Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Lydia Ngum
The Black Expat China: 'I Have Learned So Much From My Travels'
Meet Lydia Ngum, a 28-year-old Cameroonian expat who has been living in China for the past three years. Although she has traveled extensively within Cameroon and later to several countries in Asia, moving to China was her first time traveling internationally.
“As a child, I traveled a lot within Cameroon because my parents lived in different cities and that’s how my interest for traveling developed at a very young age, she told Travel Noire. “I started traveling internationally just after relocating from Cameroon to China.”
Lydia, who works in a language center, says her experience in China has been interesting and educating.
“I’ve learned a lot about the different cultures and way of life of the Asians. During my first year in China I experienced the toughest challenges due to the cultural differences, but with time, I was able to adapt.”
“As a Black woman in China of course there will be stares in some places, especially in the smaller cities. There will be people taking random pictures, kids pointing, and so on.”
“Some will even go as far as touching my hair on the bus or subway without permission. I’m like, ‘Don’t touch my braids!’ I’ve also experienced a child crying after seeing me on the train. The little girl’s mom had to change seats so she would stop.”
“Once, while unboarding a flight to Sanya in the South of China, an elderly woman asked me to help her with her bag. Apparently I took the wrong bag, which belonged to another lady. This lady thought I was trying to steal her bag and hit me and seized the bag aggressively. I was completely in shock! My friends got angry and started yelling at her, telling her I was just trying to help the elderly lady.”
“These are some of the things I deal with occasionally during local travels. But the situation is different in the bigger cities. After my first few months there and making a few friends, things got much better.”
Lydia says these types of experiences are not enough to make her leave China, as there are many benefits to living there. “One advantage of working in China is the fact that there are so many national holidays. This allows me to travel frequently.”
“I started exploring different Chinese cities whenever I had a chance and eventually started exploring other countries in Asia. So far I have visited Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Cambodia, Macao, and the United Arab Emirates.”
Lydia says Cambodia is one of her favorite destinations.
“I have a soft spot for Cambodia. The people are so humble and nice towards everyone. As a Black woman, and considering my experiences in Asia, this made it so special to me. Cambodia is a very chill country overall, with a lot of activities to partake in. I have visited twice, and after my last trip the lockdown began once the virus started spreading through China.”
“Since then, I have been traveling locally around China because returning from an international trip will require a long quarantine. Doing so has enabled me to see just how much China truly has to offer.”
“Despite the adaptation struggle, it’s such a beautiful country and very rich in culture. I had plans to visit Europe but I will save them for the future. This year I plan to visit home and some other African countries.”
Lydia says travel benefits her in many ways, but most importantly, it brings her joy.
“I travel on holidays or whenever I’m free. I always crave new experiences–to see new places and try new food. I think my approach towards life has developed a great deal due to these different experiences and meeting people from various backgrounds. I have learned so much from my travels and had a lot of fun in the process. Travel makes me happy in a way that nothing else can.”