Living in China

Bad China Day

For every China blog there is at least one blog post about Bad China Day so here we go! Bad China Day is the day when you google “i hate china”, “i hate chinese people”, “i hate chinese” and “hate china”, all of which have been in the top 10 keywords list this Autumn.

It’s the day when you rant over my blog post 5 Reasons To Hate China from 2010. It’s also the day when you are looking for the next possible plane ticket back home.

The thing is, I think I have never have a real Bad China Day. Readers and friends, do you remember me having a BCD?  What I’m certain of is that there have never been a day when I would have wanted to leave China for good. I’ve been in a Chinese hospital for 10 days receiving terrible health care and I didn’t want to leave China.

The closest thing to BCD I’ve had must be those days in summer 2010 after coming back from holiday in Finland. The new semester haven’t started yet (I was studying at Guangzhou university a the time) and all I did was stay at home. I didn’t want to go out because I felt my every step was followed by numerous stares. That was literally true because I was the only foreigner in the urban village, like an animal in a zoo.

There are many things I don’t like about China. Staring, asking questions or giving advice on private matters, peculiar internet… While writing this sentence right now I even had to take a moment to think of those nasty sides of China. I’ve just had too many Great China Days recently to even remember all the things I kind of hate in China.

So why I’m not having Bad China Days? I think a big part of that lies in my ability to manage my daily life in Chinese. If you don’t speak Chinese China comes much much harder. It’s hard to get things done when you don’t have a common language with most of the local people. I understand that many come here short-term and if they want to stay in the bubble that time, it’s completely fine. But staying in China for years and years without speaking even elementary level Chinese? I just don’t know how they do it.

It’s been a year and four months since I was in Finland the last time. I have no idea when I can visit home again, hell, I don’t even know how I’m going to eat after May (when the financial support for students from the Finnish government comes to an end)!

But I know this, I’m going to do everything I can to stay in China and have as many Great China Days as I can!


  • Greg (at

    Being based in HK, I’m much less likely to have BCDs than you – since
    culturally there is plenty of British influence here, it’s not just pure

    But I do have plenty of frustrations! Service levels, behaviour in
    crowds, aggressive language (even though the person may think they’re
    just having a regular conversation), unavailability of certain products,

    But that’s part of why I enjoy living here too – it’s so different from
    the life I’ve lived in other countries! So I try to remind myself that
    these frustrations are good signs. I try very hard to make myself
    believe this!!


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Greg! The first time I went to Hong Kong It was a strange experience because the city is something between China and the West. I couldn’t really figure it out.

    I think a bif part of the charm living in China is that it’s like a big puzzle you are trying to put together. You have these strange encounters and cultural differences and you try to get a full picture of it all, to finish your puzzle. But new pieces are coming to the mix all the time, so the adventure doesn’t really stop. There’s always something new after the next corner.


  • Jerry

    Well, being a foreigners in China has both advantages and disadvantages. Like u said one of the disadvantages is the stares; however one of the advantages is that many hotels are hiring foreigners for reception in their frontdesks, to try to make their hotels look higher class. The paid is good. The other advantage is that many people would hire foreigners to teach English, the paid is descents too. So, either way would earn enough money to survive in China, u shouldnt worry much after May.


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    I hope you are right and I don’t have to worry. The biggest challenge is to find time to do both study and work.


  • Vyara Gylsen

    Damn girl , what a brilliant brilliant post! I always wonder about these BCDs +D I wonder will I feel the same as it says on those blogs, I’m pretty sure it can get on top, and kind of put me off wanting to live the adventure because I know that there is no escape anywhere for a beautiful problem free life. However its really exciting to do new things, so thats at least something we can hope for when travelling. And you inspired me to think about doing a degree now. :)


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Usually the first few days and weeks you feel great. Everything is new and exciting. Then you start hitting the rock bottom and China just sucks. You either stay there or come back on top and start enjoyning the life here again. I’ve seen this happen to newcomers all the time, some go deeper to the culture shock, some recover quickly.

    In my experience those who come here with an open mind, open to dfferent people and cultures, with a lots of patience and understanding, they survive really well and feel like home :)


  • BarbarkaG

    Ha! Funny cause this is exactly how I found your blog, Sara. I used to google all those “i hate chna” keywords when I was still in Poland but already made my decision to move to China to stay with my bf. It was hard and there were some evenings when I just couldn’t stop crying and thinking how much I don’t want to go. Sad but true. Now I simply don’t have time and need to google this kind of stuff.
    There are many reasons why some expats don’t learn Chinese. For example, I love my bf’s family but still they are a chinese family and this means that they want to have the control over my and my bf’s life. Obviously they have no bad intentions but to them we are still children (even if we are both in our late twenties) which means that they have to take care or us and they know better what is good for us. During last Moon Festival my bf’s parents, sister and brother-in-law started a conversation about a “great idea” they had how we should start a business here in Shenzhen. It didn’t matter to them that I’m not interested in doing any kind of business and I already have slightly different plans for the future. So I could understand the point of this ridiculous conversation but luckily to all of us I wasn’t able to tell them what I think about their absurd idea. I’ve always been too frank with people and expressing my opinions so in this case, because of my very poor Chinese-speaking ability, I had to keep my mouth shut and my bf could kindly explain to his family that we are not interested. So, yes, the fact that I don’t speak Chinese stops me from (unintentional) hurting other people’s feelings.
    I must say that living in China becomes much easier if you have a job you can enjoy. I always wanted to teach art and now I have the job I love. It gives great satisfaction when I can see that the kids become genuinely interested in art and they develop this interest on their own. Last summer I had a few classes about Ancient Egipt and a few weeks later one of my students brought a book about Egipt cause he asked his parents to buy it for him and he wanted to show me how interesting it is. I was truly touched, just like in September when I got a lovely card for the teacher’s day…
    So I guess everyone here has his own remedy for Bad China Days. For me it’s my job and I hope that you’ll also find a nice one for yourself, Sara! Best of luck!


  • ordinary malaysian

    You can have bad days in any country as a foreigner. Especially of course, when you have no inclination to go beyond your comfort zone. So, the same with China, or probably more so there where everything looks so unfamiliar, distinctly different culturally, language wise and in so many other aspects to the average westerner. I guess a genuine love for a place may help to lessen the pain of adjustment as in your case, Sara. Don’t worry, there should be a lot of job opportunities in China for a Chinese speaking westerner like you and I do believe that you should be able to land one by May next year. All my best wishes to you anyway.


  • Fred F.

    Hi Sara. As an American-Chinese who visited Hong Kong, China during this summer 2012, I did not find that the people stared at foreigners too much. Perhaps because there are so many foreigners there and they have been there for so long since the days of British colonism that they do not appear exotic to the locals any longer. Maybe you can try your luck in obtaining a teaching position in H.K. where there is a great need for English teachers. I have been told that in the Mainland there is also a great need for English teachers as well. You should be able to find a decent paying job there and then stay in China for a long time. My sister is married to a White man whose sister (also White) had obtained an English teaching position in H.K. in an internation school since the mid-1990’s and she has been living there since. Sara, I like your blog very much. So, keep up the good work and good luck.


    BarbarkaG Reply:

    Hongkongers don’ stare at foreigners. Mainlanders do.


  • Joy

    I feel like I have plenty of bad China days. But I guess it’s what you consider to be a bad China day. For me it’s when the annoyances seem to come more frequently during the day. Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in and how easily I can face everyday annoyances on that day though. I will say they come less frequently now – after nearly 2 years. Learning the language has helped and knowing what to expect and why they do what they do has also made it much easier. After-all, I chose in live in their country. Life in China is much better now! Interesting post. :-)


  • Jsuomessa

    Talking about ‘stare’, it’s all out of curiosity. When I’m on the train, especially in lapsen vaunu, many Finnish kids would check me from the corner of their eyes or show their interest on me quietly and carefully. I don’t mind about it as I know they are curious because I look different. I even got special treatment once because of being a foreigner with a different look – a very cute little Finnish girl came
    over about 7 times to give me suolatikku, and asked me to read a
    children book(in Finnish T.T…) to her. :)

    The same reason for why foreigners get more ‘stare’ in China. Excuse some Chinese for showing their curiosity on foreigners boldly after opening their door to the world not so long. Just try to take it as a positive attention rather than pressure, and think this way: Would I be interested to many passers-by in my homeland? Would any stranger asks me to take a phote with him/her together in my homeland? ;)


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences about being a foreigner in Finland! This is something I would love to hear more about.

    And you are right, I get special treatment sometimes just because I’m a foreigner and I have to admit, sometimes it’s nice :)


  • Kaiwen

    Aggressive crowds? Elbows up! Old ladies have the sharpest elbows :)

    My solution to bad china days was to go grap some chips and diet pop then watch a disney movie dubbed into mandarin. Your favourite DVD shop will have them or you can stream with youku no problem. Persisting with mandarin environment helped me overall, and reliving films from my childhood let me chill out.
    The mandarin dub of Mulan is especially hilarious due to the voices.
    In retrospect, I would probably pick something healthier than chips and pop — my dentist was pissed when I got back to my hometown :)


  • Yi

    Really appreciate your spirit. Understand the up and down you’ve been through when you were there. Just say:’Good luck girl, go for your desire, 看好你:-)’ Greeting from your Nordic neighbor—Stockholm, Sweden


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