Join now
Log in Join

Ruth: China Elevator Stories

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to China, etc.

I grew up in the Austrian countryside and have studied Chinese Studies in Vienna. In 2009, I studied a year abroad in Kunming in Southwest China. 3 years later, I moved to Shenzhen. I got married to my Chinese husband in 2013 and just gave birth to a baby boy. We’re currently dividing our time between Austria and China. I’m an illustrator and some of my posts come with illustrations, but these days taking care of our little son takes up most of my free time.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

When I first moved to Kunming, I had a personal blog just for family and friends. I stopped writing soon after I started it. In the beginning of moving to Shenzhen, I had a lot of time on my hands. So I thought about writing a blog again. Just that this time around I wanted to give it more thought and make it something special, a blog that would appeal to a wider audience. After having a few conversations with locals, I came up with the idea for my blog and the name China Elevator Stories. Next to sharing posts about love and life in China, I feature conversations with locals, often strangers, which show a varied picture of Chinese people and China.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

My personal favorites include a conversation I had with a woman selling fruits (and Ganja) at Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan; talking with a former coworker who tells me that I should have a baby boy; and a post titled Shenzhen, the nastiest place in China, or is it?

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?

If you are new to China, living there can be an everyday adventure. For me, life in Shenzhen is different not only because I now live abroad, but also because this is where I met my Chinese husband. After moving to China, I got married and pregnant. On my blog, I have a single category dedicated to the conversations and experiences of being pregnant in China.

Culture shock cannot be avoided if you stay in a country for a longer period of time. In my case, culture shock hit a few months after coming to Shenzhen. Going back to Austria for a short trip solved the problem and I’ve been fine ever since.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in China? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I don’t think you can ever be fully prepared for an experience like living abroad. I mean this in the most positive sense. China will surprise you in many different ways.

The second time I moved to China was like a jump into cold water. I packed a backpack and traveled through China solo for a few weeks with a vague plan of looking for a job afterwards. It worked out for me and I wouldn’t change anything about it. That being said, it was already my second time coming to China for a longer period of time. If you like to make plans or don’t know a lot about your destination, you’ll be better off doing some research.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

A female massage therapist once told me that my breasts are almost non-existent. Yes, she really said that!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in China?

  • Nothing is ever the way you expect it to be. If you have too many expectations of what China is supposed to be like, you might get disappointed. But if you go to China with an open-mind, you can have the time of your life.
  • If you don’t speak Chinese, try to learn some phrases you can use in everyday life (this one’s a no-brainer).
  • Try to make friends with locals. Not only will they give you a more varied view of what China is like, but they’ll also be there if you need help.

How is the expat community in China? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

In bigger cities, there’s a huge expat community and it is easy to find like-minded people. In Shenzhen, you can join different groups that meet up weekly or monthly and share a hobby like watching movies or writing. I’ve joined a writing group and I always look forward to the weekly meetings.

Many people who live abroad like traveling and are interested in local culture and language. This is a good starting point for making friends.

How would you summarize your expat life in China in a single, catchy sentence?

Living in China can bring about many different feelings. You’ll feel happy, excited and alive; angry, tearful or annoyed; but there’s usually one thing you won’t be: Bored. 

David Thyne

"At the first Shanghai Get-Together I met several American expats. I am very grateful that they shared their experience with me."

Diana Anhaus-Brey

"It is just so easy to find other international people and global minds with InterNations. I didn´t know there were so many in Shanghai."

Expat Magazine

Top Articles Expat Guide