May 2 will be my two-year “Chinaversary.” When I scroll back through my WeChat Moments and look at the first post I made coming off the plane, I can barely remember that girl. I already consider myself a full-fledged Beijinger through and through.
In addition to my new savvy city smarts, I have found myself in the position of defending this city and country I now call home many times. People have their misconceptions and stereotypes, and you will hear the same old jokes, but my defense goes deeper.
When expats move here, it is not like home; some can deal with that and some can’t. However, if you are living and working here, I really find it hard to sit at a table and listen to you badmouth all of China, its policies and its people.
My typical response is, “Well, did you not research the differences before you came?” While there are vast differences, the fact remains that life here for an expat is good. I live in a nice apartment, have a cleaning lady, can go out and do as I please for the most part without worrying about money, and I can travel to the innumerable unforgettable destinations within China for next to nothing. I use this as my chance in a conversation to remind people of the plethora of opportunities we have in such a rapidly developing country. I think people easily forget the negative things they experienced back home and tend to romanticize what it was like where they are from.
We all have the option to leave for home at any time, but as a gap year turns into a threeto five-year journey or more, there has to be a reason we all choose to stay.
Aside from defending the country from local expats, when I speak to my friends, they make jokes like, “How can you stand to live there this long, aren’t you sick of noodles every day?” They have no idea how developed a city like Beijing is or how much China impacts daily life in countries like the US where I am from. Without imports from China, life would be much different in the “land of the free.”
While I’ll always be an American, China is where I am investing my talent, time and life. When someone makes negative remarks or is uninformed, I find it is now my duty to help them understand why this country is one I am proud to call home.