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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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Travel TipsWork Hacks

Wifi in Kathmandu: Best Places to Get Work Done

Wifi is Kathmandu is a touchy subject. In general, most places have poor and unreliable wifi that cuts out often. Granted, it’s not always their fault. But for tourists who are used to good internet, you may find yourself miserable.

Never fear, I’m here to save you. After staying in Kathmandu for 1 month, I have found a few places with fairly reliable internet. Keep in mind that even these places may not be what you’re used to, but you can easily get work done, upload photos to Facebook, and download offline Netflix videos!

Best Wifi

  1. Himalayan Java Cafe

    – Pros: Great coffee / food / drinks, comfortable environment
    – Cons: Not open very late, $$

  2. Black Olives Cafe

    – Pros: Lots of food / drinks, $
    – Cons: Not open very late, not as comfortable as a work environment

  3. Cafe De’ Fire

    – Pros: Open very late, comfortable environment
    – Cons: Not much room, $$

Do you know of other places with good wifi? Feel free to comment!

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Travel Tips

Top 10 Safety Tips for Visiting Egypt

Whether you’re visiting Egypt or any other country in the world, it’s important to take the right safety precautions.

In July 2017, I visited Cairo for the first time. It was an amazing experience. I highly recommend it as long as you understand the risks. Here is a segment from the safety warning at the time:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider the risks of travel to Egypt due to threats from terrorist and violent political opposition groups. This replaces the Travel Warning issued on December 23, 2016. A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS, have committed multiple deadly attacks in Egypt, targeting government officials and security forces, public venues, tourist sites, civil aviation and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility. Terrorists continue to threaten Egypt’s religious minorities and have attacked sites and people associated with the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the country, including major metropolitan areas. In early May, ISIS media threatened that places associated with Westerners, Christians, the Egyptian military or police, and Egyptian government facilities could be struck at any time.”

This warning prompted me to take safety more seriously. After experiencing Cairo firsthand, I have compiled the following list of safety tips in no particular order:

Safety Tips

  1. Always travel with a guide
  2. Wear basic and modest clothing
  3. Avoid wearing name-brand clothing and gear
  4. Don’t venture outside major cities
  5. Always stay alert and observant
  6. Register with US travel system
  7. Have number of emergency contacts and US consulate
  8. Register yourself with the consulate, letting them know when and where you’ll be traveling
  9. Avoid going out after dark
  10. Get drivers from your hotel, a reputable tourist company, or Careem

Keep in mind this is just a small list from my own experience. I highly encourage you to do more research before going. No matter what, make sure to have fun and take in everything Egypt has to offer! It is an amazing country.

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Travel Tips

Should Americans Visit Egypt

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider the risks of travel to Egypt due to threats from terrorist and violent political opposition groups. This replaces the Travel Warning issued on December 23, 2016. A number of terrorist groups, including ISIS, have committed multiple deadly attacks in Egypt, targeting government officials and security forces, public venues, tourist sites, civil aviation and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility. Terrorists continue to threaten Egypt’s religious minorities and have attacked sites and people associated with the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the country, including major metropolitan areas. In early May, ISIS media threatened that places associated with Westerners, Christians, the Egyptian military or police, and Egyptian government facilities could be struck at any time.”

False Impressions & Stereotypes

These words and warnings were echoing through my head while boarding the plane to Cairo. What was I getting myself into? Due to Western media, travel warnings, and continued tension in the Middle East, I couldn’t help but second guess my decision. Oh well!

The flight wasn’t much better. EgyptAir had been the target of recent hijackings and I couldn’t help but go through the checklist of how much I stood out:

  • White. Check.
  • Westerner. Check.
  • Christian. Check.
  • Google backpack. Check.
  • Guinness hat. Check.
  • Ukulele from Greece. Check.

If I wasn’t an obvious target, I don’t know what is.

Once I arrived, I didn’t feel much better. Women covered head to toe, men in turbans, extreme heat, old buildings, active military presence. It was clear that I was in a very different environment with a very different culture. I’d be lying if I said Western stereotypes and ideologies about Islamic culture and the political instability had no affect on me. I was nervous. This was culture shock at its finest.

Overcoming Stigmas and Why You SHOULD Visit Egypt

I’ve painted quite a dark picture. Some might even be offended, but hear me out until the end. You likely came across this post while wondering if you should visit Egypt, and my answer is a resounding YES.

Much of the fear and anxiety I had before arriving and during my initial arrival quickly disappeared once I started talking to people. What I’ve found is that Egyptians are extremely kind, generous, and helpful people. They are very humble, respectful, and eager to meet foreigners. Upon my arrival, Mohamed, a local, welcomed me to Cairo and made sure I had secured a trustworthy ride to my hotel. He gave me his number in case I ran into any problems or needed any advice, and wished me a pleasant time in Egypt. Although the culture was a big shock, my fears were wildly misplaced.

Not only are the people very welcoming, Egypt itself is one of the most historically rich places you will ever visit. Crawling into the burial chamber of the great pyramid, having dinner on the Nile River, and standing face to face with King Tut’s mask are opportunities you won’t find anywhere else. Also, if you’re fond of ignoring traffic safety rules, riding in the back of pickup trucks, or running across the freeway, this is the place for you. These people know how to live.

I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to visit Egypt and am looking forward to my next trip. Gather the courage to overcome your fears and book your flight. You won’t regret it.

Safety Tips

No matter where you go, it’s always best to be prepared and take the right precautions. Make sure to check out my safety tips before your visit to Egypt.

If you need advice or have any questions, feel free to email me or comment below!

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Travel Tips

Top 5 Things to do in Dublin

Dublin is amazing – I’d absolutely consider moving here. It’s a compact city with easy transportation, great food, and a fun atmosphere. No matter what you like to do, you can find it in Dublin or a day trip away. However, if you only have a few days here, there are some things you absolutely have to do before you leave.

1. Giant’s Causeway

Take a day trip from Dublin to one of the most scenic places in Northern Ireland. Enjoy a 360° view of cliffs, green fields, and the ocean. The result of an ancient volcanic eruption, Giant’s Causeway has unique rock structures that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

2. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Walk 100 feet over the ocean across two cliff edges for a view you can only dream of. Look down at the crystal blue water, feel the ocean breeze, and listen to seagulls in the rocks below. This was the highlight of my trip to Dublin.

3. Irish Town Nature Park / Poolbeg Lighthouse

These gems are much closer to the city and no less beautiful. Just a few miles east of the city center lies a luscious green park and a red lighthouse you can’t miss. Enjoy a beautiful morning jog through nature for a fresh start to the day. I suggest going all the way to the lighthouse to surround yourself with the calm ocean. If you can get here before 5pm, you might be lucky enough to watch the sunrise!

4. Guinness Storehouse

If there’s one thing Dublin is known for, it’s their Guinness beer. Go explore how Guinness is made, learn about the history of the company, sample some beers, and have the freshest ruby red Guinness you’ll ever have in your lifetime.

5. Pubbing

Dublin has some of the best nightlife I’ve ever seen and the pubs here are very diverse. Some have reading themes, others have music themes, and you can always find a pub that suits your needs! Make sure to check out publin.ie for the ultimate Dublin pub resource.

Sláinte!

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Travel Tips

My First Impression of Countries Around the World

Traveling is unique in that you get to experience other cultures firsthand. How do people behave? What foods do they eat? What values do they hold?

During my travels, I’ve noticed distinct differences that I will share. Seeing what other people value around the world continues to inspire me, and I hope it does the same for you.

Disclaimer: These are my personal impressions based on the cities I’ve been to. Keep in mind these may vary within the country.

France

Diversity

The first thing I noticed in France was the diversity. There is a large presence of African, Middle Eastern, and European cultures. Unlike other places in the world, they seem to embrace this and remain open to people’s religion and ethnicity.

Language

The French language is absolutely amazing. It is a very beautiful and romantic language, and the accents are icing on the cake. Even when they speak English, it’s music to the ears. If you’re looking to impress, try learning French. Parlez-vous français?

History

France is full of history. In Paris, specifically, you can find world-class sites and museums to satisfy your history cravings. Cathedrals, palaces, paintings, sculptures, and more.

Ireland

Food / Drinks

Let me tell you, the Irish know how to live. Great food and pubs (lots of pubs) contribute to their seemingly effortless lifestyle. They aren’t afraid to eat good meals and drink the night away. Ireland is arguably my new favorite country.

Music

Walk through Dublin at 1am and you can hear dance music, folk music, and random Irishman singing the night away.

Nature

Take a drive through Ireland and you’ll see beautiful green hills, majestic cliffs, and calm oceans. Also, did you know that a group of lobbyists got leprechauns approved under EU law as an endangered species?

Japan

Respect

From the cashier at Baskin-Robbins to the monks in Koyasan, it is clear that the Japanese people are very respectful. They will go out of their way to provide exceptional service and help you however they can, even with language barriers. This is even more evident in they way they regard their elders.

Cleanliness

Walk through the streets of Tokyo and you can see.. the streets of Tokyo. I was amazed at how little trash there was and how tidy the Japanese people are.

Culture

I was surprised at how the Japanese people love and embrace their culture. You can see Japanese women walking down the streets in kimonos, young teens reading in Anime stores, friends singing and drinking in karaoke bars, and people relaxing nude in onsens. Some people look oddly upon these, but having done all of these things, I can tell you that they know how to live.

I will continue updating this list as I visit more places. If you have any thoughts, share them below!

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