I won’t deny that I’ve asked myself and I’ve been asked that several times: why live in China?
Going abroad, sure, that sounds like an adventure: new cultures, new food, music etc. A different flavor from the everyday life you know. But China? It’s not a different flavor but rather a different dish altogether. It’s more like an adventure straight out of National Geographic: harsh conditions, eating funny looking foods and languages that make you cry. Yet China is where the masses are flocking to. And after living here for over a year, I can give you the inside scoop as to why this massive rooster shaped country is so appealing.
Let’s be honest. It is a big reason for expats to dart across the globe and settle here. China is where money is made, spent and saved. With the colossal amounts of businesses that are opening a huge demand for employees exist, especially in the education sector. China is determined to increase the number of English speakers among the locals. Hundreds of language schools are popping up and native speakers are called upon to teach English.
It’s also very easy for your bank account to be tapped dry with the exclusive nightclubs, restaurants and hotels that parade around in every big city. If you’re not keen on eating the local cuisine, you’re in for an expensive treat as the majority of western restaurants are almost up to 8 times pricier than the local joint down the street.
However, there is some hope because China can also be lenient towards your wallet and you can save a ton of money. Not just with the ridiculously cheap cuisine but also with transport, every day necessities, travelling and shopping.
The cities here are vibrant. I’ve met many expats from cities like Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Cape Town, New York and Sydney and they feel incredibly bored after leaving China. They all had similar reasons: there’s just more to do in China.And they’re right. Because expats are increasing in numbers the cities aim to keep up and entertain and accommodate everybody. Cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Hong Kong never sleep and are over run by events and activities for both young and old. This is also catching on with China’s other cities. Festivals, parties and flash mobs are the craze and are spreading across the country like wildfire.
China’s history is mysterious and legendary: ninjas, warriors, dragons, Shangri-la just to name a few. A lot of this is still visible today. One can travel a few hours from a city and be completely lost in the nature and be embraced by an ancient feel of mystery and allure. However, it’s China’s ability to merge the old with the new that’s the true talent of the country. Shanghai for example, is known worldwide as the New York of the East. And it’s true, boasting gigantic skyscrapers, luxurious hotels, and beautiful parks, this city deserves the title. However, a few meters from the impressive flashing buildings, you’ll find yourself in small messy alleyways surrounded by dirty broken down homes of the locals selling chicken and fish on the sidewalk. The ability to balance these two worlds is unique to China and it’s quite a treat to experience. You can be rubbing shoulders on the 90th floor with the elite and dining with the food stand owner and the entire neighborhood on the curb in one evening.
The number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites here is staggering. Living in China gives you unlimited access to Yangshuo with its green peeked hills hugging the Li river, Mount Huangshan’s beautiful sunrises, the staggering beauty of Jiuzhaigou, the mystifying Yangtze, the sheer size of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan’s misty rice paddies and Xinjiang’s alluring silk road are only the known beauties that the country boasts. China is a gem. The beauty of the country is raw and humbling. And the best part is that China is simply too large for all the beautiful parts to become landscaped into tourist spots. There’s still plenty of opportunity to get lost in the nature and “discover” untouched sceneries.
You may think that your favourite Chinese restaurant back home is the dumpling or noodle king, but you will be a changed person after dining in China. The food is loved by locals and expats alike. The array of different dishes and flavours are plentiful and I’ve yet to meet one single person that doesn’t love the food here. Little food stands by the side of the road are fast becoming a favourite among all expats: cheap, filling, delicious and a social spot all in one. It’s also one of the most missed things after expats leave China.
China is a refuge for people who want to pave a career for themselves while making money, dining on good and cheap cuisine, travel cheaply to magnificent locations, be humbled by a long and rich culture and be able to discover lazy little villages in the morning and party in the exciting giant cities in the evening.
Why China? If you’re anything like everyone else the answer is: because you’re looking for an enriched life.
Written by Jumé Irmscher