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.
Give 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.
Smog 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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