We’re delighted to introduce our new resident blogger in Beijing, Jonas Groom, part of Opportunity China’s Teach China Graduate Program 2018 cohort. After graduating from the University of Sydney with an Arts degree, Jonas worked for the Australian National Maritime Museum before embarking on his journey to Beijing. He loves exploring his passion for history, languages, and everything cultural while in China.
Landing in Beijing airport almost two months ago now. I remember thinking to myself, “Jonas, what have you got yourself into”. There I was, several thousand kilometres from home, in a country whose language I did not speak with no Chinese or fellow foreign friends, no real knowledge of the country and most importantly – no Wi-Fi!
However, safe to say, two months in I would not have done anything differently! This leap of faith has proved rewarding and exhilarating and I am writing this blog to prepare all you future teachers for what lies ahead.
I’ve chosen to structure this post around the key differences I’ve noticed between Sydney and Beijing…
People’s perception of you
This is number one because it is absolutely fascinating how people treat you here as opposed to back home. Walking down the street in Sydney I wouldn’t raise any eyelids. But here It’s like I’m a movie star! (Now this isn’t always the case) The younger portion of the Chinese population want to know about you, who you are, what you do. They shower you with compliments, gifts and attention. I experience this almost every day, and there sure have been some standout examples! I won’t delve too much into narrating, however, I will attach some photos which I believe speak for themselves!
Australia is increasingly being referred to as the ‘Nanny Nation’ due to its supposedly strict laws and regulations. Upon my arrival in Beijing, I was pleasantly shocked by just how much freedom the individual has in their day to day life. For instance, scanning a bike’s barcode, hopping on and riding off into the busy dangerous streets without a helmet seemed scandalous. Hopping on an electric scooter and buzzing down main roads a week later was equally as mind-boggling!
This freedom also translates into physical freedom to discover. The freedom to leave your apartment and experience Chinese culture and history right then and there from your doorstep. In my instance through a historical example, after a fifteen-minute taxi ride north you’re at the site that Marco Polo crossed in the 1200s (fittingly named the Marco Polo Bridge). Not only that but this is also the site of a Qing and Ming Barracks and then, the icing on the cake! The Marco Polo bridge is also where the Imperial Japanese opened fire on the Revolutionary Chinese army in July 1937 sparking the Second Sino- Japanese War.
Through a culinary lens, The dishes here in China continue to amaze my taste buds and palate! The sheer amount of delicious food is boundless, and It is all waiting for you! This brings me to my next point.
My apologies for the basic introduction but this easy sentence hits the nail on the head. Coming from Sydney, a city ranked very high in terms of cost of living, I was (once again) positively shocked on my arrival in Beijing. No more worrying about pricey meals or days out – everything is just so affordable! Big foreign teacher dinners don’t come close to $20 AUD each. This unfortunately, has taken its toll on my waist but oh well! My daily ride to and from work on a rented Mobike doesn’t cost more than 3 CNY. The subway isn’t more than 5 CNY one way, most museums are free entry and shopping is very affordable.
Of course, there are the usual tourist traps to avoid but all in all Beijing and I’m guessing China, in general, is very economical.
Now I might be coming across as a little bit of a grandma, so please excuse my rambling but this point ties well with the sheer freedom on my previous point that is here in Beijing! It is just so cheap and easy to discover and explore!
I hoped you have enjoyed this quick post and I look forward to writing the next one!
If you’re reading this blog and are a future teacher currently entertaining the thought of moving and working in China – Don’t hesitate to contact me to make that crazy idea your amazing reality!