10 Realisations After Moving Abroad

Kubuqi Desert Inner Mongolia Nicol Yuk Lui Wong 黄郁蕾 Huang Yu Lei

I’ve had this post written up in my head for quite some time but had never actually put it pen to paper. Trying to think of a title was the hardest so this is the best I had come up with.

As you all know, I’ve moved to China and of course, I did have my own personal thoughts as to what I was getting myself into but that is normal. As the title states 10 realisations after moving abroad, I will be touching up on what I have discovered, my thoughts, just anything that has shocked or surpassed my expectations.

Taobao is Life
Those who don’t know what Taobao, it’s known as the Chinese eBay by many but it is the largest online shopping website in China. When you think China, you would think knock offs. Of course there are going to be sellers selling fakes and imitations but you’ve got to be careful and research properly, read reviews etc. There are genuine out there and a lot of retailers who use Taobao or TMall to sell their items.

Miss the Little Things
By this, I mainly mean food, from fish and chips to Sunday roasts to Greg’s pasties. Just the thought of roast potatoes drowned in gravy has got me drooling right now. As I was in China over Christmas, I wasn’t able to stuff my face with pigs in blanket. I’m so sad thinking about this now. I also miss certain holiday atmosphere like Halloween, Christmas and New Year etc as these aren’t considered a big or a national holiday here and everywhere is open on Christmas Day and New Years Day too.

No Sunday Trading Laws
This is one of the weirdest thing I have experienced. You’re probably thinking um, what? Everything is still open past 4.30pm/5pm. It was a strange feeling to still be able to shop past then. My Sundays will never be the same, ever. Probably whenever I decide to move back to the UK. Now that would be a big shock to my system whenever it happens.

Phone Pays for Everything
Apple Pay and Android Pay hasn’t really taken off in the West right? In China, everyone uses their phone to pay and you won’t have the need to carry your purse anywhere. In China, they use WeChat (messaging app) and or Alipay (online payment platform) to pay for goods in store and online. You can also use the app to book flights, cinema tickets, hotels, order taxis, rent bikes etc without having the need to download more apps. This one I’m still getting use to as I do like to carry cash to manage my finances. Probably about 2% of places doesn’t accept phone payment. Even a village I had visited accepts this sort of payment. Mind blown.

Foreign Products are Way Overpriced
Due to shipping costs, tax, blah blah blah the usual stuff. When you go shopping, you generally have all the high end stores within the same area right? There is this one shopping centre where it’s all high end or more on the upper end of high street in terms of pricing and I was surprised to see New Look in there with the likes Stuart Weitzman, Moschino, Kenzo etc. I did pop into New Look to have a gander and it’s way overpriced. A lot of the items are like more than £20 or more expensive than the UK price. Ridiculous. This leads to the next point.

Beijing Hutong

Where are the Tampons?
Tampons aren’t a popular method here, it’s hard to find them. I think it’s like a taboo here as there’s a belief that it’s bad for a woman’s health. The majority of supermarkets and pharmacies don’t carry them. When I do find them, they’re triple the price here for a standard Tampax box of 18. I wasn’t aware of this whilst I was packing back in the UK and didn’t bring any extra boxes with me. Just had a random yet relevant thought now, why have I not looked on Taobao???

Cultural Differences
This might be something that shocks people because I’m Chinese. As I’m a UK citizen, born and bred, I relate more to the western culture and customs. This doesn’t mean that I am clueless about my own ethnicity. The way I think and do things differs to the way Chinese locals live. It’s always interesting to learn how other people live their daily lives and see what habits they have. It also sparks up a nice conversation comparing life in the UK and China.

My Perception Has Changed
Influenced by the media and of course you will have not so good expectations. Don’t believe in everything you read, watch or hear. Whatever is happening, the chances are it’s happening in 1% of the country. You need to go out and see it for yourself. My friends and I have joked at how I’m going to dislike China once I arrive but as soon as I was able to properly explore, my perception has changed. It has opened my mind further and am able to see it’s beauty. Whatever I’ve read online, it doesn’t relate to the whole population.

What Even is Personal Space
I can vouch that it’s a lot worse than London especially on the subway during peak hours. On the subway in Beijing during peak time, you’re in there like tightly packed sardines and when you have to get off, you have to push your way through. My face has been very close to some not so good places that I will not mention, hand has touched some not so nice places, again, I will not mention. Even when you’re waiting to cross the road or queuing up, you always end up being in a crowd and everyone just pushes you. It’s the little things like queuing up, you can’t have your own breathing space without someone breathing down your neck.

I’ve Picked Up Some Chinese Etiquette
One example is calling the waiter. As a very polite Brit always putting my hand up to get a waiter’s attention back in the UK, it doesn’t really work here. You have to shout waiter, “fú wù rén/服务人” to get their attention. Even though it’s not considered rude here, I definitely feel rude every time so I don’t really shout, I tend to wait till they walk past so I don’t have to shout loud. There are a few others but this post would be too long.

Have you learnt anything new recently?


  1. 19th January 2018 / 2:37 pm

    Wow some pretty major differences between England and China, it’s such a developed country. I’m a Brit through and through and would never be able to give up my fish and chips, so good on you.

  2. 19th January 2018 / 4:43 pm

    China is somewhere i have always wanted to visit … I had no idea about the tampon thing either! How random … make sure you stock up next time you are back in the UK!

  3. 19th January 2018 / 8:12 pm

    this was really interesting to read – it definitely would be the small things that I would miss, but they’ll be other things that make up for it

  4. 19th January 2018 / 9:08 pm

    This was so interesting to read! I would also feel rude shouting at a waiter! I don’t know how I would expect China to be. It is definitely a country that I haven’t read up much on so don’t really have much knowledge of the culture at all.

  5. 20th January 2018 / 12:47 am

    It is really interesting to read about the differences, I couldn’t imagine no Sunday trading laws and everyone paying with there phone?! I still get looked at oddly when I do that here.

  6. 20th January 2018 / 6:18 am

    This is why I love to travel because it changes your perception on so many things, even calling for a waiter in Korea is the same as China which I too find rude but its not there and paying with your mobile is another big thing I Korea that I always need to remember when I visit

  7. 20th January 2018 / 6:41 am

    I didn’t realise tampons weren’t really a common thing there, that can’t be fun. It’s amazing how different countries can be x

  8. 20th January 2018 / 10:24 am

    I think it would be so strange to see places open after 4pm on a Sunday, that would take some getting used to! It’s strange having to call for a waiter that would be very hard and I’d feel embarrassed shouting!

  9. 20th January 2018 / 12:36 pm

    As I am somebody who was meant to move to China a couple of years ago reading this has both made me sad and happy I didn’t. I’m a sucker for holidays like Christmas so I’d feel super weird not celebrating it with a good Christmas dinner! X

  10. 20th January 2018 / 5:41 pm

    Wow this is so interesting! I had no clue about some of these things, I guess this is how people say there is a culture shock!

  11. 20th January 2018 / 10:36 pm

    This is really fascinating to see what differences there are – Sunday trading would sure be a shock to my system too, I’m so used to not even trying to visit shops after 4pm on a Sunday lol

  12. 21st January 2018 / 10:18 am

    I don’t think I’d want to live there, tbh! I don’t think I could handle the lack of personal space!

  13. 21st January 2018 / 10:45 am

    Oh man, I never knew about the whole tampon thing. That sucks, as does the lack of personal space. I don’t think I’d adapt very well there but I’d love to visit.

    Katie xoxo

  14. 21st January 2018 / 12:41 pm

    I don’t think I’d be able to cope with the lack of personal space, it’s bad enough in London. I’m surprised to find out about the tampon situation and I know everyone says phone pay is the best way I have not moved on to that just yet, I still prefer a physical card. It’s interesting to see all the differences you’ve found since moving there

  15. 21st January 2018 / 3:17 pm

    Oh my gosh – I can totally relate. I lived in Singapore for a year and I wasn’t prepared for the cultural differences or that Yorkshire Tea would cost about 7 pounds a box!! Also, I hope you sort out the tampon situation – or maybe try a moon cup 🙂 I remember when we went to Hong Kong and needed to buy sanitary pads they were really weird and we were happy to come home to the ones we were used to!

  16. Helen
    21st January 2018 / 9:38 pm

    I love travelling and seeing the cultural differences in each country. It must be so strange to live with them permanently. I would definitely miss Sunday roasts too! I hope you get the tampon problem sorted, it seems so strange that every country doesn’t use them.

  17. 22nd January 2018 / 12:28 am

    Firstly Ive always loved how lively things are in the evenings abroad because all of the shops are still open. It creates such a nice atmosphere when you go out with friends at night. Secondly, I couldn’t cope without tampons it must be a nightmare trying to hunt them down?! This was such an interesting post, I never thought about some of these points! x

  18. 22nd January 2018 / 4:13 am

    I just moved to HK and TOTALLY relate to these! I think the worst is the personal space thing, give me room people!

    Vivian | LIVE IN LOVE
    IG | @viviyunn_


  19. 22nd January 2018 / 11:41 am

    Such an insightful post – I haven’t ever been to China or moved abroad. I think, like you, I would be quiet shouting for a waiter. It seems like such an uncomfortable thing doesn’t it? It’s not quite the same but my brother moved to the US 14 years ago and there is still some cultural differences there x

  20. 22nd January 2018 / 12:29 pm

    This is a fascinating post and we love hearing about your life. Cant believe how overpriced it is of UK highstreet items like New Look. You could go into import export! xx

  21. hannah
    23rd January 2018 / 11:18 pm

    I’ve never quite understood the Sunday trading laws here in the uk. It’s really good to see shops open at normal times abroad

  22. 3rd April 2018 / 4:06 pm

    This list is so helpful for a regular tourist like me. I didn’t know about Taobao.

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