Expat Interview With Rachel - US Expat Living in China

Published: 1 Oct at 1 PM
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Filed: Interviews,China
Rachel is an American who within the past two and a half years met a man, married him, and moved to rural China with him. She traded in a career in the archives and historic research profession for four years of adventure in China. She spends her days blogging about what living in rural northeast China is really like, studying and attempting to speak Mandarin (some days are more successful than others), and exploring her local area on foot, bike, and scooter. Rachel's expat blog is called woshoudebuhao (see listing here)

Meet Rachel - US expat living in China
Meet Rachel - US expat living in China

Here's the interview with Rachel...

Where are you originally from?
Southcentral Pennsylvania, U.S.

In which country and city are you living now?
We live about 18km from Haiyang, Shandong Province, China. Haiyang is probably best known for hosting the 2012 Asian Beach Games.

How long have you lived in China and how long are you planning to stay?
We are nine months into our four year commitment.

Why did you move to China and what do you do?
We moved for my husband's job. He's an engineer in the nuclear industry. I became a stay-at-home person upon arrival, which is a blessing and a curse. I miss working, but I've discovered I like writing and I am able to take online courses. I also spend a fair amount of time studying Mandarin.

We live right next to the Yellow Sea, so there are a couple of marinas along our road.
We live right next to the Yellow Sea, so there are a couple of marinas along our road.
Did you bring family with you?
Just each other; we don't have kids or pets.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Years ago, I had lived in London and my husband in Shanghai, so we were both familiar with adjusting to life abroad. We have transitioned fairly easy into our new life in China and enjoy exploring our new area, but we've of course had challenges along the way. For my husband, it has been difficult to adjust to the Chinese work culture. For me, it can feel a bit isolating to stay at home all day.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes, we mainly socialize with other expats and it is easy to meet/make friends because our situation is unique. We live in an "expat village," which is where all the Westerners in Haiyang live because they are all here to build a a nuclear power plant. Lucky for us, the expat community is very friendly and welcoming. It is harder to make friends with local folks due to the language barrier.

A common site in our neck of rural China. Local fisherman drying seafood on the road.
A common site in our neck of rural China. Local fisherman drying seafood on the road.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
To be honest, we don't have tons of things to do around us, but one of my favorite things to do is just walk around the farm and fishing villages that surround the expat village. We live in the sticks of China, so there's not much night life or cultural things to do like go to museums or the movies.

What do you enjoy most about living in China?
Because we live in a rural area -- just across the street from the Yellow Sea -- we don't worry about the pollution that most people think of when picturing China. We can spend a lot of time outdoors on our bikes, exploring the country roads around us. We also have beaches that are nowhere near as crowded as Qingdao's, which is a two hour drive southwest of us.

How does the cost of living in China compare to the US?
Beyond cheap considering that our housing is covered as part of our expat package through my husband's company. Groceries, dining out, and taxis are also inexpensive.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in china?
While we live in a picturesque area, there's not a lot to do in terms of dining out, night life, etc. We also are not allowed to drive due to liability issues and this can be frustrating as Haiyang doesn't have a great public transportation system. We are dependent on taxis for the most part and my husband's company provides some shuttles to/from places like Qingdao and Yantai.

Attending a group wedding is one of the unique cultural events we've attended.
Attending a group wedding is one of the unique cultural events we've attended.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Know where you are moving. There are so many people who get here who aren't prepared to deal with the challenges of living in rural China like the lack of accessible transportation, housing issues like poor construction quality, and the cold. In our area, the stores and restaurants don't have heat in the winter. Brrrrrrr!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
For me personally, it's been adjusting to not working and trying to fill my days. I do that by updating my blog, studying Mandarin, and taking advantage of online courses. My husband and I both miss the convenience of life back home in the U.S. and being able to go where we want to go when we want to.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I think we'll be thrilled to be home and near our extended families again and will easily slip into life back home. We'll look back at the four years we spent in China and remember the great aspects of our life here -- advancing my husband's career, learning new things (Mandarin), challenging ourselves, etc.

Hiking Tiger Mountain. We have lots of outdoor activity options in Haiyang.
Hiking Tiger Mountain. We have lots of outdoor activity options in Haiyang.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. As I mentioned above, know where you are moving. This is not a glamorous expat experience like living in Shanghai or Beijing (at least that is how I picture Shanghai after having spent Chinese New Year there!) and life in the sticks of China isn't for everyone.
  2. Ask yourself questions to help decide if this is the right move for you: what kind of community do you want to live in? What kind of Western conveniences can you (or can't you) live without?
  3. Be open to new experiences. We looked at our move to China as one big adventure. I think this attitude has motivated us to try new things (food, types of travel, etc.) and also helped deal with some of the challenges of life abroad.
  4. For those who have kids or pets, I would suggest really thinking about whether moving to Haiyang is the right decision or not. The schools aren't great in Haiyang and lessons are only taught in Mandarin. There is no heat in the winter. Can your kids handle that and can you as a parent? In regards to pets, there are no kennels in the area, so what will you do with your animals when you travel? For us, the ability to travel while we are here is one of the best parts of living here.
  5. Learn about Chinese culture and history before you decide to move here. Living in China -- well rural China -- is a lot different than your life back home. Are you ready for it?

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog to chronicle our four years of living in rural China and to share our experiences with friends and family back home. I write about what our area is like, what the locals are like, what it's like living in an expat village, and where we travel. We came to Haiyang at an interesting time. Our area is changing quickly, much like the rest of China, and this is a key theme I explore in my blog.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog (see link below)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingRachel is an American expat living in China. Blog description: A newly married American expat chronicles four years of life in rural China.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Jess wrote 10 years ago:

Lots of helpful information to those who are not familiar with the area. For someone thinking about moving to this area, there are a lot of great suggestions as far as questions to ask when considering such a positions or move.

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