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Gaetan: Travel Cathay

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in China makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to China, etc.

I grew up in Switzerland and decided to take a gap year after graduating from high school. I discovered China during my first trip around the world. Back in Switzerland, I decided to learn Mandarin at university. One thing leading to another, I moved to China where I studied two years in Chongqing. Upon graduating from Geneva University, I spent six months in remote parts of China to conduct ethnographic research, and then taught English in Kunming. After that, I received a grant to study a master degree in geography in Vancouver, Canada. I conducted a six months fieldwork in China’s ethnic borderland for my academic research. For the past three years I have been working as a sourcing agent in China. My job allows me to travel a lot in Asia and China for business or leisure.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I decided to start blogging during summer 2013. I am not blogging directly about my work experience, but about traveling in off-the-beaten path regions and travel destinations. My focus is on ancient and ethnic villages of south and southwest China and off-the-tourist-trail places in Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta, where I spent most of my time.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

No favorite blog entries so far. I like them all because they describe different and unique places.

Tell us about the ways your new life in China differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I did experience culture shock on my first trip to China twelve years ago. The language barrier was difficult and frustrating. It is now a culture shock for me when I go back to Switzerland, where everything is neat and in order, while China still appears very chaotic to me in some ways.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in China? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

You can never be fully prepared for what awaits you in China. The best way to prepare for China is to be patient, have a taste for the unknown and learn some Chinese.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

When I was still a beginner in Chinese language, I ordered a plate of cold duck feet with rice. I wished I had seen my face when I realized what it was.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in China?

  • Try and connect with people who have or are living in China and ask them anything you want to know.
  • Once in China and working with Chinese people, always be patient and try and keep calm in all circumstances.
  • Get ready to have your way of life and way of thinking challenged by the reality of everyday life in China.

How is the expat community in China? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

There are several expat communities in China. Each city is different and attracts people from different professional domains. The best way to find other expats is to attend events organized by the consulate/embassy of your country.

How would you summarize your expat life in China in a single, catchy sentence?

There is a thin line between love and hate.

David Thyne

"At the first Shanghai Get-Together I met several American expats. I am very grateful that they shared their experience with me."

Diana Anhaus-Brey

"It is just so easy to find other international people and global minds with InterNations. I didn´t know there were so many in Shanghai."

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