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What I Have Learned From China

Simple Living China - Bryon LippincottThis week we are leaving China.  We arrived here in February of this year.  It has been a wild and crazy time.  In some ways it feels like it has been long and living in the US seems so long ago, but in other ways the time has felt very short.

Our week is full of a bunch of packing, testing students, and saying good-buy to friends but I wanted to write out some of the things we have learned this year.

10 months in China taught me:

The world is small

I know we are on the other side of it.  We are 14 hours ahead of CST and a really long plane flight.  100 years ago it would have taken months to get here by boat and very few people would have ever done it.  But now, the world is really not all that big.

I can get on Skype and talk to people (almost) just as easily as I could in the US.  I can still chill on social media or watch American movies Saturday night in bed.  I am only a day or 2 travel away from anywhere.

I really don’t feel that far away – transportation and technology has made the world much smaller.

Problems are complicated

As westerners we have lots of opinions or ideas about the Chinese.  To be honest, China has a lot of problems.  But these problems are more complicated than most people would like to admit.  These are problems that don’t have easy solutions.  Being upset or looking down on a culture because of the way they are trying to solve their problems is not always the best way to react. Sometimes there are no right answers.

People are the same

Sure they eat different food and speak with different words, but the ideas behind family, fun, peace, love, and loyalty are grounded deep in people all over the world.  It sometimes looks different, or sometimes the values are ordered differently, but underneath people are much the same.

I can teach

I have never wanted to be a teacher, but it was the way to make the idea of travel possible this year.  Turns out, it was challenging, but it worked out.  I am not sure I want to do it again really soon, but I know I could.  I was terrified of the idea back in February, but now it is not scary at all 🙂

I like seaweed

Not all kinds, but now I know there are some kinds I do really like.

I can live with way less than I thought and be happy

Back in America I thought we had cut back to a comfortable level and were living really simply.  But that was nothing compared to what we ended up bringing with us this year – 2 suitcases and 4 carry-ons is nothing for a 4 season wardrobe, homeschool supplies, toys, toiletries, and electronics.

There are a few things we missed – mostly food.  But none of the things we missed were really things we could bring with us.  We lived on a much smaller wardrobe, kitchen, office, and classroom than we ever did before and life still went on.  Things like family, entertainment, learning, and work are not all that dependent on most of the things I thought they were.

Language learning is hard

I have been trying to learn Mandarin for almost a year now and I feel like I have barely started.  It has been fun and challenging and I wish I could have learned more this year.  I have great respect for people who speak more than one language.

A year is short

Back when we were thinking about signing a contract over here for a year it sounded like such a huge commitment.  But now it is over.  We are not planning on going back to the life we had before we left but I believe we could if we wanted to.  Sure, jobs are hard to find again and housing and a car would need to be figured out, but a year or two from now we wouldn’t be affected much.

A year is just a year.

Scary things are way less scary than they seem

Change sometimes feels like a tiger chasing you or a monster in the closet… but really it is way less scary than that. I was terrified about all this change.  I was terrified about teaching, about language, and about learning to live in another country.  There was so much unknown and I like to have everything planned out.

But looking back, there really wasn’t much to be scared about.  It has been that way with all the changes we have made or the new things we have tried.  Looking back, they are never as big a deal as they look going in.

Somethings about China are really different

I expected things like spitting and squat toilets.  But there were other things that I didn’t expect like kids with no diapers, students wearing the same clothes for days in a row, communal dishes at meals, nap time after lunch, lack of crime and feeling more safe than at home, hospitality and patience from complete strangers, and super hard beds.  China was not all I expected but now I know a much more ‘real life’ China.

I have loved our time here.  I am so glad we decided to take the jump and try it out, even when I didn’t know how it would all work out. There is a lot we are looking forward to back in America but there is a lot of our little Chinese city we are going to miss.

Thanks for reading 🙂


  1. Nancy Nancy

    So your new venture did not work out? Love reading your posts.

  2. Lindsay Lindsay

    I love this!! Thank you for sharing your insights. I am enjoying the adventure, too, but will be happy to know what it’s like to have been here a year already. 🙂

  3. Hi Lori: Great insights from your experience in China. I especially appreciated your comments on “people are people.” We do have a commonality in our diversity as people from different cultures. And also “Scary things are way less scary than they seem” We can confront our fears through exposure and stepping out. I love it!! Thanks again!!

  4. Angela Angela

    I loved reading this, especially because I lived in China for two years almost twenty years ago! I agree with all of your findings & learned so much about myself and my own culture (America) by living abroad. I hope to go back one day to see how much China and I have changed!

  5. Thanks for sharing this. It’s especially nice to know that people are the same, even so far away. Best of luck with whatever comes next!

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