- Tasty Food
- Beautiful city
- International environment
- Culturally rewarding
- Making more international friends
East Asia always seems so far away for me and never imagined that one day I would visit it. But life has its own way of catching you off guard and surprising you with lifetime opportunities. In a blink of an eye, my life took another direction and I moved from Europe to China at the age of 22 right after graduating. I was filled with intense emotions but excited to explore a new world for me. I landed first in the capital city of Beijing. It is an extremely big city but with a perfect infrastructure. The roads are wide and big with 8 lanes for cars and specific lanes for bike riders (it is very common in China). People are very friendly and willing to help you though they can’t speak English very well. The more you approach the downtown, you will find tall buildings, skyscrapers, busy streets, many foreigners, and many people wearing expensive brands and driving luxury cars. My first stop was in downtown in an area called Sanlitun. A big area where you can find shopping malls, luxury brands, cafes, restaurants with different cuisines: Arabic, American, European, Asian anything you want. It was one of the most popular areas of the city especially by foreigners as there were many bars where they could hang out. Don’t be surprised if you walk and see people holding bags of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, Dior, or a Ferrari parking right there next to you.
My friends and I would go to Sanlitun every weekend to enjoy some Latin nights and some good Mexican food or some French crepes along with a delicious cappuccino (a crazy European about coffee). It was really tasty though they closed the place a month after we discovered it. The prices are affordable. If you want to eat like a local, there are many local restaurants where you can order rice with veggies or beef or a bowl of hot noodles for 2-3 USD. If you decide to eat foreign cuisine, then be prepared to spend some cash. It is very common in china to serve you hot water along with your meal. At first, I was shocked, as we usually drink hot water back home in case we have some issues with the stomach but for the Chinese people it is very normal to drink it any time of the day. We often joked that hot water heals everything. You would always find vinegar and soy sauce on the table when you go to a local place to eat and small water cups and porcelain plates, bowl and chopsticks. The Chinese would wash them with hot water before using them. The Chinese cuisine is so delightful and every time I ate out with a Chinese friend there would always be something new I hadn’t tried. The southern cuisine is known for being very spicy. The traditional Chinese food is dumplings, usually stuffed with vegetables, pork, and shrimp, boiled or fried. Hotpot, I die for hotpot. It is one of my favorite foods to eat in china. A bit expensive but the experience is so cool. You order your vegetables and meat and they will bring it to your table uncooked. You sit at a table with a big pot in front of you where you put the food and let it boil for a few minutes and then you are good to go. Basically, you cook your own food. Chinese people love beer and Baijiu, a very strong traditional alcoholic drink. Be prepared: if you eat at a local restaurant, don’t expect forks or knives. Time to learn a new skill!!!
The metro station is so clean and well organized and you have to go through security every time you enter the subway station. During rush hour, it was a nightmare. Considering that Beijing is a big city, it won’t take you less than 40 minutes or even 2 hours to get from one side of the city to the other. You are not going to find the traditional architecture on the roads of Beijing unless you go to a specific area of the city. The downtown is pretty modern, but the rest of the city has a very simple architecture. The buses are so clean and so cheap. You can always order Didi (Uber) on your phone and they will be there to take you anywhere you want and at very affordable prices. Taxis always asked to use the meter. Most people would use Didi, as you can track it on your phone and it is completely safe. Most of the cars are equipped with small cameras and the drivers are protected from the passengers by having (what my friends would call it) prison bars. They use Wechat and Alipay, to scan the QR code and pay for the taxi ride. You can use cash but perhaps they won’t have the right change. Try to keep all kinds of bills in your pocket to avoid some misunderstanding with the drivers as they don’t speak English. Download a translator app on your phone as it is going to be extremely useful.
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