Isabelle (Guiyang)

You can’t really ever be prepared for China. Even after watching videos, reading articles in the newspapers, doing research online or talking with people that have traveled/lived here. When you first arrive in Mao’s land, all of your senses are alerted.

You’ve probably heard of the deliciousness of Italian food. Even if you have never tried it before, you know it’s renowned worldwide. When you first get to eat real Italian food, your first gnocchi or pizza made by a potbellied chef named Luigi, you think: OH MY GOD THIS IS WAY BETTER THAN WHAT I COULD HAVE EVER DREAMED OF.

Getting to China you will feel exactly the same. We know it’s crowded. We imagine it’s loud. We think it’s going to be a frightening adventure. But moving to China isn’t anything like what you could or might expect. The expats here call it “Planet China” and it’s so true. Everything is just so different and nothing like you have ever seen or experienced.

China is a country that works 25 hours per day, 8 days a week. It’s always moving, never seems to stop running. You will find as many people on the street, and the traffic will be as bad as any European capital during rush hour, but it’ll be 4am. Coming from the 7th biggest city in Canada with an astounding number of 765 000 people, getting to a “rural” region of 4 million was a big shock. People screaming on the street, music coming from shops as though they were the biggest clubs in London, taxi drivers sitting on their horn to make sure you heard them coming is China’s melody, at least in the cities. Her perfume smells of dumpling, “stinky tofu” and baozi. Her “look” is extreme as la teenage girl’s: gigantic buildings, trees growing in concrete and lights, lights, lights so that at night it’s almost impossible to see the stars. But she also has a sweeter side: her nature. China has marvellous scenery: the astonishing mountains of Zhangjiajie, rainbow-coloured rice terraces of Yunnan or its unique caves in Guizhou, you’ll think you’re dreaming.

Apart from its exceptional attributes, you’ll discover that China is also a country of contradictions. Just like the comparison of the cities and the countryside, there is a great disparity between Chinese social classes, and no need to look for it to notice it. On the same street, you will have a 30-floor-building where wealthy people live, and just at its foot, single rooms with a bed, a fridge and a TV where a family of 3 or 4 live, using the public toilet as they don’t have one of their own. In the same school, classes of students that have never set foot out of their province, or even hometown for the unluckiest, and in other classes students that get their second iPhone out when the first one is confiscated by the teacher.