It’s that time of the month again, when we introduce you to one of the fascinating people that shares the commonality with us of being a fabulous WWAM woman. Becky has been in China for 8 years, and has been living in the hot and humid heaven that is Xiamen for the past 3 years. She’s a blogger and the face behind Ms Wai, our very own intercultural dating column. Aside from that she is also the queen of Xiamen’s badminton scene (ah, who I am kidding, she’s the Badminton Queen of China! – or the BQoC) and just an overall superstar! Welcome to WWAM of the Month with Badminton Becky.
Before moving here what did you think life in China would be like and how does the reality differ?
The year before I moved to China I took a 10-day tour of the country, so I had a slight idea what to look forward to in terms of crowds, cars, chaos etc. I was expecting it to be crazy and confusing and annoying and sometimes frightening; and at times it is exactly that.
What I wasn’t expecting was how normal my daily life would be. After the initial shock wore off, and I stopped craving cheese (which was hard to find in my little boonie city of Lin’an), my life in China seems downright normal. All my friends back home assume I am having some exotic adventure everyday but actually I wake up, drink tea, go to work, eat lunch, see my friends, play on the internet, play badminton, have dinner parties with my friends and stuff like that. The biggest difference is I speak another language while doing much of these things (and eat Chinese food when I go out), but daily life here is much more normal than people might expect.
How have you changed since moving to China?
In pretty much every possible way imaginable. One big change is living in China has made me an extrovert. To get attention in a restaurant or store you need to speak up. If you wait for the waiter to come to your table, you will wait all day. So I’ve had to change my natural shy nature to be a bit more pushy to get what I want.
Another big change is not caring what other people think of you (I give less f**ks). I quickly realized that if I’m walking around normally listening to headphones people will look at me. If I walk around listening to headphones singing at the top of my lungs and dancing around people will look at me. Both outcomes are the same, so why not do what I like?
Also, I became a jock. (I can’t let this interview go without one badminton mention.) I was never a sports person but in Xiamen I found badminton and that has changed my life more than anything. I went from a lazy writer to a jock who is at the gym playing 5-6 times a week and has more sports clothes than regular clothes. Also through badminton, I have a huge group of friends who only know me by my Chinese name and only care about me as a player. In China foreigners get a lot of attention, a lot of it for wrong reasons (because having a foreign friend is cool, or locals want to practice their English.) With my badminton friends I’m not “a foreigner to use”, I’m just the weird kid that speaks funny Chinese and loves badminton.
What do you love about living in Xiamen and what drives you insane?
Anyone who knows me knows I am a total Xiamen fangirl. I love this city and I love the person I’ve become while living here. The city is an island and it has mountains literally next to the ocean. It’s smaller both in population and in actual size so it has a cozier feel than other cities in China. Also due to the small size, the expat community is much more integrated. There’s no expat bubble here and all the activities organized by expats are half in English, half in Chinese. Most foreigners here can speak at least basic Chinese. And there are always activities like weekend hikes, huge beach parties, book clubs, craft fairs and lecture series. Xiamen people come up with unique and interesting things to keep everyone busy.
The things that drive me crazy are your typical Chinese things I guess. Packed buses, where people don’t move to the back, insane drivers and people littering/spitting on the street. (Note from the Editor: Not the heat? Becky actually despises hot weather – yeah, and she lives in Xiamen)
You have experience with casual dating in China – what are some of the things you’d like to let people know who are considering this?
I guess my advice would be “don’t think too much” and “don’t be passive.” To the first point, I think foreign ladies shouldn’t worry too much about the culture differences in the beginning. I mean, yes, it’s obviously there, but don’t let it stop you or frighten you away from meeting local guys.
To the second point, Chinese guys are sometimes intimidated or nervous around foreign women. I know girls are used to guys making the first move, but I’ve found in China, to date successfully, foreign girls often have to say something first because the guys are too nervous. There are too many (false) stereotypes around foreign women in China and a lot of guys believe them. So I think a girl should be more courageous and say something to a guy she likes because the guy might not.
How do you think your WWAM relationship differs from relationships with someone from your own culture?
Obviously the language. We speak Chinese so I can’t express myself clearly. Many people might think that means we don’t have deep or meaningful conversations but actually that’s not true. Having serious conversations isn’t a problem. The biggest problem arises in more everyday technical situations. Like, the most frustrating conversation we ever had, was when he was helping me hang up something on the wall. I wanted it a particular way but couldn’t express myself clearly and he didn’t know what I wanted and I got more and more annoyed. Those kinda of situations, when you need to immediately communicate a specific thing, is where I get held up and frustrated and that wouldn’t happen if we both native English speakers. Meanwhile conversations about our childhood or feelings or whatever isn’t a problem and actually we talk a lot and quite easily.
We also have a different upbringing and thoughts but I don’t see it as a negative. If anything it makes us more interesting to each other and we have more to talk about.
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Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.
An American Girl Learning Competitive Badminton in China