Aga: Go Foreign
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to China, etc.
My name is Aga. (At least that’s how I introduce myself when I’m abroad – no one here can pronounce my real name). I come from Poland where I graduated from university with a degree in biotechnology. Since October 2012 I’ve been working in China as an English Teacher.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
If you ask me why I’ve decided to start blogging I’d have to say it was out of laziness. After one year in China I was tired of telling the same stories 30 times to each of my friends. Now I just tell them: “read this on my blog”.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
A few. I like the ones with funny stories the most:
- Guess what that is
- Taxi Drivers Attack
- Sick abroad – visiting Chinese doctor
- Are they trying to egg you on?
- Looking for the method in the madness – traffic in China
Tell us about the ways your new life in China differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Main differences in my life in China and in Poland:
- I eat with chopsticks instead of knife and fork.
- I eat mostly rice instead of potatoes (Poland is a real “potato country”)
- I need translator to go to a doctor or a bank.
- Complete strangers meet me at the street saying: “You are very beautiful. I want to be your friend” and asking for my phone number.
As for cultural shock: it wasn’t bad. For most of the things I was simply prepared. Although I must admit that when they served me dog stew on New Year’s Day it took me by surprise. I think it was the only time when I thought “Wow... This really is a completely different culture”.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in China? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Before coming to China I was preparing myself for half a year. I read a lot about Chinese culture and cuisine. That’s why I haven’t experienced much of cultural shock. For most of those things I was already prepared.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
One of the most funny (and I’d say – surreal) stories that happened to me was my first visit to the doctor. I’ve caught a cold. I went to the doctor. He asked:
- What’s the matter?
- I have a fever and a sore throat.
- OK. Let’s do a chest x-ray.
- ???! I have a Sore Throat.
- Yes. It might be pneumonia. Let’s do a chest x-ray.
In the end (after the x-ray and the blood tests) he prescribed me... cough syrup.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in China?
- Grow thick skin – in China you’ll be constantly in the center of attention. You must be prepared to be stared at.
- Bring a first aid kit and medicine with you (many of the things are hard to find – ex. Probiotics)
- Be patient – you need to get used to everything being “last minute” in China everything.
How is the expat community in China? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I live in a relatively small city. In here there are maybe 15 foreigners in total. For the first 2 months I actually though that I might be the only one. Later met some other teachers and now we’re hanging out quite often.
How would you summarize your expat life in China in a single, catchy sentence?
I left my common sense at the airport – here it just gets in my way.