My husband and I first came to China as newlyweds in August of 2009. Well, I should say came together at that time. He had already lived in Beijing for two years during university. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was getting into.
I was just coming from living in Mexico, which is the complete polar opposite culture of China. More on that later.
WHERE is Xiamen again?
At the suggestion of a business contact we decided to move to Xiamen–a small island in the south of China. A quick Google search told us where it was located since we had no idea.
He assured us it was better than Beijing which is where we had originally planned to move to.
Smaller (only 3 million people-it’s all relative here!), tropical (hot weather and palm trees), and cleaner air.
He also helped us a secure an apartment before we got there of which they had sent us exactly TWO pictures. It seemed alright, so we paid the deposit, but as you know, pictures are usually deceiving.
The first apartment…
Still recovering from some bad bi bim bop on Korean Air (overall they’re a great airline and I would fly them again FYI) and jetlagged, we made our way to our new home.
There was NO WAY we were going to live in that place!
1-It was very, how shall I put it…? The style, strange layout, cockroach infested kitchen cupboards, and shower directly over the toilet were just a few of the reasons we didn’t want to stay.
2- The apartment building was a big circle with a courtyard in the middle, like a Coliseum. So from any floor, neighbors could look up or down, watch us get off the elevator and know exactly where we lived.
Which may be fine if you’re Chinese, but when you’re a black and white American couple, you don’t want to draw any more attention to yourself than necessary.Get our newsletter & THE FREE eBOOK!
We politely told our friend that place wasn’t going to work. He graciously called his real estate agent who proceeded to show us several more apartments that night.
Since we were newlyweds and had spent most of our wedding money just getting to China with enough left over for a deposit, we couldn’t afford much and needed to find an apartment ASAP. Staying at a hotel for several days to find the perfect spot wasn’t an option.
Affordable but tiny landing pad.
We finally decided on a one bedroom, one bathroom, no living room, tiny apartment that barely had a kitchen. We were going to live it up in Golden Elephant Gardens!
But you know what? It was great. It was just the two of us, and for $275 a month, it was the cheapest we were probably ever going to live.
We signed the contract but then realized….we have NOTHING! No toilet paper, water, pillows, sheets, dishes, broom…..nada.
It was now about 9pm and all I wanted to do is lay on the sheetless, hard mattress, but nope. Off to Walmart we went!
Our friend dropped us off, but wasn’t able to give us a ride back home. No problem-there’s plenty of taxis right?
What’s Walmart in Chinese?
We tried to buy the bare minimum to get us through till the next day, but our hands were still full with a bulky comforter, water jug, toilet paper and so on. My husband complained that his fingers felt like they were being severed by the heaving plastic bags he was lugging.
So there WERE plenty of taxis, however they all seemed to be full, or more willing to take the person that cut in front of us instead of telling them that we were there first.
I was beyond frustrated and couldn’t believe the rudeness that was happening! This was our welcome? Didn’t they know that we had just arrived, were exhausted and wanted to go home?
After awhile it was clear that we could be waiting a long time, so my wonderful husband says, “Let’s just walk. It’s not that far. I think I remember how to get back.”
I reluctantly agreed.
As I trudged to our new home, feeling like my arms were going to fall off from carrying our necessities, I was the grumpiest I think I’ve ever been in my life.
Luckily my husband has a good sense of direction and we found our way back without getting too lost.
It didn’t matter that the bed was so hard I might as well have been sleeping on the sidewalk. In fact, I was so exhausted I probably could have.
Grateful for our box that would now be called home, I allowed sleep to take over.
Oh China, that was just the beginning….. 🙂
What was your landing in China like? I’d love to hear your story! Leave a comment below.
The Great Firewall of China
Want to use the VPN I use for a stable, quick connection in China? I depend on it to upload more than six videos a week and live-stream on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. And here’s my second choice for a VPN. Plus, when you download from either link, they share some of the cost with me, so I can keep creating the videos you love.