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Q: To the expats here - why did you choose a smaller city?

I noticed quite a few expats here live in 2nd and 3rd tier cities, and was wondering what pushed you to choose those over Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen or Guangzhou?

8 years 28 weeks ago in  Lifestyle - China

 
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Posts: 1318

Shifu

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The pace of life.  The people of 1st tier cities are just like those in big cities like New York, always in thier own personal rush.  The slower pace of a smaller city allows people more open to sit back and strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Feeling like real China.  Shanghai and Beijing are just too Westernized to really feel like you're getting the full Chinese experience.  You could survive daily life with just using English and always eating Western food.

The number of expats.  The more expats there are in a city, the more you run into those that give expats a bad name.  The smaller cities see expats as special and an oddity; while the 1st tier, they are more of a hassel and about as common as New York subway rat.

Or that's just my opinion.

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
Posts: 1933

Shifu

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1) Shenzhen and Guangzhou are second-tier cities. So are Nanjing and Hangzhou.

2) I'm from a small town. I hate city life. I tried Xi'an and Hangzhou and Shaoxing (about 4 mil I think), and they were all mind-numbingly crowded, impossible to get around, and even in civilized Shanghai, where I spend a lot of my time, sticking out like a sore thumb on a sidewalk with ten thousand people is pretty uncomfortable. May as well stick out like a sore thumb on a sidewalk with five or ten people.

3) I live in an isolated coastal city, half a million, with practically no pollution and forrested hills in three directions. That's about as nice and healthy as China gets. Never thought I'd see a genuinely blue sky in this country. Or a forest not filtered through a layer of brown. And it's affluent enough that I still basically make a Shanghai salary, with second-tier rent. Smile))

4) Scam artists. All the big, rich cities are crawling with scam artists that target foreigners, with Beijing being the worst. Never, ever, ever get that here.

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
Posts: 6321

Emperor

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I began in Guilin, because I wanted a smaller city and did not want to be part of the "super-mega-crowded city life".  However, after four years, I realized i was going crazy, and traded up to Beijing, which I definitely prefer by far.
The important point is, to choose your city well and if you feel you have made a mistake, dont be ashamed to move or to correct. And if asked outside an expat site (especially by a Chinese person) why you moved, just smile sweetly and say you wanted or needed a change.

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
Posts: 3046

Emperor

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Each person has a right to his own taste.  In my case, I hate big cities, the rush everywhere, the rat race, the lack of concern of others, etc.  Back home I lived in a place with less than 100,000 habitants, and enjoy myself.

Here in China, I visited first for many years, and saw many cities.  When time to move came closer, started checking cost of living.  I found that I can live in a "big" metropolis counting the pennies, or I can have one hell of a nice life in a smaller city, so my decison was easy for me.  I do live better than Donald Trump, and without any of his worries.  Can even save some !.

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
Posts: 518

Governor

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Pretty much agree with most answers above... crowd.. crowd... how to find mental peace?..

But hard to survive in a village... so choose 2nd/3rd tier cities...

Also competition for job is much lesser here as most foreigners with foreign family like to stick to shanghai/beijing etc...

I would prefer to get some land near some river / lake... nice garden... villa.. peaceful... these type of locations are just ~10mins drive from city if you carefully choose... but seems no luck.. some govt rules exist.. can only build villa like what is seen in countrysive.. one next to another.. with paddy field in front... :(... there is some sort of control on how land is utilized...

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
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Easier to make friends (and guanxi), like a home away from home, with alot more perks and opportunities.

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
Posts: 1633

Shifu

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Harbin was billed as the Hockey Capital of China. I had to go there. My best days in China have been there and I really miss it. 

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
Posts: 2391

Emperor

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This is a highly relevent question for me. If I'd come by myself, I'd probably have gone to a major city (Shanghai or, more likely, Guangzhou) but my partner flatly refused to consider even a mid-sized city by Chinese standards, and so we ended up a looooong way from Guangzhou in a city of about two million.

As an initially (very) reluctant inhabitant of a smaller city, I can tell you there are some definite advantages over the big four:
- We get paid well. The school does piss of off sometimes, but they also do sometimes put effort into keepign us happy and this seems quite rare for China.
- The cost of living is cheap, with even a little financial discipline, we could save 70-80 per cent of our salary. Of course, sometimes it's cheap because there's nothing we want to buy...
- The air pollution is bad some days, but pretty good some days. How many days is east coast air 'pretty good'? Exactly.
- The city is compact and the traffic is tolerable. We can get most places we want to in about a five minute taxi ride.
- Our office is in the centre of the city and our flat is a five minute bus ride away, it takes ten minutes to get to work. Good luck managing that in a tier one city.
- There are a number of minority cultures where we are, they make the city much more interesting. That's a localised advantage, of course, but no doubt other places have their own, localised, advantages... food, climate, scenery, tradition, whatever.
- If you came to China to practice speaking Chinese, then a smaller city with less expats would remove the temptation to get lazy with the language.
- Lastly, there's sod all in the way of western expats here, so people neither think nor care about us. We don't seem to have a good reputation, we don't seem to have a bad one and that's good by me!

I'm not sure, though, if I had to choose again (or, choose!) whether I'd choose a small city. Day-to-day things can be very difficult sometimes, and I'd kill for some decent sushi, or a good Thai meal.

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8 years 28 weeks ago
 
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