Lessons of an 8-Year Expat in Nanning, China


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Living abroad ain't easy. 

You got your friends and family back home, familiar faces and a lifestyle that is often summarized by one easy word - comfy.

However, those who choose to give those comforts up are often greeted with financial gains, options and growth.

We've talked to a lot of expats these last few years on their experiences living so far from usual comforts.  Some of them calling Nanning home for decades, working as English teachers in a handful of small to large language centers and institutes.

Here's a recent conversation we had with an ongoing teacher who has just moved from Nanning and has been in China for 8 years.

(We've kept our teacher anonymous to avoid complications with his job and colleagues)

 The Anonymous Teacher

Q: How has teaching and living in China changed since you first got here?

"When I first got here, China was a more friendly place towards foreigners. Rules and the regulations were much more chill and anyone who looked foreign could get a job as a teacher without a degree for the most part"

Q:  How would you compare Nanning to the rest of China?


"The only other place I’ve lived in China is Hangzhou. I'm moving back and when I told my local friends and colleagues about it, they were jealous."

Q:  What did they think of the move?

"They made it seem like I’m really moving up in the world by going from a third tier city to a famous second tier one. 

Hangzhou is a widely spread out mess that might have a huge economy but doesn’t have any character or charm. It is on the other hand a symbol of China's economic growth and that’s what matters to most people. 

But the money is good. I guess that’s the trade off. Nanning is practical, comfortable and kinda ridiculous at times but relaxed."

Q: Can you explain the perception difference between second and third tier cities?

"Most people I've talked to assured me that everything is better and more beautiful there (Second Tier Cities). This is purely based in the fact that Alibaba is from Hangzhou and so everyone should be rich here. 

Most of the people I've met in China so far only respect money and barely recognize quality". 

Q: Tell me about your parents, what do they think of another move in China?

"For most of his life, my father lived an hour car drive away from his parents and siblings. This pretty much kept him from seeing them more than twice a year so you can imagine how I feel in Hangzhou compared to Nanning.

The fact that I haven’t seen two places in this city that were worth the trip makes me reluctant to even bother"

Q: What's your biggest regrets on coming to China?

"My biggest regret about coming to China is that I wasted too much time in my home country before making the move. 

I should have skipped all that nonsense about getting a masters that I'll never use and working jobs that don't really have a future. If I would have come to China like 5 to 10 years earlier, I’d  be way more wealthier and be more free because of it by now.

Other than that, I regret not having put more effort into mastering the language. I’ve continually studied just a little bit on my own but I’ll probably not make it to HSK-5 level. 

Which is the level you need to have on your resume in case you’d ever want to use it for a job. As for lessons I’ve learned here, I wouldn’t say it’s anything really deep."

Q: What are you most pleased about now that you're looking at nearly 9 years of being here?

"I’m most happy about the fact that I’ve had the opportunity for self actualization in many different fields, just because the workload as a teacher is quite low. 

All that free time has led me to learn about all kinds of subjects and take care of my health by working out and eating healthy."

Q: What are people back home missing out on the most?

"It's hard to say off the top of my head, but overall health to be honest.

That's the biggest luxury that most normal people back home forget about, they get stuck on the grind while at home and lose track of that stuff."



Special thanks to our teacher for stepping up on an honest interview on his experiences inside China. If you have an interesting story or want to get the word out on something you think is important, send us a message below!



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