So congratulations you are thinking of moving to China! You have told your friends and family at home and they have probably looked at you like you are completely mad and planning to move to another planet! Perhaps that is exactly what you want or perhaps it is just an out dated opinion from someone who may have never visited this vast and diverse country. But still, why choose China? Why would you want to move here when perhaps you could find a job teaching in Europe or the Middle East? Having moved to China in 2011, I found myself in the same situation and asking myself the same question. Is it for the adventure and the unknown or is it for financial gain? For me, well, the answer was both. And both can be easily found!
A changing country
When I tell people that we (myself, Lydia and our one-year old daughter, Beatrix) have lived in China for almost 7 years, the general reaction is that of surprise and astonishment. How have you survived in a country where the language, food and culture are so different to your own? The answer is simple. We now live in a global community and living in China is not necessarily the outdated image you may have in your mind. Remember, you are planning to move to the second most financially powerful country in the world, with a strong and secure currency and, despite reports of a slowing economy, China is booming and its population is getting considerably wealthier, making gains that most European countries could only dream of! Historically, the Chinese used to refer to China as the ‘Middle Kingdom’ as they believed that China was positioned exactly in the middle of the planet and, figuratively speaking, there really is no better way to describe China currently. The world is watching China quickly becoming one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world and living here now and experiencing the changes first hand is a fascinating experience.
The Chinese place a lot of value on education and parents go to great lengths to ensure that their children receive the best education they can afford. The education industry in China is booming and demand for both international and bilingual schools as well as international teaching staff continues to grow. To attract high quality teachers schools offer very attractive packages to their international staff. Housing and flight allowances are common in most international packages as well as first rate medical cover which allows you to visit first class international medical facilities. Schools in China offer an extremely competitive salary, couple all of these factors with the still relatively cheap cost of living and the potential to save (or spend) your money far outweighs that of the high cost of living in the Middle East or Europe.
Modernity and history blended together
Living in China does have major financial benefits, however, for me the main reason to move abroad, not just to China, but to any other foreign country is for the adventure, to travel and experience different cultures. China is huge! It can be the most modern of countries with the dramatic sky lines of Shanghai and Guangzhou making you feel like an extra in Blade Runner. As well as modernity, China does not forget its past, temples and parks are scattered around every city you visit and there is nothing better than wondering the ancient streets and getting caught up in people’s day to day lives haggling at the local fruit and veg shop or stopping to participate in some morning tai chi.
In the evenings, the bar and restaurant scenes in the big cities rival that of any other country and cater for all. One evening you can be sitting down to eat the spiciest Sichuanese noodles or munching on an entire Beijing Duck and the next you may be going down to your local pub to watch the football or eating in the finest French restaurants looking out on to an epic view.
China has a great transport network too and although you will likely be living in one of China’s vast metropolises, the countryside is never far away. China has breath taking scenery from mountains to vast rice fields and tea plantations. If you are looking for picture postcard images of China, they are still easily found and well worth the travel and time.
China has a lot to offer those brave enough to take the initial step and take a risk on the unknown. After seven years, I still wake up on a Saturday morning excited about what weird and wonderful encounters may await me. As I sit here writing this blog and drinking a coffee in the colonial Former French Concession area of Shanghai, I have just seen an old man walking past with a handful of caged crickets. This place really never ceases to amaze.