14 September 2016

Paul Finkbeiner - Expat in China

Paul Finkbeiner - Expat in China

We’ve had the chance to talk to Paul Finkbeiner, 27, an American expat who has moved to China alone. Mr. Finkbeiner who has been living there for four years, now works as a marketing and admissions director.

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Lansdale, PA, USA.


Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: My friend convinced me to help him in China with missionary work.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I’m living in Detroit now. Before that, I lived in Qingdao for four years. I plan to live in Guangzhou in the near future.


Q: How long have you been living in China?

A: Four years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I lived alone.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Yes, certainly, but Skype helps make less homesick. If you can build good relationships with people wherever you’re living, you will feel less homesick.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Overall they’ve been very friendly to me. I used to work at a university, and I was impressed by the diligence of most of my students.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in China? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It’s easy to connect with other expats since we’re all in this experience together. It’s harder to develop friendships with Chinese people. I had to be intentional about making friends with the Chinese./I found social circles through the church, soccer, and school.


Q: How does the cost of living in China compared to your home?

A: If you’re not planning to buy an apartment, it’s much more affordable in China. Food is cheap. Transportation is cheap. And renting an apartment is moderately affordable as long as you don’t live downtown.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: $5.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: $2.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: $10.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: $10/I don’t know.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in China?

A: Find a national who knows the country and have him/her set up the account for you.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: It’s somewhat of a headache. As long as you apply at least a month in advance, you should be fine.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in China is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: For basic problems, it’s not bad. But for more serious surgeries or illnesses, I would either go to the first-tier cities in China or maybe go to a more developed country to get treatment.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or China? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: In my home county/ Have a sizeable premium (at least several thousand dollars) to cover unforeseen health expenses.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to China? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Nothing very memorable. I had a Chinese expat friend who gave me helpful advice on what to bring. I didn’t hire a mover.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Language and culture adaptation.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in China?

A: Pros – affordable living, friendly people, ancient culture and history.

    Cons – pollution (air, water, soil), homesickness.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: I highly recommend climbing Xiao Zhu Shan, checking out the zoo nearby, and taking a ferry from Jimiya Port to Lingshan Dao.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Presently I am back in Detroit. I plan to move to Guangzhou in the future.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Keep an open mind about cultural differences. When there’s some cultural aspect that seems strange or odd to you, just accept that life is different in China. If you want to live long-term in China, don’t become critical of cultural differences or else you will isolate yourself from all that there is to see and do in China. Embrace the differences, and have fun exploring a country with thousands of years of history and culture.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about China?

A: Two good blogs: Sinocism and China History Podcast.