As I mentioned above, living in China is a noisy business. There are just cultural differences in the idea of privacy and noise pollution. Things that I consider to be unhealthy and stressful are considered business as usual. As a result, the choice to be in China for any length of time is a major decision and requires a lot of creativity in trying to get around noise problems.
Just to give you a taste of what living and working in China involves (and this is just the noise aspect of things):
I live in staff housing on a college campus. Most of my work is done in my apartment, so my living space is essentially also my work space. I contend with the following:
24-Hour Construction Zone
The staff housing sits on the edge of a truly massive construction zone, and it is in operation 24 hours a day. It might be hard to imagine, but throughout China, construction is a constant. Half the projects seem to end up abandoned part way through, but when the developer is serious, they go through the night seven days a week.
The college broadcasts student radio from loudspeakers posted around the campus. No one has a radio, so there is no option for tuning in. There is a loudspeaker just outside the staff housing, so when broadcasts are made (three times a day - noon, dinner, and around 9 pm), it is so loud that I can't have a telephone conversation inside my apartment or hear the sound from anything playing on my computer.
Good Morning and Night Trumpet
Despite not being a military college, there is a loud trumpet call played at 6 am and 10 pm every day. Again, the loudspeaker is right outside my building, so I definitely hear it.
The school keeps a construction garbage dump just below my second floor window. There is frequent dumping and loading of bricks, metal, gravel, and various assorted materials.
We have low-flying helicopters pass by more frequently than I would guess necessary. I think there is a military school or base somewhere in the area. It could be training. I hope they don't crash on or around us.
It wouldn't be China without firecrackers. They can be set at any time of day or night for reasons I still don't truly understand. It was much worse in the small town I worked in a few years ago (I'm on the outskirts of a city now). In the former, firecrackers seemed to go off for several minutes at a time almost every day, at any time of day or night. Nobody was able to tell me why except that people were just 'happy'. I know when new stores opened, they'd be set off, but there couldn't have been that many new openings.
There isn't really anything I can do about changing these things. I've had to accept that I made the choice to come to China (again), and that being here means I have to put up with a lot of nonsense. I do try to work around certain things - like not scheduling phone calls when the student radio is on. And I have trusty headphones with music - although not all work goes well with music, I find. I will be relocating once my semester is finished :)