What’s on Your 2017 Cultural Bucket List?

When we first moved to Kunming a couple of years ago, I was rarin’ to get out and explore all that this new location had to offer. I wanted to visit ALL the parks, try ALL the local food, and find ALL the little hole-in-the-wall shops that are often key to life in China. Although we did some of those things at the beginning of our time here, my motivation faded and we slipped into a comfortable routine in our little quadrant of the city. The parks, food, and shops are still out there waiting.

Has the same happened to you? Maybe there are experiences you wanted to try, foods you wanted to be brave enough to sample, or places you wanted to visit, but the years have passed and you’re in a comfortable rut. All those things are left undone.

Well, a new year is coming up and it’s a good reminder to all of us to get out and explore!


I’m writing up a Bucket List of the things I want to do in our city for 2017. I’m including things about the culture, food, and language that I want to experience. Here are some of the items I’ve added so far:

  • Memorize 3 awesome karaoke songs in Mandarin – I love learning language from songs, but I don’t often make the effort to learn all the lyrics. I need to find three songs I can sing solidly. (I should probably add “Find friends to go sing karaoke with, and kill it singing my 3 memorized Mandarin songs” to my list.)
  • Find a good jiaozi shop – Jiaozi are little stuffed dumplings that my whole family really likes. They’re considered northeast cuisine, so they’re not super common down here in the southwest. We found a good jiaozi shop when we first moved here, but then, as happens to so many things in China, it closed without warning. After that, we defaulted to a jiaoziless existence. It’s time to change that.
  • Memorize the order of the zodiac animals – We have nearly lived in China for a complete cycle of the zodiac (twelve years!) and yet I still get the order of the animals mixed up. It can’t be that hard to memorize them. You got this, girl.
  • Take video of the top spinners – Early in the morning in certain plazas around town, there are guys that spin big tops on the ground by repeatedly whipping them with big, well, whips. They make an incredibly loud crack which is disconcerting if you don’t know what’s going on. Anyway, I want to go some morning to watch them and get video footage. if I’m lucky, maybe they’ll even let me have a go at it. And then they’ll have video footage of a crazy foreigner failing at top spinning. Can’t wait.
  • Go to Shilin (Stone Forest) – This is arguably the most famous tourist destination in Kunming, which is partially why we’ve avoided it so far. Crowds = ugh. But, it seems like we should do our Kunming expat duty and go at least once.
  • Feed the famous Siberian seagulls at Dianchi – We did this last year, but since the seagulls are only in Kunming during the winter, I want to make sure we see them before they migrate back to Siberia. For the record, I am not normally a seagull fan. I have scary memories of what seagulls are capable of when you’re a little kid with food in your hand at the beach. But, the Siberian seagulls are beautiful and have good manners.

What about you? No matter where you’ll be living in 2017, do you have some things about the culture, language, food, or music in your area that you’d like to try? Maybe there’s something in your city that used to intrigue you as you walked past, but now you hardly notice it? Some attraction you keep putting off seeing “until we get visitors”? What things are waiting for you to explore in the coming year?

We’d love to hear your Cultural Bucket List in the comments!

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Emily Steele Jackson was born and raised in the U.S., though she's spent much of her adult life traveling and living overseas. Wherever she travels, she tries to pick up some of the local language, and learns to cook at least one local dish. She has lived in China with her husband and two kids since 2005, and records their adventures at www.smalltownlaowai.com.

5 thoughts on “What’s on Your 2017 Cultural Bucket List?

  1. This year I want to learn to make pancit (a local dish), visit a historical landmark with my family, and attend a local festival.

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