What I’ve learned in Beijing

Well, here’s a post I didn’t think I was going to have to write for a good few years yet.

In any case, here goes:

  • The expat community here is open, varied, friendly and extraordinarily willing to help out newbies. Take advantage of this and jump straight in to building yourself a social life, try new hobbies and generally get yourself out of your apart-hotel.
  • The expat community here is hard drinking. Very hard drinking. I’ve heard more than one first hand account of expats having to be sent off to rehab after living here for a while.  January seems to be the month of promises to stop. Be sensible and pack an extra liver.
  • Be aware that expat postings take a toll on relationships if you are not careful. There are all kinds of temptations in Asia (see above). As an acquaintance of Mr B’s has said, “Beijing is where marriages come to die”. Consider yourself warned.
  • All that noisy gobbing up of phlegm bothering you? In a few months, you won’t even notice it. In fact, you may not even notice your partner has taken up the habit until it is too late.
  • The rudest expat wives hang out at Lily’s nails on the 3rd floor of 3.3 mall in Sanlitun. Their treatment of Chinese workers there has to be seen to be believed. Disgusting. Also look out for young Russians who bring in their ridiculously pampered pooches. Always something to see at Lily’s.
  • Something is seriously wrong with us all when people talk about how you must buy 10 shirts at the clothing market opposite Beijing Zoo because they will only last one wear and should just be disposed of  after one wear rather than washed. Quantity over quality is definitely the Chinese way. And the rest of us are just encouraging it. The madness has to stop!!
  • Mandarin is difficult but suck it up. You won’t survive without it. You can however do a huge amount of communicating with just a few words and a lot of miming. You’d be amazed.
  • China is indeed a political and economic force to be reckoned with. But don’t believe the hype, or the statistics. It is not there yet. Mr B and I are not convinced that China actually wants responsibility for running things. There remains a level of paranoia here about maintaining control which is going to result in an internal focus first and foremost for a long time.
  • Expat life is always about the people, less about the location. The friends you make, the locals you get to know – these are what will make or break your posting.

Mr B and I are really sad to leave Beijing. It’s been a fantastic, enriching, tough, awful, fascinating, fun 9 months. The good has definitely outweighed the bad and under different circumstances we’d be here for a good few years yet. I’m determined to try and keep up my Chinese language skills so who knows, in a few years we might be back…

xie xie Zhong guo! (thanks China!)

PS Are moving companies heavily influenced by culture? Our Indian movers carefully wrapped every single posession we own taking 2 full days to pack us, reflecting that posessions are precious there. Our Chinese movers have been the model of efficiency, packing our flat in around 10 hours.

3 responses

  1. Hi there. Thanks for your blog. I’m an Australian on my way to moving to Beijing from Hong Kong, and just found this post, and your next one about “your favorite places in beijing’. Incredibly helpful. I’m looking forward to getting there and trying out all your suggestions. All the best in Belgiium.

    • Thanks Tracy and best of luck in Beijing – you’ll love it. Look up the Aussie women’s club, they always have a lot going on and were extremely friendly from what I heard.

  2. Hi Remedial Wife,

    Regina here, for ExpatWomen.com.

    I would like to personally invite you to list your blog on our Expat Women Blog Directory (www.expatwomen.com/expatblog/) so that other women can read about and learn from your expat experiences.

    Many thanks in advance for your contribution and keep up your great blog!


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