08/12/13

Reader’s Question: Living in Guangzhou

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Today I’ll be answering to some questions from my reader Ellen who is moving to Guangzhou. If you have questions about living in Guangzhou/China, feel free to send me an email: sara(a)sarajaaksola.com.

 

Hi Sara!

Greetings from Estonia!! :) I’ve been reading intensively your blog for the past 2 years now and I have to admit that your blog is truly fascinating and unique. By chance, I’m coming to Guangzhou as well, to study Chinese at SCUT. I was wondering if you could help me with some local questions. Firstly, I wanted to ask what’s the weather like in GZ in January and February? What kind of clothes would you suggest me to take with me? I know that generally it’s very hot in that place, however, I’ve seen some pictures in your blog, where you have pretty warm clothes on… Is there point in taking my autumn/winter coat with me?

Secondly, do you happen to know if there are shops in GZ where I could buy Eastern European food (dairy products, sausages, sweets etc)? It’s not like I’m coming to GZ to stay with Westerners and eat my food :P rather that I want to prepare a meal for some friends of mine in GZ and hence it would be good to find that kind of shop. Finally, if by any chance there’s something you badly want from Finland, then please let me know. I’m taking the flight from Helsinki, so I could grab something for you on my way to the airport :)

Cheers, Ellen

 

Dear Ellen,

First of all, thank you so much for your sweet words about my blog! It makes my very happy to know that I’m being able to help someone by writing these posts.

January and February are usually the coldest months in Guangzhou, but the temperature can vary every year. But in general it’s usually about 15 Celsius during those months. What we have to remember, coming from the North, that when it’s outside 15 Celsius, it’s the same inside too!

There isn’t any heating in the Southern China, so when a 15C feels nice outside, it can feel freezing inside. I remember once sleeping with my hat on when it was too cold inside my room. I didn’t have a proper winter jacket here with me, I thought I don’t need it, so I just wore a lots of layers. I would go for some Autumn clothing and remember a hat and mittens.

Check the weather forecast before you come, for example last Winter wasn’t as cold as two years ago. Of course it also depends on your apartment and if you are willing to spend a little to buy a heater. When its sun shine, go outside as it can be warmer than inside.

Then about the groceries. It’s surprisingly easy these days to find some basic dairy from shops, supermarkets and 7-11. Supermarkets like Carrefour and Park’n’Shop have a good selection, but be aware that anything imported is much more expensive than back home. It can be a bit pricy to be a cheese lover in China for example. Drinkable yogurt is easy to find anywhere, skimmed milk only in the biggest supermarkets.

Shopping for Western food is not so much about finding it or not, it’s about spending the money or saving it. For example at home in Finland I often ate cereals with milk in the mornings, but here it would be too expensive to eat that everyday.

Of course there are things that you can’t find here. As a Finn I’m missing rye bread, Karelian pies, Finnish chocolate and Finnish milk. But I believe that it’s possible to find almost everything you need in order to cook a meal for your friends. It might take more time to shop than back home, but for a special dinner it’s also worth it.

For other questions about whether and food in Guangzhou, feel free to ask in the comments!

Best, Sara

07/31/13

Being happily stuck in Guangzhou

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My reader Jason asked me to write about why I love living in Guangzhou and I’ve been thinking of this topic ever since.

It’s not like I chose to come to Guangzhou because I wanted to live here, it was an easy choise as my Finnish university has cooperation with the Guangzhou University. Then I stayed in Guangzhou for more than the planned one semester because I met someone. Even though that ended, I’m grateful that the relationship made me want to stay in Guangzhou and I started my bachelor’s degree at Sun Yat-Sen University. Because at Sun Yat-Sen I met my Japanese classmate who later, when I was single again, introduced me to my boyfriend. That would have never happened if I had moved to Beijing like I first planned to do.

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During these three years I’ve grown attached to Guangzhou. I’m a person who likes to stay, I’m not a fan of changes or moving around. I noticed that there is something for everyone’s taste in Guangzhou. My own student circles first in University Island and now around my campus at Haizhu District. Me and my classmates enjoying the cheap food and entertainment in Binjiangdong and Jiangnanxi. Then there are working expats living in Zhujiang New Town, Tianhe and Taojin, seeing a totally different side of Guangzhou between all the Western restaurants and bars. In this city you can live rich in a posh new district or modestly in a small village like I’m doing.

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Beijing’s air pollution is much worse than here, Shanghai seems to have a more international atmosphere and Hong Kong doesn’t fit my budget. But Guangzhou even has some clear blue sky during summer (like today), has a nice local feeling and you can eat really cheap if you want to. Hong Kong and that “other island” is out of the picture, because it’s the mainland culture and history I’m most interested in. Even though it might sometimes give me a headache.

Living in a Cantonese area is a blessing and a curse. My Mandarin pronunciation would have been much better in the north with a Beijing boyfriend, that’s something I’ve fully realized recently. But living in Guangzhou also gives me the opportunity to step my toes in a new language, which I hope to learn someday.

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But I have to admit that I’m always thinking with my heart and sometimes forget my head. I always do what I want to do at that time of my life, even others would think my decisions don’t make much sense. I worked hard two years in order to get into history major, then moved to China before I graduated and forget all about that. Then I decided to specialize in Teaching Chinese opposed to most of my classmates choosing Business Chinese. I haven’t regretted that decision one bit, hell, I might even continue to master’s if I get the chance.

I have never regretted moving to China and staying in Guangzhou. It has turned my life upside down, for the better! I’m eager to find out what life and Guangzhou have in storage for me.

So why do you live or want to live in China? Are you happy where you live now or do you dream of moving to a new place? Please share in the comments!

07/22/13

My top 5 favourite places in Guangzhou

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Inspired by my reader Jason and my friend Linda, today I will be summing up my favourite places in Guangzhou. Over the three years I’ve spent here, I’ve grown to love this city and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I get easily attached to places and don’t enjoy moving from city to city.

In Finland I was born in Vantaa, near our capital Helsinki, but moved to small city called Heinola when I was two years old. I grew up there, but moved to Orivesi, even smaller city, for high school. After high school graduation I moved to Tampere, which is the third biggest city in Finland. I worked and studied there until I moved to China. All in all I haven’t been living in that many places.

But what are my favorites after three years of living in Guangzhou?

1. Xiaozhou Village

My number one favourite since I first visited it back in 2010 is still Xiaozhou Village. I recommend anyone and everyone living or traveling in Guangzhou to visit this art village. It’s perfect for reading books in unique coffee shops, taking photographs and learning art.

2. Xiguan

For Cantonese Lingnan style architecture I head to Xiguan, which is part of Liwan district now. During festivals and holidays area around Liwan lake gets a bit crowded but it’s also a good place for enjoying the atmosphere and taste some local delicacies.

3. University Island

A great place for biking is the University Island. It’s a home for ten university campuses and three villages. There are bike rentals in the metro stations and every weekend you can see quite a many locals biking and enjoying the fresh air. If you bike around the outer ring road, it’s about 20km and takes one hour. But for a nice day out I recommend you to eat in one of the villages, Beigang, Beiting or Nanting.

4. Sun Yat-Sen University Campus

I have to admit I really love our campus! It’s full of old red brick architecture and big trees transforming the campus to a park. The central grass area is great for a picnic during the day, but when the sky starts to get darker you should head to the North Gate where all kinds of people from kids to grandparents hang out and practice dancing.

5. Tianhe Book Center

If you want to buy books in Guangzhou you should absolutely head to Tianhe’s Book Center. They have an English book store on the fourth floor which is a bit pricy, but it has a nice selection of foreign books. The book center also has a good stock of Chinese learning material. So no matter if you are enrolled in a university, self studying or preparing for the HSK, check out this book center.

+ Top 3 restaurants

  1. For the best curry in town, take a taxi to Beijing Lu where you can find an amazing Viatnamese restaurant called the Tiger Prawn. Try curry chicken soup with French bread.
  2. If you want pizza, then I recommend Oggi near the Taojin metro station. They also have a restaurant in Tianhe, but the prices there are much higher than in Taojin.
  3. And because we are in Guangzhou, everyone should try the traditional dim sum. There are numerous places for dim sum all over the city. One really nice is Weiguo Kitchen on Binjiang East Road in Haizhu district.

+ Tourist tips

  • For some background information to the history of Guangdong province, take your passport and enter the free Guangdong Museum in Zhujiang New Town.
  • If you want to cruise along the Pearl River, go when it’s dark and only take the cheapest 38RMB ticket. The food buffet isn’t worth it.
  • For gifts go to Onelink Plaza in Haizhu Square.
  • For expat news read That’s PRD magazine.

Now it’s your turn! What’s your favourite place in Guangzhou? Or if you were to visit Guangzhou, what kind of areas or places would you like to visit?

03/18/13

Guangzhou Meet-Up

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It’s time to have the very first Guangzhou Meet-Up! Everyone living or traveling in Guangzhou at the moment can participate in this trip to the Xiaozhou Village. We will have a nice afternoon by relaxing and chatting in a coffee shop, we also have a great chance to walk around the ancient village and take photos.

Time: Sunday 24th March 2pm

Place: Xiaozhou Village main gate (click the map below to see it bigger)

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How to get there: Take a bus 45, 252 or 468 to 小洲村 xiao zhou cun bus stop. Easiest way is to hop on to 252 or 468 at Kecun metro station (same side of the road as exit C). The ride will take about 40 minutes. (Click the map below)

If you live on the University Island (also known as University City, HEMC and 大学城) let me know and we can bike there together. The bridge between the University Island and Xiaozhou Village is being renovated so busses or taxis can’t cross it, but bikes can.

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Confirmation via email: If you are coming, please send me an email with your name and phone number to sara(a)sarajaaksola.com (change (a) to @ before sending!) I will then send a message back to you so you can contact me if you get lost or are late.

See you on Sunday!

02/8/13

Guangzhou Flower Fair 2013

Flower Fairs are a big tradition in Guangzhou before the Chinese New Year. Firework show being cancelled from now onwards the best way to celebrate the holidays is to visit different flower fair available all around the city. Tomorrow will be the last day of the flower fairs in Guangzhou.

I visited the Haizhu District Flower Fair at Binjiang West Road (滨江西路). You will need at least one hour, but better to prepare even more time. Besides flowers there is so much else to buy too. Anything you need to have a beautiful and tasty Spring Festival.

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