A Day in the Life of a Beijing Alien


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February 25th 2006
Published: February 25th 2006
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Well, we are now official Aliens of Beijing having received our 'Aliens Residence Permit' and 'Aliens Employment Permit' from the Chinese Government a few days ago. Yep, they really make you feel welcome and loved here, labelling you as Aliens.

Its been just over 2 weeks, and we can confidently say that we think we really are going to like it here in Beijing. It's full of all the comforts you'd expect in a western country, except that things are one fifth of the price.

Despite the language barrier, its actually not too difficult getting around - thanks to the aid of our trusty lonely planet phrase book. Through a combination of gesturing wildly, pronouncing Chinese phrases with an Australian accent and just looking plain sad and helpless, we've managed to get over most language hurdles. Our Chinese is actually steadily improving - we've almost got ordering at restaurants nailed ... except for tea, for some reason when we order tea, we sometimes get hot water.

We've been moving at a pretty rapid pace since getting here. For the first 5 days, we basically did non stop apartment hunting: 8am till 6pm everyday. The agents here are really helpful - they allocate a whole day to take you around every apartment they have. The poor chaps apparently work 7am till 11pm everyday.

Apartment rents here are ridiculously expensive. Essentially, if you want something of alien standard (ie. western style with some English channels) then you're looking at rents starting at about $350 AUD per week for something quite small but generally very new and chic. Most of these alien apartments however are beautiful, set in really fancy apartment complexes complete with gyms, pools, and convenience stores. Unfortunately, if you want something normal without all the exhorbitant trimmings, it simply doesn't exist.

Thankfully, we managed to find something really nice at a pretty good price. Its a large and modern apartment and right in the heart of the CBD, so its really convenient. We move in on 8 March, which is not a moment too soon because we're getting sick of living in a hotel room.

Kit started work last Tuesday and is absolutely loving it. The working environment is great, and he is finding it amazing being in such close proximity to some of the great minds in speech research. Working hours are suprisingly liberal - we were expecting standard american style working hours - super early start and very late finishes. However, most people start to trickle in at about 9:30-10 and leave between 6 and 6:30. There are a few that hang around and work late, but they generally are the people who are trying to make some kind of deadline. Everyone there is really friendly and many of the local chinese go our of their way to say hello to him. There are heaps of foreigners there as well, so he doesn't feel too homesick - even a few Australians.

While Kit's been having a ball at work, I have been tromping around Beijing soaking up the sights. Kit thinks my favourite activity at the moment is going to the supermarket to check out all the interesting things in there...well, even browsing through the potato chip aisle here is interesting because they have strange flavours like 'green tea and seaweed' and 'pork and chestnut'. However, there are some pretty gross things as well - for example, I was happily perusing the meat section when I came across a vat of live bullfrogs sitting in an uncovered tray, free to hop out and scratch your face!!

I haven't been wasting all my days away though. I have been in touch with some PR people and a recruiter. From what we've heard, Beijing companies are in need of PR and communications people who are native English speakers so things are looking promising.

Kitty's off to Seattle on Monday. Why you ask? For mental reprogramming. Yes, apparently all MS employees must go through this as part of their initiation process. Just kidding. He's really going to a business conference with other MS researchers. Sadly, he'll be leaving me in China, friendless and all alone for two whole weeks... Don't feel too sorry for me though, with Kitty gone I'll be able to eat anything I want without the food nazi scolding me for eating fried rice for breakfast...I think I might do some serious clothes shopping too 😊

That's right! Did we mention the fantastic and free buffet breakfast we've been getting every morning? They've got a the normal continental breakfast foods plus: a salad bar, yum cha section, hot food section with the normal western fare eg. scrambled eggs plus fried noodles and rice, wontonsoup and more. Ok, by now most of you must think we are lunatics especially after our Singapore escapades but what can I say - we love our food.


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2nd July 2006

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