One year in Beijing!

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Today's blog comes to you on our first Beijing anniversary, yes, one year in Beijing. The quickest and the most exciting year ever!!

We remember leaving the UK, and me saying 'oh it’s just a year to start off with, we’ll see how it goes’, I can tell you now, if we were coming home tomorrow, we’d be gutted. This year has gone so quickly, we haven’t done near what we’d like to here, both work and personal achievements. Travelling more in the future being a big desire too. Don’t misunderstand us, we miss home and miss our friends and family, but are also having an incredible adventure here in Beijing.

So here we are, 1 year in, and we’ve just signed another year on our apartment so we’ll be here another year at least, potentially longer all being well. Who knows what’s around the corner, but for now this is our home.

Hopefully you’ll have been following our tales, and it’s difficult to summarise how we feel, so I’ve compiled a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ list about what life is like here!

So here goes (and not in any particular order!):

The Good:

-         The amazing experience of living in a different country, how things are always new & exciting, being part of an incredible developing country, it’s people (and there’s a lot of peple!!) and the culture.

         Meeting new people from all over the world, gaining international cultural knowledge, enjoying how you can pretty much just walk up to & talk to anyone here, people who can introduce you to new things and widen your global network. Accepting cultural differences, no matter how hard that may be sometimes! It’s also nice meeting new friends as a couple, because at home it was mostly each other’s existing friends & we didn’t really meet anyone new together.

         Learning a lot about yourself – the experience can’t fail to make us learn lots about ourselves & each other, and becoming strong people having an experience like this. Also leaning what a great team we’ve been to do this & work through everything as husband and wife. It’s been a truly amazing first year of married life. You also lean a lot about people back home too, who’s important, who has kept in touch. I’ve found some of the more ‘vocal’ people who were so upset at me moving, have been rubbish at keeping in touch! Again, it’s interesting to learn who really is there for you. We blog to keep a diary and enjoy sharing it with you, and let you know what we’re up to, also keep up with lots of personal e-mails as well, having the contact from home is so important to us.

         Cheap utility bills, electricity for the 5 months over winter was 30 (ok, so summer is more when you’re using the A/C!), cost of living is so much cheaper, plus not having a car to run & fill up saves a fortune. We live in one of the most expensive parts of the city, comparing that to London for example or other major cities like Hong Kong or Singapore, the rent is very cheap.

         Having a cleaner (an Ayi in Chinese, literal translation is ‘Aunt’). It’s so cheap to have home help here, 2.50 an hour, 2 hrs a week = no fighting about who’s turn it is to clean the bathroom!

         Cheap local food – great  supermarkets with fresh veg, fruit, meat, cheap Chinese restaurants. The ex pat supermarkets are expensive, but if you feel the need for something it’s nice to know you can get most things. Foreign restaurants vary a lot in price, but you can get a good pizza or a bowl of pasta for less than you’d pay in the UK. The only thing we’ve both missed big time is a decent roast dinner, it’s not quite the same here!

         The weather – we’ve just been enjoying a beautiful spring & realising how much greenery there is around after a stark winter. Ok, so Summer is super hot, Winter super cold but manageable and you know where you are & have clearly defined seasons. Hardly any rain, although when it does rain, you know about it!

         Winning prizes! Yep, you’ll know that we’ve won all sorts from luxury spa’s, hotel breaks, tickets to all sorts of events, and even an umbrella!! We’ve heard that not many people enter the competitions, which is why we keep getting lucky!

         Living somewhere that’s walking distance to everything – ok, so it was in Portsmouth too but on a smaller scale, being able to walk to work is wonderful, no more sitting on the motorway for hours on end.

         Public transport which is incredibly cheap and efficient, 20p per journey on the subway, 10p (sometimes only 4p) per bus journey, taxi’s usually around 2-3 around the city. Having a reasonably priced and very efficient high speed train network across the country.

         Doing stuff we hadn’t done before in the UK, for example for me being on the British Club committee, and for us both being Internations consuls & arranging various events , volunteering to do charity work, and arranging fundraising events for them too. It’s funny, but we feel more part of a community here than we did in Portsmouth.

         Travelling – having so many amazing places around to visit in China, plus outside of China where other countries are far more accessible than before.  So far, Hong Kong, Tianjin & Shanghai have been amazing. Next on the list for Andy’s birthday is Qingdao, home of the Chinese Tsingdao beer. Hopefully Vietnam later in the year.

         Free stuff – we can download free music, so no longer have to pay on i-tunes! All legal here too. Plus downloading for free lots of films, tv series. I’ve gotten over my soap addiction, I think…!! Oh and pirate DVD’s for around 80p each, the minute the film is released in the UK, they are on the shelves!

         Girly bit here, very cheap beauty treatments. Eyebrow shape 2, manicure from 4, pedicure from 6, foot massage for 1 hr 8 and so on.

The Bad:

         Although I said these aren’t in any particular order, I have to put missing family & friends at the top of this list! There are ups & downs, and some days you just want to be with family, or with friends who know you so well that you don’t have to try, or put on a face, and people who you have history with. It’s also difficult not being there at home when people need you & are going through tough times.

         My pet hate is the spitting and the constant clearing of throats, it’s disgusting, and makes me feel ill every time, don’t think I’ll ever get used to that! Particularly when it’s a woman doing it…. although it’s fair to say, it’s more the older generation than the youngsters, so it is has become more culturally unacceptable since a drive to stop it on the lead up to the Olympics.

         Pollution….. hmm…. where do we start?! Just have to accept that it’s ‘one of those things’ that you just have to live with.

         Time for toilet talk – another pet hate is squat toilets, thankfully most places have western toilets these days, but in the old parts & around the hutongs there are squat toilets. The majority have cubicles, only once have I been in a communual one, without any choice, stuck out at the migrant school volunteering & dying for a pee, I just had to go with it! Us volunteers got to know each other well that day! And believe it or now, I’ve found one thing worse, and that’s a squat portaloo at the music festival!

         Friends leaving, people warned us that there will be frequent leaving parties – sadly that’s been true, you make friends and due to the transient ex-pat way of life, before long their time is up & they are moving to another country, that’s happened to 4 good friends of Andy’s so far. It’s important to keep getting out there and meeting new people.

         We miss the news, a good old honest BBC news report. The tight control over media & social media is restrictive. Even the newspapers are all run by the government newspapers, as are the news channels. Frustrating when you read something on the BBC news website that has been blocked for example. We have a VPN so we can get around some things, like the Facebook ban.

Something that’s come to mind talking to friends the other night, how incredible our brains are in coping with a sudden onslaught of new information – certainly over the last year, but for example the first few weeks of our arrival, it’s dealing with a brand new country, what it’s like to live there, where our apartment is, what the street names are, how to get from A to B, where the subway stations are, which exit, how to get there, bus routes / stops / numbers, the names of areas, shops, restaurants, meeting places, meeting hundreds of new people, remembering them, what they do, what their names are, trying to learn a new language and the list just goes on. Wow…….

People sometimes ask us to sum up our life in China in one word – my word is ‘bonkers’! The good, the bad, the ugly….. we love it, and if for whatever reason we had to come home tomorrow, we wouldn’t regret a thing. We’ve been thinking back to this time last year when we left the UK, travelling to the airport on the train drinking a bottle of champagne, sitting on a plane for 10 hours which we felt was ‘no man’s land’!! Then arriving at Beijing airport with tonnes of luggage, squeezing it into a small car, and starting our new life.  What a journey.

What are we doing to celebrate I hear you ask??? We are going to have a bottle of champagne at the very posh Ritz Carlton Hotel (of course, we won it in a competition, yes honestly!!). We will sit in their lounge bar & enjoy a 100 bottle of fizz, what a perfect way to celebrate!

Thank you for reading our tales, we’ve had  5136 hits on our blog since we began one year ago which is amazing. That’s an average of 14 hits per day. We hope you’ve enjoyed sharing our adventures with us. Please keep commenting, we love to hear from you.

Lots of love, from Mr & Mrs Perry, in Beijing, for 365 days!!

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Sal on

Well.......when you put it like that.we should all be on the next flight out there, or the very least, creating our own adventure! Enjoy your well deserved, very expensive bottle of bubbly...and a very BIG pat on the back to both of you...and ofcourse lots of love too! xxxx

Lou on

You should be very proud of all you have done this year and keeping this blog as I am so poor at keeping things like this on the go!! I start that diary every year and get to Jan 10th and it sort of tails off!! You are living the dream and you just keep living it!

Mary Speirs on

.....Tracy.....lost for couldn't have described your first year any better.....well done.....there are always ups and downs...... it's when the down's become prevalent....but being the girl with ...the glass always "half full" and never "half empty".....I had no doubts on your courage...and Andy's..!
Just thought....maybe this is an italian saying......but I know you'll understand the real meaning...... and no doubt Andy too....especially about the glass always being "half full"... ha ha ha.... Italy had something in common with China when I arrived here 36 years ago..... the "squat" hole in the floor loos!!
Thank god they're practically non-existent now..

Lots of love to you both......and continue to ..enjoy...enjoy ...enjoy.....! Your travel diary is amazing.....!! xxx
Promise to catch up.....and give you a newsy e.mail one day..... for example....My 60th birthday in Amsterdam......But....oops.... I had more fun in Sardinia with my god daughter and her sister.....not to forget Rosie too!!

tracy-andy-pez on

thank you to all of you for your lovely comments and support!
Lots of love,

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