Please don’t get me wrong, I love my time in China. I can’t say I love the country since I have only stayed in Shanghai for two years and visited a number of places in China. (China is huge!!) I love the Chinese culture and many of its historic moments are fascinating, even to an overseas Chinese like me. The vibrant city of Shanghai is easy to fall in love with. The alluring sceneries of different places I have visited captured my heart. The friendships I have made caught my soul.  

IMG_1879Give the choice, would I leave such a beautiful country? Yes but not for a couple of more years. But you see, China has a lot of room for improvement before one can truly choose it as a permanent place to stay for life. Most expats like me will take the country as a stopover rather than a home for retirement. I won’t touch the political aspect of this country, however, I need to point out the personal effects that made my decision to leave. And one of the glaring facts is pollution.

I’m not going into figures and percentages but out of 365 days a year, I probably only seen less than 65 days of clear blue skies. I had chalked up medical bills due to sinus infections and allergies that I didn’t have when I was in Singapore. 3I had nosebleed at least twice a year. Thankfully, all these cleared up after I left Shanghai for 3 months. Of course, I took precautions. I wore masks to work when days are smoggy. I cooked all my food with boiled bottled mineral water. I only drank imported milk from Japan. I went back to Singapore for my yearly health checks.


Which brings me to the point of how expensive the medical care is in Shanghai for  foreigners. It is truly culture shock to be charged USD400 dollars for a simple consultation with antibiotics for my flu when I checked with my doctor back home, he charges USD40 dollars for the same medication. I must admit I went to a private hospital instead of their public ones. For three good reasons, firstly to go to a public hospital, one must be prepared to queue for the entire day. You probably started queuing in the morning to get a number to see the doctor at noon and queued after that for another few hours, to get your treatment. Secondly, the public hospitals’ preferred treatment are always to put you on a saline drip, no matter your illness and even before you have seen a doctor. My colleague had twisted her ankle due to a bad fall and she was placed on the drip for half a day before the doctor is available for consultation. Thirdly, my insurance will not cover any treatments from the public hospitals.

image2Smog seen from my Shanghai Apartment…

These twos are my main gripes about living in Shanghai. Not that I am not bothered about the politics or the corruption of the country, it rarely skims through the surface of my daily life. Not able to access YouTube, Blogs, Twitter, FaceBook could be solved easily with VPN. Censored news reporting happens everywhere, not only pertaining to China. But I felt for her citizens, most folks who if given the means, would migrate elsewhere. Because like me, pollution and medical care leaves a lot to be desired. I can try my best to avoid buying from unreputable merchants to avoid getting fake goods, I can eat healthier and exercise more to boost my immune system but I don’t think I can resort to carrying my own oxygen tank.

China has so much opportunity for growth, so much space for creativity and innovation, and so much business opportunities. They have the manpower, the natural resources and land. There is one famous crude saying, “If everyone in China spit on you, you probably drown in their saliva.”

Have you been to China? What are your views on staying there long term?

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59 replies on “China is a Beautiful Country except..

  1. Hi, I learned a lot from your post about living in China. The pollution would be a downer for me as I suffer from allergies. Other than that, I think is is fascinating to live in another country and learn its customs and make friends among the citizens of the country.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The 3 major cities Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou are extremely polluted. There is a walk around to using social media, you’ll have to install VPN on your PC and mobile.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Censored news doesn’t exist in England. It does not exist in western Europe as a whole. We don’t prevent free speech. We don’t prevent demonstrations in the streets. We have free elections. We did not invade Tibet, and continue to occupy it against the will of its people for the last sixty odd years. We do not burn down monasteries or try to stamp out people’s religion. And we have free travel and a free Internet with access to all sites for everybody.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. This post really impressed me!
    We all know about pollution in China , but when a friend(you) tells us about her direct experience , certainly , things become more realistic….
    Thanks for your entry , as always very accurate and practical.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for telling me that!! The pollution is much more serious than reported, imagine sky is filled with soot and dirt. And what we are breathing in every second. The apartment I stayed in is 22nd floor and I need to shut all windows all the time otherwise, within a day, my furniture would be dusty and grimy.


    1. Beijing has worse pollution than Shanghai. So much that a lot of the expatriates are relocated from Beijing to Shanghai. Some days, the smog is so bad, you can’t drive because you can’t see what’s in front of you. It is only in the cities that is bad. There are many rural places in China that are pleasantly peaceful and with pretty clean air but those places are like that because there are no factories, no roads and no public transport.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. This is a very important issue raised Cally. Same problem is plaguing my country, India. Its metros choking up with smog filled unbreathable air.Recently I moved to a town that is still not that much influenced by growth, nearer to nature. And I realize how much this means, to live in a pollution free city.

    Very good post. Loved it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks, Nitin. I read a new report last year, it reported that a lot of the Chinese merchants are moving their factories to India because Chinese government wants to clamp down on pollution. Be careful, it might be India who is next to suffer like China now.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Good post. I also worked in China, but in Beijing for 2 years, and I had a lot more health issues than usual. The worst is I got shingles, which usually happens to seniors, and I had recurring headaches. I also didn’t go to the public hospitals because of the hassle and inefficiency as you said, but went to international clinics where the prices were sky-high. I also started drinking bottled water instead of boiling tap water in my second year (an expat advised me to wash my vegetables with bottled water but I didn’t do that). Of course, the air was terrible, maybe worse than in Shanghai, and I wonder whether all that smog exposure will affect me later on (hopefully not!). However, I didn’t like a lot of other things, such as the political stuff, and I decided to cut my stay short and leave. There are a lot of opportunities there, but there’s also a lot of issues bubbling up, so while it’ll be interesting to keep up with what’s going on, there’s nothing wrong with not being there, haha.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, Beijing is a lot worst than Shanghai. After suffering in shanghai, I’ll never want to work in Beijing. The 2 years smog exposure does affect me, I found myself easily ill and often catching cold on a warm day even I have left shanghai for a year now. My doc says it’s the aftermath of all that abuse to my body for 2 years. Oh, I wash my vegetables using bottled water even cooking in bottled water too. My expatriate friend even bath in bottled water. I was tempted to after she showed me that the leftover water in the shower stall has reddish brown sand in them. By then, I was already packing up my stuff to move.


      1. Beijing’s air quality is supposedly getting better but even then, I think it’ll still be worse than Shanghai.

        Haha, bathing in bottled water sounds quite extreme. It’s scary how polluted the water is over there, and how often ignored it is, in contrast to smog. I remember being blissfully unaware of the poor water quality until I realized almost everybody in Beijing, both expats and locals, drank bottled water at home. If even the locals did that, then you know the problem is really bad, ha.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Very enlightening, indeed, especially for those of us who have never left the Western Hemisphere and have had precious little contact with individuals from the Orient. Very clear and well-written article . . . once again! All the best to you w/blessings! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I wish I’d visited years ago before China really took off! But I’ve heard of many early Western immigrants who went there way before others precisely because of the opportunities, who are starting a reverse migration because of quality of life for their children. In any case it is fascinating how the Chinese are moving into big business all over the world. Their drive and mindset are fantastic ….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As an Asian nut -I love all things Asian. One day I hope to see China, Japan and especially Korea. Until then, I will continue to study the languages and cultures. So, I really enjoyed this post. I knew the pollution was bad, but I didn’t completely understand the severity of it until your picture. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think that any country can be this way, but some more than others due to cultural / ethnic / religious differences or lack of knowledge thereof. I think that there is good and bad, beautiful and ugly everywhere!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi there! Just found your blog. I’ve been living in China for five years, and I love it. I’ve traveled pretty extensively throughout the country, and understand completely how trying this place can be. Luckily, I’m in Dalian where the cool Siberian winds and the clean sea air often keep the skies blue. I tell my wife each time we return from a trip that I still like it here the best. Looking forward to taking a look around your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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