Diya in Qingdao: "The people here honestly make this city home for us"

  • Diya in Qingdao
Published last year
Diya comes from Louisiana. Volunteer and writer, she moved to Qingdao, China, in 2015 following her stay in Indonesia. Nowadays, she keeps herself busy teaching in poor schools on a voluntary basis.


We are a married couple, consisting of a "red dirt road" country girl and "bayou" boy. We come from South Louisiana in America. Together we have 6 birth children and several others we call our kids. Family is extremely ...

Where are you from, Diya, and what are you doing nowadays?

I'm the mother of 6 adult children and I'm from Louisiana, USA. I had 6 jobs when I met my husband in 2013. He works in oilfield construction. I have always wanted to travel abroad, volunteer and write. Nowadays, I do all of those things. His job allows me not to work so hard as I used to before I met him.

Why did you choose to expatriate to China?

We were living in Batam, Indonesia, nearing the end of a project. We had several offers on the table. We chose China because of our love of Asia, its food and culture. The close proximity to Indonesia has allowed me to go back there to work with an orphanage we support. It's only a 5 hours flight, 45 minute ferry ride and 1 hour car ride from Qingdao.

As a US national, what were the procedures you had to follow to move there?

It seemed we would never get our visas correctly done to be able to move to China. The biggest issue was background checks from police departments. First, we didn't have it signed in the correct color ink. Then, it wasn't stamped by the officer. Finally, it was 100% correct. We then obtained our resident visas after arriving in Qingdao.
We are in a 15th floor apartment trimmed in dark cherry wood, mirrors everywhere and chandeliers that change colors by remote control. We are in the Huangdao area with Qingdao being the actual city we are assigned to.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

The first morning awakening in our apartment was almost a mind changing event. Our real estate agent showed up unannounced with another guy to move furniture items from our apartment since we bought our own. The problem was that he unlocked the door and walked in without knocking or calling. I was so upset. I pushed all of the furniture to the doorway. I told him to take everything so that he never had a reason to come back to our apartment. I was still in my sleeping clothes when he arrived. All I could think about was the movies I had seen about Asians stealing kidneys.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?

My husband and I looked at 5 apartments together before returning to Indonesia after our interview to pack our house up. Within 5 days, the place we had chosen had become unavailable. I was flying back to the USA. My Husband used WeChat to show me the other apartments he viewed so that we could choose together. There were many types and prices. The one we chose had a view of the Bay, until construction began. Nowadays, we have a trash pit and two new skyscrapers coming up outside of our bedroom window.

What are the local labor market's features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?

I was not looking for a paid job when we moved to Qingdao, therefore I didn't obtain a work visa. However, I was offered teaching jobs several times a week. Being born in an English speaking country and having blonde hair and blue eyes qualify me for teaching at some establishments. I declined a paid position and only teach English on a voluntary basis at poor schools.

How do you find the Chinese lifestyle?

My entire way of thinking about my lifestyle and habits have changed forever. Chinese people have taught me many things. I eat only fresh foods now. I do not eat processed "old" food. I drink only warm water these days. I switched from coffee with cream and sugar to drinking hot citrus water with Goji berries.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

I still have my depressed days, although not nearly as often. I have days I say that "China win", the days when I can't pay my electric bill or order food. However, China really wins as the people are so genuine and helpful. I found a Chinese doctor who has helped me get off western pharmaceuticals. I arrived in China taking 8 different medications daily. Nowadays, I only take one.

What does your every day life look like in your city?

Mornings generally begin at 5am for us. My wonderful husband wakes me up each morning with a kiss and a hot beverage. We have breakfast together before he leaves at 7 am. I then watch some world news and Ellen DeGeneres talk show. Catching up with our family in America is next on my agenda. By noon, I am ready to go out for the day and run my errands. By 7 pm, my husband is coming back home and we decide to go eat out or I have already cooked supper. Our favorite expat bar is in the plans a few nights a week.

Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?

Three of our six children have come to visit. It was wonderful to take them to the Great Wall in Beijing and also to the Chinese Opera.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in China? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

I have always been a frugal person, trying to save pennies for travels. Living in China, with the cost of living so low compared to America, has really made me more aware of wasteful spending. It is extremely affordable for an expat to live here. Single or with a family in tow, saving money is possible because of everything being so inexpensive.

How do you spend your leisure time?

7 Seconds Coffee is a local hangout I enjoy. The coffee there (with Kaluah) is cheaper than the coffee at Starbucks and it is locally owned.

Your favorite local dishes?

Soybean paste pasta and Chinese hamburgers are something I really enjoy. Dumplings and noodles, black chicken, egg pie are also in the top 10 of my favorite foods. I have tried everything I was offered, including cicadas and silkworms and chicken feet, which I didn't enjoy and will not be having again. Hot Pot is my absolute favorite meal, with Changyu red wine.

What do you like the most about the country?

China has people who are so kind and helpful. Even if we can't speak the same language, we can communicate and enjoy each other's company. I'd say the people here honestly make this city home for us.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

Family is always the number one reason why I miss home. I miss Jesus too, while living here in China. It's not encouraged to worship with Chinese people. So my faith has certainly been tested. I have visited the Buddha in the mountains and explored other religions. Before I became wiser and healthier, I missed the food from home.

Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in China?

Keep an open mind and expect less if you are moving to China. There's beauty everywhere, you only need to look for the good instead of the bad. Leave your "Freedom of Speech" at home. Find a group and volunteer. It will allow you to make a difference and change a Chinese person's opinion of a "westerner".

What are your plans for the future?

We are in the process of searching for our next project. While China isn't our first choice, we would accept work here if that was what we needed to do.

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