30 December 2017

Josh Summers - Expat in China

Josh Summers - Expat in China

We’ve had the chance to talk to Josh Summers, 34, an American expat who has moved to China with his family. Mr Summers, who has been living there for eight years, now works as an entrepreneur. Read more about his experiences in the full interview below. 


Q: Where are you from originally?
A: I am originally from the great state of Texas in the USA. And as you can tell, proud of it


Q: What made you move out of the US?
A: I’ve always had a curiosity about foreign cultures. When I was young, my family would take trips down to Mexico, and it was such a fascinating experience for me. Before my wife and I married, we agreed that we would spend at least two years travelling prior to starting a family. That was what initially caused us to move, but falling in love with where we currently live is what caused us to stay long term.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?
A: I am currently located in the Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western Xinjiang region. We came here on the recommendation of a friend and fell in love with the place and the people.


Q: How long have you been living in China?
A: We first moved to Xinjiang in 2006. One you subtract out time spent back in the US, we’ve been abroad for about eight years total.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?
A: My family has always been with me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a wife who is equally passionate about our life as expats. We have our two boys here, who are both under the age of 5. For them, this is the only life they’ve known, so they have adjusted just fine!


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?
A: I miss some of the freedoms of home, and I particularly get homesick during my favorite holidays (Thanksgiving, July 4th, etc.). It’s nice to be back on occasion, but it doesn’t take long for me to realize that my personality is better suited to be living as an expat.


Q: What do you think about the locals?
A: The locals are a big part of what draws us to this place! We’re constantly having new friends over and meeting with old friends throughout the city. The great thing about living in a relatively remote part of the world is that there isn’t a big expat community that we could use as a crutch. We either make local friends, or we don’t have many friends at all! This also forces us to continually study the language here to make sure we have a means to communicate.


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: I am more of an extrovert while my wife in an introvert. Meeting new people isn’t difficult for me, but my wife finds it a challenge sometimes. Thankfully, the different ethnic groups here in western China are extremely friendly and easy to connect with. They are also very community centered, which means the very fact that we are living in their community means they are going to try to help us become part of that social circle.


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

Q: How much is a cup of coffee?
A: A cup of good coffee is still expensive. I spend about 35 RMB (US$5)

Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?
A: I can get a plate of good noodles for about 10RMB (US$1.50)

Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?
A: An expensive meal for me and my wife would be about 200RMB (US$30)

Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?
A: A bottle of wine can be purchased for as little as 20RMB (US$3), and a pack of cigarettes can be bought for 15RMB ($2.20)


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in China?
A: My first piece of advice is to DO IT. I know so many people who try to get by without opening a bank account, and it ends up hurting them in the long run. If you plan to be in a place for a year or longer, open an account. My second piece of advice is to make friends with one of the tellers at the bank closest to your home. I did this, and it ended up doing wonders for me. Anytime I had problems, I was able to use this local friend to help me understand what was going on and he would go out of his way to take care of me.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?
A: Here in western China, visa and work permits can be a huge time drain. It’s a painful process every year, but it has to be done. I usually budget about a week to make sure I have time to get all the various signatures and visit all the necessary offices.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in China is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?
A: The healthcare in Xinjiang is adequate but nothing I would rely on for major emergencies. Our family has decided to make sure we understand the hospital system enough to use it when needed and then we’ve been very careful to purchase a travel insurance that covers evacuation.


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 definitely purchased a US healthcare insurance plan for my family. I wanted to make sure that we were covered for any emergencies and that we would be evacuated should the need arise.


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: My biggest memory from the move was the fact that we put everything that we fit everything we wanted to have in the suitcases that the airline would allow. Each suitcase was filled to the exact limit of 50 lbs! Once we arrived in Xinjiang, we learned what kind of furniture was common and where to buy it. It was actually quite freeing to be able to purge ourselves of all our “stuff” back in the US.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?
A: The biggest challenge has been raising our kids. It’s easy when you have family, friends and a school system you trust but out here in the remote western part of China, we don’t have that. This means that my sons’ education and life learning are heavily dependent on me, and that scares me!


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in China?
A: I love that I can live cheaply, be forced to learn a new language and become more culturally intelligent. The negative side of living here is the constant stress of visas and scrutiny of our lives.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?
A: There is so much to do outside of the city! Most people just don’t have the time or energy to leave, but the unbelievable natural scenery is all around us here in Xinjiang!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?
A: Not anytime soon.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?
A: Be flexible. Be compassionate. Be intentional.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about China?
A: Ha! Well, I know this may sound self-serving, but the truth is there is only one website about Xinjiang in the English language…and it’s the one I run FarWestChina.com. Obviously, I recommend that along with my YouTube channel.