Chengdu, China Report of what it's like to live there - 05/04/13

Personal Experiences from Chengdu, China

Chengdu, China 05/04/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I've lived abroad in college and again in my 20's before my spouse joined the FS.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Home base is western US, meaning a trip home is at least 3 flights, but often 4. The best route is 24 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Currently one year in, with one more to go.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Foreign Service- EFM.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

In the US Consulate community there are a couple of free-standing homes, a couple of townhouses, and lots of apartments.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive, but we currently do not have a COLA. If you are coming with the U.S. State Department, use your consumables!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Liquids- lots and lots of liquids.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food is cheap, and we have the normal McDonald's and KFC stores.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Large cockroaches and lots of mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through a DPO address- it takes about two weeks.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It is getting harder to find good help as the expat population grows, but help is still affordable.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, they are getting better, but the air quality in them remains a problem.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Very few stores take them. This is still very much a cash economy.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Just a few. Check with the CLO.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No, not really.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

The more, the better. There is little English spoken here, and much of it is very scripted. If you go off the script that the service person knows, you are out of luck.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

LOTS! It would be very hard to get around with most any type of physical disability.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Trains and taxis, yes. Buses, less so. All are affordable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

There are restrictions on the age of the vehicle, but the community has lots of minivans and small SUVs. They all seem to do fine.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, but bring your VPN!

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Very easy and cheap to get here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No. There is no bi-lateral work agreement for consulate folks, but there is a growing number of consulate jobs available.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work- business attire.
Public- casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No violent crime to be concerned with, but rather pick-pocketing thefts, especially on the bus routes and crowded tourist spots.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Air quality.

There is no good medical care outside the MED unit, so medevacs to Singapore are not unheard of.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Terrible. This is by far one of the worst problems when one talks about living in Chengdu. Last month, Chengdu was the 4th most polluted city in the country- Beijing came in about 18. Definitely consider it when thinking about moving here.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Early spring, super-humid summer, long fall and a short, but painfully dreary (but not that cold) winter.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are four in town, but only two are used by the consulate: QSI and Leman . Great for younger grades, but have a lot of work to do at the high-school level. Definitely contact your CLO!

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

NONE! Be very aware of this.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

One local one used by a few families, but most people just hire nannies (called "Ayis".)

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, through Leman, there are some soccer teams and swim lessons.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Growing every day!

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2. Morale among expats:

Within the consulate community, I would say that it is very good! There are always those who dislike it here, but on the whole, I'd say people do okay.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of consulate activities, some clubs, growing number of good restaurants, movie theaters.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a huge family post and couples do well. I think it would be tougher to be single here, especially as a female.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

There is a scene and it works. It is pretty quiet, though.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Having darker skin used to mean that you were a worker and of a lower class, and some of that sentiment still remains.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Lots of travel and having a really great FS community .

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Pandas (of course!), LeShan Giant Buddha, DuJiangYan Irrigation System, JinLi Street...too many to name!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Expensive tea, ceramics, and some wall hangings.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great food, interesting history/travel, good FS community.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes! Definitely. Western food is expensive, but there is little else to spend money on.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

YES!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Noodles and rice. :)

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3. But don't forget your:

Liquids!

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