Gina: Beijing Expat Guide
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Beijing, etc.
I’m Gina and originally from Europe. My husband and I moved to the US over 10 years ago. When he accepted a position in Beijing in 2011, I left behind my job and followed him here.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Well, as I trailing spouse, my visa doesn’t allow me to work. I still wanted to do something useful and learn something new at the same time. I noticed before we came that it was often difficult to find practical info to prepare for the move to Beijing. So I started the Beijing Expat Guide website to share what I had learned with other Beijing newbies or soon-to-be expats.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
That’s a tough one.
- Probably the section about Mandarin because language skills can have such an impact on daily life.
- My post on why learning Chinese is not easy for Westerners (but doable!) resonated with my European friends.
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 didn’t really experience culture shock since I had been to China before and have traveled extensively in Asia. It still took some getting used to my new life without working full time.
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 think you can never be fully prepared for moving to Beijing, or anywhere that different from your home country. My blog gives some food for thought on this topic, what things to consider or challenges to expect. But the most important thing is having a positive mindset.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I’m tall and blond, so I have no chance of blending in in China. One day at the supermarket in my rather Chinese neighborhood, two little girls came up to me, giggling, and asked in Chinese: “Are you Chinese or are you a foreigner?” Gee, what gave me away? Usually kids just point at me and yell Waiguoren or Laowai.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Beijing?
- Don’t try to plan too much, you will just get frustrated. Be patient and expect things to work differently here. Often, things move very slowly for a long time, and then, all of a sudden, bam, it’s happening.
- Learn at least some basic Chinese.
- Be mentally prepared for a really long, really cold and really grey winter. Did I mention really long? (This was a tough one for me.)
How is the expat community in Beijing? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There are a lot of expats in Beijing, but mostly congregating in certain parts of Beijing. If you don’t live in such an area or work in an international company, it takes much more effort to make friends with other expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Beijing in a single, catchy sentence?
Jì hua gǎn bu shàng biàn huà - Plans can’t keep up with change.