China has changed a lot since I first moved here 10 years ago. Internet freedom aside, in many ways it’s changed for the better and life has got easier, not only for Chinese people but for foreigners as well. Here are seven things that have improved significantly since I moved to China.
A decade ago, the trains in China were painfully slow and in need of a major overhaul. I have some serious horror stories of long train rides from Guangzhou to Beijing and farther afield: 32 hours sat in a small seat with a giant suitcase at my feet because there was nowhere else to put it; being sold fake tickets by a scam artist in Beijing; spending 22 hours living off potato chips and sweet bread because no food was available on the train.
Now there are high-speed trains running all over China that are among the fastest and most modern in the world. You can get from Guangzhou to Shanghai in less than 10 hours and the service and comfort is much improved. Also, no longer do we have to deal with scam artists, as ticket purchasing has been centralized and simplified by apps such as trip.com, which even comes in English.
When I first moved here, outside of Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, it was hard to get direct flights home to the UK. More often than not, I would need to take two or even three flights. Going home for Christmas was nothing short of an odyssey. Even if there were direct flights from mainland China, they tended to be very expensive.
Now mainland airports are expanding at an incredible rate. Shenzhen and Guangzhou are starting to challenge Hong Kong in terms of flight routes, while other second tier city airports are also upping their game. Although still regularly suffering delays, the domestic flight network is also improving.
Ten years ago, the Chinese government showed little interest in incorporating foreigners into the existing social welfare systems. Expats came here to work, then left, and that was it. We were viewed as people who were just passing through rather than people who might contribute to society and end up settling down here.
The government has since taken big strides to involve foreigners more in the standard workings of society. Social insurance is now fully integrated for foreigners working in China, while a Housing Provident Fund and income tax deductions are also available. There is even an effort to make some services available in English.
When I first moved here, the international movies shown at the cinema were few and far between and heavily restricted. You were lucky to get more than one movie a month, and even then there was no guarantee it would be a new release. The only way to watch new movies was to get a dodgy copy from the local DVD shop, which may well be filmed in a cinema or inexplicably stop 20 minutes before the end.
The number of international movies shown in China has increased massively. You can pretty much guarantee any big blockbuster will be released at the cinema, as long as it’s not seen to be promoting revolution or the dark arts. Sometimes these films are even released in China first, as was the case with the Avengers Endgame. And it's not only blockbusters. Oscar-nominated artsy movies are making it here, too.
Ten years ago, the only international food in many Chinese cities was McDonalds. First tier cities had slightly more variety, but the moment you visited second or third tier cities, the selection was drastically limited or non-existent.
Now I see a lot more international cuisine available in second and even some third tier cities. Not only that, the quality in first tier cities is getting more competitive and the food more innovative. Whereas before, living in China was a big sacrifice for foodies with international tastes, now you can enjoy fabulous global dining experiences, especially in Beijing and Shanghai.
Beer in China used to mean a warm Tsingtao at KTV or a flat pint of Carlsberg in an expat bar. You drank it almost begrudgingly. There was no sign of the craft beer revolution that was taking place elsewhere.
Now, not only is craft beer from all over the world available, but China is producing its own. Brewers, including Jing A, Boxing Cat, Bionic Brew, and NBeer, are all doing great work and winning international awards for their beers. So put down that bottle of 2% Snow and try one of China’s IPAs.
Back in the day, it was rare to see any big international acts in China. I would wait with bated breath for my favorite bands to announce their world tours, but the closest they ever came was Tokyo, or Hong Kong if I was lucky. The few times an artist did make it to mainland China, it would be to Beijing or Shanghai only.
These days, we see many more mid-sized and bigger bands doing four or five-date tours of mainland China. There are also several dedicated event organizers bringing cult bands to smaller Chinese cities, and regular music festivals are starting to take root.
While many things in China still have a long way to go, I can’t wait to see where we are in another 10 years’ time .
Warning：The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.
Keywords: moved to China
All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.
Please login to add a comment. Click here to login immediately.