Guangzhou, China Report of what it's like to live there - 01/08/13

Personal Experiences from Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou, China 01/08/13

Background:

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

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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?

New York, 14 hours to Beijing. Then 2 - 3 from Beijing to Guangzhou.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Consulate General and has lived in Guangzhou for 13 months, a third expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most consulate families live in apartments. There are some single family homes that are farther outside of town. The apartments are all phenomenal! It's almost embarrassing the number of amenities they provide. Commute time is 5 - 20 minutes depending on where you live.

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

It depends what you are buying. Local produce and products are extremely inexpensive. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter are very expensive, but widely available.

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

Truthfully, I brought too much! I would recommend bringing any aerosal products, beer/wine/liquor you like (because imported stuff is expensive and potentially a knock off), baking supplies. Everything is easily available.

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

All your typical fast food chains are here: McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Domino's, plus some Chinese ones. They are all considerably cheaper than the U.S. There are a few great Western restaurants, but they are certainly most expensive (not unreasonable though, on par with US prices).

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

Mosquitoes are a nuisance in the summer, but not overbearing. Besides that, the only insects I see are for sale for dinner.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO comes through Hong Kong. Packages can take anywhere from a week-and-a-half to a month to arrive.

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

Domestic help is readily available and inexpensive, around $20 per8 hour day. They cook, clean, grocery shop, and do laundry, as well as provide childcare if you need it. My housekeeper is amazing, one of the best cooks I've ever met!

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

The US Consulate, as well as all consulate housing, have nice gym facilities. There are gyms available locally, but I do not know the costs.

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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?

China is a cash society. Some upscale grocery stores and restaurants take U.S. credit cards. It's possible to get a local ATM card, but from what I have heard it's more hassle than it's worth.

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

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

The consulate has AFN, but you can stream most things online as long as you have a VPN.

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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 language you know, the easier it is.

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

The city is relatively well paved, but the subway does not have elevators. It would be moderately difficult, but not unmanageable.

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Transportation:

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

The subway system is fantastic, constantly expanding, inexpensive, and reliable. Trains come every 2 minutes and cost less than $1 USD to ride. They are also extremely clean. Taxis don't have seat belts but the are cheap and reliable.

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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?

None. In a city of 16 million people with very fewrules of the road you don't want to be driving. Public transportation here is wonderful and most of it is brand new. Taxis are also easy to come by and cheap.

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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?

High speed internet is available around $50/month. The speed is okay, but given the censorship you need a VPN, and when using it the connection drops a lot. Not great for streaming.

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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?

The consulate gives all employees phones. Most people have their own personal iPhones, though, and a pay-as-you-go plan with China Mobile or China Unicom. Very easy.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, there are restrictions on the size and type of animal you bring in. These change constantly so you'll want to check often.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

People will pets seem satisfied with the availability of pet care. I don't know anyone who has kenneled their animal though. There are enough people that someone will usually watch it for them.

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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?

If you work for the consulate and your spouse/partner wants a job, they can work. This is one of the few posts where there are more jobs than people who want to work. They are good, well paying jobs as well.

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

Dress code is pretty casual depending upon what section you work in.

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Health & Safety:

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

China is extremely safe, you can comfortable walk down the street at all hours.

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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?

Not great for people with health issues, due to the pollution and lack of western-quality medical facilities. Most people visit the doctor/dentist in Hong Kong.

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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?

The air quality to terrible here, in fact the consulate runs an air monitor app. The air quality is one of the major reasons for the 20% differential.

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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?

It's quite hot in the summer, winters are pretty mild usually in the mid-50s. No snow!

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have kids, but those who do seem thrilled with the International School.

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

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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?

People with kids seem to be satisfied. Most of them have nannies, which are very inexpensive,

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

There seems to be a lot available through the school.

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Expat Life:

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

Small to medium. The consulate community tends to hang out together a lot. I haven't met many expats from the private sector.

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2. Morale among expats:

As with any post, it varies, and people will always complain about something. Overall I think the morale is pretty high, given the large number of young people and the constant activities.

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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?

It's what you make it. There is a big group of junior officers who are always going out to dinner, trips to Hong Kong or elsewhere, and concerts, you can get involved with.

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

This city is great for both families and young couples. There are tons of young people here, so there are things going on almost every night. For single women it can be a little difficult if you are looking to date. Single men will have no problem if they don't mind dating the locals.

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

It's a surprisingly great place for gay/lesbian expats. There is a big community here with night clubs. Hong Kong is a short 2-hour train ride with tons of bars and clubs.

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

Chinese are particularly racist to Africans, who often have difficulties getting cabs. They tend to be a bit friendlier to African Americans, but it's a culture that prides itself on white skin to the extend of bleaching it.

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

Guangzhou is constantly changing and expanding, so there are a lot of new places to check out. China itself is very diverse, so there is a lot of opportunity to travel regionally. Chengdu - Pandas, Yangshou - mountains and biking, Hong Kong - entertainment and dining, Shanghai - shopping, Beijing - historical sites.

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

The most popular things to do are: to go out to dinner, clubs/bars, or to take the train to Hong Kong.

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

Everything is made here, but a lot of it is crap. You can get pearls, tailor made clothing, electronics, handicrafts, and furniture.

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

Moderate weather, inexpensive travel to most of Southeast Asia, and you can definitely save money!

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely! My husband and I have traveled extensively during our tour here and still saved!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat. I fear leaving this post because everything is so nice and the people rock!

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

car!

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bid it, you won't regret it!

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