American Expat Living in China - Interview with Paul

Published: 7 Mar at 11 AM
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Filed: Interviews,China
Paul Finkbeiner has lived in China for over three years. As a former student learning Chinese and now a professor teaching English, he has been immersed in the scholastic system. After meeting the Terracotta Warriors, climbing the Great Wall, and visiting Ice World in Harbin, he's ready to hold a cuddly panda in Sichuan and talk to a monk in Tibet. He loves living in Huangdao, a smaller version of Qingdao with better beaches and less people, and enjoys teaching his students at China University of Petroleum. Paul's expat blog is called Jiaozi and Burgers (see listing here)

Climbing Fushan with my uncle
Climbing Fushan with my uncle

Here's the interview with Paul...


Where are you originally from?
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

In which country and city are you living now?
Huangdao,China

How long have you lived in China and how long are you planning to stay?
3 years. At least 5 years.

Harbin International Snow Sculpture
Harbin International Snow Sculpture
Why did you move to China and what do you do?
To experience a completely different culture from my American one and to find a job.

Did you bring family with you?
No, just me.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
First I went through the honeymoon phase where everything was new and exciting. When I passed through that phase, I questioned my sanity in traveling halfway around the world to come here. But after traveling around China and meeting new friends, foreign and Chinese, I have adapted to life in China.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes, the people in Shandong are very friendly. Since I love soccer (or football for the rest of the world), I became friends with expats and Chinese too. As an English teacher, I have many Chinese friends too. I enjoy hanging out with Chinese and expat friends.

My fellow teachers and I
My fellow teachers and I
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
In the summer, you can go to the Golden and Silver Beaches.
In the fall, you can climb Xiao Zhu Shan, a local mountain.
In the winter, you can bowl near the government center.
And in the spring, you can stroll around Tangdaowan Park, a beautiful, recreational park that hugs the bay.

What do you enjoy most about living in China?
I enjoy the people who have enriched my life, both expat and Chinese friends.
I also enjoy the cheap, delicious food.

How does the cost of living in China compare to home?
Much cheaper here. You can eat a $2 meal here that would be a $10 meal back home. Since my apartment is free and Internet too, my cost of living is minimal. A car would be expensive, but my mountain bike suits me fine.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in China?
Being away from family, although Skype helps.

Being away from Chipotle, a Mexican restaurant that specializes in burritos.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to China, what would it be?
Be flexible. Many things happen last minute, but you just have to be fine with that. Don't let it ruin your experience.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Learning Chinese. Chinese puts Spanish and French to shame.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It won't be easy since most of my friends live here. I expect it will be reverse culture shock where I readjust to Western culture and reorient my mind to Western thinking.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be flexible. Change happens overnight here. Don't let that bother you.
  2. Be culturally sensitive. There will be things you don't like or even find annoying here. Just remember that something that is different for you is not stupid or strange. It's just different.
  3. Be adventurous. Travel whenever you can. This may be your only chance, and there is so much to see here.
  4. Be friendly. Your kindness will endear yourself to others, and you'll make friends much easier. Friendliness is contagious.
  5. Learn the language. Even if you're not a linguistic nerd, that's fine. The people here will appreciate that you have tried to learn their own language. It shows that you care.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Mainly it's just my reflections on life here as an English prof. My blog is a motley of traveling pieces, spiritual reflections, and other thoughts on life in the Middle Kingdom. Thanks for your interest.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Email is best. If not, skype me (finkster6.1).

About the author

Expat Blog ListingPaul is an American expat living in China. Blog description: An English prof's musings on China with travel pieces and spiritual reflections too
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Steve wrote 3 years ago:

I spent the last six years teaching math in China before retiring to Thailand earlier this year. I have to agree that being flexible is the #1 tip followed by being sensitive to the culture even though there are many things you won't agree with or understand. Despite the sometimes frustrating moments (not that many!), my time in Wuhan was probably the best six years of my 30 year teaching career.

Annie wrote 3 years ago:

This was great as I leave in 42 days to be in Beijing to teach. Please email me if you have a chance

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