What I Miss About my Life in the States

September 28, 2016
While being in China is the right decision for me now, I can't help but miss a few things about my life back in the States. It seems like I've adjusted or have found a way around most of these, which is great. There are always plusses and drawbacks to living anywhere, and I'm certainly not trying to say that life in the States is perfect, but practically every expat out there surely must miss a some things about their home country, am I right? I'm sure that once I leave China, I'll have a list of what I miss about living here, too!

*Clean air- Overall, the air in the USA is much better than here in China. Lately, here in Shanghai the AQI (air quality index) has been pretty low, which we have all been loving! I know that the factories were shut down for the G20 Conference in nearby Hangzhou, so that helped a lot. The conference was over in early September, but the air still been pretty good for Shanghai. Right now it's at 87, for example. The skies have been blue, we can go outside, and I'm not coughing and wheezing or getting out of breath like I do when the AQI goes over 200. Others have told me that the opening of Shanghai Disney has also affected the air quality, in that some factories are still shut down to keep the air from getting too polluted. I'm really hoping that this trend continues because last winter there were some days that were so bad that I had to just stay inside.

*Drinkable tap water- The tap water in Shanghai isn't potable, so we all have large water jugs with a dispenser in our rooms. It's better than when I lived in Seoul and had to buy my own bottles of water every day, but it's slightly annoying that I have to pay for water. However, the main issue why this isn't the best for me is because with my back problems there's no way I can lift the water jug up on my own, so I'm dependent on others if I run out of water. If I'm running really low, I usually store some in a pitcher in my refrigerator so I always have at least some cold water. The good news is that the school gave me a Brita as a gift, and I've been able to use that! I just don't fill it up all the way each time so that I can still carry it. 

*A large selection of reading material available in English- Of course there are some bookstores here in Shanghai with English sections, but the stores I've been to do not usually have the books I'm looking to buy. Luckily, I bought a Kindle, and that has solved most of this problem. I do love to read magazines, though and haven't yet found a way around that. There are copies of Glamour and Marie Claire available in the airport, but they're gosh...about $8 for one.

*Fast internet- The internet here in China is touch and go. It's rare that a whole day passes and I don't encounter any problems. For personal use, I'll just try again later, but it really bothers me when I have issues during my lessons! There are so many times that an educational video won't load or a site won't work when it's supposed to. I do have backup plans, but it can be really frustrating for me and for the students. It's also kind of a pain when I need to do work/look up resources and have no access. to the internet.

*Regional American food- Yes, there are restaurants in China that serve Western food, but some specialities are hard to find. I really miss Southern food! (I do have to say that I'm pretty happy with the food selection in Shanghai, though. There are so, so many wonderful restaurants to choose from).

*Not having an oven or dryer- Even in the States I hang up some of my clothes on a drying rack to dry, but I do miss having soft, fluffy right-out-of-the-dryer towels. My towels here get so stiff when they air-dry. On the plus side, at least not using a dryer is better for the environment, right? As for an oven, our apartments come with a hot plate, but no oven. Last year, I didn't use one at all because a close friend and I went out for dinner at the cheap, local restaurants nearby. One of the teachers at my school last year left and gave me her oven for free (so sweet!), so at least now I have a small one. I find myself using it almost every day, and wonder how I even made it through last year without one. It's great for making toast or heating up quiches or for cooking meat.

*Western style toilets- Some places in China do have them, but definitely not all places. I've seen more Western ones in Shanghai than anywhere else I've been in China. I really can't stand the squatter style toilets, especially because I can't even really use them now because of my back problems. Some might argue that it's more hygienic, but 99% of the ones I've used have been in a filthy, sorry state with plenty of bodily fluids (and errr...solids) surrounding the toilet in the ground.

*Having access to my favorite products- I make do and buy what's on shelves here, but many of the brands I want are not available here. Luckily, when my friends go back to the States, they usually offer to pick up a few must-have items and bring them to Shanghai for me.

*Finding clothes and shoes in my size- I can find shirts and some dresses here, but shoes, shorts, and pants? Yeah, right!! Unless I get them tailor-made. Some of my shoes I brought from the States are looking pretty worn out, but I just keep wearing them since I can't get replacements.

*The whole fall pumpkin craze- Shanghai doesn't really have a good fall--it goes from hot to cold and last year Scott and I were waiting in vain to see the fall foliage. I do have to give props to Ohio because autumn there is so beautiful. On the other hand, I love Shanghai's mild winter!

*Common courtesy/better manners- Shanghai is just has a high population and getting shoved around a bit is a way of life. I guess you could say I miss having more personal space. I also miss how fewer people spit in public than in the States. The spitting is quite common here among men (and a few women). No one really holds the door for you, either. And people not respecting lines is also normal, but it's just something you learn to deal with.

*Driving- The way I get around Shanghai is by either walking or taking a taxi. I used to take the subway, but it's too dangerous for me now because I'm still recovering and cannot be bumped into (a certainty on the subway). Last year, I thought about buying a bike, but again, I can't do that yet and probably not for awhile because of my back. Anyway, I miss driving because it's so nice to just get in your car and not have to worry about no taxis being available. Also, a big issue for me this year is that I can't go to grocery stores and carry the bags back to my apartment because of my surgery. If I had a car, I could just load a few items at a time and transport them back to my place. Furthermore, I miss the independence and freedom of hopping into a car and going anywhere I want.

*People not calling me fat- In the States, I just don't get called fat. At least not to my face, but here in China I hear it rather frequently and usually accompanied with laughter, and who wants to hear that? I try to ignore the negative comments, but it isn't always easy.

While I do miss some of these comforts from home, I am glad that I decided to stay in Shanghai for another year, even though I was having my doubts about it at one of the lowest points in my life this past summer.

If you've ever been an expat, what do you miss about your home country?
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