When I first moved to China in 2008, my intention was to stay a year, maybe two before returning home. Six years later I’m still here, with no plans to leave any time soon.
Upon reading this, you may think it’s because I love China. Ok, there are some aspects of my lifestyle here that I appreciate and other times, it frustrates me so much I want to bang my head incessantly against a wall.
I’m cynical by nature and will never be accused of looking at China through Rose-coloured glasses. I know it’s easy to say ‘if you don’t like it, go home’ but for many of us, that’s much easier said than done. For me, there are four strong reasons that keep me here year after year.
The first reason is employment. Most of the Westerners I know in China are English teachers, with a few working for English-speaking magazines/newspapers.
It’s tough finding a decent job back home but quite easy finding a decent ESL job here. When I applied for jobs that I liked back home, I knew I’d be applying for positions with up to 100 other people and over the years, I had to get used to doors being literally shut in my face. Back home, I got a ton of rejection letters. Here, I get regular job offers.
The best job I had in Australia was sorting mail but in China, I can work for international ESL companies. If I get bored with that, I can become a university lecturer. There seem to be many opportunities here for anyone with energy and ambition.
Knowing I have the freedom to change jobs easily (if needed) takes away a lot of pressure and allows me to focus on doing my job well, without wondering if I’ll still have it by the next week.
The second reason (which ties in with the first) is family. In my time here, I married into the local culture and started a family. If I want to take my wife and boys back to Australia, there are so many hurdles to overcome. Firstly, we have to agree on the move, a place to live and secure suitable jobs. We then need to save a lot of money for visas, permits and to support us financially until we have regular incomes. We’d also need to buy a house big enough for at least 5 people. It’s not impossible but would involve a lot of time, money and commitment.
The third reason is money. The cost of living back home has always been high and according to family, seems to be increasing by the month.
Even if people are lucky enough to have good jobs, they can be under a lot of financial pressure to pay expensive mortgages and the increasing costs of utilities, home rates, car insurance and registration. Australia is now the most expensive country in the world to buy a home and it costs more to live in Brisbane and Melbourne than in New York and London.
In Guangzhou the cost of living is much lower, with the biggest difference being the cost of groceries (especially vegetables.) To put the prices in perspective, a loaf of bread costs around $5.00 and a head of lettuce costs $4.00. The cost of the same items in Guangzhou in AUD is about 70c and 60c respectively.
Although utility costs have noticeably increased, I can still pay the bills, and put a little money aside for savings. I can eat out regularly, buy occasional treats and rent an apartment I like without any hassle – in short, enjoy a fairly decent standard of living. Not having a car here saves me a lot of money each year on car insurance, maintenance and other fees that motorists have to pay back home.
The fourth reason is to experience the local culture and attractions. Although I probably haven’t experienced all of Chinese culture just yet I’ve still had some memorable moments.
I’ve eaten moon cakes at mid-Autumn Festival, mingled with flag-waving locals at YuexiuPark on National Day and been to Chimelong Circus and Safari Park.
I’ve been to BaiyunMountain, visited all the temples and eaten until I’m ready to burst at Chinese New Year family dinners. I got married in a traditional Chinese wedding, attended another one as a guest and taught an English lesson (with my old company) in a small village school in the Southern Guangdong region.
I’ve also been to HuangshanMountain and small fishing villages in the Anhui region with my wife and spent an entire afternoon riding a rented bike around West Lake in Hangzhou.
People keep asking me when I’m going back home but for now, China is my home.
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I think that everyone built His or her own destiny According how makes You HAPPY, as im living in China For 5 years i can say at The beggining i taste it in a nice And greatfull way, getting experience that i would not image in My Life to had it, im thanks full For this Country, but in same time According The days run You Will feel An empty whole in your Life, that is, this is not My real Country, whateever The HAPPY And prósperous You aré, but this is not your Country at The end, starting With The rights, that You Will not get same as Chinese never, this things aré real facts, doesnt Mean that im negative in this point, real facts never change, but The way You want To feel And live HAPPY this You can change And CHOOSE as You like. As some one says, The chances aré here For now, GOD Knows until when, At The end our countrys always Will have The OPEn doors For ALL of Us. For Now, According how much ambitious And determination You aré, Can challenge your objetives. Take chances And never Regret, SI LA VIDA TE BRINDA LIMONES, PUES MEJOR HAZ LIMONADA. Rechel :)
Dec 18, 2014 10:59 Report Abuse
Very cool. I like China very much as well. For me, my reasons are food, money, a good job, and safety. With the crime rate in America going up, China is a breath of fresh air....well, I plan on moving down south so my air can literally be fresh. But anyways, China is a great country with a lot to do and so much to learn. I plan on living here for many years.
Nov 29, 2014 04:31 Report Abuse
A good post with a positive outlook. Always welcome as China is so wrought with a pessimistic smog. My reasons are kind of similar to yours but I managed to break out of the ESL game and carve up something else. If you are ambitious and determined, I am certain you can do that same. So my last reason is mainly family. In a few years, I think I will be heading back home. I will have spent a decade in China and I do appreciate the time it has given me. The greatest gift China will give to everyone here is time (to use as you wish) and knowledge. You will find your pace of life slow down (nice change from the West) and this gives you a chance to discover yourself and what you want to do with your life. You aren't so busy surviving that you have more time to think about your future, save and develop your skills. Just use your time well as China will never allow us to be totally integrated (at least not for a great deal of time) and one day you will leave.
Nov 14, 2014 15:01 Report Abuse
I think this is the real issue. I mean no country is perfect, obviously, but can you imagine, somebody whose father wasn't born in China, becoming as powerful as Sarkozy was in France? Or hell, a minority being elected like Obama? Or hell, you can vote. Nobody stays here. Nobody CAN stay here, so stop calling it home.
Nov 14, 2014 16:07 Report Abuse
-But I disagree with you almost 100% -First: China is not your home. Do you have a Chinese passport or green card? Can you work in any industry or change jobs at choice? Can you decide to work pt at the local bookstore of cafe? Can you vote? Or rather do you depend on a narrow visa that can be taken away from you at the whim of other people? -Second your children. Do you want them to go to a Chinese university? A university where 99% of student write plagarized essays, where professors have sex with girls for grades? A university where students are forced to march in circles while shouting they will be like Lei Feng? -Third your health. How long will you live in the toxic soup of Chinese air? The worst AQI in the US a few weeks ago was 78...Harbin was over 700. What does this do to your health? Need to go to a hospital, but you don't know if the doctors are giving your real pills, or just making up stuff to pad their bills? -Fourthly the best job you ever had was sorting mail? The fact that you see a future in ESL is not a great sign. Without a real education degree or PGCE you will have no chance at teaching at a real IB/AP school, which means you are stuck at language mills and the like forever. I just got my CELTA and realize that for less work and more money I could be in the middle east, or even go back to Korea. -I know you love your wife and kids, and China is very nice and easy to live, but the total lack of social mobility means my girl and I are out of here, and will only have our children in a place with a blue sky.
Nov 11, 2014 15:26 Report Abuse
Your points are valid but not really appropriate for this blog post - the OP is happy here in spite of the problems you point out. He comes across as humble and realistic about his situation while your post comes across as bitter and spiteful. That's not to say that what you're saying is factually incorrect. But why try to convince a guy who's happy that he should be miserable?
Nov 13, 2014 21:01 Report Abuse
Great blog post. There's a lot of negativity on this site and it's nice to hear from someone with a realistic and balanced perspective who is happy here. Good for you adb! This is also so much better to read than the nauseatingly naive posts of the eternal China optimist Hadley.
Nov 11, 2014 11:03 Report Abuse