Being a highly sensitive person in urban China

What does it mean to be a Highly Sensitive Person (short HSP) living in one of China’s biggest cities?

It means that there’s a lot of external stress. Maybe much more external stress than you’d have to cope with back at home. Millions of people, hundred thousands of vehicles, ten thousands of sounds, thousands of smells – this might be hard to bear for a not so sensitive person already, but what it means for a highly sensitive person is that your system will be overloaded even more by the density of people, feelings, smells, sounds and colors.

What can you do about it?

  • Find your oasis in the concrete desert. Your oasis might be a nearby park, the sea, a café, or simply your home. For me, my apartment is particularly important. Before moving in, I looked for an apartment with an extra bedroom. The bedroom is just for sleeping – my computer, the television, etc. stay in the living room. This way, I can really focus on resting in the evening.
  • Make time for spending time with just yourself. You might easily get exhausted just by going shopping or going to work – meeting up with friends can be fun but sometimes it’s also really important to just relax on your own and give your brain a rest.
  • Get out of the city whenever you have time for it. Go to the countryside, climb a mountain or just relax in a place with fresh air, nature and not too many other people.
  • Get creative. Read a book, write something, make a painting, cook something, make music, grow a plant. Find activities that you find fulfilling and relaxing.

Although being in such a huge city does have its negative sides, it can also be very inspiring for a highly sensitive person: The markets, the colors, the stories people tell you. Traveling through China’s vast countryside is something I wouldn’t want to miss. The people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made. Ever since starting to study Chinese, I somehow felt that my creativity had been lost in the process. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved studying Chinese. But I needed to go to China to get back my creativity. Once in China, I started to take pictures, make collages by hand, I got into design again and last but not least started making illustrations. After moving to Shenzhen, I started writing this blog. I feel like China has given me back my creativity, and for all the pressure living in a mega city like Shenzhen puts on my system, I’m still very grateful for the inspiration I can draw from everyday life here.

On a side note: If you’re not familiar with what a Highly Sensitive Person (or short HSP) is, here is a good overview on Wikipedia.

P.S.: I saw this came up in a google search, so I’m adding the Chinese translation which I found for highly sensitive person: 高度敏感者 gāodù mǐngǎnzhě or 高度敏感的人 gāodù mǐngǎn de rén, with 高度 meaning to a high degree, 敏感 being the translation for sensitive and 者 or 人 (latter with a 的 in front) describing that this is a person – a person who is sensitive to a high degree. 高度敏感者 is what you’d find in writing, while 高度敏感的人 would be what you’d say in a conversation.

Are you a highly sensitive person and does living in China put a lot of external stress on your system? I’d love to read your stories.

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5 thoughts on “Being a highly sensitive person in urban China

  1. I read ‘dessert’ instead of ‘desert’ – maybe that’s a solution too? 😉
    honestly, I don’t know anyone like that and for me I just enjoy millions of people walking next to me, I love the crowd and noise 🙂


    • You must be the complete opposite of me when it comes to crowds! I like watching them from afar, but being in the middle of one makes me feel uneasy. I’m pretty sure that you have one or the other friend who’s highly sensitive, without them and/or you knowing. It’s not always that obvious, because people often see it as some kind of shortcoming and try to make up for it by trying to act more like outgoing people.


  2. An excellent post–and very good advice. I must be an HSP (One of my daughters definitely is) because everything you say makes sense to me. Besides needing some quiet time, I also need to be surrounded by some beauty.


    • You’re right, we love beautiful things (not necessarily things in a materialistic sense). Many creatives are HSPs. It differs from person to person on how sensitive one is and which are the most sensitive of your organs (eg you could be very sensitive when it comes to noise but not sensitive at all when it comes to smells, or you could be very sensitive with both). It can be inherited, so if you’re highly sensitive, chances are one or the other of your children are too.


  3. It seems that all the noise, the crowds and so forth do not really affect me in any bad way. I have no problems relaxing even there but as soon as I get back to Finland I am startled by the silence.
    The only sounds I can hear from time to time are some birds singing outside and in winter, total silence.
    I can’t say for sure what I prefer but I have the feeling I am less energetic in this kind of silence, but it could be also due to the lack of sun here in winter and hence an overall depression which creeps up with the darkness


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