A Day in the Life of an American Living in China

Awhile back I wrote what a perfect day in my life would be like. Honestly, it was really a wild scenario that maybe could become a reality, but I thought it would be cool to show you what my day is really like here in Guangzhou China.

No fluff. No nonsense. Just the real deal.

I think you will quickly see how this isn’t the glamorous life that some might believe—traveling to exotic locations every couple of weeks and partying like no tomorrow… No that is called a vacation.

This is the real life here—not a vacation—but it still beats the hell out of what I was doing back home.

So, live a day in the life of an American expat in China:

8:00am: Wake up. I’m tired. Go back to sleep.

just waking up in the morning

8:15am: I’m up now. That 15 minutes didn’t do much but I have to get this day started. I turn on the electric kettle and sit down at my computer.

Electric kettle and tea pot

The greatest invention.

I’ve been writing 1,000 words every morning when I wake up. Why? Because I like to brag that I write so much.

Just kidding—but for real, I read this post by this guy who writes 1,000 words every day and his writing skills have improved immensely. Considering that I’m trying to hack it as a freelance writer, it only makes sense that I should write as much as possible.

8:45am: The water that I started earlier is nice and hot but just cool enough to drink, so I make some tea and get ready to study some Chinese. I’ve been doing about an hour a day, which is not enough to get to the level that I want, but priority number one right now is making money.

chinese video lecture practice

My Chinese instructor, Yang Yang. She’s a BO$$.

9:45am: I switch gears and pull out my notepad. If you don’t know what copywriting is, that’s okay. In fact, that’s probably a good thing because it means more opportunities for myself and others who are willing to put in the time.

Copywriting is persuasive content that pushes the user or consumer to take action. It is usually written for a product, blog post, or email newsletter and many business owners and entrepreneurs will pay a happy penny for it… If you’re good.

Chances are you’ve either seen or purchased a product as a direct result from someone’s awesome copywriting skills.

So, I’ve been spending an hour a day copying down sales letters and analyzing everything from how headlines are used to how an emotional hook can keep your reader reading.

At the root of this skill is human psychology, so reading about it and how to improve is actually kind of interesting.

As an example, you can read about a famous copywriter, Joe Karbo, here.

10:45am: I’m ready to workout. I’ve done most of my resource and learning activities for the day and I’m ready to release some energy.

I’ve been a cheap bastard lately and haven’t joined a gym yet, so I’ve been sticking to body weight stuff like push ups, sit-ups, pull ups, and the occasional sprints.

What I realized, however, is that my physical health should be a top priority, and usually always has been—so I have no excuse not to front the bill for a gym membership and maybe just not go out partying a couple times per month. The savings from not drinking will pay for the membership itself.

Today, I do half of a herschel, around 150 pushups and sit-ups, and then run over to an area called Zhujiang New Town. It’s a long open area where there is room to sprint.

It’s a shame there aren’t really any parks or open fields in the vicinity. Running on cement sucks.

I do 5 sets of sprints of about 200 yards, resting about 90 seconds in between. By the time I’m done I want to spit my lungs out of my chest but the burn feels good. My hamstrings throb from the lack of physical activity I’ve put them through but it’s a good reminder to keep consistent.

12:00pm: The roommates and I head down to our lunch spot and pick up food. There is little variation in the food I eat here as the places near our apartment offer few options. I get the duck and roasted pork combination which comes with rice and cabbage.

chopped duck and roasted pork with rice and cabbage

What I eat nearly everyday for lunch. Only costs 10 Yuan! Meh…

It’s funny after being here for nearly three months, I’ve stopped looking at food as something I enjoy but rather as purely sustenance for my body. Since I don’t go grocery shopping for anything other than basic necessities, I am no longer tempted buy unhealthy foods or new and interesting snacks.

Back in the states I ate pretty healthy but anytime I’d go shopping at Trader Joe’s, I’d see something less than optimal for health and I’d have to flex that willpower muscle. Frankly, that just doesn’t happen here.

12:30pm: I finish up eating and watch the rest of a Joe Rogan podcast on Youtube. If you haven’t listened to this guy talk then you should now. He always has some fascinating guests on his show and everything he says is pretty damn funny.

1:00pm: I get back to my computer and fire up Udemy, the online learning website. I bought a couple of courses on advertising, online media, and affiliate marketing. There is some good info on here and it’s an area I’ve been interested in for a couple of years now.

The course I’m on now teaches how to advertise and drive traffic with Facebook. This is kind of an untouched platform in this regard and people who are getting into it now and are serious about it can make some real cash.

2:00pm: Time to read some mothaf*cking books.

Between the roommates and myself, we’ve been like reading machines—downloading audio books, reading pdfs on the Internet, and of course, good ol’ paperbacks.

Right now I’m reading this book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. If you’re into learning about how the brain works and why people behave in certain ways, then I highly recommend picking this up. It’s an awesome read so far.

3:00pm: I’ve got my first class of the day. I head to the metro and jump over one stop to Zhujiang New Town. I’m teaching two classes, 90 minutes each, for young students about 10 years old.

Their English at this level is really quite basic but the goal is to introduce new vocabulary or new concepts and make it fun. Since these courses are supplemental to their normal education, it’s important to not make it feel like more school.

Kids here do so much damn homework all the time you really don’t want to burn them out. Happy students = happy parents 😉

7:00pm: Finished up with the classes and now I’m heading back to the apartment. Teaching was fairly straight forward today. Nothing too intense or out of the ordinary.

7:30pm: I make it back to Liede (the area I live) and jam over to the vegetable soup place. This place is ideal for someone who is looking to maintain some healthy eating habits if you know what I mean.

You take this basket and fill it with loads of greens and veggies. Think lettuce, sprouts, mushrooms, fresh cabbage, and any other meat or tofu variation you might want.

Then they boil it down in this salty broth until soft and tender. The whole thing usually costs about 20 yuan ~ $3 USD. It’s like the Chinese style Chipotle yo!

vegetable soup

The Holy Grail of healthy eating in China! Also used as an incredible hangover cure. Take that pizza!

8:30pm: After I finish dinner and unwind I jump back on the computer and send out more proposals on Upwork—the freelancing website I’ve been using to get work online.

I recently won two bids and have been writing content for blogs and Amazon product descriptions. I’m starting off small but my mindset is in the right place—I’m in it for the long haul.

Everyone I know who has made money doing anything worthwhile will tell you that they put in significant time and energy before any big payoff was realized.

And I’m okay with that.

Just have to put your head down and keep going.

10:00pm: I’m pretty spent after researching, writing, and emailing back and forth with clients so I decide to watch some Netflix or Youtube. I put on a Netflix Original Documentary that caught my eye called “Cooked.”

It’s a series produced by the author Michael Pollan, in which he talks about the history of how humans have cooked using a variety of methods across different cultures.

It’s an interesting documentary but not really groundbreaking, in my opinion. Seeing that it is an interpretation from his book of the same title, I now want to read the book and see if it’s any good.

11:30pm: Time to sleep my friends. It’s been a long but productive day and I sit in my bed and ponder the meaning of the universe—naaa just kidding.

My head hits the pillow and I’m out.

Tomorrow will be much of the same. Trying to learn as much as possible, be productive with my time and make money when the opportunity arises.

If you noticed, I have a shitload of free time and that is just how I like it.

I can devote significant amounts of time to things that are going to make me better at what I want to do while minimizing the amount of time doing shit I don’t want to do.

This is a stark contrast from how things were back in the states when 95% of my time was spent doing work that I didn’t care for nor was it helping me become better at anything I really wanted to do.

We all have busy lives either taking care of our family members or making money to make ends meet but I’d suggest writing down your day and seeing where you can make improvements.

When you write out your whole day like this you see where you can save time, where you’re wasting time, and how to become more efficient.

For fun buy a journal and, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, write down everything you do for one day.

You might just see how much time is wasted doing menial shit like browsing websites or staring at your phone.

If you really want to improve yourself and improve your life, you’ve got to start with the details.

“An unexamined life is not worth living.” –Socrates


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  1. Susan Bevins

    Loved this! I really feel like I get what your life is like in China! It’s inspiring to see how driven you are to succeed.
    Love mom

  2. Alex Rogers

    Harrison this is awesome! It’s cool to know what you’re up in China. Sounds like you’re doing what makes you happy and that’s awesome. I subscribed so I can keep up with your traveling self! Keep on keeping on pal.

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