Reader’s Question: Living in Guangzhou

living in guangzhou
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

  • Ellen

    Hi Sara,

    Thanks for your reply. The answer about weather is very useful. I wouldn’t have thought about the cold INSIDE. Indeed, 15 degrees outside and inside are different things. I’ll remember to take 1-2 sweaters and mittens with me :)

    As for the question about food… Haha, I think I’m a bit embarrased for asking about the food because I had heard that there are Western supermarkets in China, yet I had totally forgotten about them. In any case, it’s good to know in advance that the food in those supermarkets is expensive and I should quickly get used to the local food.
    What kind of options are there for breakfast, for example? I know that Chinese eat very often baozi for breakfast, however, these dumplings don’t fill my stomach so well. How about others?

    [Reply]

    Alysa Reply:

    Hi Ellen!

    You won’t have any trouble finding milk (For a good price) in almost all the shops, when it comes to cheeses and sausages its a bit trickier. You can find them in special imported goods shops, there are a few in Clifford Estates (subway stop Hanxi Changlong, then take the 10B all the way to the end) such as Dailey’s Mart and Rosie’s. These are small shops, however, and there is a bigger imported goods supermarket in TaiKoo Hui (subway stop ShiPaiQiao) called Ole. Its a bit pricey, however.

    My family buys a lot of imported food in bulk at Yide Lu (we usually make a trip there once a month and bring back food for the rest of the month). That’s a road in the Haizhu area (Subway stop Haizhu Square), the same road that the Sacred Heart Cathedral Catholic Church is on. We buy gouda, mozzarella, parmesan, or cheddar cheese there at good prices, as well as a huge bulk bag of New Zealand’s Fonterra powdered milk. (for our large family of 6, its cheaper than the little cartons.) You can also buy pickles, olives, and being from eastern Europe, you might like sauerkraut as much as my Polish mother does (and I myself ;P), which they also sell! I do recommend checking out Yide Lu.

    Although my family does eat Chinese food, we would never have Chinese breakfasts. (Congee? No thanks!) We get by perfectly fine though, none of the western families we’re friends with eat baozi or noodles for breakfast either. I myself like yogurt, fresh fruit, or oatmeal or granola. My family likes eggs more, so they’ll fry em up or scramble them or on special occasions we go through the trouble of making pancakes, french toast, or waffles.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t try baozi, I love baozi and wouldn’t mind having it for breakfast. But its not hard at all to have western breakfasts here. :)

    Woah, super long reply! Hope I helped you with something. I’d be glad to answer more questions on the topic if you have any. :D

    – Alysa

    [Reply]

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you so much Alysa for chiming in! Excellent tips for all of us living in Guangzhou!

    [Reply]

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Ellen,

    Nice to hear you found my post helpful :)

    For breakfast I usually eat baozi, mantou or Chinese cake. But sometimes I also buy milk and cereals. White bread is easy to find, but no rye bread here unfortunately. You can also find porridge in many supermarkets. I think that if you go to bigger supermarkets regularly you can easily eat breakfast Western style.

    [Reply]

  • Chris_Waugh

    I think with the food question we’ve hit on the old “small country problem” – there’s plenty of stuff from the big, famous countries, and we can certainly get all we need to make something approaching the taste of home, but there’s all those little things particular to your culture that Brits, Americans, Germans, French, big country people in general just don’t know about. And there’s so few of us it’s not worth the supermarkets stocking those odd little items. I don’t know about Finland or Estonia, but I know that as easy as it is to get New Zealand dairy products, the range is limited, and there’s a lot of other Kiwi foods and drinks I make sure to enjoy on those rare visits home.

    [Reply]

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    You’re right Chris, I can’t find anything from Finland but I could cook a Finnish dinner with the products I can find from a big supermarket. Oh but some special items can be found from Taobao, like Finnish chocolate!

    [Reply]

  • Tiffany

    Hi Sara I am originally from Singapore, now living in Australia and I am moving to guangzhou with my 2 children next year. I love reading your blog and I am excited about our move! Are you concerned about food safety ie the meat / vege and where do you buy them from? What about the air pollution? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Hi Tiffany, welcome to Guangzhou!

    I buy food at the local wet market where it’s cheap and fresh. I haven’t got any problems with the food safety at least according to my knowledge.

    Of Course with children many want to be very cautious and buying your groceries on foreign supermarkets can become expensive. I think if you be careful with chicken, wash and cook all the vegetables carefully, then you should be fine.

    I’m not personally concerned about the pollution at the moment. It’s not good, but it’s better than in Beijing and Shanghai. I know some expat families have air purification gadgets at their home and don’t let their children out if the pollution is too severe.

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