Talking Shop: The Unbrave Girl’s Guide to Grocery Shopping in China

April 11, 2011

What I’m about to tell you right now may shock and surprise some of my longtime readers out there.

I’ll understand if you feel lied to — even, betrayed.

I apologize.

It’s not that I meant to deceive you. I really didn’t.

It’s just that… well.

You see, readers, the truth is… I’m a healthy eater.

I know, I know.

With all my blog posts about potato chips and cookies and, well, more potato chips and more cookies, you probably thought I was one of those girls who turns up her nose at anything even vaguely leafy and green. (Unless, you know, it happens to be those little flecks of green stuff on sour cream and onion potato chips.)

You probably assumed I just didn’t do fruit unless it came blended with tequila.

I’m sure you imagined me gorging on regular dinners of Double Stuff Oreo’s and Extreme Ranch Dorito’s. (Okay, so, yeah, that happened, but I swear it was only a one-time thing. Can you just let it go already? Sheez.)

But, the fact is, I eat healthy stuff – like, all the time.

My fridge (when I own one) is always stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. I only buy whole-grain bread and pasta. I haven’t owned a bag of sugar in three years. I eat oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast almost every morning. I even like tofu – like, a lot. Heck, I haven’t had a potato chip in over two weeks. Okay, so I have had a few cookies lately — I tried out the new raspberry and blueberry cream Oreo’s this past weekend, but those totally don’t count. They tasted like fruit, okay. Cookies aren’t supposed to taste like fruit.

So, why the big lie?

Well, it wasn’t all a lie.

To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of healthy eating over the last year. Since I didn’t have a kitchen for most of the year, I was forced to eat out for a lot of my meals (forced I tell you!). Eating out is a special occasion, in my book (even when you end up doing it everyday for a year.) And lettuce is not exactly a special occasion kind of food, if you know what I mean.

Besides, I have a reputation to keep up, you know. You see, this blogging thing is all about establishing an “online personality” – an identity that really makes your blog stand out from the other blogs. Your “online personality” should be kind of like your in-person personality… just with, you know, more personality.

So my online personality is kind of like my in-person personality… just with, you know, more cookies.

But, I’m tired of living the lie.

I’m a healthy eater, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Wait. Don’t go!

Okay, maybe I am a bit afraid to admit it.

After all, who wants to read a blog about healthy eating?

Okay, maybe some people want to read blogs about healthy eating but I have a feeling these are not the kind of people I want hanging out on my blog – you know, they’re probably the type of people who eat fruit for dessert… or don’t even eat dessert because they’re so full from all that wheatgrass and flaxseed they ate for dinner.

But, I promise you, healthy eating isn’t nearly as lame as it sounds – at least not in China!

It’s daring stuff around here! Heck, just eating a raw vegetable is viewed as an act of crazy. (Trust me. I shoved a piece of raw bok choy into my mouth while at a dinner party and my Chinese friend gasped and stared. From her reaction, you’d think I had just started gnawing on a live baby head or something.)

Don’t get me wrong. I have really enjoyed all the meals I’ve had so far since I’ve gotten here – probably because most of them have been deep-fried and served with a side of pork. As delicious as the dishes have been, I wouldn’t exactly say there are very many healthy eating options in the tiny village near campus where I usually eat out. What can I say? I guess the villagers just aren’t so into the wheatgrass and flaxseed. (Can you blame them? I mean, have you ever tried to eat deep-fried wheatgrass? Not good. Trust me on this.)

So rather than eating out, I’ve been making most of my meals at home, which, again, I realize may not sound so exciting. But cooking at home requires actually having food at home, which means I have to go grocery shopping — which is where things start to get a bit “off the hook” as the kids say.

Listen, grocery shopping in China is a competitive sport. In fact, I would not suggest a trip to the Chinese grocery store for the faint of heart or the unprepared. Luckily for the would-be shopper in China, I’ve written up this handy dandy survival guide on how you can conquer the grocery store with minimal stress (and only about a half dozen heart attacks… hey, I’m not made of magic, over here).

Step 1: Assemble Your Supplies
First you will need to make sure you have a reusable shopping bag – this will save you the hassle and expense of having to buy plastic bags at the check-out counter. You should make sure the bag is big enough to fit all your groceries, which, in my case, is quite large – roughly about the same size as one of those countries in the middle of Asia that no one can pronounce.

You see, in an effort to keep my trips to the grocery store to a minimum, I make sure to buy as many groceries as I can lug. Mind you, this is not the Chinese way at all. The Chinese way is to buy about five items and then spend the rest of the shopping trip staring at the white girl with her cart filled with enough food to last her through the month or, say, through the duration of a zombie apocalypse.

You’ll also need to bring money. I know, this was a big surprise to me, too. After all, isn’t China a Communist country? Shouldn’t living in a Communist country be more like living on a kibbutz or something? Shouldn’t we be trading goods and services for our groceries?  Or, at least, shouldn’t there be more goats involved? Really. I expected more goats.

Step 2: Get there
There are three large grocery stores all about ten miles away from where I live, which means I have to take the bus there.

The bus is always crowded with college students going to and fro, and, just getting on the bus, requires some pushing and shoving. (Now, managing to get a seat? That requires either extreme luck or some extreme wrestling moves.)

The pushing and the shoving may seem like an unwelcome hassle, especially if you’re a big fan of your personal space like I am.

But it’s actually a good warm-up for the pushing and shoving you’ll encounter at the grocery store. Mind you, the pushing and shoving at the grocery store can be even more brutal – especially should there be shopping carts and vegetables involved. One time, I was standing in line to get my vegetables weighed when a woman knocked me in the head with the largest stalk of celery I had ever seen.

Warming up on the bus can mean you’re ready for action the minute anyone comes at you wielding carrot sticks like makeshift nunchucks. (Not that I’ve seen this happen before… but I wouldn’t be entirely surprised… especially if there was the promise of free samples involved.)

Step 3: Shop
Once you’ve managed to shove your way off the bus, you’ll need to start shoving your way through the store. (Good thing you got all that practice!)

Much like traffic on the streets of China, the traffic inside the grocery store is a lawless affair. You’re welcome to push your cart in any direction you see fit — or, heck, stop your cart all together in the middle of the aisle blocking everyone from passing.

Unfortunately, unlike cars, the grocery store carts are not equipped with horns — surprisingly so, seeing as how much Chinese drivers love to honk their horns. So, in addition to that huge reusable shopping bag you brought with you, you may want to bring along an air horn… or grab a stalk of celery to bat oncoming traffic out of the way.

Of course, it’s best to have a plan of attack and to know exactly which sections of the store you’d like to visit before you start barreling through. Trust me on this. You could be wandering aimlessly down the pickled vegetable aisle when you find yourself trapped between two standstill carts and a line of people waiting to get free sample cups of instant soup. You’ll want to grab a few of those sample cups because you might be there for a while… like, years.

The grocery stores in Wuxi that I’ve been to have pretty much the same sections we have in our grocery stores in the States – with some variations, of course.

For example, in the seafood section of the store, you don’t just tell the guy at the counter which fish you’d like to take home with you– you get to catch it with a net from the large aquarium in the middle of the store. Yes, that’s right, you get to go fishing right in the store! (And you scoffed when I said grocery shopping here was a competitive sport.)

Of course, the stores do offer a few products you simply can’t find in the States, like these:

Live eels and frogs (don’t even ask me how you get these things into your cart)

Full-sized dangling birds

Bite-sized bits of birds (Wahoo! Chicken feet are finally available in individual snack-sized portions. It’s about time!)

Kid’s shred pork (because what kid doesn’t love some good shred pork?)

Elaborate bacon (for those days when simple bacon just won’t cut it),

And beef candy (with five spicies! Mmmm).

In addition to all these fine goods, most of the grocery stores also have a rather large selection of alcohol. I’d suggest you pick up a bottle or five before you make your way to the check out.

You might want to open a bottle before you even get there.

Trust me. You’re going to need it.

Step 4: Check Out
I’m sure until now, you’re like, “This grocery shopping thing doesn’t sound so hard! What’s so hard about defending yourself against flailing carrots?”

Oh, just you wait.

Putting groceries into your cart isn’t really that difficult– heck, even getting a live eel into your cart doesn’t sound all that bad.

It’s getting all of the groceries out of your cart and into your bag where things get tricky… especially if you happen to be purchasing a zombie-apocalypse-amount of groceries and you only possess two hands.

You see, the check out counters here don’t have conveyor belts. And there is no one around to help you bag your groceries. Therefore, you need to be able to both move your groceries forward on the counter so the cashier can reach them and bag your groceries, all at the same time. Every once in a while, you’ll end up with a helpful soul behind you who is willing to shove your groceries forward on the counter (which, I feel, is how things would be done on the kibbutz… either that, or they’d employ the goats to help you bag your stuff. Really. I did expect more goats.)

But this isn’t always the case. Chances are you will end up having to run back and forth between the counter and your bag, while making sure not to trip over your cart (or the half dozen people who have crowded around your cart to stare at what’s inside). I believe in the competitive sports world this kind of maneuvering would be called a “one-person relay race.” (Mind you, in my world, it’s called, “ the reason why I’ll be drinking tonight”)

Step 5: Get Out of There
After each successful trip to the grocery store, I like to reward myself with a private trip home in a cab.

This is partly because I figure I deserve it for surviving the five heart attacks I had while checking out all my groceries.

It’s also because there’s no way I’ll be able to shove my way back on to the bus with my huge bag of groceries without accidentally giving someone a concussion (or not-so-accidentally… hey, that Celery Stalk Lady had it coming!).

By the time I get home, I’m usually too exhausted to even think about cooking up any of the healthy meal options that I’ve purchased, so I usually head over to the nearby village to get an unhealthy meal option — usually something with lots of deep-fried pork on it. Sure, I do like to eat healthy, but a girl needs a little indulgence after such a trying experience. Besides, I need something to go along with that bottle of wine I opened while I was in the grocery store. (And have you ever tried to eat wheatgrass with red wine? Not good. Trust me on this.)

65

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On April 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm Michael said:

    LOL Too funny. I’ve become an expert in shopping in China now. I just keep pushing my cart along not caring who or what I may hit. Sometimes I like to just stop my cart in the middle of the isle for no reason but to stare at something I won’t buy anyway. It’s actually fun to do. The best part is that they never get angry about it. It’s just this common thing that happens to everyone and they’re all immune to it.
    The worst the check out counter. To add to the list of multiple tasks you must do, if there’s no barcode on the product – you’re shit out of luck. They simply just tell me I can’t buy it. One time I was persistent that I wanted to buy it and they got somewhat annoyed at me and made ME go back to the isle to get the product that had a barcode on it. This just caused havoc on the people waiting on the line telling me I shouldn’t buy it. I wanted my bottle of wine damn it.

    • On April 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm Sally said:

      Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m totally the first person to stop her cart & stand in the middle of the aisle staring at something. I think I spent 30 minutes watching people fish for their meals the other day — meanwhile, I was holding up traffic & I totally didn’t care. Hey, people were FISHING IN THE STORE. Come on, that should definitely stop some traffic.
      And, I’ve lost a few items at the checkout counter due to lack of bar code. Although if it had been a bottle of wine, I would have definitely demanded a price check!

  2. On April 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm Anna said:

    This is great! I just came back from China and was ashamed to admit how frightened I was at the normal cuisine. I pride myself on totally not being a wuss, but something about killing live prawns on my dinner table just turned me off – and made me realize I might be more a vegetarian than I think.

    One simple trick someone taught me about Chinese markets and bakeries: If it looks sweet, it’s probably savory; if it looks savory, it’s probably sweet.
    Anna recently posted..Seven Artistic Websites That Will Inspire and Entertain You

  3. On April 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm Julia said:

    A hilarious post as always! However, after reading this I’m thinking I may just try and eat out all of the time when I visit China; not sure my celery batting skills are quite up to scratch. But then how will I get my elaborate bacon fix?! May have to get obscenely drunk beforehand…
    Julia recently posted..A Bucket List For Someone Who Doesn’t Do Bucket Lists

    • On April 11, 2011 at 3:06 pm Sally said:

      Yes, I’m thinking drinking BEFORE you even venture out the door would be a good coping method — and make the bus ride so much more enjoyable! After all, a girl does what she has to do for some elaborate bacon.

  4. On April 11, 2011 at 3:28 pm penguinlady said:

    I have to say that grocery shopping in other countries is one of my favorite parts of travel now. I’ve done it in Australia, Japan, Morocco, Turkey & Egypt, and never fail to get a huge kick out of all the different items and customs as well as the similarities. Plus, you get to try to figure out what the heck you’re buying! “Could be cheese… could be rancid goat’s milk!”

    • On April 12, 2011 at 11:56 am Sally said:

      I do the same thing! I could spend hours just wandering around grocery stores in the countries I visit. Although, I’ll be sure to stay away from the rancid goat milk!

  5. On April 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm MaryAnne said:

    Elaborate bacon is the best bacon! We used to make a really good bacon-enhanced arabiatta with it (until we moved on to homemade pesto cream sauce.

    As far as online personas go, I’ll vouch for your healthy eating- that eggs florentine ou ate had SPINACH on it! And poached eggs! And we didn’t start drinking until what, noon? Very sensible!

    In real life, I’m little miss sunshine. I am *ahem* bright, happy and positive. I smile lots, make jokes and light-hearted conversation. But you knew that already, didn’t you? 😉
    MaryAnne recently posted..A Totally Impractical Expat Interview 7- Philip Johnson of The Philiad

  6. On April 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm Nomadic Chick said:

    One, stop making fun of my favourite childhood snack, shredded pork. The other one was *beef* jerky that tasted oddly like sugary meat.

    My sister loved chicken feet back in the day. They were always all skin and no meat for me, though.

    Ugh. Agree on the “online” persona. I’m pretty sure mine is a boozy hound with a big mouth. I’m really shy and rarely drink (lie).

    And woman, you seriously channel Tina Fey, and that IS a compliment because Tina is comedy brilliance.

    Loves this. 🙂
    Nomadic Chick recently posted..Freedom- What it Means to Me

    • On April 12, 2011 at 11:55 am Sally said:

      Wait, you were a kid’s shred pork kid? I had no idea! I’ve only tried the stuff once, and I can’t say I was a huge fan. I think it’s something you need to grow up with… that and the chicken feet. Those little toenails creep me out too much!

  7. On April 12, 2011 at 1:20 am Gillian @OneGiantStep said:

    Wait a minute. You can get wine in the grocery store? China=1 Canada=0
    Cheers!
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Taking A Small Bite Out Of The Big Apple

  8. On April 12, 2011 at 2:08 am Roy | cruisesurfingz said:

    Sally, you crack me up. You’re sense of humor is super awesome 🙂
    Roy | cruisesurfingz recently posted..No Hugs For You

  9. On April 12, 2011 at 2:33 am ChinaMatt said:

    Looks like you’ve got a Carrefour by you. I used to live a short walk to a nice new one that was next to a Jusco (Walmart wasn’t far away either). I always tried to avoid grocery shopping at peak times–it made Black Friday seem like a walk in the park.
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Farewell Bagels

    • On April 12, 2011 at 11:53 am Sally said:

      The Carrefour and Walmart are both in town — about an hour away from me by bus. I haven’t had the courage and stamina to make my way there, so I’ve been going with the grocery stores that are closer to home. I’m actually surprised at all the stuff they have there — I just haven’t been able to find pancake mix yet and I’m DYING for it.

  10. On April 12, 2011 at 5:39 am Megan said:

    Okay, I was fine with the whole healthy eating thing (I’ve been eating lentils for the past couple of weeks myself!), but then you said you haven’t owned a bag of sugar for the past three years.

    Does. Not. Compute. System errorrrrrrrr…

    • On April 12, 2011 at 11:51 am Sally said:

      Well, I somehow missed out on the baking limb (like you have), so I don’t need sugar to bake with and I don’t use it in my coffee so I just stopped buying it. You’re not alone. All my house guests have thought it really weird, so I had to start stealing packets of the stuff from Starbucks every time I knew someone was going to come visit me.

  11. On April 12, 2011 at 8:01 am Heather said:

    A woman after my own heart, truly. When I wrote the post about healthy food stores in Sydney, I figured people would think I was havin an identity crisis. I am the macaron lady for crying out loud!!

    But, I am a healthy eater first and foremost. Just got a little distracted this year.

    Thanks for the confession!
    Heather recently posted..Heather the Whizbanger

    • On April 12, 2011 at 11:49 am Sally said:

      Awesome, another closet healthy eater out there! I’m really just a healthy eater at home — when I eat out or travel I feel like I can splurge. Unfortunately, this becomes a problem when I eat out everyday!

  12. On April 12, 2011 at 9:03 am Odysseus said:

    For a few sentences there you were starting to lose me. Healthy eating? I just don’t know about that. But then you mentioned using veggies as nunchucks and THAT is a use of vegetables I can support.
    Odysseus recently posted..Camping in the Thar Desert- Things That Go Grrr in the Night

  13. On April 12, 2011 at 11:55 pm Jennifer Barry said:

    Funny stuff 🙂 There’s nothing wrong with healthy eating, as long as you do it in moderation. It sounds like you need MMA skills to just go shopping! Mmm, want elaborate bacon now.
    Jennifer Barry recently posted..Seoul Seeker

  14. On April 13, 2011 at 2:48 am Talon (@1Dad1Kid) said:

    As usual you had me in stitches. That is so damn cool you get to actually catch your fish!

    Live eels swimming in the grocery bag? Hmm, could be interesting. Maybe you should’ve dropped one down Celery Stalk Lady’s blouse.
    Talon (@1Dad1Kid) recently posted..Zach C shares some great wisdom

  15. On April 13, 2011 at 9:27 pm Lena Kozlova said:

    Sally, you owe me another pair of pants!!!
    So funny! Kinda reminds me of going grocery shopping in Chinatown, NYC (minus the shoving, plus the live eels and salary stick ladies).
    Lena Kozlova recently posted..My Favorite Travel Pix

  16. On April 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm Juno said:

    Sharp article as always Sally. As an Asian, I think it’s pretty easy-relatively-to be a healthy eater in most of Asia country. Well, if you choose right and once you can spot things. Among all those travels, I realized Korean cuisine is whole a lot healthier than most of ‘foreign’ food around here.
    So I think I grow up as a healthy eater, and I’m happy with that. Also I have ‘non-healthy-eater’ side too, so I can manage it! 🙂

    • On April 14, 2011 at 12:40 pm Sally said:

      I think it’s pretty easy to eat healthy anywhere — you just have to know where to go. Even in America, you can find lots of great, healthy restaurants (I swear! Unfortunately, I think American food is poorly represented in Asia — we’re not all about burgers & pizza!) As I’m new to China, I don’t really know where to go for healthy meals… plus, I’m pretty far from downtown so there are not a lot of options where I’m living. The easiest option is just to buy the ingredients myself & make it at home… and, as you witnessed from my blog post, that’s not always so “easy”! 🙂

  17. On April 14, 2011 at 7:41 am Lorna - the roamantics said:

    whew! I’M tired now sally! where’s my wine? and is there a goat somewhere i can put my feet up on? man other countries make it hard to be a carnivore by denial! catch your own fish? chicken hands? we’re so good at removing any resemblance to a formerly living creature here in the states! LOVED this. funny per usual (“From her reaction, you’d think I had just started gnawing on a live baby head or something.”) HA! and a great guide. i love going to grocery stores while traveling- one of the first things i usually do, for just this reason- they’re such a great prism from which to view culture. think i’d be taking a big cue from you on this one though. stocking up, cab home, wine wine wine 🙂
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Cute Green Creen! Buying a Creen House on Wheels

    • On April 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm Sally said:

      I grew up on a farm so I knew where my meat came from… but I still would rather not see fish eyes staring at me or start gnawing on a chicken hand. Blech! Those toenails are CREEPY. I’ll just stick to wine.

  18. On April 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm Lauren @ The Mad To Live said:

    Sally,
    You know what’s funny? Sometimes I miss my Beijing supermarket. The crazy freaking men screaming at the top of their lungs to buy their meat… the dead fish always lurking at the top of the fish tanks… the endless isles of gallon jugs of oil haha.

    Okay, maybe I don’t miss it.

    But it was a blast exploring that store every few days hoping some new isle would magically appear with all the ingredients are really needed lol.

    Chicken feet!… Brought some of those back for my friends haha. 😛
    Lauren @ The Mad To Live recently posted..Identity Crisis- The Traveler Who Isn’t Traveling

  19. On April 15, 2011 at 10:22 am Choi Kum Fook said:

    Woo! Crazy! Shopping in a grocery shop like a war in battle field.Fortunately, you are “fighting” for it once a fortnight or a month, not everyday! Wuxi, a small city, as you said, already contains 4 millions. The population of Shanghai, I heard so is around 30 millions,even larger than the all country of Malaysia. So, Miss Sally, now you living ina biggist city in the world! It is awesome! Ha.Ha. Nevertheless, hoping you enjoy your living in Wuxi-Shanghai..

    • On April 17, 2011 at 1:50 am Sally said:

      Thanks, Mr. Choi. Wuxi doesn’t feel so populated because it’s so large and I’m located pretty far from the city center. I certainly haven’t seen 4 million people yet!

  20. On April 19, 2011 at 1:54 pm Ceri said:

    Hehehe. I loved this. Everyone who lives in another country always has crazy things to say about going shopping. I read something very similar about attempting to go shopping in Japan. Heh.

    The beef candy? Um, wow. And those bird feet? They look like packaged toys.
    Ceri recently posted..Using Insanity to get back to Reality

    • On April 21, 2011 at 7:09 am Sally said:

      Shopping in Japan definitely didn’t require quite as much pushing & shoving, but they did have some fun purchases… especially if you had big bucks to spend and were in the market for an $80 gift melon!

  21. On April 22, 2011 at 4:17 am Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures said:

    Sally, I feel so deceived! I mean…what about National Pie Day?

    While I never went ot an actual grocery store while I was in China, I did wander many an outdoor market with familiar sites. I distinctly remember someone walking over and buying a duck that was presented like those in the photo in your post and the woman proceeded to chop the entire duck going all the way up to the beak!

    Oh and I love this post! You have such a wonderful aspect to your writing!

    • On April 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm Sally said:

      National Pie Day is still a cause very dear to my heart. And I do allow myself to eat bad stuff on special days — like New Year’s and National Pie Day and Sunday.

  22. On April 22, 2011 at 4:51 pm Jeremy B said:

    One of my best local experiences is shopping at the grocery store when I travel. However, I think I would rather eat out in China! As your posts normally do, you have a sense of humor about it all but how do stores not even have a conveyor belt? All the other stuff I can understand but seriously!
    Jeremy B recently posted..5 ways to travel at home

    • On April 24, 2011 at 1:01 pm Sally said:

      I know! I love China and all, but I really don’t see how this country can become a world superpower if they don’t have conveyor belts in their supermarkets. Dear China, fix that.

  23. On April 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm pam || @nerdseyeview said:

    Dearest Unbrave Girl,

    This made me laugh and laugh and laugh. While the specifics of your expat supermarket experience are very different to mine, you still managed to distill all the maddening, uh, quirks of the experience in such a way that I said to myself, “YES! I know exactly what that’s like!”

    I love the mystery of supermarkets in foreign lands. And when I’m back in the US, I love our supermarkets all the more.

    Shop on!
    pam || @nerdseyeview recently posted..Desperado

    • On May 1, 2011 at 1:02 pm Sally said:

      Oh, I spent so much time wandering the aisles of American grocery stores with a dizzy-I’m-in-love look on my face when I was back there this winter. My eyes almost had little heat attacks when they saw all that cheese. Ohh, dairy products, I miss you the most!

  24. On May 2, 2011 at 10:19 am Greta said:

    This is hilarious! I am currently visiting my sister in S. Korea. While I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad here as there, I have heard quite a few stories in par with yours, and can totally appreciate how truly impressive you must be to ever venture out for groceries :c)

    • On May 3, 2011 at 1:51 pm Sally said:

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve never had the pleasure of shopping in S. Korea — do they by any chance have conveyor belts in their checkout lanes? If so, I might just have to move there. This whole no conveyor belt thing is madness.

  25. On May 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm Karlenn said:

    OMGGGGGGGG. This is going to be such an adventure – I just found out my hubby, me, and my four teeny kids are going to China for 8 months! I’m so excited/nervous. If you have any tips for me on how to prepare for life in China, I would love it. We’re going to be living in Baoding, which is 80 miles or so west of Beijing (at least, that’s what mapquest tells me). You are a fantastic writer! I’m your new blogstalker.

    • On October 26, 2011 at 10:50 am Alex said:

      Definitely check out http://www.livemocha.com—they offer language courses that are just like Rosetta Stone, only free. Have a farewell for now dinner featuring all of your favorite foods (for me it was Duncan Hines brownies, Pizza Hut pizza, and Chili Cheese Fritos. Since you’re so close to Beijing, you’ll be able to satisfy most cravings (they have Pizza Hut, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts, and more). Bring cough drops (and any cold and flu medicines that you’re fond of)! I have yet to find cough drops in China.

      You’re going to love it here! The people are amazing (and eager to practice their English). The food is delicious, and the sites are unforgettable. Good luck!

      • On October 27, 2011 at 12:32 am Sally said:

        Well, I’m not very close to Beijing at all, but I’m not too far from Shanghai so I can go there if I get too desperate. Plus, Wuxi actually has a fair number of Western chains & I’m kind of surprised at the grocery stores here. They have everything! (Including lots of things I never even knew existed.)

  26. On May 25, 2011 at 5:22 am Mira said:

    I try to get all my fruit and veg at this teeny tiny wet market that just sprung up on the middle of the road near my house (yes, MIDDLE of the road, traffic can just…go another way) and instead of shopping trolleys pushing and shoving you out of the way it’s e-bikes!! So, I could be standing there picking out ginger and bok choi, in a pathway just about big enough to fit two people and an e-bike is raming me in my calves because, you know, I AM IN THE WAY.

    Man, I love China.

    (p.s. just stumbled onto your blog through China Travel…looks good, I will be back!)

    • On May 27, 2011 at 4:03 pm Sally said:

      Mira,
      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog & glad you’re enjoying it.
      I can’t believe you SHOP in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! I can’t even cross the street in China without having a panic attack. Heck, I’m very often almost run over by bikes & e-bikes (and once a full-sized van) on the sidewalk, so I’m usually scared just to leave my apartment. You are way brave.

  27. On September 12, 2016 at 5:41 pm Christina said:

    Thank you so much!!! Do you know how many sites and searches I had to sift through before I found this?! Too many. I’m moving to Tianjin to teach at Nankai in a few weeks and am scrambling to do my research.

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