As a returning Chinese who has been living and studying in Australia for 15 years, I have experienced some reverse culture shock since I relocated back to China 3 months ago.
The Food Shock
As in most western countries, there are Chinatowns and plenty of delicious Asian restaurants in virtually any capital city in Australia. Originally from Guangdong, I love yumcha and I thought that with better food quality and hygiene in Australia, the taste should be the same if not better than in China.
I was wrong.
A restaurant in Zhuhai, which is a relatively small city next to Macau, brings yumcha dishes to a whole new level! My favourite has to be the mango spring roll as it harmonises summer fruitiness with aromatic tofu skin, and is crispy on the outside and tender and juicy inside. It seems there have been more varieties introduced to this traditional Chinese cuisine while using more foreign ingredients. This is a nice “shock” for me.
The Traffic Shock
As soon as I settled in, dad asked me to get a Chinese driver’s licence. I was totally shocked! With chaos on the road and drivers making their own traffic rules (same as 15 years ago), I am extremely concerned for my safety. However, dad is paying all my bills in China (as a Chinese parent would), so I had no choice but to try my best.
Besides refusing to drive on Chinese roads, I must constantly remind myself that cars come in opposite directions and pedestrians need to give way to cars. Although there are pedestrian lights installed, many Chinese drivers have not yet learnt to obey the law.
The Price Shock
If my memory serves me right, things were cheap in China, especially food. Not quite so now. Even a simple beef noodle costs 20 yuan which used to be only 5 yuan! Maybe I’ve been away from China for too long…
Moreover, although you can still buy cheap stuff, the quality is so bad that you end up having to remind yourself all the time that you get what you pay for.
I bought a 1-2 person rice cooker for 60 yuan and expected it to be as functional as the item description said. Well, it works but I need to supervise it at all time as it is so tiny that it can get overheated easily. After a week, I bought a Xiaomi rice cooker for 399 yuan. It works perfectly and I learnt not to trust the flashy ads in China (which I should have known).
The Taobao Shock
When I was in Australia, I shopped on eBay a lot. The shipping time is not bad, between 1-2 weeks. When I shop on Taobao in China, there seem to be more choices and cheaper prices, not to mention the super fast delivery.
For example, I was craving Australian milk so I jumped on Taobao and searched for “milk Australia” – Devondale was high up the list. After carefully reading the details and reviews, and comparing prices with a number of sellers, I picked a seller based in Shanghai, but shipped from closest warehouse. I received my 10×1 litre cartons of milk the next day and the product tasted genuine to me. I am very happy as I don’t have to risk my life crossing dangerous streets, not to mention saving the hassle of carrying 10 litres of milk and walking home from the supermarket with it.
The WeChat Shock
I have been using WeChat in Australia, but mainly for messaging. I read about how popular and multi-function the app has become in China, but until I actually used it myself here, I didn’t realise why people say, “You don’t need to leave the app to get life sorted”.
So far, I have used it to pay bills and transfer funds to a friend, book intercity coach and ferry travel, browse news and expert opinions. The only downside for me is that if you need to check messages while viewing a subscribed channel, you need to go all the way back to the message section and then back to the story. There may be a shortcut, but I don’t know it yet.
Overall, my three-month experience in China after living in Australia for 15 years has been positive. I expect to encounter more peculiar experiences once I start working here.
Kay Zhao migrated to Australia at the age of 18 and has lived in Australia for more than a decade. She has a good understanding of Australian and Chinese cultures and worked as an interpreter in Australia. Kay has recently returned to China and now works in the overseas real estate industry.