13 September 2016

Jill Judd - Expat in Inner Mongolia, China

Jill Judd - Expat in Inner Mongolia, China

We’ve had the chance to talk to Jill Judd, 36, an American expat who has moved to China with her family. Mrs. Judd who has been living there for almost 14 years, is a stay at home mom, business owner, blogger.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Oklahoma


Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: I first came to China to study Chinese.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I am now living in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, China. I’m not sure if I chose it, or it chose me. Inner Mongolia has its way of charming folks into staying here. After my first two years here as a language student, I went home for a time then came back for a job opportunity. After that a little more time at home and them back as a family. Now we own a consulting company here and have plans to be here for the long haul.


Q: How long have you been living in China?

A:  Off and on for almost 14 years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: We’re here with our three kids. They are adjusting well, although adding our third child in the past few months definitely upped the “inconvenience of living in China” factor exponentially. Everything is more difficult now that their hands outnumber ours.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Skype helps. Going home occasionally helps but having our friends and family come see us on this side of the world is the best. We don’t have to have to haul three small bodies across the ocean or deal with toddler jet lag and our family understands us better after seeing what our life is like on this side.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: That’s a very broad question, but we wouldn’t survive here without the help of our local friends. Mongolians specifically are known for their hospitality, and we have been recipients of tremendously generous hospitality on numerous occasions.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in China? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: In China, many locals still seek out friendships with foreigners so it’s easy to make friends. It’s a little more hazy to sort out which of those people are looking for friendship and who has other motives. Although I run a blog for foreigners, I feel like we are pretty balanced in the time we spend with locals versus foreigners. Most of our life happens in Chinese with Chinese (or Mongolian) people.


Q: How does the cost of living in China compared to your home?

A: Some things are more costly, others less expensive

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: 2-5 dollars, unless you mean the instant packets that every store here sells for about 15 cents

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: about 3 dollars

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: 15-50 dollars

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: I don’t drink or smoke so I’m not clear on the prices, but I think cigarettes are dirt cheap here.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in China?

A: We’ve never loved dealing with Bank of China, our experience at ICBC has been much better.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: The words tiresome, tedious, frustrating, mind-boggling, and irksome all come to mind. This country isn’t known for its efficiency and living in Inner Mongolia where the foreign population is relatively low means sometimes even the office itself isn’t clear on how to process things for us. Our business registration process took eight months. Getting a driver’s licence requires at least four trips to the DMV-like office. I would hope to say at least we’ve learned patience or perseverance or some other character-refining quality through it all, but I’m still just as frustrated the next time something needs to be processed.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in China is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: We haven’t had great experiences with healthcare in our city so for anything major we go to Beijing or elsewhere. For us, it’s just an hour flight away, although the international hospital there are some of the most expensive in the world.

For minor things, we try to treat at home as much as possible. The local hospitals are incredibly inexpensive, so if we need a test, we get it done there and send it to a doctor we know and trust in America to read the results. Things that require serious treatments we generally leave our city for. We’ve had kidney stones treated in Beijing, delivered a baby in Chengdu, and decided to fly home to the US for a major back surgery.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or China? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Not exactly. We’re a part of a health care sharing cooperative that covers some of our medical expenses.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to China? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: When we moved back with an almost one-year-old and expecting another, we chose to pay for a few extra pieces of luggage instead of the hassle of international moving companies. We had lived here before so we had a pretty good idea of what we could and couldn’t get and brought only the essentials with plans to purchase what we would need when we got here.

As far as the actual packing and moving, I think those are the experiences most of us try to block out of our memory.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: It’s been a long time since I’ve been a “new” expat but most of our challenges involve our kids….transporting them, educating them, finding friends for them, and teaching them not to use public squatty potties without making a mess.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in China?

A: The positives are the interactions with people, the business opportunities and potentials, and the slower pace of life. The negatives are the pollution, (although not so bad in our area), food and product safety issues, second- hand smoke everywhere, and for us, the challenges of raising kids in a place where there are few foreign kids.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Within the city, we like these places and the all the city parks. Outside the city, we like to go to visit our friends’ hometowns, the grasslands, Kangbashi, and the mountains just north of the city.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Not right now.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: For expats in Hohhot, my first piece of advice is to learn Chinese well. It’s not an easy city to thrive in without Chinese. I also think that almost any place is what one makes of it, so choosing to see the good and beauty in a place and choosing to have a good attitude will go a long way.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about China?

A: I read a lot of China blogs but right now I prefer to get my China news in the form of subscription accounts on wechat. My favorites right now are The World of Chinese, Burhyat Mongol, Dynamic Inner Mongolia, and Hohhot headline news.