Matt Schiavenza’s China Journal Blog did an interesting post on where to live in China. The post is entitled, appropriately enough, “Where to Live in China,” and it is meant to serve as a guide for expats, depending on their category. Schiavenza describes his goal as matching “the aspiring laowai to the most suitable Chinese city.”
1. You’re looking to cash in on China’s rapidly growing economy. You’ve got quite a lot of cash to spare, so setting up won’t be difficult. Otherwise, you’re not particularly interested in Chinese culture or Chinese language, and you’d like to live somewhere with a large foreign community. Best bet: Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong
2. You’re an adventurous sort who wants to experience China: the real China. You’re keen to learn Mandarin, to make Chinese friends, and to dive into Chinese culture headlong. You’d be more than happy never to see a McDonalds once during your stay in the Middle Kingdom. Best bet: Any small or medium-sized city outside of Tibet or Xinjiang.
3. You’re a fledgling businessman who wants to experience the cutting-edge of Chinese society. While you do want to make a bit of money, you’re also interested in Chinese culture and to see how the world’s largest country is rapidly changing. Best bet: Shanghai, Beijing
4. You’re an aspiring journalist fascinated with the murky underworld of Chinese politics. You want to experience Chinese media head-on, as well as delve into the country’s past. Modernity suits you fine but you’d rather be somewhere that reminds you that you are in China. Best bet: Beijing.
5. You find China interesting and exciting but can do without the hustle and bustle of the big coastal cities. Pollution, hot and humid summers, and cold winters also put you off. You’d like to go somewhere that combines a relaxing environment with enough things to do to not get bored. Best bet: Kunming
6. You’ve come to China to learn Mandarin- properly. You don’t want to study for a year only to realize you’ve picked up some incomprehensible local dialect. Money is no object. Best bet: Beijing or the Northeast.
7. You don’t have much interest in China per se but would like to settle somewhere with beautiful scenery and a small but vibrant expat community. Your ideal China experience would be to sip coffee at an internet cafe before embarking on a bike ride through gorgeous countryside. Best bet: Dali, Yangshuo, Gulangyu (Xiamen)
8. You have an academic or personal interest in exploring China’s minority ethnic groups. Best bet: Yunnan, Guizhou, Tibet, Guangxi, Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang Provinces/Autonomous Regions
9. You love spicy food and hot summers and want to be centrally located. Best bet: Sichuan and Hunan Provinces
10. You love China’s culture, but not the mainland’s quality of life. You’d like to live in a more sophisticated, international environment with plenty of business opportunities. You have no intention to learn another language, just to work, live, and have fun. Best bet: Hong Kong
Schiavenza admits these are “bald stereotypes” and solicits comments, of which he got some good ones.
Jason, from the Over and Out [link no longer exists] blog added the category of “You came to China to learn Chinese, make Chinese friends and enjoy Chinese culture. You don’t want too much westernization, but you definitely want to occasionally eat Western food, go to bars and also have foreign friends. Best bet: basically all second-tier cities. (Suzhou, Nanjing, Dalian, Hangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu, Qingdao etc)”
Brendan, from the legendary bokane.org blog, added the somewhat dubious but probably disturbingly accurate category of “You’re a 50-something alcoholic who’s abandoned his family on the other side of the world to come and teach English in Asia. You’ve been kicked out of Cambodia for reasons you’ve never satisfactorily explained, and now you’re looking for a cold, desolate place where you can drink yourself to death while teaching at the local agricultural university to make enough money to cover your daily half-gallon of baijiu. City: Harbin.
I like the list and the comments, but would add Dalian and Qingdao to #5.
What do you think?