My name is Kay, I left my home in England on December 5th 2016 with my partner Rachel to start a TEFL job in Beijing, China. On January 11th 2018 we both finished our contract with First Leap China and set for a two month journey around parts of Asia.
So far we have been to the Philippines, Bali, the Gili islands and are onto India in mid February. I am currently looking out to the sea in the beaming sunshine and thought it was a good idea to share some of my time in China with you. I had Rach ask me a few questions and here’s how that went:
1. How apprehensive were you before moving to China?
A tad. Me and my partner Rachel had never even set foot in Asia let alone start a new life there, but it seemed like a good way of kick starting a challenge for both of us. We didn’t know where we would live, how much it would cost and who we would meet, but like most things in China, it all moved so fast that within a matter of a couple of days it had all fallen into place,(with some good help from Julie our Chinese recruiter!).
2. Let’s talk the cost of living, comparing back home in the U.K to living in China for 13 months, what were the differences?
Okay, back home in the UK, we both had an average salary. As you know, electric, water, council tax, rent, food and life all take their cut out of your earnings, many of them taking more than you have left to spend at the end of the month.
In China it was different, our income minus our expenses left more than enough to live a comfortable lifestyle and save.
Average outgoings per month per person (2 people living in a one bed flat in outer Beijing):
Gas with heating: ¥10
Food shop: ¥500 (including more expensive imported goods)
Eating out in Lishuiqiao including street food: ¥500
Travel on the subway: ¥140
Unnecessary shopping: ¥80 (China have cute shops)
Total average monthly spend including rent and bills:
¥3340 = £375
Some months we would spend more than this if you include nights out, trips to see more of Beijing, or trips out of Beijing but this is just to show you how cheap it can be to live in China.
3. What were your top three things when living in Beijing?
1. The cost
As mentioned, this is a main factor in how comfortable life can be in China.
2. The kids
Getting to know so many children and knowing that you really make an impact on them is such an amazing feeling. When you see your students outside of class they go completely out of their way to shout your name and make themselves known to you. The excitement when you talk to the kids is something I already miss about China. Even children who you don’t know love to say ‘hello’ and smile as you walk by, it was a daily occurrence and one of my favorite things.
3. The culture
People always say that China can be a culture shock to Westerners, but I’d say apart from a couple of things, (some of the toilets and the smell of stinky tofu) we adapted really fast and easily. The culture is breathtaking, the buildings are so intricately designed and the people work so hard going about their lives that you can really be entertained just by people watching for a whole day. Rachel and I spent a day in our local park and from day to night the park came alive, people of all generations came to share music, dances and stories of their week. It was the most wonderful thing to be a part of, we even joined in with the dancing but we will leave it to the pros in the future!
4. What was your favourite Chinese food you tried?
We still don’t know the name of it, and didn’t find it anywhere else apart from a two minute walk from our apartment. We called it ‘porky’. It was pork stewed in sauce and diced with garlic, peppers and salt served in a crispy bun shaped like a swirl. It was made by a local couple and they were so lovely and smiley every time we walked by. The bun was only ¥6 which is around 70p. It was 70p of pure deliciousness.
5. If you could share one gem of advice to someone who is just about to move to China, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to walk into a restaurant and point at the pictures on the wall. It is daunting to not know the language but the pictures do all the speaking, you can just do the eating.
6. Try to sum up your whole experience into 3 words.
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