My Grandparents Fled China. Two Generations Later, I Returned

I was born in Taiwan, and I moved to the United States when I was very young.  For most of my life, I didn’t know much about China. My family is originally from JiangSu, China. My grandparents fled to Taiwan with the Kuomingtang Party. I met my husband in Davis, California – coincidentally, his family also originated from the same part of JiangSu as my grandparents. Two generations after my grandparents fled, we moved to China with our kids in tow, and I am now practicing medicine in China.

Why We Moved to China

There came a point, as parents, when we realized it would be essential to teach our children Mandarin. We knew this would be a daunting task as our Mandarin skills were lacking at the time, and we had suffered through Mandarin lessons as children. This desire to give our kids the ultimate immersion experience prompted us to explore the possibility of moving to China.

Exploring on Weekends

We lived in Nanjing, China, between 2013 to 2015. When we left, we didn’t plan to move back to China, though I continued to visit China at least 1-2 times a year. Then in 2020, when COVID19 hit and we saw how China managed to control it and re-open its economy, we decided to move our family back. This time we wanted to try a new city and picked Suzhou, known as the “Venice of the East,” and I am now re-navigating practicing medicine in China.

While living in China, I have enjoyed traveling via China’s high-speed rail. This mode of transportation connects you to major cities within minutes to hours. During our first year in China, we traveled as often as we could on weekends and holidays, visiting nearby cities such as Hangzhou, Wuxi, Suzhou, and Shanghai. When we ran out of close-by options, we took overnight trains visiting Harbin, which hosts the International Ice Festival every winter, and Xian, home of the Terra-Cotta Warriors. In our final year, we ventured even farther by flying to places like ZhangJiaJie, home to the mountains that inspired the movie Avatar, and visiting Tibet.

Other than travel, one of the best parts about living in China has to be the food. I have quipped that one day I will write a book about the fifty shades of hot pot. The food is not only fresh, but the variety of Chinese cuisine is overwhelming. There is not enough time in a year to try them all.

China with Kids

Over the past few decades, the quality of life in China has improved immensely. Though the cost of living has increased, most services are still very affordable. What I have enjoyed most is having an “ayi” – a housekeeper or nanny. My “ayi” in the past has helped with childcare, cooking, and cleaning.

China is also very kid-centric. There are many family-friendly activities for families with small children, such as swim classes for babies. cooking, art, fencing, tutoring, martial arts, dance, and calligraphy classes. There is also an abundance of private daycares for small kids, with a growing number of Montessori schools. For more information on schooling check out 8 Tips for a Successful Move to China.

Practicing Medicine in China

During my time in Nanjing, I practiced outpatient medicine locally and conducted telehealth visits for patients in the US. In 2014, it was easier to get telemedicine opportunities – MDLive and Teladoc were relatively new, and it was easy to get hired. When we moved back to the US in 2015, I stopped working with these companies. In 2020 when we moved back to China, I found that the telemedicine landscape had changed. These companies were more saturated with physicians, and Teladoc and American Well required physicians to be physically located in the US. At the same time, MDLive had restrictions on the duration of time outside the US. Though I could not return to Teladoc and MDLive, I was fortunate to work for Circle Medical as their telehealth physician. To learn more, check out The Ultimate Guide to Practicing Medicine in China.

Lessons Learned

Moving to China has been a unique and unforgettable experience. While China has a lot to offer for both your career and the expat experience, transitioning to China can be overwhelming and daunting. I share my insights in the Ultimate Guide to Practicing Medicine in China and 8 Tips for a Successful Move to China with the hope that physicians interested in transitioning to China will have the information they need to be as prepared as possible. 

Pinchieh Chiang DO is a family medicine doctor, trained in the United States, living in China, and practicing telemedicine into the United States.

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