Sophie: Luggage Tags & Tickets Stubs
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Beijing, etc.
I'm originally from Bristol in the UK. I moved to China after graduating to teach English and also study Mandarin. I started out in Xi'an working as an English teacher and studying Chinese part time and then six months ago I moved to Beijing to take up a job as a journalist for an international radio station. I've now been in China for over two years.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I actually started blogging before I moved to China. I really love writing and photography and was hooked on weekend getaways and so blogging was my way of sharing my thoughts and views on things. It really picked up though when I moved to China because there were so many new experiences that I wanted to share. I've had my blog for about three years now.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- 10 Reasons to go to China
- How to Travel by Train in China
- Things you’re usually asked in a Taxi in China
Tell us about the ways your new life in Beijing differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in China in general is massively different from back home but the availability of home comforts in Beijing is nice. Beijing is the best of both worlds — I live in a really traditional Chinese part of town but if I want I can trek into the city and get myself some delicious western food or go shopping in foreign stores. The one thing I always say when people ask me "Why China?" is no day is the same and that's what I find so great about this country. Yes some days are a real challenge but it's exciting.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Beijing? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Having moved to Beijing from Xi'an I would say I was probably more prepared than I could have been but I don't really think anything prepares you for the sheer size of the city. The metro system is huge! And of course there's the smog. I was very lucky any time I had visited Beijing in the past that it hadn't been that bad but when I moved there I suddenly realized how bad it can get.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Beijing?
- Choose a good part of the city to live where you can be right in the action but also get a sense of traditional Beijing.
- Make local friends. There's no point moving to a city if you're not going to make local friends. You'll only get half of the experience.
- Learn the language. Many expats here in Beijing get away with not speaking the language but I think it's fair to learn the basics so that you can use Mandarin to order food etc. It shows you're making an effort.
How is the expat community in Beijing? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I found adjusting to Beijing hard at first. I went from a town where there were a fair amount of expats and you knew everyone's name to a large city where there were lots of expats who all seemed fairly settled here. It has got a lot easier and going to clubs and events has definitely helped.
How would you summarize your expat life in Beijing in a single, catchy sentence?
An exciting life filled with surprises in the hustle and bustle of Beijing.