Guangzhou, China Report of what it's like to live there - 11/20/18

Personal Experiences from Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou, China 11/20/18

Background:

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

No. I've had prior postings in Asia and North America.

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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?

About 18 hours with connections. There are some direct flights to the East Coast as well. Lots of flights all over Asia.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About seven months.

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

Work with the U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice, modern, serviced apartments close to work. Some are within walking distance, some a little farther but have shuttles. People are generally happy with their apartments. The serviced apartment concept takes away the feeling of a home that you can make your own, however, and storage space is limited. Kitchens are small, as are fridges and ovens.

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

You pay more if you want to have a little security in what you buy, for imported items. It's usually cheaper to eat out. Put out some effort and you can get good fruit and veggies at wet markets. Those are pretty affordable.

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

Canned goods and olive oil.

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

So many choices for good eating in Guangzhou. This city is huge and it's hard to find them all. Near the consulate there are various excellent options of all cuisines. Excellent Turkish, Italian, even Mexican now. It's hard to find good quality Japanese for an affordable price though.

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO, two-three weeks. It goes through Hong Kong and only comes once a week.

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

Some people have it. Not necessary if you have serviced apartment, in my opinion.

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

Apartments have gyms.

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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?

WeChat pay. Some restaurants can take a card. Local bank account is important to have.

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

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

At least basic conversational skills.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Didi is China's Uber and is widespread and cheap. Buses and metro are very cheap and pretty good.

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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?

Not necessary unless you are a family.

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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?

Internet? Hahahahaha. One of the biggest downfalls of the post, in my opinion. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

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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?

Local SIM cards are helpful for getting WeChat pay set up.

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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?

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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?

Hmmmm...not many.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Talk to the Community Liaison Office (CLO) Coordinator. I've heard of some.

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

Fairly formal. Get clothes made here or in Hong Kong.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not physical security. Other kinds of security concerns are prevalent.

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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?

Health care is hit or miss. Brand new western-style hospital has just opened, but it has growing pains. Go to Hong Kong for anything serious. People get medevaced a lot.

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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?

BAD. It has an impact on health and ability to do exercise outdoors. There are months where there are long stretches of good air, though.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

It's hard to get a clear answer sometimes for what's in your dim sum, etc.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Paranoia, in my opinion, from lack of privacy and strange health issues.

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

Hot, humid summer. Then cool, humid 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?

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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?

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large business community and a diplomatic community. It's a large U.S. consulate and morale is generally good. They bring in good managers.

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

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

Challenges for all, and it takes creativity and patience. You will be put in housing dependent on your situation and be with similar people.

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

Really amazing trips in Asia, easy access to Hong Kong.

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

Furniture, tea ware, art, cheap Chinese made goods. Tailored clothes in Hong Kong.

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

Cheap good food, cheap good travel, and interesting work.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

People say the air in Guangzhou is fine, but that's only in comparison to some other cities. It's better than some large Chinese cities, but still seems poor. In my opinion, the dangers of bad air in many areas does not seem to be discussed as much as it should be, as I'm thinking that would then affect staffing.

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

Some days I think yes, some days I think no. I think southern China has more welcoming and relaxed people than other parts of China, and the food and travel is excellent. But I still don't always feel welcome here and health care has been an issue.

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

Sense of privacy?

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor.

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

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Morale is good and most people really like it here. It is accessible. It helps if you already have a knack for living in China.

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