17 November 2017

Becky Ances - Expat in China

Becky Ances - Expat in China

We’ve had the chance to talk to Becky Ances, 41, an American expat who has moved to China alone. Ms Ances, who has been living there for almost eight years, now works as a Teacher. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: America


Q: What made you move out of the US?

A: A desire to travel and see the world


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

A: Right now Xiamen, China though I lived in Lin’an, China (near Hangzhou) for five years. I wanted to travel but couldn’t afford it, so I decided to live and work abroad so I could experience life in other countries. Originally I came to china on a 6-month contract with every intention of going back to America after it was done. I’m now in my 8th year and have no intention of going back. When I want to leave China I’ll move to another country and experience another culture; I won’t go back to America.


Q: How long have you been living in China?

A: Almost eight years.


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

A: Living alone.


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

A: Honestly, I’m a born “wanderlust” soul. I tend not to miss things or people and try to embrace the new culture or place I’m living in.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Right now the majority of my friends and people I hang out with are Chinese, so obviously I have a high opinion of them. ;)


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: When I first arrived I hung out mainly with expats or other English speakers. I lived in a very small city with few foreigners or services for foreigners (no McDonalds or anything). Since I thought I would only be in China a short time, I didn’t try to learn the language or meet local people. In China, it is very easy for expats to find and befriend other expats although it doesn’t mean you are going to like all of them. Sometimes you get stuck with a friend or friends you don’t really like, but you basically have no other option. In my former city, there were very few foreigners, so we had to hang out and see each other a lot, regardless of our actual feelings for each other.

But then I decided that I didn’t come to another country just to hang out with foreigners. So I began learning the language (very, very slowly) and four years after I moved here I finally had friends that couldn’t speak English. Now, the majority of my friends can’t speak English and I like I can make friends based on similar personalities and hobbies and not just similar language.


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


Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Starbucks is just as pricey here as in America.

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

A: About $1

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

A: About $10 although you can go to a very rich place for $100’s of dollars if you want.

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

A: Wine and cigarettes are very cheap here…but doesn’t mean they are good quality.


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

A: It’s quite easy, and many banks will have one person who can speak a little English (although if you can’t speak Chinese, it’s best to bring a Chinese friend to help you.) Opening a bank account in China is not at all a problem. Trying to get your money out of China is where the problems arise.


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

A: China has very strict visa rules that are getting more and more cumbersome as time goes by. For work permits, you need many things, and your employer must help you.


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

A: Hospitals in China are cheap, but they aren’t necessarily good. There are many very modern, very capable hospitals, but the smaller local hospitals, and their hygiene levels, will shock many expats and I don’t recommend people go there.


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

A: I had expat health insurance for the first few years, but then I dropped it. I have employer-provided health insurance, and it should cover any major catastrophe I have. For minor things, or planned things, such as mole removals or mammograms, I actually go to Thailand which has incredibly good healthcare for a very cheap price (I pay myself). Thailand is cheap and close to China it is not a problem going there (and you get a fun little holiday to boot!)


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: I brought everything I needed in a backpack and a suitcase. Things in China are cheap, and with Taobao, an online shopping platform, you can find everything you need very easily, so you don’t need to bring a lot.


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

A: Definitely the language. Chinese is so very different than English you can’t just pick it up as you could say, French if you lived in France. You have to study Chinese; you can’t just immerse yourself in the culture and learn it. You need books, and a teacher and lessons.


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

A: Most people know the negative sides of china: pollution, lack of hygiene, population problems, food quality. But there are so many amazing things about this country including the people, the food, the scenery and how many different places are contained in just one country.


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

A: My current city, Xiamen, was just voted by CNN as China’s coolest city, so there is a ton of things to do. Xiamen is in southern China so the winters are warm with blue skies and we have mountains right next to the ocean. (So you can hike in the morning and swim in the afternoon.) Xiamen is a very artistic city, and also a very health conscious city with special events every weekend. It’s a great city to live in, with low air pollution, and one of the best in China.


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

A: I figure when I get tired of China I’ll move to Japan or Korea where I will keep teaching English and explore other cultures.


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

A: Don’t cling to western things and western people. Some expats, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, stay entirely in their western bubble, eat foreign food, have foreign friends, and don’t really get to experience the culture. Try the street food, learn the language, and see your time in China as an experience, not a chore.


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

A: Mine! Haha. I have a blog about my life in China called Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker. At www.beckyances.net But since moving to Xiamen, I have found a love and passion for the intense sport of badminton. So I started a badminton blog at www.badmintonbecky.com that talks about my life trying to learn a sport from scratch in my non-native language. It’s been one of the most interesting things I’ve done since moving to China, and I could talk about that for hours, but I’ll spare you. ;)