I, like you, watched the documentary Supersize Me. And I, probably like you, was disgusted. Whenever my family would suggest McDonalds for a snack, I would cry out in horror,
“Guys, we can’t eat there!! Do you have any idea what’s in all that crap?!”
I would force them to find a healthier alternative in order to prolong their lives by avoiding the evil corporation that is McDonald’s.
Then, about two weeks after moving to China, my husband and I ventured out to pick up some McDonald’s fast food. Honestly, we really were craving some good old American-style burgers. A newlywed couple (that can’t cook) can only eat Chinese take-out for so long before they get desperate. The first bite of that burger was a piece of heaven. I may have almost cried from happiness.
Note: I should not be held responsible for what culture shock does to me.
My excitement spilled over into my Instagram account as I posted a picture of our dinner, which, let me tell you, included extra fries. The response to my picture? “Ewwww”s and a bare minimum of likes. I’m sure if there were a dislike feature on Instagram, it might have been my most popular picture to date. I was, of course, embarrassed for my quick disregard to Supersize Me and my previous McDonald’s-hating values.
And then, I got over it. Guys, McDonald’s is a life-saver over here.
My entire time in college I avoided Wal-Mart like the plague. I’d read about all the terrible things Wal-Mart had done and continues to do. Destroying local businesses, breaking child labor laws, you name it they’ve been accused of it. You can be sure I was not about to give money to an organization like that. In default, I became the happiest of Target girls.
You can imagine my disappointment when I found there is no Target in Beijing, China. But, wouldn’t you know it, there is Wal-Mart. One, solitary Wal-Mart. And my apartment is a ten minute bike ride from it. Oh, the irony.
Despite my hesitation, I have learned that Wal-Mart, in China, is a beautiful thing. It has peanut butter, bleach, Christmas trees, and pet turtles all in one convenient location. In a city of 11.5 million people, I can’t imagine it is having too huge an effect on local businesses, nor using more child labor than any other business in this country. The best part of all? Their slogan has carried it’s way across the Pacific to still remain true. Always low prices. Always.
I’m still a Target girl at heart, but I am grateful for good old Wally World in China.
3. Instant Coffee
My family has a serious love for coffee. My father loves the stuff most of all. He loves it so much that he used to lie to me as a child. To stop me from taking sips of his nectar, he informed me if I drank his coffee I would never grow to my full height. For far too long I seriously thought that was why I only ever reached 5’3″.
As I grew older, I learned, like my father, to appreciate the good stuff. I was even a barista at a coffee and jazz house for a year. I learned about french presses, good roasters, and how to make an especially good latte.
Then, I moved to China where all good coffee is stupid expensive. I washed my hands of coffee, and half-heartedly said I was better off without it. A month later, I couldn’t hack it any more and needed to figure something out.
I went to the grocery store and grabbed a box of Nescafe Instant Coffee off the shelf. I stared at it long and hard as it stared back at me. I could swear it was mocking me and my snobby coffee ways in it’s little cardboard box. But then, I gave in; I bought it.
To my surprise, it wasn’t half bad. It’s easy, tasty, and cheap. A poor ex-pat’s nectar – I’ll take it.
4. Sunny Days
I’m sure not many of you will identify with this one, but I’m a sunny day hater in the States. I find overcast or rainy days far more productive. They are my absolute favorite. My father was born and raised in Seattle, so I think there might be some sort of genetic carry-over going on.
However, in China, I live for those sunny days. The ones where there isn’t enough pollution to cover the sky or to make the sun turn orange-red. You never knew how much you loved breathing in blue skies, fresh air, and sunny rays until you find yourself on a Beijing sunny day. As my husband would say, they make you happy to be alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic.
UNO is a game I avoid playing at all costs in America. I’d write out all the reasons I avoid it, but, let’s be real, there’s only one reason – it’s boring. How many times can you put down the same color or number card, make people draw, yell UNO, and still be entertained? Not that many.
That was the case until I moved to China. Now, I am eternally indebted to the creators of UNO. It’s the easiest game in the world to explain to someone, whether they speak your language or not. You can change the rules in many different ways in order to avoid boredom. And it is easy to play anywhere, even a crowded little foreign teacher’s office like ours. UNO is just the game that keeps on giving.
Thank goodness for that.
Are there other things you love in your foreign country but hate back home? Leave a comment below.