21 September 2016

Varya - Expat in Zhuhai, China

Varya - Expat in Zhuhai, China

We’ve had the chance to talk to Varya, 36, a Russian expat who has moved to China alone. Mrs. Varya who has been living there for 14 years, now works as a stay at home mom and a blogger.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from? 

A: I am originally from Russia.


Q: What made you move out of Russia?

A: I first came to China to teach ESL.


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Zhuhai, Guangdong, China.


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I wanted to get some international experience in teaching ESL and China worked out faster than other countries I applied for, 14 years later, I am still here!


Q: How long have you been living in China?

A: 14 years.


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you've had when you were new in China?

A: Language barrier. I had huge culture shock when I first arrived here because I couldn’t communicate with anyone, order any food at the restaurants or move around much.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in China? What was your experience with these?

A: Visa and work permit are not particularly difficult if your expertise is needed at a place of work; the family visa is quite easy to obtain once you have a spouse who is legally and formally employed here. We never had an International insurance so I have no experience with it. But I hear it is not that hard to obtain as there are many agents offering it to expats.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I first lived here alone but started a family seven years ago, so now I live here with my family.


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 in China?

A: I think for an expat it is fairly easy to make friends with local population: people are always attracted to someone “new and mysterious” and they tend to approach you more than they would approach their own kin. I can’t say I socialise more with expats as our closest friends are Chinese. However, we have very close and trusted friends among expats too. As for finding a social circle, I guess it is quite easy for me as I am very extroverted, outgoing and sociable. I find it easy to make friends with people no matter where they are from. Plus, I like making friends, and I do my best not to discriminate nor judge people based on their social, ethnic or religious background.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: Well, Chimelong Resort – where the largest underwater Ocean aquarium is and an attraction park around it – is currently located here.  So it is a nice place to see. I can’t say there is a lot to do but Zhuhai is known for its beautiful parks, mountains and we are next door to Hong Kong and Macau. There are a couple of beautiful Buddhists Temples and Hot Springs resorts worth visiting.


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

  • How much is a cup of coffee?

A: Anywhere between 5 yuan (roughly 80 US cents) and 25-30 yuan (roughly 4-5 USD) and up.

  • How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: 6-10 yuan (roughly 1-1.5 US dollar).

  • How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: At least 100 yuan including a drink (roughly 16 USD).

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

A: I can’t answer this question since no one in my family consumes any kind of alcohol, nor smokes.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I think Chinese are very nice people, often misunderstood. They can be very passionate and selfless when it comes to their true friends. And since many of them are quite sincere in their intentions they assume that others are as sincere. Despite what you hear about Chinese being tricky, etc. – there are tricky people everywhere – if you really make friends with regular people, your life becomes much easier here.


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

A: I find it very positive that foreigners are generally respected here (ignore all the stories from cities like Beijing where foreigners have really messed up their own reputation). I could make a general complaint about the healthcare system as it is far from perfect. But we have adjusted for now, and I had three babies in a Chinese hospital, and we did quite well. All in all, I can’t say there are some extreme negative sides of living here for my family.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: Sometimes.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I cook or bake something from my cuisine. Also, talk to my family and friends on Skype and watch some Russian shows or movies from my childhood.


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

A: We don’t have a definite plan. For now, we are fine living here in China.


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?

A: Language barrier is the hardest. Other than that I must say I do very well in new countries as I find my way around fast, and I don’t have a problem making friends and acquaintances.


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: While it is understandable that we are all used to some standards back home, come here and live here with an open mind. Every single country in the world has its struggles and problems. You WILL get frustrated with one thing or another or with many things at some point in time. Take it all as a learning experience and don’t be afraid to reach out for help to local people or expats around you.


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

A: My own blog? (ha ha!). But on a serious note – no favourite websites, just some that I often look through - bus.mapbar.com (a local website that gives you bus routes for any city in China); taobao.com (this one is famous – sort of like ebay, but better!); Wikipedia is always good; trains.china.org.cn; deltabridges.com (Pearl River Delta cities resource site and forum).