08/5/17

Change through the years

Photo with a Chinese girl in 2010

Living a Dream in China is a 7 year old kid already and even though blog’s birthday was two months ago already, a friend inspired me to look into the changes that have been happening.

On of my first posts was Are they looking at me? and it discussed the problem of being watched no matter where you went. Now 7 years later more and more foreigners live in Guangzhou and I don’t get nearly as many looks as back then! Perhaps I’ve grown older, but it’s true that seeing a foreigner on the streets in Guangzhou isn’t as big of a deal anymore.

The first apartment I rented defintely wasn’t the average expat home in China. It cost 600rmb per month and in the end I had to move out because foreigners weren’t allowed to live in that village. What has changed? 7 years later I’m living in another village just 5km from the first one! At least our new home is a lot nicer and we are renovating it bit by bit to build a dream house of ours.

Back in 2012 I was wondering how immersed I truly was in China. Back then I estimated I spoke Chinese 80-90% of the time, right now it might be a bit less as I need to speak more English when I teach beginners. Perhaps 70-80% is still a good number. Eating Chinese or Western food was 50/50 back then and after that I’ve eaten more or less the same amount of Chinese food. With people I’m denitely spending a lot of time with foreigners now, being a teacher and all.

I also touched the topic of being a poor westerner in China. I came to China as a student and I know what it’s like to count your coins even though I still consider my self lucky. The amount of money I use for eating out in 2017 would have terrified me back in 2012.

Finally in 2013 I met my future husband, visited Hengshan snowy mountain with him and the rest is history.

During the years Guangzhou has changed a lot, but even more I have changed as a person. I have finished my degrees, started my career and business, got married and started a family.

I best the next 7 years are gonna be even better!

08/1/17

First day at Japanese Daycare in Guangzhou

Today was our daughter’s first day at daycare in Guangzhou, a big day for all of us. The past year she has been at home with a full time nanny, but now it was time to join the kindergarten.

Why Japanese daycare then? In Guangzhou, perhaps China in general, finding a good daycare isn’t easy. First of all you need to consider if it’s safe, unfortunately violent punishments  might still happen in some daycares. On the other spectrum there are paradise like kindergartens that cost 1000 euros per month!

For us this daycare combines safe environment, nice teachers, good location and in our budget. We also had a strong recommendation from a friend of mine. 

We dropped Anna off around 8am (which requires us to get up at 6.30am). She cried when we left but soon stopped. For newcomers they appoint a designated teacher that takes care of him or her. Anna was in a close distance with her teacher the whole day, often in her arms. 

During the day we got 5 short video clips from the teacher to assure us Anna is doing okay and safe. To make us nervous parents to feel a bit better.

Unfortunately Anna wasn’t comfortable enough to nap there so she was very tired when I picked her up at 5pm. She fell asleep in the car on the way home.

At the daycare each child had a notebook where teachers will write what happened that day. It’s in Japanese, but luckily my husband is fluent in the language. (The teachers do speak Chinese too.) They also record body temperature, food eaten, bathroom visits and nap time. I believe Finland has a similar habit in the kindergartens though not necessarily recording so many details.

The teachers send daily video clips to the parents so moms and dads know what happens in the daycare. That’s especially important as our daughter can’t yet explain or tell us her self. I like to go over the day during or after dinner with her.

First day was quite nervous was us all, but we are still happy with our choice and think Anna will enjoy the daycare soon.

07/29/17

Polyglot Toddler

Our daughter Anna is 1 year 9 months soon and experiencing her learning to speak is super exciting. I always thought I would know what her first word is, but in the beginning it was hard to say what counts as a word or not. 

At the moment she can understand Finnish, Cantonese and Mandarin. I speak to her in Finnish. Her dad speaks to her in Mandarin and Cantonese, his family uses Cantonese. Our nanny who worked for us almost a year spoke mostly Cantonese with Anna.

Here is a list of words she can say in each language.

Mandarin: cellphone (no other words yet)

Cantonese: wash hands, to hug, raining, go upstairs, small bird, dog, fish, water.

Finnish: boob, poo, pee, finished, more, cat, bag, flower.

She uses the word she knows, no matter if the person understands that language or not. The concept of language will develop much later. 

She is in a stage where she points at things and wants to know what the items are called, both in books and in real life around her. She also uses sounds to mean certain things too, like meow for a cat.

Next week Anna will start in a Japanese kindergarten which brings a new language to her mix. We weren’t planning on introducing Japanese yet (her dad speaks it fluently), but the daycare was the best option for us right now. It will be interesting to see what Japanese words she will pick up. They have English lessons too so let’s see if she starts speaking English as well!

I’m a monolingual parent, only spoke Finnish at home when growing up, it’s fascinating to see how my daughter learns to speak. 

07/26/17

Back in Guangzhou


During my seven years in China, I go back to Finland every Summer. Just once had a longer stretch in between when I didn’t go. In many senses it’s the highlight of the year. It’s Summer holiday, visiting family, seeing friends and breathing fresh air.

This Summer me and Anna spent 3 weeks and my husband 9 days in my hometown. Not nearly enough to see everyone, but I needed a week before work to battle jet lag.

Summer was full of love. My little sister got married! First weekend we arrived, second was bachelorette party and third the big day. My husband got to experience a traditional Finnish wedding. We never had a wedding in Finland, only a small one in China back in 2014.

Being back in Guangzhou is great too, it’s nice to come home no matter how humid it is. We’ve spent time as a family, which is a rare opportunity for us as we worked such a long hours during the Spring. Even started upgrading our small backyard!

Next week it’s back to business! I’m very excited to see where my company Expat Chinese will go this Autumn. So many big things happening! If you want to know more check Expat Chinese.

Anna has exciting news too! After being at home with a nanny, she is now at the age of 1 year and 9 months going to daycare! She is so active and we hope she can have more activities and friends at daycare. I’m eager to see how this new chapter will go.

August, we are ready for you!

06/15/17

Moving to Guangzhou: Choosing where to live

Moving to Guangzhou for work, study or with a family is an exciting adventure and many problems have to be solved before one is settled in the City of Rams. One of the most common questions I get through email is where to live in Guangzhou. Which compounds are good with kids? In order to solve this, I asked my friends and accquittances to tell me a bit about how they chose which compound to live in Guangzhou.


Oakwood Gold Arch Guangzhou

Oakwood Gold Arch, Ersha Island

“I moved here because of the great expat community”.

“It’s close to the American school where I wanted my kids to enroll.”

“Ersha Island and especially Gold Arch is green, quiet, great for kids. We have a nice pool, playground, indroor playroom. Here it’s really easy to socialise with parents and other families. It’s also close to American School”

“My child goes to American School so most of his friends live here too.”

Canton Mansion

Canton Mansion, Liede

“We love the  community here. My children spend a lot of time with the local swim lessons, tennis lessons, playground and play dates. Convenient shops, delis and restaurants all downstairs.”

“The convenience of the location is what matters the most.”

“The facilities, service and location are perfect for us.”

Golden Lake Guangzhou

Golden Lake, Baiyun

“Nice environment and houses feel like living in USA, which is where we moved from. Good neighborhood feeling and supportive network.”

“Green area, pool and proximity of the school are important for us.”

Other compounds

One Link Apartments, Tianhe: “Easy access to public transportation and shops.”

Fraser Suites, Tianhe (next to One Link Apartments): “Central location is convenient and near metro station.”

Favorview Palace, Wushan: “The French school was located here when we arrive. Plus I liked the green areas. It’s also away from hustle and bustle of the city center.”

COSMOS, Zhujiang New Town: “Bright and spacious.  Within our budget and easy commute to office.”


How to choose?

When choosing the place to live inside Guangzhou, many expat families first consider the location of the school and then the location of the workplace. If there are multiple options, then things like greenery, play areas, transportation and local services come into play. Some prefer to be right in the city with convenient bus and metro routes, other prefer more quiet compound in Panyu or Baiyun districts.

In  the next post of the Moving to Guangzhou -series I’ll be sharing the reasons and tips on choosing which school to sign your kids in.