Studying Chinese in China

You would think that after two years of living in China and studying Chinese almost every day, I’d be pretty good by now. I’m not. I can order food and get the gist of some of the simpler Peppa Pig episodes. But I still can’t understand what my elderly neighbors are shouting at me as I walk into the elevator.

In the hopes that one day I might understand their warnings that the elevator is broken and avoid a fall to my death, I’ve been spending my free time in China taking Chinese classes.

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Rosetta Stone sucks for learning Chinese

On paper, Rosetta Stone seems like the perfect app for learning Chinese. It creates an immersive environment and stimulates how we naturally acquire languages. There is no translation, so you learn the word more deeply. Also, it’s very very expensive, so it must be good right?

Well, unfortunately, maybe not so much.

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The Best Chinese Food You’ve Never Heard of

Chinese food in China is nothing like Chinese food in America. In America, the best Chinese food is a little takeout joint that serves paper boxes full of cream cheese wontons and sweet and sour chicken. You try and fumble with some wooden chopsticks and you get a little fortune cookie at the end.

As with most things, Chinese food in China is way different than our Americanized expectations. There are no cute little paper take-out boxes, cream cheese wontons, or fortune cookies. In fact, fortune cookies first came to America from Japan.

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The Most Annoying Things About Living in China

Today I’m writing a list of the most annoying things about living in China. Generally, I’ve tried to keep this blog mostly positive. It’s pretty easy to read plenty of negative things about China these days. It’s harder to find people saying genuinely nice things.

But the weather’s been grey and cloudy for the last few weeks. Work’s been busy and stressful. I’m in a bad mood. I’m gonna just dive in and get negative. Here is my list of the most annoying things about living in China.

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Adventures teaching English in China

It was the end of another long day teaching English in China. I’d spent the last five hours trying to help a group of ten-year-olds decipher some American common core 6th grade reading and science textbooks. At this point, they didn’t want to learn, and I didn’t want to teach. So, I did what any good teacher would do: I organized a paper airplane throwing contest.

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Learning Chinese, but Still Tīng Bù Dǒng

Neon lights of Chinese characters in Shanghai, also a McDonald's sign

(click here for helpful resources to learn Chinese)

What has been the most difficult thing about moving to China?

Culture shock is a real thing, of course. Every culture has its own quirks that take some getting used to. In China, people spit on the street. Sometimes kids will poop on the street. They have squat toilets. People shove in the subway. They eat frogs.

Sure, these are all different, unusual, maybe even weird to someone coming from the West. Fundamentally, though, they are all superficial. I have been pleasantly surprised with how quickly I’ve grown accustomed to all those things.

You ignore the spitting. You laugh at the kid pooping. You build up your thigh muscles for squatting, and you learn to either shove along with everyone else. Or else find the toughest old lady you can and follow her. Oh, and frog meat is actually pretty tasty.

None of those things, or any of the other superficial cultural differences, are really that difficult to adjust to if you’re able to keep an open mind.

The biggest difficulty is by far the language barrier. I swear I’m learning Chinese, but damn it, it’s hard!

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