Published on:
February 26, 2019

by: Guest

Life in China as an Expat

Alex has a degree in History from the University of Edinburgh (UK), and currently teaches in a public school in Shenzhen as part of the 2018 Teach China Graduate Program. He’s a passionate traveller and you can follow him on Instagram @latte.wanderer

“Yeah, a month in South East Asia every February sounds great, but what is life like the months you’re living in China though?”

In the days after my last post for Opportunity China went up (which you can check out here by the way), a few people messaged me on Instagram (@latte.wanderer – give me a follow eh) essentially saying that yeah, a month travelling every February sounded great, but what was life like the other 11 months of the year? What were our social lives like as foreigners? Was there a fun expat community? Now I can only really talk for Shenzhen, but I figured it was something I may as well mention at the beginning of this post.

To over simplify the answer, yeah, living in China (once you accept that you won’t be able to access things like Instagram etc all the time if your vpn is too slow/ cuts out) isn’t really that tough in the big cities. Shenzhen has everything you could want in a major city; including enough bars and restaurants for you to find your niche hangout spot – meaning that it can be whatever you want it to be.

You a photographer? There is an awesome community of photographers out here, including some who spend their nights chasing rooftop views across the city. A musician? There are tonnes of wechat groups to get musicians collaborating on new stuff. OCT-Loft has a load of art galleries for the artsy types, and enough bars to keep you entertained once the sun goes down. Each part of the city also has its go-too chilled bar that you can pretty much guarantee there will be foreign teachers at no matter the day of the week so you’re never more than a metro journey away from some company that can speak English!

Anyway, the last time I wrote a post for Opportunity China I was off chasing waterfalls in Bali and for the next week after that it was kind of more of the same – waking up at insane hours to catch the sunrise across the island before settling down for obscene amounts of coffee while finding new waterfalls and hikes, literally a world away from where I am now, sitting in my office waiting for my next class but alas, classes had to start back up sometime.

In hindsight, I 100% could have managed my return to reality a million times better. Landing the afternoon before classes restarted, without having planned any lessons for that week, after an overnight layover in Kuala Lumpur was anything but ideal. But hey, the Petronas Towers look cracking at night and at least I caught up on my Netflix shows at the airport, right!?

So, after three coffees by 9am, it was back to the classroom and 50 expectant kids waiting to see what games we were going to play to kick off the new term. Thankfully, it seems like most of the children I teach somehow remembered all of their English from last term (something that can 100% not be said of my Chinese), while forgetting how to misbehave and be annoying. I Haven’t had a solid week of great behaviour like that since September! Now, I’m 99.9% sure that having written that, I’ve jut jinxed it so that they’ll be back to their usual chaotic selves by the end of this week but to have one week of wall-to-wall great behaviour (without having to bribe them with sweets) was the greatest feeling.

This week was also the first since November that one of the photography-loving local teachers in my office has had the chance to join me out in Shenzhen shooting pictures, which is just awesome. Having grown up in Shenzhen, he always knows the interesting spots, while being Chinese means he can actually find some of the new hipster café’s that completely pass me by. Oh, and being able to explain to the police that we aren’t doing anything sinister when they ask why we are using drones is a huge plus. Explaining you’ve registered and only using a drone for photography isn’t quite as effective versus suspicious police when it’s done over google translate…

Anyway, I’m off to make another coffee so that I can function for class this morning. Until the next one!

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