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Living and Working in China

Moving to China

It’s been 1 year since I’ve started living and working in China (中国). Guangzhou to be exact. Looking back, I never would have imagined working in a communist country. I hope to shed some light on my experience, and share some reasons why living and working in China has been one of the best experiences of my life.

By no means is China a perfect place. The lack of privacy, control of information, and global tensions have made my time here less comfortable. However, I have grown to understand and respect many aspects of Chinese culture, and it has shaped my values and worldview in a positive way.

How did I end up here, you might ask? I seized an opportunity, took a leap of faith, and landed… at 5am in China completely jet-lagged with a full day of work ahead. Welcome to China!

One of the farmers who found the Terracotta Army. Or a scam. I’m not sure.

The past year has had many ups and downs. It’s especially difficult being isolated from loved ones, more-so than anywhere else I’ve been. The time difference and means of communication make it very difficult to stay in touch.

The work hours can also be stressful. The notorious 996. 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week. Thankfully, my week isn’t that crazy, but it’s very common in Chinese tech companies. In fact, I’ve been able to witness the “silent” revolution of Chinese tech workers protesting long work hours. Although these working conditions violate my principles, I am inspired by the Chinese work ethic.

Challenges aside, let’s jump into some of the reasons why China is awesome. And yes, there are many.

1. Incredible Food

Whenever someone asks me what’s the best part about living in China, my answer is always the same: food. China has some of the best food in the world, and it’s incredibly diverse.

Some of my favorites are:

  • Xiao Chao Rou (小炒肉) – fried pork with a mix of peppers / garlic / onions / oil and rice
  • Ma La Huo Guo (麻辣火锅) – Sichuan-style spicy hot pot
  • Rou Jia Mo (肉夹馍) – Chinese hamburger
  • Niu Rou Mian (牛肉面) – Beef with noodles

You can also find some great Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai food given their close proximity to China.

After experiencing Chinese food, I can’t imagine life without it.

Roaming Techie

China also has its fair share of… shall we say… acquired tastes. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try pig blood curd, rabbit head, or a century egg. There is always a new experience around the corner.

2. Cost of Living

If you think the food looks great, wait until you see the cost of living. Keep in mind, some major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are very expensive, comparable to San Francisco or London. But for most cities in China, the cost of living is cheap.

In Guangzhou, one of China’s Tier 1 cities, you can live comfortably at a low cost. Below are some general costs:

  • 1BR / 1BR apartment, no lease – $450/mo
  • Cost of a filling meal – $3-5
  • 30 minute taxi ride – $5

If you really want to budget, you can easily get these costs lower by finding a roommate, taking public transportation, and eating at smaller restaurants.

For accommodation, food, and transportation, I’d estimate you will get 3-4 times more value for your money compared to other major cities.

3. Chinese Language Immersion

Have you ever wanted to learn Chinese? China is the place to do it.

Outside of the workplace and expat communities, English is rarely used. Menus are not in English, directions are not in English, phone apps are not in English. Unlike many other places, you’re forced to learn Chinese if you want to navigate simple tasks.

Unless you want to accidentally order cow intestines, you might want to learn some basic food words.

Roaming Techie

Luckily, you can use these difficulties to your advantage if you want to learn the language quickly. You have the advantage of being surrounded by native Chinese speakers 24/7. You can passively improve listening comprehension at work. You can practice character recognition in the car (it’s like the Alphabet game, but on hard mode). You can try having conversations on a daily basis.

Did you know Mandarin Chinese is the #1 most spoken language in the world, with over 1.1 billion speakers? It is very logical and intuitive, yet humorous at times. Want to learn one translation for “head”? 脑袋, which literally translates to “brain sack” or “brain pouch”.

I’ve tried learning languages before, but none have ignited a genuine passion for persevering through the difficulties like Mandarin has. Learning Mandarin has truly been a gift, and it has already brought a lot of joy into my life. It is a gateway into Chinese culture and a useful skill that I will continue developing.

3A. People

If you noticed the list header reads 3A instead of 4, then you read correctly. In Mandarin, the pronunciation of “4” and “death” sound very similar. So many places, especially elevators, substitute 4 with 3A, 14 with 13A, etc.

Let’s talk about Chinese people. Yes, there are a lot of them. But more specifically, let’s talk about how kind and welcoming they have been.

Since I arrived, I have always been treated kindly. At work, my colleagues always made sure I could find something to eat, shared a lot about China, and put up with my endless Mandarin questions.

Having traveled to many different countries, it is my experience that humans are, for the most part, well-intentioned. China is no exception. In a world flooded by “news that sells” (ie. negative media), it’s easy to have a negative outlook. But rest assured, the world isn’t as bad as it seems.

5. Travel Hub

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could buy $50 flights to Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, or the Philippines? Well in China, you can!

During the last year, I’ve taken trips to Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, and many cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an. These trips were incredibly affordable and enlightening.

My go-to flight booking websites are:

I really enjoy Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” destination feature, which shows the cheapest destinations from a specified location.

If you plan on taking a trip to China, I would budget some extra time to visit other Southeast Asian countries while you’re out here. You’ll save time and money by not having to fly over here twice.

Final Thoughts

There are many more positives to living and working in China. If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to take the leap and get ready for an experience that will change your life.

If you have any questions or need some advice, feel free to email me at roamingtechie@gmail.com!

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Life Hacks

A Guide to “Conference Hopping” Around Europe

If you asked me two years ago if I’d end up traveling around Europe on business, I would have called you crazy. Heck, all I was focused on at the time was finding our first customer.

Many college students and graduates opt to go on the well-known “Eurotrip” sometime during their career. A trip to explore one’s self, meet lifelong friends, have amazing adventures, and create unforgettable memories. What if I told you how you can maximize your potential for success while fulfilling all that a Eurotrip has to offer? It’s actually really simple, and it’s a concept I call conference hopping.

Conference hopping is exactly what it sounds like: going to as many cheap conferences you can find related to your passions and interests. They could be specific to your business or entrepreneurial in nature. They could even be a local meetup to learn a new skill. The point is to mix some business networking in with your fun, it’s that simple.

Here are some helpful tips for your conference hopping journey:

Email the organizer from you .EDU email address and ask for a student discount.

You’d be surprised at how often I’ve received >90% off or entered for free while playing the student card.

Not a student? Become one!

Register at a local community college or online. Make sure to avoid paying any fees. Once you’re a “registered student” you can take advantage of all the benefits it has to offer.

Sneak in

For those who are a little more daring, this is always a feasible option. Look the part, be confident, and own the place. You might have to do a bit of reconnaissance first, but there’s always a way. I’ve even met people who have photoshopped themselves a badge.

Go to free conferences

Okay, so you’re not a student, you’re not James Bond, and you’re on a tight budget – that’s ok! There are plenty of free conferences out there. Just do a bit of research.

Pro tip – you can always look on meetup.com to find events locally. It’s a great way to meet people with specific interests and expand your network.

Have fun

Most importantly, have fun. Make sure not to overload your trip with conferences. You still need time to socialize, sightsee, and create memories.

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Life Hacks

5 Tips for Setting and Achieving “High” Goals

After returning from Japan last summer, I officially had the travel bug. A drive to see the world and experience what life has to offer. Maybe it was the person who always went out of their way to help a lost traveler. Perhaps it was the ramen and occasional McDonald’s that reminded me of home. Or maybe it was running down Mt. Misen in the dark, which is full of deadly snakes I might add, just to see the sunset. Whatever the reason, I can confidently say that Japan has inspired me to travel the world. 

This all sounds great. Having the adventure of a lifetime, making friends all over the world, experiencing different cultures to share with future generations. But is this really practical? The answer is yes, and it starts by training yourself to think big.

1. Think BIG

Traveling around the world and leaving everything behind is a big goal. Most people would brush this off as irresponsible or impossible. I’m here to tell you that it’s completely possible and very responsible of you to pursue your dreams, which starts by thinking big. 

“Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.” – David J. Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big

When you find something you’re passionate about and really put your heart and soul into it, you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish.

2. See Challenges as Opportunities

Now this doesn’t mean that big goals don’t come with big challenges. They absolutely do. How can I afford to do this without a job? I’d have to quit if I want more than 2 weeks off a year, and even if I quit, I’d have no income!

The key here is to see challenges as opportunities. How can I travel the world and be financially stable at the same time? Instead of focusing on the negatives, focus on what you can do to accomplish your goal. For myself, I have considered the following:

  • Become a digital marketing expert
  • Start an online business
  • Teach English abroad

Keep in mind that these skills and opportunities don’t develop overnight. It takes a lot of hard work. But if you’re set on reaching your goal, seeing challenges as opportunities will put you one step closer.

3. Find Inspiration

By chance, or because Facebook is spying on me, I came across a post from one of my friends at USC who had recently hiked to Everest Base Camp. This was exactly the kind of adventure I was looking for and it would be a great first step towards my goal of traveling the world.

Shuhan trekking to base camp

The fun part about looking for inspiration is when you realize you’re not alone. It’s easy to give up when the majority of people around you focus on the negatives and don’t see the opportunities. But when you find the few people who connect with your passions and understand your goals, you will be more fired up than ever before.

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” – Mark Twain

Seeing my friend accomplish this and come back with profile picture-worthy photos was the inspiration I needed to turn my thoughts into action.

4. Stop Thinking and Start Doing

As it happens, my friend’s experience inspired me to start my traveling journey in Nepal by hiking to Everest Base Camp.

I could have spent months rationalizing this. How am I going to take a month off work? Can I afford this? Are their dangers I haven’t anticipated? What if something goes wrong? Is this something I really want to do? This is not only unproductive, but this cycle of endless rationalization will not help you achieve your goals.

Someone once told me that you can rationalize something forever. You can look at the data, get more data, and keep thinking. But here’s the trick: as long as you’ve rationalized something to a certain extent, you just need to make a decision, and make that decision the right decision. Let the last sentence soak in for a minute. By no means am I advocating for rash decision making. I’m telling you that no matter what decision you make, as long as it’s calculated, you can make it a successful outcome.

Life is short. Don’t waste your time with inaction. – Roaming Techie

After a few weeks of researching, getting advice, and rationalizing this adventure, I made a decision. It was 11pm, I had just finished meditating, and I had an epiphany. Just do it. Actualize your goal. I immediately went to my computer, found a cheap flight via Skyscanner, and bought a one-way ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal. I also booked my $4/night hotel (breakfast included).

Yeah, it was a little scary and a little impulsive, but now it’s up to me to set myself up for success.

5. Stick To It!

Since buying my ticket, I’ve lost over 25 pounds and I’m working harder than ever to create a sustainable online business, which has already lead to multiple paid contracts. Sometimes you need a high goal to motivate you.

Remember that giving up is easy. Most people do. If you can stick to your goals and fight through the hard times, you will be well rewarded.

Do you have any big goals? Share them in the comments below!

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