Beijing – my new hood! It’s time to send a first „Ni hao“ from the Chinese capital that I call my home for now. I lived in China before: over ten years ago I started my professional teaching career in Guangzhou, a huge city in the south, neighboring Hongkong and Macau. Now I am back, this time in the countries’ capital, and after a rough first week with a lot of annoying and tiring paperwork, I slowly settle in.
I was curious about how China changed, curious about how it would feel being back. China is a very different country culture and mentality wise. But to my astonishment I don’t feel as alienated and strange as I expected. Beijing so far seems way less rough than the south; there is way less spitting on the streets, I experience way more respect to personal space. Yes, the language barrier is huge as my Chinese is not existent (anymore) and hardly anybody speaks English, but a smile and gestures are internationally understood. My students are lovely, enthusiastic, open and interested; my colleagues are amazing. The whole work environment so far is very supportive and flexible (some days „flexible“ could be a synonym for chaotic, in a positive and, yeah, constructive way). However, it is very difficult to put all these new impressions and experiences into a short text, but in some regards China is like I expected it and it is complicated. In other regards it is different than I thought: The country is on the uprise, more than „the West“ would think, more up front and modern: digitalization here seems more real and more embedded in daily life than anywhere else I have been so far. What China actually is, is a very complex question and I cannot answer it, especially not after only having spent two weeks here. But – things are not as easy as they seem from the outside.
And Beijing is huge! I live in the outskirts of the inner city (close to the 5th ring road) and it is about 20 km or a bit over an hour by subway to the Forbidden City that probably marks the heart of the city. The public transportation is impressive and it is still growing: more subway lines are under construction. It is – at least by subway – easy to get around, but the distances are long. It takes up half a day to get something done in the city; just swing by a coffee store close to 3rd or 2nd ring road ends up being a several hour trip in total. Even changing subway lines needs a lot of walking in between. So far I didn’t get to see a lot of Beijing as getting paperwork done and also work kept me busy. But I cannot wait to extend my explorations to areas off the district I am living and working in … and into the endless joys of Chinese cuisine!