Deciding to put our backpacking lifestyle on hold for a year and move to China to teach English was a tough decision at first, but one that we will never regret! It was hard to say goodbye to our backpacks and hello to an apartment. However, we had been backpacking for a year and a half at that point and we were in need of a break. Not a ‘go home and work 9:00-5:00’ kind of break, but one where we could still feel like we were travelling yet have some temporary roots and a bit of a routine as well. Living in China was the perfect plan.
Here are some of the many reasons why we love living in China:
1. The local people. We’ve said this many times before, but the people in China are truly some of the kindest people in the world. Everyone here treats us like family. Not only in Yangzhou, but also while we were backpacking around other parts of China. They share their food, they try their best to talk with us and learn about our country (even though most don’t speak English), they want their photo taken with us and they are constantly smiling and saying hello.
2. The food. Ok, we all have an idea of what Chinese food is based on what is served back home – ginger beef, chow mein, sweet & sour pork and spring rolls. I’ve never seen ginger beef or chow mein here, ever! These foods are Cantonese and are served in the very south of China and Hong Kong… and even there, I only saw sweet & sour pork and spring rolls served in restaurants.
The real Chinese food is very diverse. In the north you’ll find Muslim food consisting of lamb kebabs, delicious breads and noodle soups. In the south, they have amazing dumplings and they eat a lot of duck, pork and egg dishes.
The Sichuan province is known for its delicious spicy hot-pots and here in Yangzhou, they have amazing grilled fish, beans with chilis & garlic, tofu soups and a popular fried rice dish with veggies, eggs and shrimp. Living in China we get to sample all of these amazing dishes. The real Chinese food is fabulous.
3. Being in a non-touristy country. People who come to China typically just come to see the Great Wall and maybe the Forbidden City of Beijing. There are so many off the beaten path places here.
Apart from Chinese tourists, we’re some of the only foreign faces around. Yangzhou is one of the least touristy places in China and because of this, we get treated like we’re famous. The locals can’t help but stare at us…we’ve almost caused a few bicycle accidents!
4. The cost of living in China is very affordable. We are able to buy groceries, eat frequently at restaurants, pay our electricity, water, internet and phone bills, go out for beers, pay our rent and still have half of our pay cheque left over. (Update, we were able to save $21,000 after a year of teaching)
5. Seeing something different each and every day. This is another perk of living in China. We’ve stumbled across groups of women dancing in the park, old men flying kites high in the sky and friends playing cards in the back of a pick-up truck. We’ve seen whole fish, chilis and meat drying out in the sun and local farmers selling fresh fruits & vegetables from the back of their bikes. Whenever we venture out for a walk there’s something culturally rich and exciting to see.
I could go on and on about why we love living in China, but this list of 5 reasons is a good start! China is one of the oldest cultures in the world. Witnessing the ancient ways of the people as they mix with the modernization of a forward thinking country, is both endeering and intriguing. China is a place that feels extremely different from home. It can be chaotic, crazy and challanging, but that’s what makes every day so interesting!
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