I first came to Beijing in 2011, following my husband for his job and leaving my own corporate career behind. We were excited to start a new chapter of our lives in China. He was not sent by an international company with a full expat package, so we needed to figure out many things on our own. And since we didn’t live in an Expat area, there were not many people around to ask the typical questions a foreign newcomer to this amazing and enormous city would have.
We learned a lot and gathered a great amount of valuable information from many different sources. Sometimes we had to search hard and deep for it, sometimes we stumbled upon it. We often found ourselves saying “Oh, I wish I had known this earlier. It would have … (insert the following: made life easier/saved some hassle/been fun to do earlier/…)”
We had moved across the world before and traveled extensively in South East Asia but coming to China was very different and more challenging. We learned a lot, about China, the people, the culture, and also about ourselves.
Like so many expat marriages, especially in Asia, our marriage didn’t survive China. When it happened and my old life fell apart, I was far away from my friends and family, in a country where I didn’t speak the language, understand the culture, had any friends of my own, nor had a job.
Nevertheless, I decided to stay in Beijing. And I’m glad I did. I successfully built a new life here.
My lifestyle changed completely. I moved apartments a few times to different neighborhoods of Beijing, made great new friends, learned the language and culture, kept busy with the Beijing Expat Guide and other projects, and overall enjoyed life in Beijing.
The Beijing Expat Guide became more successful than I ever expected. Besides being top ranked in Google, I was interviewed by a Russian news channel, the US travel show with Emmy-award-winning host Peter Greenberg, and CCTV America. I published three Kindle ebooks. All amazing experiences that would not have been possible without the Beijing Expat Guide.
I have to disclose that I now don’t live in China full time anymore. After a few years here on my own I decided it was time to move. But I keep coming back, for weeks or even months at a time to see my friends here and eat myself silly on Chinese food. Beijing does that to people – it keeps pulling them back.
I’m in China right now as I am writing this. And I have big plans for keeping the Beijing Expat Guide going, with up-to-date information, more content and more resources. After all, maintaining and expanding it gives me a good excuse for coming back to the place where I started over. (Luckily, my work also allows for the travel.)
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(Originally published April 2013, updated 2017)