The Top 10 Things I Love About Beijing
AT Teacher Courtney Bailey has been living in China for 3 months now and here are her top 10 picks in Beijing so far:
I could have made an entire list of all the best Chinese foods that I have eaten or want to eat. But that would just take too long. So I am morphing it all into my first point. Y’all- the food in China is A M A Z I N G. There is such a variety- from Beijing Duck, Shanghai xiaolongbao (soup dumplings!), Yunnan fish, and Sichuan spicy hotpot. Not to mention it can also be incredibly cheap. Baozi from convenience stores are never more than $2, a nice kungpao chicken is hardly $3. They even have these handy-dandy “wai mai” apps so you can order food from anywhere and get it delivered straight to your door. Eating together and sharing food is so important in Chinese culture and I absolutely love it. Oh, did I mention bubble tea? I could seriously go on and on!!
Chinese people are some of the kindest, most helpful and friendly people that I have ever met. Most people here are more than willing to help you out in any way that they can. The children I teach are overjoyed when you give them a hug and say ‘hello.’ People love to take pictures of you, and you get even more points if you try to speak Chinese with them. One time some people even let me hold their baby on the metro ride!! A little effort goes a long way and soon enough you’ll have more Chinese friends than you can keep up with (and you’ll love it)!
3. Cultural Attractions
Beijing is the epicenter of Chinese culture. And Chinese people take great pride in Beijing as their capital city. I live just a few metro stops away from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The Summer Palace is also an easy metro ride to get to in the north of the city. Did you know that the Great Wall of China is just about an hour outside of the city and you can easily get to it by public transportation? The government also makes great strides in protecting traditional architecture so a walk down the street could consist of a beautiful, thousand year old gate painted bright red with all of those lovely, traditional Chinese patterns! Have I mentioned the Hutongs? By far the coolest local attraction, these traditional housings have become fun, hidden spots for hanging out. You will find the cutest cafes, bars, and restaurants hidden in the alleyways of the Hutongs (and you will become obsessed with it!).
Right, so public transportation. I remember telling one of my friends that there was no reason to have a car in Beijing and he actually had a hard time comprehending it. The metro can get you absolutely anywhere in the city and it’s so cheap and easy to navigate! There’s also buses, taxis, and Chinese Uber called DiDi. Bikes have become a big thing here now, too, and all you have to do is scan a QR code and you can cruise to wherever you need to go!
If you’ve never done KTV before, Beijing is the place to try it. There are so many spots that stay open late into the night. It’s not just karaoke, y’all. It’s a PARTY. And let me warn you- Chinese people take their KTV pretty seriously. While my friends and I are singing bangers like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” and rocking out on the sofa pretending our water bottles are microphones, our Chinese friends were hitting notes perfectly while using the actual microphones and singing classic Chinese ballads.
Who doesn’t love shopping? Okay, well, maybe some (crazy) people. But China has the absolute best shopping that could ever exist. You’ve got huge 12 story malls with a variety of stores from Gucci and Dior to Zara and Uniqlo but also random side street stores with cheap and comfortable options. It’s amazing and I am already addicted to testing out my Chinese clothing style.
7. Café Culture
I am completely obsessed with Beijing’s up and coming café culture. I am currently on a mission to find the best coffee and cutest café because I miss working at my coffee shop back home. Usually a little more on the expensive side here due to it’s more “western” experience, but totally worth it. Best places to catch up on lesson plans and write blog posts while sipping on a classic cup of cappuccino or trying out the café’s house-made cold brew.
I love Chinese culture because naps are totally acceptable to take at any time in the day wherever you need to. Tired at work from a long night? No problem- just put your head down and take a little rest. Had a long day at work and need to rest your eyes on the bench in the park? No worries. Commuting home from an eventful day of exploring and need a doze on the subway? Of course, everyone else does it too! The Chinese are seemingly all about taking care of yourself, so if you need a rest, buddy you can take it right then and there and no one will judge you.
9. Environmental Effort
You probably know about China’s pollution problem. It’s pretty bad and definitely has a horrible reputation. It’s normal to wear a pollution mask as everyday attire. BUT let me tell you that the ambitious strides they are making towards fixing the problem are working. There is still a long way to go, but clear, blue skies aren’t as rare as they were about five years ago. I won’t go into a lot of details (because I could talk about it for hours), but I will give you a nice article to read published by Stanford University’s News Service here.
Beijing is in such a fantastically relative location. To the south you’ve got Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Sanya, and Taiwan. To the east you’ve got Japan and South Korea. You aren’t more than a few hours plane ride from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and all of the other great Southeast Asian countries. For your bigger vacations, you can make a trek to Bali, New Zealand, or even Australia. It’s perfect for traveling within China and outside of it.
So, as you can see, Beijing is awesome and I hope you get the chance to teach here or at least visit!