Big City China vs Small City China

English: A Chinese pagoda in Hangzhou, China.
English: A Chinese pagoda in Hangzhou, China. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been living here in Hangzhou for about three months now…and I can honestly say that there is a big difference between the small city I have lived in for the past 5 years and here.  It isn’t all good.  Let me explain.


Some of the things I like about living in this big city is that it is more foreigner friendly. I mean I can find somethings much easier than in the small city.  I can find cheese, butter and other American necessities that I could never find in the small city.  There are foreigners everywhere as opposed to the very few you see in the small city.  I like the fact that there are restaurants that serve western foods that remind me of home.  However, there are some things I am beginning to really miss from the little city I lived in for the past five years.

One thing I miss is the friendliness. In the smaller town people took more effort to be friendly.  They attempt to talk to you even if their English is horrible…they smile and wave at you and act actually happy to see you.  Yes, there is the staring and pointing..but honestly that happens in the big city also.  I also miss the relationships I had with my students and their parents.  I am now teaching at a university and there is a distance between myself and my students that exists nw that i did not have before.  Currently, I hardly ever see the parents of my students and it has a different kind of feeling.

I think the most disappointing factor is the fact that I do not feel comfortable around the Western people.  There are Americans all over the place and I feel like I just don’t fit in with them.  They tend to complain a lot about the locals and …well..China in general.  They spend a large amount of time in bars and drinking.  They are not really nice to other Americans.  It is kind of a rude awakening to see your own people again and they act well…American.

The one thing I do not miss about America is what I see in the big city.  Rude, overbearing, disrespectful Americans.  It is sad that I don’t fit in with my own people anymore.  Makes me kind of fearful of when we move back to the states.  It is different when Chinese people are rude.  Most of them do not know they are being rude or that they are offending you, but other Americans know what is rude and what is not; they just do not care.

So, do I prefer the small city or big city? Honestly, it may chance the longer I am here…or it may be the fact that my husband is not here with me to buffer some things from me..but for now….I am missing the small city life.  Friendliness goes a long way in my book.


until next time…


10 thoughts on “Big City China vs Small City China

  1. I’m from a small southern American town and everyone’s really friendly. Then I come to China and meet all these urbanized foreigners and no one cares about each other, not just Americans either. Most of them try to avoid eye contact so they won’t have to agonize over the effort to acknoledge another human being’s existance.

  2. Lori

    Hang in there. I found out from living in Europe that Americans (who are quick to call others rude) were the most disrespectful and rude lot. They also gave a bad impression about Americans by always heading to the bars/drinking causing trouble. When people complained about their behavior they were quick to say that they didn’t like Americans. I stayed away from this group as much as I could. I did not want to be guilty by association. Just keep doing what you do. Showing the Chinese what civilized (home trained :p) Americans are like!

  3. Great post and I love your honesty! Great introspection on how we as Americans can be when traveling and revelation of how you’ve probably changed so much while in China. Keep writing 🙂

  4. pearls

    Now think about this…when you were in college, did any relatives/parents visit the university’s counselors or teachers, Monday-Friday regarding their almost adult/adult child’s scholastic stance? Not to my knowlege. When I was in college, it was my responsibility, unless a serious problem occurred that needed their attention which never happened. Other than that…I was on my own. I recall, the only time parents visited the campus was on weekends to go sightseeing with their college age children.

    I concur…give it time. There are more people you’ll come in contact with I’m sure as time goes by. I won’t make a comparison when it comes to who should be responsible for their rudeness or opportunity to vent…because it is what it is! Everyone needs an avenue or place to ‘vent’ whether Americans or non-Americans, individually or collectively; we all need to do it and have done it. The people you met just may turn out to be pleasant people who you need time to become acquainted with. They may not always hangout at a bar which is their turf or collective meeting place. If asked, they may like to do other things. If not, I’m quite sure that there’s people you’ll come in contact with who are making the necessary mental adjustments like you have and take China one day at a time by also enjoying it one day at a time.

  5. Awwww Jo, I’m not rude I am a nice American. Try to find Expats Canadians to hang out with. Canadian are sweet cuddly teddy bears. I live on the university so I see my students all the time, however I have little connection to the city.

  6. Miss Jo just put your big girl panties on show them the stuff that you are made of. I am sure in time you will see you made a wise choice and come to love that city just like the last one. With that said you are brave as hell and I salute you. To be so far away from home and thriving is a testament to your veracity and tenaciousness. You are certainly paving the way for a new generation of black women to venture beyond the safe border. Maybe one day I will take that leap of faith myself. Until then I will just go along on your ride. Live the dream girlfriend.

    1. Your correct Susan..time for me to woman up…and start showing these folks what is the deal. I think most of it comes from not having my husband by my side helping me… is a little tougher that is true..but I will do it…just need a little more adjusting time.

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