the trolley and drip urine all over onto the floor.  The mothers just laughed and carried on walking.  I was aghast, when I glanced back and saw other people happily pushing their trolleys through the pee, spreading it all over the shop floor.  Then, when you walk on the streets, you often see people holding babies and toddlers over the gutter or rubbish bins and letting the babies poo through their split pants.  Then again, there is the hoiking, another personal favorite.  Wherever you go in China, you continuously hear people hoik as they clear the mucous from their throats and spit it wherever.  On the ground, in the ashtray on the table next to you in the Italian Restaurant, on a plane, and then of course - on my motorbike seat!  The pollution is also something to grab you.  Permanent smoggy skies, sore throats and often funny metallic tastes in your mouth.  The list goes on.

But why, you may ask, besides the money, why do expats go and live in a place like China?  I have to say that there is something about experiencing a different culture and traveling around and seeing amazing centuries old sights.  My first year I though everything was wonderful.  The second year you tend to see more of the negative that the rosecolored glasses of your first year hid from you.  By the third year you are over the wonders of the new culture and start to get easily irritated.  then you know, it's probably the best time to move on to new adventures, see new sights, experience a different culture.  When I looked at my fake terracotta warriors already in their shipping cases, the piles of packing boxes delivered by the relocation company yesterday, I felt a little sad.  China has been frustrating, irritating, but at the same time beautiful and magnificent.  The great wall is definitely a once in a lifetime experience, something that should be on everyone's bucket list.  The fact that the Oasis concert I was going to in three weeks' time has been cancelled because the Chinese Government refuses to give them a visa because they played in a Free Tibet concert in 1997, is one of the frustrating things of living in China.  However, the friends you make who hail from so many different countries, and the wonderful memories you've made together, the fantastic times you've had - all make living the expat life a very rewarding and enjoyable experience.  Even in a country like China.

Life in China

Dragon dancers on Chinese New Year
Dragon dancers on Chinese New Year
Some stone mythical beast at the Ming tombs
Some stone mythical beast at the Ming tombs
Steps leading down from a guard station on the great wall
Steps leading down from a guard station on the great wall
The spectacular and unbelievable great wall
The spectacular and unbelievable great wall
Tigers being fed live animals at Harbin
Tigers being fed live animals at Harbin
Siberian tiger at Harbin eating a previously live chicken bought by excited tourists in a minivan
Siberian tiger at Harbin eating a previously live chicken bought by excited tourists in a minivan
Toddler's split pants.  A great Chinese invention that allows little kids to poo and pee everywhere
Toddler's split pants. A great Chinese invention that allows little kids to poo and pee everywhere
The amazingly freezing cold Harbin during the ice festival
The amazingly freezing cold Harbin during the ice festival

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Comments 62 comments

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 7 years ago from North Carolina

Hope you are feeling better now. I also had a toothache sometime ago, I called the dentist here, they said come after a week. I had so much pain, I couldn't believe they will ask me to wait a week to see them. Then I asked my brother he suggested a Mudra exercise, it works great now. You can try it very effective.

http://cgullworld.blogspot.com/2007/07/toothache-a...


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

At this stage, I'm thinking of just getting someone to hit me over the head and knock me out!


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

nice hub good photos


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks, was -36 celsius in Harbin. You've never experienced such cold!


BristolBoy profile image

BristolBoy 7 years ago from Bristol

Great hub, worthy of being included in the Hubnuggets list.


RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

What a great hub! The pictures were an added bonus.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hi Cindy, split pants? Gee.... :-) I've been to China once (last year) and as you said, the fascination for their culture and so many sights to see can be beautiful. But I don't want what you went through in the dental clinic. If I had chosen to live my profession, I would have invited you to come to my clinic instead. Hahaha

Anyhow, congratulations. As BristolBoy said, this hub has been nominated as one of the hubnuggets this week. Check it out by clicking on this link: http://hubpages.com/community/hubnuggets-mar13-200

Join the hubnugget fun...and don't forget to ask your friends to read your hub and vote too. :D


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Been to Asia a number of times (my son and his little family live in Hong Kong and a nephew in Singapore with his wife).  Never have seen the split pants and hope that my little one year old granddaughter there isn't wearing them.  I do know that many there have an entirely different approach to potty training than what we do.   Great hub!  Can't vote for you though, as my mom is also in this running this week for the hubnuggets. 


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

No split pants in Hong Kong or Singapore, it's a Mainland China thing, nowhere else! Thanks for the compliments. I have to do a follow up hub about the dentist, when I went back for a root canal this wek!


k@ri profile image

k@ri 7 years ago from Sunny Southern California

LOL! What a lovely picture you paint. I will need to go read about the root canal! Thanks for the laugh!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

root canal is happening tomorrow, hold thumbs!


linjingjing profile image

linjingjing 7 years ago

This is a good idea


Am I dead, yet? 7 years ago

Enjoying every moment readng your Hubs!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks, Am I dead yet. Am pleased they bring a smile to your dial.


Severine 7 years ago

The spit pants are a good invention. It's the way they are used that causes the probles. Such as spitting in the street, while spitting is actually good for cleaning your throat sometimes, no?

Chinese are used to that, we are not.

But split pants for potty training are great and are used also in other countries.

A european mother.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

I agree that both split pants and spitting when properly done is good, but unfortunately, in China you just see it being done disgustingly in public places.


Ivan the Terrible profile image

Ivan the Terrible 7 years ago from Madrid

I always wanted to go to China. Maybe one of these days! Excellent bit of writing.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Ivan, it's definitely worth a visit.


K.D. Clement profile image

K.D. Clement 7 years ago from USA

Split pants! I can't type because I am laughing so hard. Wow. And I thought I had it hard dealing with my twin toddlers taking off their diapers and pooping on the floor.

Great hub. I love reading about ex-pat experiences (and I bet you have a lot of stories to tell about China.)


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Yeah KD, split pants are very in here! I have written a few other hubs about my expat experiences which you can check out.


Avare profile image

Avare 7 years ago

It is orth to visit for sure (gone to search travel agency)


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Some good places to see, check out my other China hubs for more info!


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

Took a while to find this one. Great hub. Spilt Pants! What can I say.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Sixty! lol Split pants, they say it saves heaps on disposable nappies!


sixtyorso profile image

sixtyorso 7 years ago from South Africa

Do they have disposable nappies in that part of China?


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Yes, but only a few use them, the more modern ones.


imadork profile image

imadork 7 years ago from St. Peters, MO

Have you seen any Giant Pandas?  I love them!  I saw the ones at the National Zoo in Washington DC but I believe they are dead now.

I have another question.  Because I was a pharmacy tech for 8 years, I am curious.  Are the antibiotics that are available OTC in China regulated at all?  Is the government of China not concerned at all about people taking antibiotics when they are not needed, which leads to an increased resistance to the drug when it is actually needed?

Just curious.

 


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Imadork, not sure if drugs are regulated, I just know you go into a pharmacy, tell someone working there what's the matter with you and they hand over the drugs. There was a huge thing here last year, when some guys were supplying hospitals with placebos and marketing them as antibiotics. They were in cahoots with some American companies. Quite a few people died as a result as they weren't getting the proper medication. The bad guys were caught and sentenced to death. Think they're already dead. American companies have just been banned from here I think.

Yep, giant pandas are alive and well here. When they had that big earthquake it was in the panda area and that was many people's big concern! Not all the people who died and lost their homes!


imadork profile image

imadork 7 years ago from St. Peters, MO

That's funny that American companies are banned in China. It seems like every month there is a news report about some tainted product from China is killing or making ill somebody here in the U.S.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

True Imadork, but just those two I think, pharmaceutical companies banned as they were in partnership with the placebo guys


CC 7 years ago

How I missed this one back then I just don't know. I think I read about your dental problem though. Exciting stuff. Split pants like split pea soup spitting out of them on the street. Hooh boy!


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

lol CC, if you bored you can go back and read them all. Had another one about my tooth as well. Never went back for the final treatment!


CC 7 years ago

That's pretty much what I am doing. Others too. I may not comment on all but I do rate them. I do love your hubs


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks CC, might do a couple of travel ones this weekend. I really want to advertise Cape Town, my beautiful home city!


Laura Berwick profile image

Laura Berwick 7 years ago from Seoul, Korea

Wow Cindy, I had some trouble with a tooth a while back but I was very lucky to find an English speaking dentist, who was so excited to speak English that he gave me a discount on my dental work.

I'm glad we don't have those split pants in Korea, although we do have a much more lax attitude towards potty training as someone else mentioned. A few weeks ago I saw a kid in a shopping cart at a major grocery store. It was rush hour but I guess he needed to go, so his mom just pulled down his pants right there in the middle of everything, put a clear plastic water bottle on his pepper and away he went. I don't remember ever seeing anything like that at home. Oh my...


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Laura, they reckon split pants saves the environment over here, but I don't know....The clear platic water bottle on his little dinky winky is a far better idea I think!


Jman 7 years ago

Harbin sux.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Actually Jman, I liked Harben


JASON 7 years ago

Florist offering China nationwide delivery. Online and freephone ordering. Can provide floral decorations for corporate and social functions, including weddings.

http://www.flowersofchina.com


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Goodness jason, are you using my hub to promote your flowers?


Silver_Lotus profile image

Silver_Lotus 7 years ago from U.S.A.

Being an expatriate is one of the best things I ever did, and I have every intention of doing it again! Great hub.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Silver Lotus, I have to say that the xpat life is addictive.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Wow! That was an eye opener - I had no idea about spit pants or the practical usage they provide! And, being sensitive to hygiene issues that would be a real deal breaker along with the spitting and throat clearing - I like eating pasta in peace, thank you! You are a brave woman and an interesting writer! Thanks for the insight into expat life in China - As much as I hate the right wings nuts, I love having my dentist!


sisters hotels 7 years ago

good informative hub. I think I will stick to Japan for my travels right now.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Kartika, oh, you have to read my follow up story about the dentist.

Sisters Hotel, China is a good place to visit for a holiday!


Amy  7 years ago

I'm a chinese. When I see the split pants,I can't help to laugh. I visited the Great Wall on Oct.1 .It is very beautiful ! good hub.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Amy, the Great Wall is an amazing thing to see! Far better in real life than on a photo!


Eastern Rainbow profile image

Eastern Rainbow 7 years ago

????


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Yes Eastern Rainbow, I continually questioned the split pants.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Cindy, I feel your pain! I had an abscessed tooth once that almost killed me. That side of my face was so swollen, it made me look like the Elephant Man! The dentist met me at midnight to pull it. Hubby had called him and told him he was afraid I'd kill myself if it wasn't taken care of ASAP. I did actually try to knock myself out! I wish you relief, my friend.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Habee, that tooth was sooooo sore, and then of course the dentist cocked it all up so the tooth broke in half when I was eating a soft roll!


ntweisen profile image

ntweisen 6 years ago

Great blog. China is crazy! See my hub for a great story.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Ntweisen, yeah China is certainly different and takes some getting used to!


Vivian Siu profile image

Vivian Siu 6 years ago from HONG KONG

good picture~


Aussieteacher profile image

Aussieteacher 6 years ago from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

Love the photo of the split pants and I agree 500% - you need a good long lasting sense of humour to cope with life in the Middle Kingdom.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Vivian

Aussieteacher, split pants are a classic invention! Imagine how cold those poor babies' bottoms must be in the icy winters?


WillP 6 years ago

Hi Cindyvine. Great writing. Loved it! I'm more than half way through my 4th year in China. It's frustrating, crazy, maddening, polluted, frustrating, crowded, illogical, contradictory, paradoxical, did I mention frustrating...

I fell in love and married here. My wife and I went to Australia for two and a half years and returned to China last year with the addition of our wonderful baby. There are so many good things about being an expat here that I'll tolerate the crap for a couple more years at least. I found it much easier living here the first time but now with our "little person" my perspective has changed considerably.

Oh, I've had very good experiences with Chinese dentists but I've only consulted them at larger hospitals.

Now to read some more of your hubs. Best wishes.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

WillP I didn't not enjoy my time in China, but i don't think I could ever go back for a second bout of it. Do you let your baby wear split pants?


Moving to China 6 years ago

I, unfortunately, see way too many split pants around here in Shanghai. It gets scary when I see them in restaurants :)

Great write up -- especially the part about the cycles you go through (from optimistic to pessimistic) and I love the pictures.


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks, Shangers was always a highlight for me, when we made the trek there for a weekend every two months.


whatsupelsalvador profile image

whatsupelsalvador 5 years ago from San Salvador, El Salvador

good stuff on china!! thanks, voted up and usefulled this one


cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 5 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine Author

Thanks Whatsupelsalvador!

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