Daily Life in China

Every morning my daughter and I hop on the bus to school, walk over to Starbucks for our coffee and croissant, and then head into our school building, which is invariably bustling with life. Students walking here and there, teachers busy and happy and prepping for the day: it’s a vibrant and familiar place!

My daughter attends a number of interesting classes that include AP English Language, Chemistry, AP European History, and Chinese, while I have a work day not all that different from any other back in the U.S…although our day starts 13 hours earlier than it did when we lived in Texas because now we are living in China.

Our student population at BASIS International School Shenzhen has more Chinese students than our school back in the United States. When we go outside the school, of course, most people are speaking Mandarin, we use public transportation or Didi (China’s version of Uber) to get around, and WeChat is our preferred method of payment; I’m not sure the last time I used cash. It’s probably not surprising that the language difference is often our biggest frustration, but we’ve learned to use tools like WeChat translate, and have common addresses saved in Chinese on our phone to get through most communication failures.

“What’s it like there?”

When my Texas friends ask, “What’s it like living in China?” I stumble for words because our day-to-day life isn’t that different. However, a few things I didn’t think twice about in Texas do take a little thought or pre-planning: like giving my address to a taxi driver or ordering from certain restaurants. Additionally, there are some foods my Western mindset still hasn’t allowed me to try, but the delicious dumplings, savory steamed buns, and hand-spun noodles are now staples in our diet.

With a sense of an adventurous spirit, and a willingness to embrace the new culture in which we are living, we now call China home. There are a number of now-normal things we couldn’t imagine doing back in the U.S., like hiring an Ayi to cook, clean the apartment, and do laundry; traveling on vacations to Bali, Singapore, and Vietnam; and ordering-in anything from a bubble tea to McDonalds to a steak and mashed potatoes. These are luxuries we take comfort in when we miss Texas.

There are cultural differences we’ve had to learn, but it’s amazing how far a smile goes in China. Families, education, and community are highly valued here and I often feel that my daughter has had a childhood more like mine here than they would’ve in the U.S. They hang out with friends, walk home from school, and grab a candy bar and soda at 7-Eleven on their own after school. Life in China is different, and there are adjustments, but we’re happy we got on that plane to experience life on the other side of the world.

– Rachel Zanardi, Director of Recruiting, BASIS International School Shenzhen

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