Guangzhou, China Report of what it's like to live there - 05/12/13
Personal Experiences from Guangzhou, China
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I have lived in other large cities in China
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?
California or Virginia. To California it is 11 hours. To Virginia, with connections through LA, 20+.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Foreign Affairs provided housing. It is excellent. The best, most luxurious living I imagine I'll ever experience in my life.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Ridiculously cheap---as long as you don't mind the cadmium, lead, fake labels, etc.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Peanut butter, pasta sauce, anything you use or consume regularly where it's important to you that you know it is safe and is actually the brand you expect it to be.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC. KFC. and... let's see, KFC. Starbucks, 7-11, that's about it. There are lots of really great restaurants, but the city is sorely lacking in Mexican and South American food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of mosquitoes and gnats, but nothing bad. Huge snails and slugs all over the place. It crunches when you walk sometimes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch. Both suck and are slow as death, but regular!
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Cheap! But REALLY good aiyis (aunties) are hard to find.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
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?
I've heard of folks having troubles, but no one in my circle, or me personally. Bank of America I think has a deal with a China bank here.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Christian denominations.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
If you want to slum it at all, you need Mandarin, and I'd recommend Cantonese also. But you don't "need" either. You'd live.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Their are virtually no wheelchair ramps anywhere. You would also be rudely stared at.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Both, and plentiful.
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?
Nothing more than 5 years old is allowed. No security problems---no matter how nice a car you bring. There are Ferraris all over the place here. But be prepared to get dinged.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Generally, yes. Not sure about the cost.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Don't bring, buy, or use one that you want to use anywhere else in the world in any sort of private matter.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Everything goes! Seriously. Do you want to wear a miniskirt to work? Go for it. You want to wear raggedy jeans and Converse? Go for it. There IS a dress code where I work, but it is not enforced---especially not among local staff.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I assume every that every single electronic gadget that I brought, have used, bought or will buy here is compromised. Guangzhou is very safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Air pollution has a palpable negative effect on many people's health. Medical care is quite good.
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?
Very unhealthy. Some days it is as bad as Beijing. I have seen a blueish color in the sky twice in 8 months. I saw a star once, I think. I get ill frequently, and I believe it is because of the air pollution and my new sensitivity to it.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Warm, hot, and humid. Winter can cool off some. It rains a lot, and there are really awesome thunderstorms.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
French school: I have heard reports that the teachers there are not so great. The school is very small, so socialization is notably limited.
Utahloy international has a robust sports program.
The American International School, I hear, is pretty good. The high school is quite far from the city, though.
Local schools are quite good if you'd like your children to learn Chinese.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Hundreds, or more probably thousands.
2. Morale among expats:
Quite good, although some things bother people more than others, like aggressive security services, air pollution, apparent rudeness of Chinese people. But I'd say it's generally quite good.
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?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is good for all of the above. Something for everyone.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Excellent socially, politically, and all around.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The Chinese people are extremely racist and will vocalize their prejudices to your face. This is a difficult country for anyone with darker skin. Religion is illegal in China.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots! Going to other countries, checking out museums, cultural sites, bars, live music... lots.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
All kinds of stuff from jewelry to decorations, beer and food.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving money, ease of travel to other Southeast Asian countries.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
OCD about cleanliness and hygiene.
3. But don't forget your:
tissues for the squatty potties --- and hand sanitizer.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Do you have any other comments?
Like everywhere else, this post is what you make of it. It has a lot to offer for someone who wants to get out there and take it.