If you’re reading this, it might be because you found my post last week about life in China as inflammatory, or that the aim of that post was to generate controversy.
Well, if you’re a fan of American politics, or have a shred of interest in the fate of the United States’ political future, then you likely don’t need me to add any tinder to the already-burning fire that is occurring here.
Also, the purpose of last week’s post was not to shed negativity on China.
Rather, my intent was to capture my time there as accurately as possible.
Of course, I’m not ignorant enough to think that what I wrote would not offend people.
I was aware of the potential pushback from readers long before I hit the publish button on WordPress.
Yet, as someone who at least conveniently values the truth, I was undeterred in my decision to expound upon my experiences abroad.
With that being said, I am open to viewpoints that vary from my own, because for me, I don’t profess to know everything. My one year in China as a quasi-tourist is certainly not grounds to claim expertise on the inner workings of such a sophisticated culture.
But I know some things, and they’re not all bad.
Here then are 7 Reasons Why I LOVE CHINA, in no particular order:
Besides the chance to live somewhere outside of the United States, my main motivation for going to China was the chance to mingle with the local women.
As soon as I got my visa and received my flight accomodations, I began scouring the internet to learn what to expect from Chinese women.
But of course, nothing prepared me quite like actually being there.
As far as vanity is concerned, Chinese women are the whole package, and you can’t walk around without seeing thousands of beautiful women parading throughout the subways and Sanlitun (city center).
I’m not exaggerating:
You have to squint and say three Hail Mary’s in order to find a Chinese woman who is unattractive.
Beyond just vanity, Chinese women are feminine, caring, playful, and offer a layer of emotional support that is completely endearing.
There were obvious challenges that came with dating someone outside of my culture, but if you’re looking for women who best represent femininity, China is the place to go.
2. Jing-A Brewery
Jing-A is undoubtedly the best restaurant in Beijing, and they have locations scattered throughout all of China.
Not only does Jing-A have the best burgers in the city, but they also make a divine Moscow Mule that is capable of distancing one from reality after only a few sips.
Part of the allure that I hold for Jing-A stems from the fact that every Sunday night after work, my two friends and I would make the 30-minute walk from our tiny apartments to the restaurant.
Each week we gathered to imbibe in chips and salsa, perfectly cooked cheeseburgers, and drinks with enough alcohol to sedate a large camel.
But beyond that, Jing-A offered a location to form a special camaraderie. My friends and I always took a spot in the back, willing to arch our backs in order to lean over our small circular tables made of wood and devour that night’s fare.
Some of the best conversations I had in Beijing took place at Jing-A, and I possess the utmost nostalgia for those Sunday evenings.
3. Cost of living
From the $0.50 subway rides, to the bargain meals at the noodle restaurant just below my apartment, the cost of living in China is very manageable if you have a decent salary.
Consider that in my year there, I was only being paid $2,000 per month.
Yet, with that amount of money I was able to take six vacations all over Asia, rent an apartment in the center of the city, buy a gym membership, and if I didn’t overindulge in material items, I always had at least a couple thousand dollars in my savings account.
The best advice I can give someone living in China, or anywhere in the world, is to not invest in things.
Material items will eventually lose their luster, and their value, but taking a weekend trip to Tokyo with your buddy is worth much more than a new pair of pants, a TV, or getting bottle service at the once hallowed and since-closed MIX nightclub.
Not that clubbing in China should be dismissed….
Throw in six Moscow Mules, deafening music emanating from the DJ, and a club full of partygoers, and you not only are likely in MIX, but this is also a recipe for an eventful evening.
Contrary to what one might think, the Chinese know how to party. Most clubs are open until the early hours of the morning, at which point it isn’t uncommon for many groups to transition to a karaoke bar, or KTV as it’s called in China.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t get home until 8 A.M. completely exhausted from a long night out.
And if the club scene isn’t your forte, there are still high-end bars all throughout the city, plus hidden gems tucked in back-alley neighborhoods that all offer the chance to sit back and connect with friends.
You can even go to KTV booths in the malls, which offers the chance to create cringe-worthy content like this:
Either way, if you do find yourself in a spot off the beaten trail, chances are they don’t have a bathroom, which means you will have to use the public bathrooms in the alley.
That alone is another adventure entirely.
5. The people
This is my favorite part of traveling.
Sure, partying, chasing women, and sprinting through the subway have their place in the pantheon of my memories, but topping all those are the people I was fortunate enough to have met along the way.
They are who occupy my brain when I think of China, and it is isn’t until someone elicits a response regarding the bars, subway, etc., do I think of anything other than the amazing people who live in China.
My advice is to connect with people who share similar hobbies. This is the best way to meet people.
For me, that was basketball.
One of my fondest memories occurred early in my time there when I visited the local outdoor basketball courts.
They had 30 separate hoops, each filled with people eagerly waiting to play in the next game.
That day, I met a few dudes who spoke English, and we played on the same court for the next three hours, depleting our energy levels but altogether entertaining the small contingent of locals who had come out to see our team dunk the basketball a few times.
See, here’s the thing:
I know last week I was ripping on scammers and decrying the lack of sanitation that is exhibited in the bathrooms, but if you have even a shred of self-awareness, you will be able to look past those types of people and embrace the majority of people who are polite and warm-hearted.
I used to go into the same shop on my way to the gym every morning. This is where I would buy a warm chocolate milk, a bottle of water that sat on a floor that had just been mopped, and a piece of chocolate bread that replaced my usual bowl of cereal.
The woman who owned the shop could not have been more than 40 years old, and every day that I visited her shop she had a huge grin on her face. She wasn’t happy to see me as much as I could tell she was genuinely happy with the way her life was playing out.
Her and I never shared more than a few introductory phrases in her native tongue, but there was still a wave of friendship we established just because I consistently entered her shop.
The same goes for the man a few stores over who owned the noodle shop. One day he tried to tell me that my Chinese was improving, but being able to only understand one or two words of his paragraph, perhaps he was telling me something else entirely.
Either way, I couldn’t go to China and not try to immerse myself in the culture.
Otherwise, what would have been the point of going?
If all I wanted to do was hop on a plane, go sit in my room, and scroll through Tinder until I struck gold, I could have just stayed in America.
But I wanted more than that. I wanted to see something that only seemed possible when I read about the Tiananmen Square protests in the fourth grade.
Fortunately, I was able to have that experience, and no amount of money will ever be able to bring me back to that point in my life.
6. The Bookworm
This treasure is tucked away in a nook of Sanlitun, and if you haven’t already guessed, The Bookworm is a bookstore.
Whenever I needed a personal day, this was where I went.
Six dollars got me an English breakfast and the privilege to sit in a quiet space filled with books in several different languages.
It’s there that I became obsessed with Peter Conradi books about Russian culture, reading about serial killers like Andrei Chikatilo, and also how the relationship between Russia and the United States had evolved under Donald Trump’s presidency.
The Bookworm was also the only store in Beijing willing to sell my book.
“I’ll take 10 copies,” a sweet woman with glasses told me one afternoon as I sat patiently in her store for an hour while she contemplated accepting my offer.
I never sold more than a few copies, but getting The Long Road North into that store was huge for my career.
Still, personal success was trumped by the safe haven The Bookworm offered. Much like my apartment, The Bookworm served as an escape from all the noise and traffic that went on in a bustling city like Beijing.
It’s interesting how even in a place so big, I was able to find more solitude than when I travel to a small town in Minnesota.
I consider that part of my evolution, arriving at a point where I can find what I’m looking for even in a place that doesn’t seem to offer it.
7. Current Nostalgia
Not a day goes by where I don’t think back to the life I used to live in Beijing.
That’s not to suggest that I want to live there once again, but doing something like that has afforded me a massive amount of memories that I feel grateful to have experienced.
I hope that no matter how old I become, I never stop challenging myself.
I only listed 7 Reasons Why I LOVE China, but I could have listed 100 more.
As I prepare for The Long Road East to make its arrival on a bookshelf near you, I have already begun thinking of the multitude of ways that I can craft a book about China.
This blog serves as a microcosm of one of the best years of my life, and I look forward to continuing to reveal more aspects of the story as time elapses.