InterNations Featured Blog
Chad: The BJ Reviewer
Covering just about everything that is at least a little related to life in Beijing, the BJ Reviewer should be on your reading list if you are thinking of relocating to China’s capital. Even if you’re not, the site is still worth a visit for the great writing style of its editors, one of which – Chad – took the time to answer our questions.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Beijing, etc.
My name is Chad Buckwalter. I'm from Lititz, Pennsylvania in the USA. It’s a small town in the middle of Amish country about an hour west of Philadelphia. I studied at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and during my time there had the opportunity to study at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China for a semester. During my time there, I fell in love with China. The food, the smells (no matter how horrible they seem), the hardworking family culture and all of the reasons that China is different from America. I had an amazing experience that was too short so, after graduation, I decided to move back to China. In August 2009, I officially began this stint in China and have been here since.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
With the help of my good friend Mark Lada, we began building the blog in May 2011. We are both teachers in China and thought that there was quite a bit of information, regarding how to begin teaching and living in Beijing, missing from the web and we thought we could use our experiences to help others get here and get acclimated. Our ultimate goal is really to provide the information that we wished we had before our arrival.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I think our most important set of entries would be our Teaching in China Blog. This provides specific information for people coming to Beijing to teach English.
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?
I first came to China in 2008 and came in with a pretty open mind. I wasn't quite sure what to expect or what to worry about and I believe I took it all in good stride. When I decided to move back to China, I first took a job in a small, rural town in Hebei Province. That took some getting used to. Most of the people in the town had only ever seen foreigners in pictures and there was a bit of shock for both the Chinese and our group of teachers. Moving to Beijing was rather easy. I had the assistance of an agency and they helped line things up for me. I think I’ve acclimated well to China and am actually more concerned about having reverse culture shock when I make my first trip home in 3 years later this year.
My life in China is more stress free than my life in America was. I don't have to worry about many things such as: a car payment, car insurance, as many bills, job security. I think the plethora of schools and ESL teaching positions takes a huge burden off of the shoulders of foreigners in Beijing teaching. I know many expats aren't teachers so this would be a little different depending on careers.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Beijing? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I don't know how prepared you can be for moving to a place that is this different from your home. When I arrived, I was picked up by a van and taken to a school by people who I didn't know. I was given a room and food and was told that we would leave in a few days for the school. It was scary at first. I think you have to be very trusting of the situation because it is very different from finding and beginning a job in America. If I could have done one thing different, I think I would have tried to contact somebody teaching in Beijing and ask them what I should expect.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Extremely long line 5 subway commute and a child with split-pants. When you initially cram into the subway at Lishuiqiao station and are squeezed in next to a grandmother holding her split-pants wearing grandson, you realize this could potentially be bad. We made it about 3 stations and then the child began to leak. The grandmother turned the child and held him close to her, saving all of us from the spray. I'm very happy that she took one for the team and found the whole experience rather funny. Something like that just wouldn't happen where I’m from.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Beijing?
- Bring enough deodorant to last until your next trip home
- Try to make a friend or contact currently living in Beijing
- There are cooler parts of the city than Sanlitun, you just have to explore a little
How is the expat community in Beijing? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I was lucky to be teaching in Hebei Province with a group of like-minded people and we became great friends and all moved to Beijing at the same time. I don't think it’s difficult to find friends amongst the expat community. Everybody seems very outgoing and helpful. I think it’s a matter of talking to and meeting as many people as you can.
How would you summarize your expat life in Beijing in a single, catchy sentence?
There are two things you always need ready in Beijing, your camera and your sense of humor.