Monkey Abroad

Videos and stories of the life abroad – food, culture, travel & work

One year in China

American Living in China – After One Year (VIDEO)


The more I learn about China, the more I realize I don’t know and never will know. That being said, I still have a clearer insight on life in China than I did when I first got here one year ago.


Everywhere you travel, the dialect is different. While the nation shares a common written language, there is a huge disconnect with spoken language among all Chinese. Every province, and in some circumstances even every city, has its own spoken dialect. The only way for some Chinese to communicate is through written communication since they often don’t understand each others Chinese. That’s why there’s a need for Mandarin—a standard language that unifies all of China.

As a foreigner in China, Chinese people don’t expect you to be able to speak Chinese. Of course, if you do speak Chinese, even just a bit, they’ll be elated to hear that you’re making an effort to learn about and integrate into Chinese culture.

American living in China


At first when I arrived in China the driving looked like absolute chaos. It still does, but I’m not surprised by anything anymore. Driving on the wrong side of the road in front of police officers, making U-turns right when oncoming traffic is heading your way, changing lanes without looking or signaling. It’s all the norm, so other drivers look out for it.

People use their horns liberally, and nobody gets easily offended by anything. In the States, people take driving way too personally. Chinese drive slowly, but they cut everybody off and honk at each other and nobody thinks twice about it. If someone cuts you off, it’s not their fault; it’s your fault. You allowed enough space in front of you for them to pass. That’s the driving mentality.

American living in China


Don’t be afraid to try street food. Food off the street might be cooked with gutter oil, but you can’t really be certain. I’ve eaten tons of Chinese street food and I haven’t fallen ill. The only time I got sick was when I accidentally drank an entire thermos full of tap water on accident, resulting in a two day fit of explosive diarrhea. 

If you have a lot of food allergies, don’t eat meat, you’re a vegan, or you are just highly particular about what you eat, just avoid China. Eating the food of this country is one of the best parts of the immersion here, and if you miss out on that, you’re missing out on an integral part of what it means to live here.

American living in China


To those who integrate, eat Chinese food, maintain optimism in the face of frustrating Chinese policy enforcement and a high air quality index, and at least try to learn Chinese—you’re cool.

Many can’t speak any Chinese, don’t really like Chinese food, blame their frequent illnesses on China, complain that the west is way better at this and that—why the hell do you live here?

American living in China

Air quality

After a year, China feels like home, but the one thing I really don’t like—that I would change if I could—is the pollution, at least in the eastern provinces. In the western provinces of China, the air quality is better than in the east. Far less factories means fewer emissions, but not as much going on in the way of city life.

American living in China

Just my opinions. I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who lives in China and occasionally makes videos about life here. If you live in China or have lived in China and let me know what you think, leave a comment. Thanks for reading.

American living in China

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!



  2. So good to see you back! Have missed your videos!

  3. Great Video. My son, Stephen is teaching English in Beijing. He has been there for about 3 weeks. Still getting a handle on things. I enjoy your videos and I hope to visit China around February.
    Charles Nordan
    Hillsborough North Carolina.

  4. Nice video! It’s cool you are sharing info and tips about your adventure and learning process there. It could help other people and learn more about chinese culture. Are you just staying in China? or Will you travel to different places and make some videos about them too? It’d be great to see cultures too.
    Anyway, great job..

    From Chile

  5. Kevin, I am your former neighbor on Manning Lane; I thoroughly enjoy your site, spent a month in China last year with my Dallas resident Chinese girl friend.

  6. Kevin Enjoy your videos. Appears you’re adapting expeditiously to the culture and language. Bravo!

  7. Kev your show will be on travel channel eventually. Its so badass how people from all over the world follow your videos bro.

  8. Great video Kevin, was wondering what happened to you since I havn’t seen you around Rizhao lately. Let us know if you ever need a place to stay back in Rizhao!

  9. Cool blog, I have been in China for almost a decade, now living in Guangzhou since almost 7 years. You are still new, 1 year is not enough to truly understand Chinese society, culture and mindset, not that they are deep and mysterious thought.

    I know the type of expats you are talking about, those always complaining, they have been here for manh years and have seen their situation stagnate, ESL teaching offers no future on the long run, salaries have not been raised in almost a decade and what was a lot of money back then is not that much today.

    Some people (like myself) have succeeded at pulling themselves out of the ESL game and now run their own business or found much better positions in different fields, truly enjoying the potential of China’s growing domestic market.

    Others are teaching for peanuts (no, even 30000 per month is not big money, the wealth gap is wide in China, the middle class earns more than back home), I wish you to not waste too much time teaching, build a network, relations are everything in China.

  10. Love your blogs. It is so refreshing, informative and you are hilarious. I am living through you vicariously. Keep up with the good work. Aloha.

  11. 不错呦,感觉挺专业的样子

  12. Aloha Kevin, can you do a video on scary street food? Whatever you can find on the street that most of us in the West will find it hard to consume such as roast rats, or fermented tofu or dog meat? Yikes! Would love to see you try them out. Btw, chicken feed doesnt count since you already had them. Bon appetite!

  13. Hey Kevin, I am interviewing for a PE position at SHSID. Would you recommend the school now that you have been there for a semester? How is the housing provided by the school? Great work on the blog, you are killing it. Keep up the quality work.

  14. Pingback: Workers of the World Weekly: October 21, 2016

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