Things Foreigners Do in China

After all these years in China, I have noticed that laowai (foreigners) tend to do some things that define their life in China. Today I want to talk about some things that most foreigners do in China but I, for some reason, haven’t.

– Teaching English

It is said that it is very easy to work in China as an English teacher. If you search on the Internet you will find many websites and forums with job offers for foreigners interested in teaching here. Some people come to China without a job and manage to find a teaching position in no time.

I wrote “It is said” at the beginning because I don’t have first hand experience in this: I have never taught English in China (unfortunately? luckily?). And for anyone thinking, “But how could you teach English, anyway? It is not your native language!”, it seems that being a native speaker is not a requisite in many places. I do have a diploma to teach Spanish, but I have never had the chance to use it either. Last year when I was looking for a job I tried to find a position teaching Spanish, but luckily I found something else. I don’t know if I have what it takes to be a teacher.

What would I do if someone slept in my class??

What would I do if someone slept in my class??

– Being on tv

Many foreigners in China, especially if they can speak fluent Chinese, appear in Chinese tv shows. I have never been on tv, at least not in a way that I was clearly recognizable. Once there was a scholarship ceremony award in my university in Beijing where I had to dance and playback a short piece of Chinese opera and I was told it would be on tv, but I don’t know if it was actually broadcasted. What I mean is, I have never been on tv speaking and showing my full face. Just a couple of months ago I had a chance, though: I was offered to participate in 非诚勿扰, a very popular dating show. They said it didn’t matter that I have a boyfriend as everything is prepared and there is a script, but I turned it down anyway. I hate seeing myself on video! And imagine that someone from C.’s family was watching tv and suddenly saw me looking for a boyfriend!!

– Driving an electric bike

Many foreigners that plan to stay in China for a long time buy an electric bike, as you don’t need a driving license and they are a fast way to get around the city. Even my ex boss had one! He was 1.80 meters tall and at least 110 kg. You should have seen him riding that tiny scooter! It looked like something out of a cartoon!

I wouldn't mind having an electric bike as cool as this though!

I wouldn’t mind having an electric bike as cool as this though!

– Wearing a qipao

Qipaos are lovely, I agree. You only need to remember the stunning figure of Maggie Cheung in In the Mood for Love. Many foreign girls buy qipao dresses or shirts when they come to China. I have never bought or wore one. I don’t even want to try. My frontal and rear bumpers are too big for that kind of dress. If I decide to wear something Chinese in my wedding I will surely need to think of something else.

– Using hand sanitizer

I am not sure this is a “thing” anymore. When I arrived to China, everybody told me that I should get a bottle of hand sanitizer and carry it in my purse, as everything is so dirty in China and there is no soap in public toilets. Well… I have to confess I never bought it. And I am still alive. Maybe not using hand sanitizer is the reason I hardly get stomach sickness? All the bacteria and dirty bugs are living inside me anyway!

I don't think China is that dirty, anyway. Picture: a hutong near Houhai in Beijing.

I don’t think China is that dirty, anyway. Picture: a hutong near Houhai in Beijing.

– Going on holidays to Thailand

Thailand is a popular holiday destination for the foreigners living in China. It is not too far, it is not too expensive, you don’t need a visa, tourism is very developed, there are beaches and parties… I have never been there. It is not that I don’t want, it’s just that I never had the chance. Friends and plans made me go to other places instead. But Thailand is on my to go list!


There surely are more popular-among-foreigners activities that I have never done (like getting drunk on baijiu, or getting drunk at all!) but those are the most relevant, I think. What about you? Any popular activities in your country that you haven’t done (yet)?