help out a doctoral student

I haven’t been posting much recently, but I have been responding to the emails receive. The next few post will be a series of questions I have answered over email, but haven’t yet posted about. Maybe some of the answers will be useful to you.
The first is a request we received to help a grad student who needs China expats to complete a survey regarding cultural adjustment. Here is the information:

My name is Natalie R Thornberry. I am a doctoral candidate at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, United States of America. 

I am asking for your cooperation in the completion of my dissertation, Counseling and Expatriate Adjustment. The purpose of my dissertation is to examine the Western expatriate adjustment to living and working in China and variables that contribute to the expatriate successful adjustment. Specifically, I am looking at the influence of counseling and mental health services on expatriate adjustment.

If you agree to participate in the research,click on the following link to an online survey, . You may pass on the link to anyone you think might participate. The survey contains questions you will answer about yourself and your experience living and working abroad. You are under no obligation to participate. Participation is completely voluntary and all collected information will be anonymous.

Again, the link is

I appreciate any help in completing my research and thank you for considering it.

Dear Customs Officials

This post serves as a PSA of sorts. If you ever find yourself receiving a package that gets stuck in customs, here is our experience and how we got our salad dressing released from customs “prison.”


We recently received a package from a dear friend. The package was full of small individual packets of salad dressing. I asked for them to use on our field trips this summer.
Anyway, the box was big and had a large quantity of these dressings, which meant it was stopped by customs. We got an email from them saying we could have the package when we submitted our business license and import license. What? We didn’t have either of those things, nor were we planning on selling the dressing. It took two local friends helping us to get our salad dressing released from customs prison. Turns out, the letter of the law says you can send no more than 10 of any one item. Clearly, we had more than ten packets in there. And we don’t have an import license. So, our next requirement was that we had to submit a letter explaining that they are for personal use and beg for the release of our salad dressing.

I felt inconvenienced and bothered that we were having to call and write letters and go to so much trouble just to get some salad dressing that a loving friend had already paid full shipment price for.
Our local friend wrote the letter to China customs on our behalf to save us the time it would take us to compose such a letter in Chinese.

Below is google translate’s version of that letter in English. Perhaps you can use it as a template of sorts if you find yourself in the same situation.

Dear hard-working Chinese customs officers :
Our whole family for your work extra burden apologize !
We very much enjoy living and working here . However , the eating habits, our family is very special to miss some American food seasoning . Difficult for us to buy these spices from China . So we had to let our relatives and friends in the United States to our mailing these spices. For ease of use , our friends have specially selected individually wrapped , and small size, light weight mailed to us .
We have not asked in detail about the conditioning requirements for customs inspection of China , it is our fault.
We just would like to affirm that all of these spices is to us a man consumed spices . Our families are more like the small package mailed spices , everyone will use several meal , so all of these spices that we will soon be finished .
After this experience we know that the relevant provisions of China Customs , and later we will strictly comply with these requirements .
Thank you !

Aside from the humor of the letter, I just have to say, it’s nice to have friends. Even on my best day it is doubtful that I could have humbled myself to the point of saying sorry for causing a burden to the customs officials when I felt like the situation was reversed or admitted fault in the situation.

Anyway, we’re enjoying our salad dressing now. And we’re thankful for the friend who sent it and the friends who helped us get it to our door step.

We did have to pay and additional 61 RMB is taxes and a fee that allowed the shipping company to act on our behalf at China Customs.

What Taxi Drivers Have to Say in Hohhot

I’ve been noticing recently how much the conversation I have with taxi driver’s has changed over the last few years. Read what I wrote about it for the Beijing Review:

During both of my previous stints living in Hohhot (2002-04 and 2006-07), every time I took a taxi the conversation between the cab driver and myself was largely the same. He or she would ask where I was from. I would respond that I was from America. He or she would then say that America is so prosperous and developed—why would I come to such a backward, undeveloped city like Hohhot? I would generally respond that I thought it was developing very quickly, he or she would agree, and then move on to inquire about why I wasn’t yet married.

Read the rest of the article by clicking this link. is one!

Today is officially one year since our first post went live. Happy Anniversary to us!

Here’s a brief look at our year in review:

Last year when we began on July 18th, we had 67 viewers those remaining two weeks in July. This year, we generally have 4000-5000 viewers a month.

We started with that first blog post and have been slowly increasing our content since then. We now have 20 pages and 189 blog posts.

The pages that get the most views (other than the home page/blog) are the forum and the travel page.

The post that received the most comments was this one (Although we lost those comments when we moved servers, so you’ll just have to take my word for it). Who knew used furniture would be such a hot topic?

The funniest thing that someone typed in a search engine that actually found this site was: Hohhot belly dancing. Crazily enough those words are actually in this post I wrote about finding a gym.


What would you like to on the site in the next year? Or, did you have a favorite post from the past year that didn’t get mentioned? Leave us a comment to let us know.




away for a bit…

Well, my family and I made an unexpected trip back home to the States. We’ll be here through the summer. I’ll try to continue updating, but the posts will decrease in frequency for a bit.

I’ll also try to work on updating some of the other pages, and I’ll post here when I get something accomplished.

I hope you summer travelers enjoy our city and province and continue leaving comments and sending emails if there’s any question I can answer for you.


health care in Hohhot (and beyond)

I wrote a post last year about getting medical care in Hohhot. (Click link to read it)

Unfortunately, we’ve had to access the Chinese medical system even more since then, so this post is to update some of our thoughts and opinions.

This is what we’ve learned about the medical system in Hohhot. This post just represents our opinion and experience so if you have other suggestions or experiences please leave a comment.

  • It seems to us that very few locals just walk in and see a doctor that they have no prior relationship with. They call friends until they know someone who knows someone who is the kind of doctor they need. You too, should use relationship when possible. Ask a local friend who they know and that will go a long way toward having a better experience.
  • Find out what each hospital specializes in or is known for being good at. For example, we’ve recently learned that the 356 Hospital (Wu Jing Yi Yuan) supposedly has the best doctors and equipment for treating kidney stones using ESWL. And the 253 Hospital is known for good cosmetic surgery. (No, I didn’t have cosmetic surgery, but my daughter did get stitches in her face. :( We were recommended to go there to lessen the chance of a scar). We have found that many times once you get to a doctor, they will generally tell you clearly if you are at the right place or not. If you chose the wrong department, they’ll tell you. If they don’t have the skill to diagnose or treat your condition, they will tell you and refer you to someone/somewhere who can. It is frustrating to have to go to more than one place, but it’s better in the end to get better, more skillful care.
  • In our experience, getting any test (blood work, MRI, CT, etc) is easy and cheap. Getting the proper diagnosis and/or treatment plan is more difficult. (especially if you’re not interested in Chinese or Mongolian medicine) We’ve had good experience with getting the test here then sending the the results to a doctor we trust in Beijing or at home in the US to make a diagnosis or make a treatment plan.
  • Overuse of antibiotics is a big deal. They pass out IV antibiotics before any tests are run, before it’s known if the condition is even caused by a bacteria in the first place. Here are some articles that address this problem’s causes and solutions for improvement better than I could. My simple advice is don’t take them until you are certain they are necessary.,8599,2103733,00.html

  • My basic advice about getting medical attention in Hohhot is this: Avoid it when possible. Eat healthy foods, exercise, and avoid high-risk behaviors. Next, if you must seek medical care, the system here is adequate for routine tests, minor illnesses, or situations that need to be addressed quickly (the stitches in my daughter’s face, for example). For anything else, my advice is to get to Beijing or another large city.

If you are in the situation where you have an issue that needs to be addressed with a greater standard of care, I highly recommend OASIS INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL in Beijing.  Oasis opened in 2012 and they were so great to us when we were there in February. They provide an international level of care in an English-speaking environment, for prices lower than Beijing United in most cases. (And much more willing to work with us on prices than BJU ever was). They’re also been great to let us send results and provide consults via the phone and we’re grateful for the care they’ve given us.

I hope you don’t need to use it, but here is their contact information if you do:

No. 9 Jiuxianqiao Bei Lu
Chaoyang District, Beijing 100015 China


Telephone 400 UR OASIS (876 2747)
Office (+86 10) 5985 0361 | Mobile (+86) 138 10700199
24-Hour Emergency Service (+86 10) 5985 0333

looking for a house (apartment) in Hohhot

Our family is considering a move in the coming months. I wrote a lengthy post on finding a house in Hohhot last year. It’s no fun process, and I can’t imagine trying it without Chinese, so my post today is an offer of help.

If anyone else happens to be looking for a new place right now, leave your desired qualities in the comments and as I scour internet ads, get hounded by realtors, and view homes that aren’t right for us, I can pass those along to you.

Please remember, I’m a mom of two small girls first, so I’m not offering to be your realtor, but if I see something that fits what you’re looking for as we search, I’m happy to pass the contact information to you.

Also, I think that in a year’s time since I wrote the linked post above, rental prices have probably risen 5-10%. I don’t have any official statistics, just my guess from what we’ve already seen.


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