Taylor and I have been hanging out in Taiwan for the past couple weeks, and we just returned to Nanjing. We’re in the middle of figuring out some complicated Visa bits-and-pieces, so the two of us were flown to Taiwan for work purposes. This was our first time visiting Taiwan, and we had a great time.
Our flight out of Nanjing was super delayed, so we switched from a flight to Kaohsiung, to a flight to Taipei. Thankfully, it was only a short 2 hour flight. Once we arrived in the capital though, we had to take a 2 hour train ride south, to Kaohsiung, where we stayed for the next 10 days.After breakfast each morning, Taylor got picked up at our hotel and headed to the school. While he was away, I would hang out at our hotel. I caught up on reading, worked on the blog, and watched TV. I’m not one to go out and about in a city I’ve never been to all by myself, so I didn’t do much.During the evenings, we would eat dinner either around the hotel or downtown. Taiwan has some great night markets, which we spent one night exploring together.We also found out that there was a Costco in Taiwan (PRAISE), so we had to go. The food menu was almost exactly the same as the American stores, so we ate dinner there for a little taste of home. We didn’t have our membership card on us, but I wish we did! I would’ve loved to stock up on snacks to take bake to China. We weren’t exactly tourists during our 10 day trip to Taiwan, but we’re thankful for the opportunity to see another country!I’m sure we’ll be back one day!
Ever since we moved to Nanjing, I’ve been compiling a list of all the differences between China and America. Obviously, there are a ton of differences, big and small, so I thought I’d start with one post, and write another one later on if you enjoy it!
This post is based on an American living in Nanjing, China.
1. Family:China is a very family-oriented country. Kids are the pride and joy here! Families are very close, and spend most holidays eating and being together. There aren’t a lot of single parent families here, and kids don’t experience a lack of parenting with both sets of grandparents usually living with them. Whenever parents go to work, most young kids are looked after by their grandparents. If they’re old enough to be in school, then the grandparents will take/pick them up. At night, you see a lot of families out walking or playing in the park together. Family is everything here.
2. Safety:I was surprised by this! I would never go walking the streets alone at night in America, but I can definitely do it here in Nanjing! Firstly, there are millions of people living in Nanjing, so you’re never really alone. Secondly, the laws are so strict that you can’t get away with anything. There are cameras everywhere so you get the impression that the government is always watching, which instills a fear of punishment and dishonor.
3. Transportation: Taylor and I didn’t grow up in huge cities, so we’re not accustomed to city transportation. There’s a great metro system here, because the traffic is madness (hello 8.3 million people). I was pleasantly surprised at how clean the subway stations were…like 10x cleaner than the ones in New York City!! I would never be able to keep up with traffic in China. It’s every man for himself and you have to watch out for pedestrians, bikers, and scooter drivers. Their depth perception is impeccable, and this crazy system works for them. Every taxi ride is an adventure in itself!
4. Homes: In America, a lot of people own houses. That’s the American dream right? However, in China, there are almost no houses. It’s very difficult to own property here resulting in very few homes or neighborhoods. So the majority of the population lives in an apartment, typically in a large complex of tall apartment buildings. In America, all the individual apartments are the same within one complex. In China, they are sold as a concrete shell that are then fully customized how the “owner” desires. They’re responsible for installing floors, walls, utilities, bathroom features, etc.
5. Drying Clothes:Within our apartment, we have a washing machine, but no dryer. Most families wash their clothes in a washing machine (or hand wash), and then hang them up to dry. This is different, but not the worst. I do miss the quickness a dryer provides and the freshness.
6. Squatty Potties:One of the biggest differences in China, is the toilet situation. First off, you have to squat. Incase you don’t know what I’m talking about- there’s a “toilet” in the ground that you squat over. (It’s as awful as it sounds.) In America, the toilet is above the ground and you sit on it. Not all toilettes are squatty potties, but most of them are in public settings. As if squatting to use the bathroom wasn’t uncomfortable enough, you also have to bring your own toilet paper…yep, that’s right. I have to carry toilet paper around with me at all times. In larger establishments, they will have one or two western toilets and provide toilet paper.
7. Education:I think this is pretty well known, but the school systems here are intense! Most kids leave their homes when they enter middle school, and live at their school from Monday-Friday because they spend all day in class. Everyone wears the exact same uniform, and they are expected to succeed in their education. It is a very competitive environment, where you need to be within the top of your class in order to have the opportunity to attend a high ranking college.
8. Healthcare: In America, it’s more difficult to get your hands on someone else’s medical records than anything else. Thank you HIPPA! It’s clean, sanitary, and expensive. It’s the opposite in China. Depending on the hospital (western vs. eastern), doctors will smoke in their personal offices, depending on the issue you’re examined in front of other people, and sometimes you have to sift through other peoples files to find your own off a printer. However, it’s extremely cheap and efficient so you’re in and out of the hospital within minutes. You can read my full Chinese hospital experience at the hospital HERE.
9. Tipping:When going out to eat in America, you typically have one server and you tip them based on your bill. In China, there isn’t one specific person who serves you and it’s not customary to tip. Nobody will check in with you unless you call them over. If you did that in America it would be considered offensive and rude. You can read about all the different food we eat HERE.
10. Age:Everyone looks so young here, and it’s very difficult to guess someone’s age! If you ask someone in China how old they are, they will typically tell you the year they’re going towards. In America I would tell you that I’m 26. However, in China I would tell people I’m 27.
And that’s just 10 of the ways China differs from our typical American lifestyle! Again, this is just based on our life back in America verses where we’re living in China. I hope you enjoyed this post, and don’t forget to follow my blog and enter your email for notifications whenever I post something new. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see another post like this!
Can you believe it’s already March, and Taylor and I have been living in China for 10 months now!? Within these 10 months, we’ve lived in two different apartments and have visited America a few times since. I thought this was the perfect time to chat about our packing struggles.
As you can imagine, we spent months packing our bags before moving from America to China. We traveled with a total of 4 checked bags (up to 50lbs), 2 carry ons, and 2 personal items. Packing for a 2 year journey was daunting, because anything we didn’t bring along either had to be donated, put in storage, or thrown away. It was an extreme elimination process, which taught us a whole lot about what we valued. For the most part, I feel like we did a pretty good job at packing the necessities. However, now that we’ve been here so long, I can shed light on what we really needed and didn’t need! If you’re planning on being an expat in China, this could be informative to you.
What this blog post won’t be:
A guide to packing for China.
Everything we packed.
Basically, this is a list of 7 things I didn’t pack on our first trip to China, but have made the effort to bring back over the past 10 months!
For some reason, I didn’t bring my own backpack when we came over the first time. I don’t think I realized how much I’d need one. We’re constantly on the go, so having a backpack has made life so much easier. I can’t be bothered to carry a tote every time we travel.
I will never stop bringing snacks back with me. When we landed in China back in June, I had the hardest time eating any food, because I couldn’t find anything I liked. I’ve found some Chinese snacks I enjoy now, but I always LOAD UP a suitcase with my favorite foods from America before returning.
The amount of bug bites I acquired over the summer is unreal. I did not expect a huge city like Nanjing to have so many dang mosquitos. I also didn’t realized that almost all the sunscreen here had a “whitening” effect (a cultural thing).
Before coming to China, I asked my good friend Caitlyn about what I should pack. (she lived in China for 2 years too.) Her biggest suggestion, was to pack less clothes and more photographs and personal items. Boy was she right! I took home a ton of clothes before Christmas and came back with a lot more photos and items to make our apartment cozy.
As we expected, we haven’t found a church here in Nanjing. This means we have to really pour ourselves into devotionals. Every time I return home, I find some more that I can bring back with me.
For the first two months, I went to Starbucks nearly every day. Then, I was kindly sent a mini Keurig. Unfortunately, that Keurig blew a fuse and didn’t produce one single cup of coffee. In the meantime, I settled for a small drip coffee maker. The problem I’ve been having is finding LIQUID coffee creamer and GROUND coffee. Most stores here only sell coffee beans and powdered creamer. Along with my snacks, I like to fill my suitcase with the little individual vanilla coffee creamers from Sams! This lasts me a good bit.
Last but not least, makeup! I assumed I’d be able to find all the products I buy at Ulta Beauty in China. I was very, very wrong. Chinese woman have completely different makeup needs, and I have yet to find my staples. They do have Sephora here, but again, they don’t carry all the same products I’m used to in America. Also, I’m not trying to break the bank!
And that’s 7 things I wish I would’ve packed from the start, and always bring back with me! I hope this was interesting to read whether you’re planning on living as an expat or not.
This year’s family vacation with Taylor’s family was to Bar Harbor, Maine. Our flight from Abu Dhabi flew into New York City, where we met half the group. From there, we rented a large van and headed up the coast towards Maine. During our drive, we made a very fun pit stop at L.L. Bean.
We’ve never been to an actual L.L. Bean store before, so we were very excited to check it out! This particular location in Freeport, Maine is the factory and where L.L. Bean began which was unique!
When we were finished shopping, we continued our drive to the town of Bangor. Most of this day was spent driving up the coast. When we finally made it to Maine, we rented an Airbnb for the night. Originally, we planned on staying at a hotel, but we realized that it was silly to pay $150 per room when we could spend that on an entire house! We were only there for the night, but it saved us a lot of money! You can find the listing HERE.
The Roosevelt summer cottage had the most beautiful views of the water and the interior was massive! We were really impressed with the home, and there were several tour guides inside to answer any questions we had.
The weather was perfect for exploring!
Once we were done walking around the summer cottage, we grabbed a quick lunch and drove to the Head Harbor Lightstation!
You can only reach this lighthouse during low tide. The structure has been around since 1829, but is still used as an active lighthouse, although it isn’t manned by anyone anymore.
Once we were done exploring the lighthouse, we drove to Herring Cove Provincial Park. We wanted to relax and watch the water for a few minutes!
While we were in Maine, we stayed in an amazing VRBO within Acadia National Park. There were 11 of us on this family vacation, so we needed something that would accommodate everyone, and this house was perfect!
The massive open windows that spanned the back of the house made us feel like we were still outdoors. The owner of the property did an amazing job at making us feel comfortable and welcome during our entire stay. If you plan on taking a trip to Acadia National Park and need a large home for your family, PLEASE consider renting this home. It was a dream! If you aren’t traveling with a larger group, she also rents two tiny homes on the same property that are equally as cute.
Bar Harbor was exactly what you’d expect! Although it was fairly small, it was quaint and filled with charm. There were people roaming the streets and hanging out in the park, watching the boats come and go.
While we were visiting, we found out that blueberries were in season and the people of Maine REALLY love to put them in everything.
At almost every meal, someone was eating or drinking something blueberry!
And of course there was a lot of lobster consumed! It’s not a successful trip to Bar Harbor if you don’t eat fresh lobster.
When we were planning the family vacation, we had every intention on watching the sunrise on top of Cadillac Mountain. Being the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, it offers the very first glimpse of the sun each day. However, the weather was calling for rain, so we didn’t want to get up extremely early just to witness a thick fog.
Instead, we visited Cadillac Mountain during the day, and it was wonderful!
Although it was a little windy, the views were breathtaking! Everywhere we looked, there was another amazing view of the water. It felt like we could see for miles!
Once we were done exploring Cadillac Mountain, we took a walk on the beach. Some of us searched for cool shells to take home, while others enjoyed the view.
Just like the lighthouse, this beach is only accessible during low tide. The ground is completely covered in water during high tide. That’s why it’s extremely important to be aware of your tides when exploring the coast of Maine. As fast as the water lowers, is as fast as it can rise!
On a different day, we walked along the Ocean Path in Acadia National Park.
If you’re looking for a fun way to explore the park without exerting too much energy, the Ocean Path is perfect! It’s relatively flat, and there are several lookout points perfect for photos!
We didn’t plan to match, but as a newlyweds this is bound to happen. 🙂 We both are wearing our Buck Shoals teeshirts in support of Dalton’s band! They are super talented, so you should check them out on Apple Music or Spotify!
Along the Ocean Path, you’ll see Sand Beach, Otter Beach, and Thunder Hole.
If the tide and water current are just right, you will hear the waves crash into the rock and create a giant splash plus the sound of thunder. There’s a small viewing area where you can stand to see the waves crash into a small cave. When the air get’s trapped inside and the tide is right, it creates the large splash and the sound of thunder!
Once we were done walking the ocean path, we took a boat tour! This was such a fun and informative tour. There are tons of boat tours you can take while visiting Maine, and we’d recommend them. Just be warned that depending on the season, you may not see much. We saw a bunch of seals and a bald eagle, but that was about it for wildlife.
Our tour guide was fantastic though, and she gave us a ton of historical information and even taught us about how to catch lobster! All in all, I think we learned a lot on that boat tour!
It’s not everyday that you get the whole family together in another state! This was such a fun and memorable experience that I know we will all remember forever. Bar Harbor was adorable and Acadia National Park was stunning! Taylor and I love visiting National Parks, so we’d really love to come back and do some more exploring.
Ice cream is a staple on our family vacations with Grandma, and the blueberry ice-cream was untouchable!!
On a less serious note, we ended our family vacation with a laugh! On the way to the airport, we drove our van right into a ditch. We couldn’t get it out without fear of the van tipping over, so we had to call for professional help.
This is surely something we’ll laugh about forever! 🙂
One of the biggest questions we were asked on the day of our wedding was, “where are you going for your honeymoon!?” When we answered, “Abu Dhabi,” the immediate response we got was, “where is that?” Abu Dhabi is located in the Middle East, and is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It is situated beside the Persian Gulf, south of Iran and shares a land border with Saudi Arabia and Oman. The popular city of Dubai is located about an hour and a half north of Abu Dhabi.
The day after our wedding we caught an early flight from Charlotte to New York City. From there, we flew 12 hours to the country of Qatar with Qatar Airways. This was the nicest, most comfortable international flight we’ve ever been on in our entire lives. We didn’t even fly first class! When we were booking our flights with Qatar several months ago, we threw around the idea of flying business class since it was our honeymoon. Looking back, we’re super glad we didn’t cave and spend the extra money! Honestly, we didn’t need to upgrade because economy seating was so nice! When we were checking into our flight at JFK, we mentioned that it was our honeymoon and they changed our seats! They gave us the option of choosing exit row seats or having a row with an empty seat between us. We chose the later option because it gave us more space without worrying about another person next to us.
With all the new movies and TV shows available at our seats, our flight passed by quickly. As soon as we arrived in Qatar, we took a short one hour flight across the Persian Gulf to Abu Dhabi. From there, we took a 30 minute taxi ride to the Emirates Palace.
This resort was exactly like it sounds, a palace. It was enormous and luxurious, making it the perfect place for us to honeymoon. Upon arrival, we were greeted and personally shown to our suite. One of the sweet receptionists showed us where everything was, and pointed out all the different amenities within our room.
One end of the Emirates Palace is dedicated to families and larger groups. The other end is for couples and those who want more privacy. To accommodate both ends, there are two swimming pools. The family friendly swimming pool has several waterfalls, a lazy river, a small park, and a large kiddie pool. We stuck to the pool on our side, which was very quiet and relaxing. They had large hammocks in and out of the pool, plus a swim up bar.
There was also a private beach along the Persian Gulf with stunning turquoise water!
When Taylor found out that you could ride camels on the beach, he was sold on the idea of traveling to Abu Dhabi. He was SO EXCITED!
When telling people that we were traveling to the Middle East, we got a lot of concern regarding safety. We stayed at the resort most days, but when we visited the Grand Mosque and walked around the city, we felt completely safe. The local people were so nice and welcoming, so it’s a place we would highly recomend traveling to!
When visiting the Grand Mosque, you’re required to dress conservatively. This means wearing something that covers your arms and legs. If you’re a women, you’ll need to wear a head covering as well. If you don’t have any of these items with you, you’ll be required to rent something when passing through security.
These are our, “why did we decide to tour during the hottest part of the day in Abu Dhabi” faces! :)
There are multiple 45 minute tours of the Grand Mosque available for free! If you don’t feel like participating in a tour group you can show yourself around, but you’re limited to what you can see and learn. Our tour guide gave us a detailed history of the Mosque and we really learned a lot! We’d highly recommend completing the tour rather than showing yourself around! The Grand Mosque was STUNNING!
Our time in Abu Dhabi was unforgettable. I’m really glad that Taylor encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and travel to a place that I’d never considered before. We were able to see a part of the world that some people will sadly, never get to see. Abu Dhabi was breathtaking and offered us culture and experiences that we’ll carry with us for the rest of our lives.
If you ever find yourself desiring an adventure or an experience that will challenge you and force you to step outside of what you know, we’d highly recommend traveling to the Middle East. You won’t regret it! Or, if you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon destination, please consider the Emirates Palace!
You may be wondering why we chose to visit Utah, of all the places we could pick?
It all started back in January when Taylor flew to Arizona to see Clemson play in the National Championship. During his return home, Southwest Airlines overbooked the flight and needed someone to give up their seat. Taylor gladly volunteered, so they gave him a voucher for $600 towards another Southwest flight. Since then, we’ve been brainstorming different places we could go. We’ve always shared an appreciation for the mountains, and Taylor really wanted to hike the “Big 5” in Utah. In short, that’s how we ended up in Utah!
We booked our flights through Southwest Airlines with his voucher for FREE! We found a great deal for $165 per person round trip, which left extra money on his voucher for another trip!
When looking at the map of the United States, we noticed that Las Vegas was A LOT closer to the 5 mountains we wanted to hike, rather than Salt Lake City. If we had booked a flight in and out of SLC, we would’ve had to drive over 4 hours to get to the first mountain. Whereas, by booking our flight to Las Vegas, it only took us 2.
We flew out of the Atlanta airport and arrived extra early, because it was a holiday weekend and we were anticipating a long security line. They had so many people working in security that we were at our gate in no time!
We had a super short layover in New Orleans, and then flew directly to Las Vegas. This was THE WORST flight we’ve ever experienced. Taylor and I were sitting directly beside a young man with his one year old son. It was the child’s first flight and he didn’t pack a single item for him. Needless to say, the kid screamed the ENTIRE 2+ hour flight. It was so miserable that people around him were trying to offer anything they could to calm him down, but nothing worked. The most disappointing part was that the Southwest flight attendants did absolutely nothing. We didn’t have a second of peace the entire flight.
We did have an amazing view of the sunset though!
Once we landed in Vegas, we called an Uber to come take us to our airbnb. (Read our last post about our airbnb experiences.) We rented a room out of someone’s apartment for $40 dollars and it was wonderful! She only lived 15 minutes from the airport and provided us with everything we needed for a comfortable night stay. We highly recommend staying with her if you’re ever in Vegas!
Our host was super sweet and made sure we had everything we needed. Our flight arrived pretty late at night and she was very flexible with letting us come at an odd hour. We had our own room, bathroom, and full walk-in closet. If you’re ever in the vegas area, we’d highly recommend staying at her place. You can find her page HERE.
The next day, we’d be heading to Zion National Park!!