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5 Things You Can’t Find Living in China

Posted on Posted in Chinese Culture

Living in any country different from your own will present challenges in unexpected places, and at times that problem is not finding something you absolutely need. Fast access to Twitter? Forget about it. Deodorant in the scent you’ve been using your entire life? Nope. Your favorite coffee drink? Not a chance.

All of these luxuries of home are completely out of grasp, and yet, you just got from your front door to down town in 20 minutes for less than 50 cents – a trip that would usually cost you 45 minutes, a parking pass, gas for your car, and maybe 10 minutes of scraping snow off of your car windows.

Living in China is no different. Certain common luxuries are just not as easy to get here as they are back at home (any peanut butter-lover who moves to Europe knows exactly what we’re talking about). But what you’ll soon recognize is that there are somethings China doesn’t have that you don’t miss one bit. Here’s the list of things China doesn’t have, and you hope never comes to China:

1: Lousy Public Transportation 

Yes, it’s crowded. The buses, trains, and metros seem to always be swarming with people, but that is simply due to China having the largest population in the world. The public transportation in China is among one of the largest, cleanest, and most efficient out there.

As a matter of fact, Beijing’s metro system is the largest in the world (and growing), and over 16 million people in Shanghai take the metro each day. In total, there are more than 92 operating metro lines, 1.3 million taxis, 202 airports, and over 600,000 train carriages in China.

Chinese culture has historically been heavy on pedestrian lifestyles, with people generally living close enough to work to be able to walk there and back each day. This tradition has held even with rapid Chinese modernization and a booming automobile market, as the majority of people living in China use public transportation.

The best part, however, is the affordability. A trip on a metro will cost between 3 – 6RMB, a bus ticket 2 – 5RMB, and a taxi less than half the price of its foreign counterparts (and no tipping in China). For long-distance travelling, flights, trains, and long-distance busses offer options that even the most frugal traveller would be pleased with. 

bikes in Hangzhou, China

picture via 

2: A Street Without Bikes and/or Street Food

Biking is another form of transportation in China that was popular long before Henry Ford’s Model-T. In fact, with 66% of the world’s 130 million bicycles made are in China, we’re not sure a China without bikes lining the streets and curbs is China at all.

Electric bikes are also immensely popular in China, with about 90% of the over 20 million electric bikes sold worldwide being sold in China. And while the auto industry in China is growing, the total number of cars being driven in China is still low (In 2005, the number of private cars in China—about 10 million—was still only half the number of those in the U.S. at the start of the Great Depression).

This number could stay low as well, as Beijing looks to put regulations on cars to curb air pollution. If you’re coming to or already living in China, you’ll definitely be looking to buy the best bike for your needs, instead of playing Frogger every time you have to cross the street.


Street food is another treasure you just can’t miss when living in China. Whether you go to practice your Chinese skills with the vendors or for a late-night snack, the experience and food will not disappoint. A favorite among Chinese nationals and expats, you can try some Shanghai favorites including xiaolongbao and the infamous stinky tofu, Beijing desserts like sugar-coated haws or rolling donkeys 

3: A Chinese Person Who Hates KTV

Maybe you do find one, but we guarantee that person has been to KTV more than once and probably sang a song or three. KTV is one of the most popular pastimes of the Chinese. The first KTV bar in China opened in 1990 and was the most popular fad in China only five years later. As of 2007, there were more than 100,000 karaoke bars in China (10 times the number of movie cinemas). From family fun to a night out partying to sealing a business deal, KTV is always a fun time. You can Rock the KTV Stage with your colleagues if you’re looking to make friends with local coworkers. 

4: “No Delivery” Service

When we say anything can be delivered in China, we mean it. Nothing is off the table. People living in China can have cookies, bubble tea, or a full meal from their favorite restaurant delivered within an hour just by ordering online or over the phone. Some even get their groceries delivered, including live lobsters and seafood freshly caught that morning. Companies like Sherpa’s in Beijing, Shanghai, and Suzhou have grown rapidly to be able to provide fast delivery service for over 400 restaurants and shops, and continue to explode in the Chinese market.

Taobao – the “Chinese E-bay” owned by Jack Ma’s Alibaba – is another example of the limitless  reach of delivery services in China. Clothing, furniture, beauty products, shoes, books – you name it, Taobao probably delivers it. This website and Tmall (another online shopping site owned by Alibaba) are so popular among people living in China that in 2015 on Chinese “Singles’ Day”, the two websites sold over 14.3 billion USD in one day.

5: A Travel Destination Without Culture or Beauty

Guilin, 20 yuan bill scene

China is home to one of the most diverse array of landscapes and natural beauty sites in the world. Combine that with the oldest surviving culture, and you get the some of the most impressive travel locations on the planet. Yes, your mind instantly goes to Beijing and the Great Wall of China, but this holds true in some of the lesser-known treasures in China. For example, the city of Xi’an holds the breathtaking Terra Cotta Warriors, with Mt. Hua Shan close by for a challenging hike.

The Yellow Mountains and “Hallelujah Mountains” (in China, known as Zhangjiajie) are two other famous national parks that are the home of Kung Fu and the filming location of Avatar respectively. Guilin was a visiting place of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and is called the “most beautiful city in China” by the famous poet Lu You. Yunnan province is also a stunning place with a strong ethnic minority culture, and who could forget about the pandas in Chengdu?

You honestly cannot go wrong picking a China travel destination, and we can guarantee that you’ll always have a bucket list of places in China you haven’t been yet. While living in China has its challenges, we’re sure glad these aren’t some of them.


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