China has long had a luring relationship with the mind of many foreigners. For some it’s a place of no go. I still remember my friends warning me not to go live in china when I told them of my plans in 2009. Others believe; probably influenced by the movies they watched in their childhood, that the country has been stuck into a fantasy époque. There are multitude of reasons why this country has such a fascinating imprint into foreigners mind. For men, chinese ladies is also one of these reasons.
After 9 years, I developed a pretty good sense of why life in china is great; and what are the inconveniences attached to it. I will leave the negative sides for another time, since this is also important; and give you 10 great reasons why you want to live in china.
Table of Contents
1. They don’t go back home do they?
One of the great signs of the quality of life foreigners who live in china enjoy, can be found in the amount of years they remain in this country. Most of the foreign people I knew in the country, stayed there for a minimum of 5 years. Even those who cried their moms food, stayed 6 or 7 years. Amongst my close circle, I am the one who left the earliest after 9 years. It’s very typical to meet people who live in china for 10, 15, 20 years. Quality of life and accessibility to many things is one of the reasons behind their decision to stay longer and longer.
So let me give you a quick tour of why more and more foreigners live in china longer and longer.
2. Pretty girls
Let’s face it. If you are a man who lives in china, chances are it’s because you had some sort of connection with a chinese girl back home and that left a great imprint into your mind. Chinese women are really pretty and they somehow have managed to subdue wrinkles to ridicules. Even as someone who lived in china for so many years, I still had difficulties, at time, telling the age of some ladies just by looking at their faces. I resorted to observing their hands, since the later seem to be of indefectible accuracy.
One Chinese lady herself, summarised how a male foreigner should feel when he lives in china. “China and the girls is like a candy store, where foreign men are kids left alone in that store”. Although I would not validate her statement, there is an element of truth in what she said.
3. Great food
China is one of the most diverse and complex cuisine in the world. It would take books just to summarise the kind of food this country has to offer; and even more scriptures to get into the details of each food. Most foreigners know about the classic egg-fried rice, jiaozi, xiao long bao. But that’s like summarising France with one kind of cheese. The amount of food to discover is immense. So much so that like Fuchsia Dunlop spent at least 20 years talking about the subject. Each region has a speciality and his renowned for a certain type of food. And even the Chinese food that are popular outside of china, taste way better in china. And since chinese are not shy to express their opinions, you can get pretty accurate reviews on the quality of restaurants with apps such as Dianping.
3.1. Types of food you might come across
3.1.1. BEIJING – Lamb hot pot 老北京涮羊肉
The authentic way is only made of sliced lamb, Chinese cabbage and sesame paste sauce. I suggest to eat with a small sesame roll (芝麻酱烧饼）that you can order from the restaurant.
3.1.2. 北京烤鸭 Roast Peking duck
This is a must try dish in Beijing. When you live in China, you realise how different the roasted duck is from abroad. But Beijing tops it all. The crispy skin with sugar, the slice meat wrapped in a flat pancake and the sauce is just wonderful.
3.1.3. SHANGHAI – 生煎包 Pan-fried Meat bun
Something foreigners die for in Shanghai. It’s very inexpensive and you can find it in many street corners of the city. Great with CHINKIANG VINEGAR as accompanying sauce.
3.1.4. Shanghai 大闸蟹 Hairy Crab
You can not say you have lived in China, if you have not tried the hairy crabs. The best season to enjoy that dish is the lunar calendar, which is the ninth month for female crabs and tenth month for males. Once more, it’s ideal when accompanied by the Chinkiang vinegar. Check out why here.
3.1.5. 上海红烧肉 Shanghai style braised pork belly
Braised pork belly is a comfort food, best with steamed rice. The signature dark brown colour is a result from the dark colour soy sauce and caramelised sugar. Shaoxing rice wine gives it a more complex flavour and aroma.
3.1.6. GUANGDONG – 广式清蒸鱼 Steamed fish w. of soy sauce
This is the traditional and simplest way Cantonese people cook fresh water fishes. Expect full flavour.
3.1.7. SICHUAN – 回锅肉
This double cooked sliced pork is the king of Sichuan cuisine. Many foreigners absolutely love it after the first time they try it. Check-out the recipe below.
3.1.8. 西安 (XI AN)
酸汤水饺（Dumpling in Hot and Sour Soup). If you travel to Xi An, other than a visit to the terracotta tomb, you must try this signature dish. The dumpling filled with minced lamb submergesd into the hot sour soup. Shan Xi aged mature vinegar is the key seasonings for this soup. You can check-out why here.
4. If you live in China, learn chinese
In the numerous articles I have written about the mindset and ways to learn chinese, I bring forward a simple point that I illustrate with numbers. Chinese language is like a jigsaw puzzle and the only things, as a student, you have to determine, is how many pieces you want your game to be. 1,000 characters will allow you to read most Chinese newspapers. 5,000 will make you a bilingual.
4.1. A jigsaw puzzle, not a chore
When you break it down into the required efforts, you realise that if you were to learn 5 characters a day everyday for 200 days a year, within few month you could achieve this objective of reading most chinese newspapers. Or, said in a different way “1 or 2 years goes by very quickly”. Therefore learning a new language could give you a great reason why you’d want to live in china. Along the way, you could discover many hidden secrets of this country; explore places people, even locals do not know about; and eat all kinds of food.
Check your chinese level by taking this quick quiz. We might just be able to help. Alternatively, if you are the action driven kind, just take a dip into the common phrases and words you will need when you travel to china.
5. Accessibility to Asia
One of the things that will almost shock you when you get into the country, is how convenient and easy is the transportation system. It might shock you because, for a long time we have been led to believe the transportation system of our individual countries was superior.
5.1. First class transportation
Metro in places such as Shanghai or Beijing will put to shame London or Paris underground, by their accurate timing, the cleanliness of their trains and the high connectivity (you can actually log online in the metro). Moreover, if metro is not your thing, there are plenty of taxis at all time of the day or night to take you anywhere.
Just a note on taxis: Avoid the black taxis if you are not accompanied by a local who knows his way. You could end-up paying extra.
The trains are getting better and better, faster and on time. As for the planes, with so much transportation options, you could travel on near empty planes, to destinations inside the country at very competitive fares. The airlines provide more than decent meals on a 2 hour journey, something that has become increasingly rare in places such as Europe. And if that’s not enough, regular planes fly all over different Asian countries; although for some country, the journey could become “roccambolesque” (my yoga journey to India was a trip). So, as you can see, transportation alone could be one great reason you would want to live in china。
6. A unique time
Something that does not get mentioned a lot, is the uniqueness of the time we live in, as far as living in china is concerned. We often hear that china has a rapid development pace; but not many people stop to understand what that means. I used to watch these old movies about how the far west developed with such tv series as DEADWOOD, but I never got to witness the history. Somehow, when I lived in China I did.
6.1. Deadwood in real time
One of the key singularities of china is that while you live there, you become a witness of how a country develops itself (the way you might have read other countries did in past centuries). The dreams crushed, the exploited labour, the successful people, the guys who wake up in a mansion and go sleep in a cell. You got to experience it all and witness it all in china. And don’t blink, the pace is so fierce that if you leave the country for just a few weeks and come back, you might not recognise places you used to go to and thought you knew by heart. I have seen so many brands (foreign and locals) go up and close down over night that it is scary. But in some way that’s capitalism one on one for you. Chinese are not addicted to their businesses and “if it doesn’t sell, replace it by something that does”.
7. Get a dream work
You might think “It’s all great to go live in china, but without a job, I will never be able to get there in the first place”. Well I beg to differ. I managed to find not one but two dream jobs when I decided to fit in my wife’s luggage back in 2009. People used to wish me luck when I went throught the process, but I managed to do it. And guess what? I can spare you all the efforts, with my step-by-step guide into finding your dream job in China. And by dream work, I means top managerial positions in reputable companies, not English teaching jobs. As you will read my recipe, you will realise that the formula is not china specific and can be applied anywhere with a standing economy.
8. China is still inexpensive
Another great reason to live in china, is that you might be able to save yourself some money, once you get that dream job of yours. Despite the rising cost, the country is still cheap and you can enjoy most things local at a bargain. Of course, if you go to these foreign hospitals and schools (that charge the expat fees), that’s a different story. But even in the case of hospital care, you can get pretty decent expertise at relatively good cost.
8.1. Example of china cost advantages
We mentioned about transportation earlier. Just to give an example: a taxi fare from an international airport in shanghai to the city centre (say Pudong airport to Century Park) would cost approximately 130 RMB, which is about $15/£13. That’s for a distance of more than 60km covered. The same journey at home, would probably cost at least 15 times that amount. Food is not so expensive; and the most unpromising restaurant could provide one of the best palatal experience in your life. That is of course, provided you are with a local who knows his restaurants. I had countless culinary experiences on a bargain with my chinese friends.
As far as cost is concerned, the other reason why it’s viable to live in china is that you can get access to other countries that are cheap like Thailand, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka etc….
9. Incredible Geography and History
You could literally spend generations of lives just discovering the geography and history of this country. Most of which are foreign to the Chinese themselves.
China is not just the cities, such as shanghai. You get desert, mountains, sub-tropical forests, places lost in time and everything in between, thanks to a vast land that covers approximately one-fourteenth of the land area of Earth.
If you go to places such as Urumqi, Xinjian you can get temperatures going to the low -16℃ while in places such as Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, the temperature is pretty tropical.
With these diverse climate, comes people of different ethnicities, so do not expect to meet only one types of chinese with one type of tradition.
9.2. The country has history
The place could be a great lab for anyone who wants to spend their entire life studying the countries’ past; and although ferocious constructions, and industrialisation has damaged a lot of the country’s memory, there are plenty to see in order to learn about chinese culture. The country’s capital has changed many times over the course of its existence, so even if you are not in Beijing ; you might live at the heart of what was once the center of China.
10. Things you will see nowhere else
One of the funniest things one might witness in china, is people in their pyjama’s shopping their fruits and vegetables near futuristic or well-developed malls. The country is not just strongly traditional, they are very turned on into the future. Their reputation for being the duplicator of western ingenuity is not exaggerated, but their ability to develop their own path should not be underestimated either. For example, they have their WhatsApp but in better (WeChat) and their amazon (Taobao) which in my opinion also superior.
While you drive there you might also witness people on the street selling live turtles. I saw this so many times with migrant workers who, on construction projects, would capture big turtles and sell them after their shifts.
11. It’s one of the safest places on earth
I strolled the streets of Shanghai, Beijing, Fuzhou many many times at late hours and saw men, women, children come out of restaurants, without being harassed by anybody. Of course, you should beware when girls at that late of hours approach you. They are not wonder strucked by you (read see post on what not to do in china). In ten years in China, and Shanghai in particular, I never got harassed or followed. I cannot say the same of my time in London. I went out with ladies who got back to their home by themselves and they never reported misconducts or harassment. As a matter of fact, a close friend of mine had a terrible experience with a nice scooter she had bought few months earlier. It got stolen in the parking lot of her apartment. Cameras later revealed the thieves were foreigners who entered the building in one scooter and left with two.