Thinking about Moving to China? Family Fun and Travel

Matt | Family,Traveling | Friday, June 24th, 2011

Continuing on with questions about moving to China, here are a few more of them you might want to ask or answer before you come.

What entertainment is available for children or families?

My first reaction to this question was I’m not really sure as I arrived in Beijing a single guy and left a happily married man. The more I thought about entertainment for children and families the more my mind centered on expat magazines, such as TheBeijinger, Timeout and CityWeekend, and how the often have sections devoted solely to children and young families.

When you arrive in Beijing you can pick up the expat magazines at most western restaurants and cafes such as Grandma’s Kitchen or The Bookworm. I would recommend you pick up a few of these magazines shortly after you arrive and scan through for anything that looks good. Once you pick an event, you’ll likely meet some expats with kids who can give you better information on what they recommend for children. As there is a strong expat community in the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, with many international schools, there are also a lot of organizations that are family friendly. It took me two years to figure this out, but after I did I quickly found a Saturday morning ball hockey league which led me to ice hockey and I also found many Toastmasters clubs. These magazines are great for connecting you to many interesting and exciting happenings in the large cities.

For example,

If you are planning on moving with a young family this is obviously a much more challenging decision than when I decided to come alone back in 2005. If possible, I recommend you take a trip to China, by yourself or with the entire family, to get a better perspective of what one to two years living overseas may look, feel and taste like before you move your family.

How much would I pay for a personal day tour to several places?

This is a tough question as it depends on what you want to do. The expat magazines have loads of travel excursions that range from reasonable to expensive. Also most hotels, if not all, will have a travel desk where they can book your day trips or future travel plans. To give you a general idea I recommend you pick up a travel guide book, such as Lonely Planet or Fodor’s, as the prices range depending on the type of travel you want to do. Also, be careful as to when the guide was printed as some prices may be higher than the book, but it should give you a general framework to budget with.

An Angry Traveler…

Matt | Traveling | Monday, November 17th, 2008

The other day I got on a plane from Beijing’s Terminal 3 and 13 hours later arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International airport.  During the journey I learned a lot mainly from the guy sitting beside me.

At the gate I gave the attendant my ticket and I heard the guy standing behind me talking up the fella beside him.  The guy behind me, Allan, seemed like a very friendly guy.  At first, I was at first quite impressed by his style.  He looked like a trendy traveling and marketing guy.  He wore stylish dark jeans, trendy brown sports shoes, a trendy shirt and jacket, and he even had a trendy European (hair spiked in the middle) hair cut.  But what impressed me the most was how he easily started up conversations with others.  He seemed like a natural networker.

Then we got on the plane, and I had asked to sit near the emergency exit for the extra leg room, and who was sitting beside me, but Allan, as well as another foreigner.  Allan, the trendy, traveling, marketing, networking guy, introduced himself to all of us, shook our hands, and then he and the guy beside him started talking.  The were talking and drinking and drinking and talking and did I mention drinking?!

Soon, Allan went from being the trendy, traveling, marketing, networking guy into an annoying drunk who pestered and pissed off all the staff and who couldn’t stop talking.  Fortunately for me the new Air Canada flight had individual movie screens so I was able to watch five movies, keep my ear phones on and ignore Allan.

What did I learn from Allan?

The Good

  • Appearance matters – dressing well can give you a great first impression in others
  • Being friendly helps – he was a good conversationalist, but he was also friendly first; he smiled, introduced himself and shook your hand.  Good tips I think on meeting new people.
  • Ask questions to be interesting one thing I noticed about Allan, was how he would ask a lot of questions to everyone he talked to and I think that’s why he was such a good conversationalist.

The Bad

  • Don’t get drunk (on planes) – he quickly went from being an interesting guy who you’d want to talk to, to annoying guy you like to ignore, to a “where is my stun gun and how can I put this guy down?” type of guy.  He must have drunk 10 whiskeys before he passed out.  Before that he mentioned he had been drinking in the lounge, so who knows how many “deep” he was.

The Ugly

  • Don’t be rude to the airline attendants – this one pissed me off the most.  The more he drank, the ruder he became to the staff and of course the ruder they became to him.  They stopped serving him so he had to get up and go to them to get his whiskeys.  Now, while I know airline staff are not always the nicest, or friendliest, still it never, ever, ever helps to be rude back.

So, I had an interesting flight.  Mental note on the flight back I think I’ll ask for an aisle seat only, and not the emergency seat with the extra leg room as I don’t want to sit beside an “Allan” again.  Still, I guess I’m grateful for the lessons he helped me learn and now I really want to go shopping.

Last night in Beijing…

Matt | Traveling | Friday, November 14th, 2008

Last night I had a bit of a farewell party as I’m heading back to Canada for an extended holiday – 6 weeks!   It was nice to go out for pizza and beers at the Kros Nest here in Beijing.  It was also an odd feeling as it was almost emotional saying goodbye to friends, even though I’ll be coming back.  I could only imagine how emotional the big “Farewell” parties would be.

It will be nice to go back to Canada to see my family and friends there.  It will also be nice to think about things from a different angle. Lately I’ve been a bit confused about things here in China and my future with them.  So it will be nice to be able to step back, rest up and think about things that important in life.

All in all I am a blessed man.  I’ve met some great people here in China through work and through Toastmasters.  I’m fortunate to be dating a beautiful girl; beautiful in every way.  Life is a blessing.  Enjoy it.  If you want to meet some amazing people, go to a Toastmasters meeting.  It could change your life.  I know it has made my life here in China a lot more enjoyable.

I got to go catch a plane.

Zai jian.

Travelling in China: Do what you want, when you want and at the price you want

Matt | Traveling,Working in China | Sunday, March 9th, 2008

During my early travels in China, I learned a valuable lesson that I’ve tried to live by in China. That is to

Do what you want,
when you want to, and
at the price you want (as long as you don’t hurt anybody else).

This has been my mantra in China and it has served me well. Here, in China you’ll face many people who want you to do things for them and with them. Some honest, some not. If you want to do anything here, like buying calligraphy from local artists or going to a show, you do it when you want and at the price you want. It’s the same thing for shopping and bargaining. Know how much you want to pay beforehand and only pay that.

THis was really hammered into my thick skull when I was learned about the Chinese soft sell technique. It was during my initial days travelling around Beijing. I had just finished visiting the Forbidden City and was wandering about. Then, a nice Chinese girl came up to me and said she wanted to practice her English. As I was about to start teaching English I thought I would talk with her. After a while of talking, she asked if I had seen an authentic Chinese acrobat show. I said I hadn’t. She and her friend highly recommended that we go. I thought this could be a fun experience, to go see a show with this pretty girl and her friend. So, we went to the ticket booth. And they waited for me to buy my tickets. I asked her if she was going to go. She said she had already seen it. Then I asked about her friend. After a while her friend reluctantly bought a ticket. So after I thought maybe her friend and I could meet up and go to the show together. But no. It was then that I realized that I was being taken. I’m guessing her friend refunded her ticket moments after I left. I went to the show alone and quite enjoyed it. Later, I learned that the same show would have cost about half if I just bought the ticke from my hostel instead. But then, I wouldn’t have had this story, now would I have learned the Chinese soft sell technique.

The Chinese soft sell technique is for them to approach you wanting to practice their English. Being a nice, polite, unsuspecting foreigner we’ll usually spend the time. Only later you will be softly lead, to a ticket booth, or art gallery, or somewhere else with the intent to separate you from your money.

Do what you want, when you want and the price you want.

As an English teacher, I will spend time with people if they want to practice their English. I also will use them, so I can practice my Chinese. I won’t go anywhere or do anything if I don’t want to. Even if they say I’m hurt or pretend to be hurt, so be it. That’s their problem. The “I want to practice my English,” is often, sadly, just a front to use the soft-sell technique. But still, sometimes it is simply Chinese trying to practice their English.

One way to test it is to simply keep doing want you want. If you are walking and they want to practice their English they will walk with you, go anywhere, just to talk. If they want to sell you something, however softly, they will try to change your plans. Remember, don’t go unless you want that adventure. Which is sometimes fun. Going into it with the right mindset and the knowledge of the Chinese soft-sell technique will hopefully help you.

Remember, do what you want, when you want and at the price you want and you’ll enjoy China even more.

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