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Daily Life in Guangzhou for Beginners and Intermediates

Daily Life in Guangzhou for Beginners and Intermediates

It can take quite some while for expat newcomers to get acclimatized to their new host town of Guangzhou. Our local contributor offers valuable tips to help you make heads and tails of life in this southern Chinese megalopolis.

In his Guangzhou 303 series, our contributor Matthew Friday shares his experiences and impressions of life in China’s third largest city, 303 words at a time. Over the past months, he has been a very prolific local reporter and shared a wealth of valuable tips that are not only recommended reading for expats in this city of more than 12 million inhabitants, but also offer everyone interested in relocating to China a look at what to expect in their future host country.

This article is a collection of the first 14 installments of his ongoing article series, grouped into five overarching topics. New entries are published roughly once a month – checking back regularly will pay off!

The Basics

Chinese naming traditions carry greater degrees of significance, layers of family history and parental expectations that is both beautiful and complex. You do not normally just get "given" a random Chinese name. Whereas, most Westerners have no idea what their name means because it was given for no other reason than their parents just like it, or it was a name inherited from an older family member. To find out the meaning of their name, most Westerns look on websites.

Getting Around

As the doors open, masses of people push off the train while an equal, sometimes greater, mass of people push on. There is no regard for how one set of people waiting for the other would help both parties; there is no distinction made for the elderly or children. It is an unmannerly scrum for survival in which bodies bounce off bodies and everyone is pushed like shuffling slabs of meat on butcher’s counter.


The mosquitoes in Guangzhou are an unavoidable and highly uncomfortable part of the settling in process. They seem immune to all foreign prevention measures and they hone onto new, Western flesh with relish. They are also tiny and you don’t feel them bite, though the throbbing, itching, mountainous mounds they leave behind mean you’ll never forget they were there.

Food and Drink

Specialist import shops catering to foreigners, such as Share Foods, will feature cheddar from New Zealand but at a high cost. It’s worth the taxi ride to Metro to buy a much bigger slab of cheese, which you can slice up and freeze. Yes, I discovered in China that you can freeze cheese.

Leisure and Shopping

First, you visit one of the lower floor linen shops and select the material you want. We found one tiny silk shop with a saleswoman able to speak enough English to help us. The saleswoman recommended us to a tailor – an older but equally friendly expert who went to great lengths to take every possible length, height and breadth. She knew another linen shop that sold suit linings.

The Weather and the Seasons

I have never known the storm clouds to be so thick and suffocating that they darken the sky and turn the day into an early night.  It is beautiful to watch the battling water. I won’t forget seeing a grumbling grey storm roll overhead, turning Golden Lake black while the city skyline remained distantly bathed in yellow light.

Matthew Friday is a writer, professional storyteller and a teacher in an international school in China. He has a wide range of publishing credits, including articles, poetry and plays. He uses storytelling to inspire his students to read, write and be creative. Writing this blog is a happy bonus for him. You can find details of his writing work at:

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