Ex-Pat Social Life in Beijing
How Will I Meet People?
One question many people ask when they are deciding whether or not they want to teach English in a foreign country or city, is what their social life will be life. Introverts and Extroverts alike wonder what the opportunities are for meeting other people like them, and who speak their language. For some people, this isn’t their biggest concern, while for others it can make or break their decision to move to a certain country or city.
Where to Start
If this is of all a concern to you, the first thing you should do is find out if the city or town has any areas popular with foreigners. This may involve internet searching, or trying to find people online who can tell you. In my case, I found out an old high school friend was living and teaching in Beijing, and was more than happy to show me her favorite places. If you don’t know anyone already, some cities have ex-pat group pages on Facebook and other social media platforms that you can find and ask questions. The Beijinger website is a great place to start looking for events throughout Beijing.
Ex-Pat Areas of Beijing
While Shanghai is probably the best known city in China when it comes to a popular ex-pat environment, Beijing also has a lot to offer it’s very large population of foreigners, whether they be from other parts of Asia, or the Western part of the world. There are a few major neighborhoods in particular where there are many popular foreign bars and restaurants. Many of these are more expensive than the Chinese options but if you are looking to meet other foreigners or live near them, these are the primary areas to look: Sanlitun, Gulou, Wukesong, and Wudaokou. You can find many different cuisines all around you and plenty of bars and other venues to meet more people.
Your Colleagues Are a Great Resource
Everyone’s experience is different, but one thing that seems quite common among the TEFL community is that your colleagues often become your main social circle. That is sometimes true in the States, but I wouldn’t personally call it the norm. But while teaching abroad your fellow teachers can become not only a great professional resource but also your family away from your family.
Most of the ex-pat community will also be happy to help you start learning your way around your new home. Even if they’ve lived there for years, they remember what it was like for them when they first arrive. They’ve been through everything and will have great advice for you, including their favorite places to go and ways you can get involved and meet more people. Some of my colleagues are involved in music and their band plays at different bars during the week. One of them is also involved in a hockey league. Some of them take Mandarin lessons in the city not sponsored by their work and meet other foreigners there. I found a group of fellow fantasy nerds who play Dungeons and Dragons every week! You can have whatever type of social life is the most comfortable for you.
Put Yourself Out There
There are many different opportunities to find your social niche when you decide to move abroad, as long as you put yourself out there to find them. As an introvert, this is something I tend to struggle with, as I am just as happy being at home reading and often need alone time to recharge my batteries so to speak. However, I also knew that part of what would make this experience personally worthwhile is meeting new people and having new experiences.
If I wanted to stay at home and read all the time, I could have stayed in the US and kept working at the soul-crushing customer service job I was doing before this. So, to any introverts reading this, know that if you choose to do this, it’s okay to take care of yourself and have some alone time, but make sure you experience everything else your new home has to offer!