We published this article awhile back; now in 2020 we live in quite a different world. As things start to improve across many countries of the world, we are looking to the future with hope, for the day when you can drop everything and come to see what China has to offer.
Below are 10 revised tidbits I wrote while teaching English in China and why you should hop on the plane and see for yourself what you are missing.
The country is growing in every way possible at a breakneck pace and shows no signs of stopping. Skyscrapers shoot 100 stories into the sky within a year, the bullet train network connects more and more cities on a monthly basis and shopping malls open almost daily. Seriously – China built 350 malls last year alone, according to the National Retail Federation.
Supremely fast development continues in 2020. It starts from the underground – China is leading the world with the highest number of subway systems: 40 cities in China now have subways – almost three times as many as in the USA. Progress can be seem in virtually every aspect of life in China and it goes literally all the way to the Moon, as China became the third nation in the world to successfully land a spacecraft on the surface of our celestial neighbor in 2018. Technological achievements affect everyday life too – from smartphone payments and shared bikes to electrical cars and 5G networks.
In addition to the billions of Han Chinese that populate this massive country, China is home to 55 ethnic minorities and hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe. Friendly, funny and awesome are just a few superlatives I used to describe my closest friends and the strangers I’ve met during my travels around China. You’ll make lifelong pals and create memories with people you’ll only spend 15 minutes with. No matter who you meet, your life will be enriched by the stories and experiences they tell and share.
Chinese people are getting more and more acquainted with foreign culture. Only a few years ago, in smaller cities, a laowai (foreigner) could be stared at (not disrespectfully, just out of curiosity) – just because it could be one of the first times that locals witnessed a westerner. These days, you are more likely to be interesting not because of your looks, but because you are a representative of the western culture.
Do you like great food? We thought so. Ask anyone living in China and they’ll tell you the same thing: Chinese food the best in the world. From the spicy essence of Sichuan cuisine to the subtle freshness of Zhejiang dishes, with over a dozen styles of food there is nothing you can’t find in China to delight your taste buds.
In the past few years, food delivery has developed extensively – you can not only enjoy your favorite Chinese delicacies physically at restaurants, you can also have these dishes delivered to your doorstep for as little as 5 RMB (.75 USD).
If it is magnificent views you are after – China has many treasures in store for you. In the last few years, the glass-bridge craze started popping up all over the country. There are now numerous glass bridges spanning over canyons, rivers, valleys – there is an estimate that the number of such bridges is around 2,000 across China – providing stunning views for those who are not afraid of heights!
At 6.15RMB to the dollar and climbing, the cost of living in China is much cheaper than western countries.
The exchange rate is 7.06RMB to the dollar as I am writing this article – so you going to have a slightly bigger bang for your buck. There are more and more premium lifestyle restaurants and shops open in big cities, but in general, the cost of living is still lower than in the West.
The Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, Terracotta Warriors, Shanghai and Hong Kong are all at your fingertips when you live in China. With 47 UNESCO world heritage sites (the second-highest of any country), you will always have something to see.
More beautiful sites were added into the UNESCO Heritage Sites list since 2016 – now, with 55 sites, China is tied in first place with Italy for this rating.
Living abroad actively encourages you to try new things on a daily basis and there’s a sense of freedom that comes with it. With new clubs and groups springing up every day, you can do anything from learning dim sum cooking to entrepreneurs meeting for a drink. It’s always your choice, your opinion and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Did you know that during World War II nearly 20,00 refugees escaped from Germany to Shanghai? How about the fact that the Chinese invented the compass, gunpowder and paper among other things? There is literally 5,000 years of history spread throughout the country and it’s utterly fascinating to learn.
It’s so easy to live here as a foreigner. The cost of living is low, western conveniences are everywhere; Starbucks reportedly opens a new store every 18 hours. People are more than willing to assist no matter what the issue. Whoever says you can’t get around the bureaucratic red tape has never asked for help.
Each year it becomes easier and easier to live as a foreigner in China. The language barrier is getting lower and lower: In EF EPI, Global language proficiency index, China rose from “Low” to “Moderate”. Plus, making payments, ordering food and transportation is as easy as 1-2-3 with the ever prevalent QR code using Alipay and/or WeChat payment systems.
Moving to China means you get to experience the sounds and sights of a new language. It doesn’t matter how much or how little Chinese you know. If you decide to learn, take our advice and learn for free. I have friends who don’t speak any Mandarin and others who shame me with their skills – and both groups are equally comfortable with their lives here.
There are still more people who do not speak English than those who do – especially in smaller cities. But modern technology helps. Messages you receive in WeChat (the most popular local messenger) can be translated with a click of a button. Apps can translate written characters. People are familiar with conversing by typing and translating phrases in their phones.