10 Differences about China

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.DSC_0523

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.DSC_0772

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!IMG_4542.jpg

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.Untitled designDSC_0146

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. DSC_0269

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.IMG_1283

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.IMG_1653

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.Untitled design

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.IMG_1962.jpg

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.DSC_0235-2

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!

xoxo

7 Things I Wish I Packed

Hello!

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:

  1. A guide to packing for China.
  2. 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!

1-3.jpgFor 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.

2I 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.

3-1.jpgThe 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).

4.jpgBefore 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.

5As 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.

6.jpgFor 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.

7.jpgLast 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.

xoxo

Cambodia pt. 2 – Siem Reap

Hello!

I’m back with part 2 of our trip to Cambodia! Have you read about the first half? If not, I highly encourage you to read it before this one! Especially if you love the beach or need a little warmth in the dead of winter right now. 🙂

In my last post, I left off with us returning to Sihanoukville via the ferry. Once we got off the boat, we paired up with a European couple and took a Tuk Tuk to the local airport together. It took around 30 minutes, and the airport was extremely small. Since we were early for our flight (always aim to be early, not just on time), we sat around and chatted with our new friends. That’s the magic about backpacking! You never know who you’re going to meet along the way. Everyone has a unique story that’s led them to where they are, and it’s fascinating.IMG_7621IMG_7677We decided to take a flight to Siem Reap rather than a bus for several reasons. For starters, the flight was only $30 a person. A bus was $15 a person. Second, the flight was only 40 minutes. The bus was overnight and was estimated to take 10 hours. We really contemplated taking the bus because it was half the price AND there were bunks in the bus. However, we didn’t want to waste time. We needed to be up early the following morning, so we wanted a good nights rest as well. Untitled design-6I was pleasantly surprised by Siem Reap. This city in the northern part of Cambodia exists almost completely because of tourism. All the grand hotels and restaurants give the locals jobs and it’s truly thriving. I really thought Siem Reap was going to be a little dusty and empty city, but I was very wrong. It’s only growing! We checked into our hotel downtown, took hot showers, and headed straight to bed. The following day, we hired a driver to take us wherever we wanted for the whole day. He picked us up at our hotel at 6:30am and drove us straight to Angkor Wat. Siem Reap is famous for this massive temple and kingdom that was founded in the 12th century. What was once a Hindu temple, eventually transformed into a Buddhist temple.DSC_5605DSC_5629DSC_5632DSC_5674 We purchased tickets that gave us access to any of the sights we wanted for the whole day, which cost $37 each. The pass allowed us to enter any of the historical buildings we wanted for the whole day. We didn’t have a problem paying almost $40 a ticket, because they are doing an amazing job restoring these ancient temples. Angkor Wat sat untouched for years, so you’ll see a lot of natural destruction. Restoration first started in the 1860’s. 2DSC_5625DSC_5624DSC_56101DSC_5614I’d say we spent 4-5 hours walking through all the temples. I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend getting up as early as you possibly can. Tourists visit Siem Reap for the same reason – to see Angkor Wat. Even though we visited during February, it was still very hot and jam-packed with people. The combination of the two makes for an unpleasant experience. I’m sure it get’s even busier during the Summer months. IMG_76323DSC_5722DSC_5660DSC_5665DSC_5667We explored the temples of Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm (in that order). As you can see by the map below, Angkor Park is huge! You can truly spend all day here. map1_large.jpgDSC_57582DSC_5741DSC_5784DSC_5772Untitled design-7DSC_5763DSC_5764We called it quits shortly after noon because it was way too hot and there were way too many people around. We didn’t eat dinner the night before with all the traveling, so we were starving and exhausted. Learn from our mistake and stay fed and hydrated. We drove back into downtown Siem Reap and ate at the Paper Tiger. Taylor and I both ordered pasta and it was delicious! I’d highly recommend eating here. IMG_7649 Once we were done, we headed to a local school with Caring for Cambodia. Taylor was invited to speak about science and achieving goals. I’m so proud of Tay for sharing his educational experience and inspiring high school students who are about to make big decisions not only for themselves, but for their family! IMG_7662After an exhausting day exploring in the heat, we ate a quick dinner downtown and headed back to our hotel. We had another early morning, because we were flying back to Phnom Penh before flying back to Nanjing! IMG_7684IMG_7690Can I be honest with you? Here’s where I wanted to end the blog. The rest of our time in Phnom Penh was spent visiting the killing fields and S21 prison camp from the genocide that took place in the early 70’s. I didn’t want to write about it. I felt like it was depressing and I didn’t want to relive what we saw and learned. However, during our tour, they mentioned that if nobody talks about it, nobody will ever learn about the horrific loss Cambodia suffered. And if nobody hears, then we cannot learn from experience. Taylor encouraged me to briefly write about our experience.

Another honest confession. I never heard about the mass genocide in Cambodia, until now. I NEVER knew. The only mass genocide I knew about was the Holocaust. 3 We did the audio tour for both the killing fields and prison. From personal experience, while these tours were wonderful and full of information, I think this was way worse than visiting a concentration camp in Germany. (If you had a rough time with that, then this isn’t for you.) These tours are fantastic for learning and never forgetting, but they are not for everyone. I couldn’t complete the prison because my heart was aching and I couldn’t look at the photos. I listened to the full audio, but I physically couldn’t do it. IMG_7703IMG_7702.jpgThe only way I can end this post, is by encouraging you to learn. Although it’s painful to hear about the horror that occurred, millions of lives were effected and still are. Cambodia is still recovering. The only way we can prevent anything like this happening again, is by learning.

Chinese New Year 2019

Happy Year of the Pig! If you were born in the year 1983, 1995, or 2007 this is your year!!

Taylor and I are back in our second home and starting our new year by regrouping and relaxing. After a very busy few months traveling all over the states for the holidays, we’ve been taking a true “vacation” for ourselves.

Before jumping into our adventures within Beijing, I’m going to take it back a few weeks. I think this will make things easier to understand. Upon landing in China, we quickly realized that the whole country was shutting down for the New Year. To fight the 13 hour jet lag, we took a small trip to Shanghai with a couple friends who live in Nanjing too. We’ve been to Shanghai numerous times, because it’s only an hour (or 2 depending on the stops) train ride from Nanjing.  IMG_7046invite you to an anniversary party to celebrate their ten years of marriage!We spent a good portion of our time eating good food, walking around the People’s Square, and visiting the largest Starbucks in the world! I was in coffee HEAVEN! I didn’t know this was even located in Shanghai until a few months ago. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery was 2 stories high and was it’s very own coffee factory. They offer way more food and drink options at this location. I tried the butterscotch latte and it was the best latte I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if this was seasonal or available everywhere? It was new to me. 🙂5Processed with VSCO with g6 presetOf course it was packed with people, but you could spend hours here watching the coffee being made, looking at all the special merchandise, and even enjoy a pairing bar! This is something everyone needs to see when visiting Shanghai. I can’t wait to go back.IMG_7050IMG_7052Our friends are huge Disney lovers, so they hold season passes to the Disney Shanghai park. They showed us the beautiful Disney resort and took us to the Downtown Disney area. Taylor and I are excited to experience Disney Shanghai later in the year. We all grabbed dinner at the Cheesecake Factory before retiring back to our hotel for the night. Tay and I returned to Nanjing the next day.

Now remember when I said the whole country of China was shutting down for the Chinese New Year?? Well this created a small setback for us. Taylor wasn’t expected to return to work for several more weeks, and our city was becoming emptier and emptier. Instead of sitting in our apartment for days and days, we booked last-minute train tickets to Beijing! Bullet trains can take anywhere between 3-4 hours to reach Beijing from Nanjing, depending on how many stops it makes. IMG_7200The two of us love Beijing, and thought this was the perfect time to experience an authentic Chinese New Year! Whenever we travel to Beijing, we stay within the Sanlitun district because it’s the most western and a fantastic place to meet people our age who are also expats. There’s always something going on!3 We kicked off our second day by watching the Super Bowl at 7am at The Local. I’ve never seen so many Americans in one location within China before. It was so odd watching the Super Bowl this early and without all the dips and snacks, but it turned out to be really fun!2On Chinese New Year, we met up with friends who live in Beijing to visit some of the festivals. There were shows, food, and extravagant displays lining the parks and streets! By the way, it was freezing!!DSC_56044IMG_7233DSC_5644The whole day was spent exploring and immersing ourselves into a Chinese New Year celebration. DSC_5692DSC_56496DSC_5670I was really hoping to see a Chinese dragon show, but we couldn’t find one. Apparently it’s a southern China thing. However, they still had a bunch of performances that were super fun to watch. DSC_56537DSC_5657DSC_5698DSC_5703I loved seeing all the vibrant colors and different traditions China upholds every single year. They really know how to ring in a new year! 9DSC_56878After the celebration, we called it a day. We spent the next few days eating more great food and walking around Beijing together. It’s always nice to get away for a few days and experience something new!

Christmas in America Recap

We’ve returned to China, so that means I’m back to updating y’all on the blog! Welcome back!

Before I jump into more posts about our life in China and the upcoming adventures we have planned (yay!), here’s a brief recap about our time in America during the holidays! (You can read about the specific timing of our vacation HERE.) Sorry if this post is a little jumbled. We did so much in such a short amount of time, so there’s a lot to cover.

A.R. Workshop Spartanburg, SC-3.jpgimg_0905

During the months of November and December, I visited all my friends and family in Pennsylvania while Taylor was still working in Florida/China! Here are some of the things I did:

img_5091Kicked off the holiday season with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

IMG_53081Explored the city of Philadelphia with one of my best friends. You can read that post HERE.

6img_4692Snuggled with Bubba and Riley. a lot.

a.r. workshop spartanburg, scDrank copious amounts of coffee with friends.

img_5575Helped plan our annual Mast-Family Christmas party.

24135a05-5bd1-44af-b36b-1bc800d2a79c.jpgWhen Taylor met me in Pennsylvania at the end of December, he brought Maybelle along with him so she could meet all the other pups! I was in puppy heaven with three adorable yorkies under one roof.

Processed with VSCO with av8 presetimg_5764We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family, then drove down to South Carolina together on the 23rd. (We alternate Christmas each year.) While we were visiting the south for a month, here’s what we did together:

dsc_5855a.r. workshop spartanburg, sc-2Celebrated Christmas with Taylor’s side of the family.

img_6378img_6388Traveled to Dallas to watch the Clemson Tigers play in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame.

img_6981dsc_5964Visited Charleston. Twice.

5img_6643IMG_6619.jpg4Processed with VSCO with g6 presetimg_6694Flew to Portland and drove down to Santa Clara, California to watch Clemson win the National Championship against Alabama! We saw the Redwood National Forest and Napa Valley along the way!

3Snuggled with Maybelle.

img_6808Watched a few Clemson basketball games.

2img_6896Participated in an A.R. Workshop for the first time. We made a lazy suzan for the house we don’t have. 🙂 This was a lot of fun though!

In total, I was in America for 3 months and Taylor was there for 1. We’re so thankful for all the friends and family we have who support us on this crazy journey and welcome us into their homes for extended periods of time. We were able to return to China feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the new year!

Life Update: Our Plans for the Holiday Season

Hello!

I wanted to hop on the blog and write a short update about what’s going on with Taylor and I in regards to the holidays! As most of you know, Taylor and I flew back to America at the beginning of November. While I flew to Philadelphia, Taylor flew to Florida for work. A few days before Thanksgiving, Taylor hopped on a flight back to China! No worries though, he got to spend Thanksgiving with everyone else living in China. 🙂 These are some photos he sent me:

IMG_0766

Before the MLB booked any of these flights for us, Taylor and I sat down together and hashed out how we wanted to conquer the holidays this year! I could’ve flown to Florida with him, but really wanted to go home and see my family without buying a round trip flight from Florida to Philly. I also didn’t want to fly back to China before Thanksgiving and then come back right before Christmas. That’s a lot of long flights and time change! Although, now that it’s been over a month, I’m starting to regret not going to Florida with him for a portion of his stay. I miss him!

IMG_4601

His Christmas vacation starts in the middle of December, when he’ll fly back to South Carolina. Then, he’ll drive up to Pennsylvania to spend a week here with my side of the family. After that, we’ll drive back to South Carolina together, where we’ll spend Christmas. I hope this isn’t super confusing… even I get a little confused writing about it. 🙂

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

I’ve been loving my time at home! I spend most of my days helping my mom plan for an upcoming Christmas party, taking photos, hanging out with Bubba and Riley, and helping my family around the house. There’s only 25 days until Christmas…just saying! 🙂

img_4719.jpgDSC_5755-2

Taylor is working hard and still adjusting to the 13 hour time change. I can’t wait to see him in a few weeks. We’re going to have so much fun celebrating the holidays together with friends and family, and of course catching a few Clemson games before the season ends!

DSC_5738-2

Let me know if you have anymore questions about our holiday plans and I’ll answer them down below. xoxo