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From Spain to Suzhou: Marta Lives in China

22 April, 2019 09:57  Erin Erin

Marta Lives in China I am Marta, I come from a small city in the west of Spain and I currently live in Suzhou, China.

1.    Why did you move abroad?
The first time I came to China I wanted to improve my Mandarin. I studied at a couple of universities in Beijing for 3 years thanks to scholarships. I went back to Spain but after a year my company sent me to Suzhou, where they had a factory. I was very happy to come back to China!

2.    How do you make a living?
I graduated in Translation and I currently work localizing and testing mobile games for a game publishing company. I have been doing this for a year and a half and I love my job! Previously I worked as an executive assistant for a Spanish plastic manufacturing company (that was the company who relocated me to Suzhou).

3.    How often do you communicate with home and how?

I exchange messages through Whatsapp with my parents basically every day and my mum calls me every other weekend or so. I am constantly in touch with other family members and friends through social media and messaging apps.

4.    What's your favorite thing about being an expat in China?
Everything changes fast and there are new things and places appearing almost every day. I can still have a feeling of novelty even after so many years! There are so many things to do and so many places to visit. I also like that locals are in general optimistic about the future and they are usually nice to foreigners.

5.    What’s the worst thing about being an expat in China?
Working with Chinese people can be frustrating for foreigners because we have different attitudes and expectations. I have found people here to be unwilling to accept responsibility for mistakes and they also avoid talking about problems until they are so severe they cannot be avoided anymore. I guess they see me as too pushy.

In a daily life context, the internet can really get on my nerves. The speed is super slow at night and on the weekends when everybody is home. Many websites are censored and you need to use a vpn, which makes the connection even slower. Pollution and grey skies can also take a toll on your mood.

6.    What do you miss most?
Apart from friends and family? Clean air, affordable cheese, good bread and uncensored internet.

7.    What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
When I was a student in Beijing it was fairly easy to meet people. I had classmates from many different countries and made a lot of good friends. Now that I work (and I’m older!) it’s more difficult to meet people with similar interests. I know there are many events and reunions for expats in Suzhou but I have never been to one; I’m a shy person.

8.    What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
People have the amazing superpower of being able to fall asleep everywhere and very fast! Everybody thinks all Spanish people sleep after lunch (siesta) but I think there are many more Chinese people doing this! If you walk into an office at around 1 pm you will see people with their arms on the desk and their head on their arms, sound asleep!

9.    What is a myth about your adopted country?

It seems many people think all Chinese eat dog, cat, monkey and other uncommon animals. The reality is that only a small minority do that. You will most probably not find a skinned dog in the supermarket (I have never seen one) and no one will kidnap your pet to eat it, at least in the cities (a reader of my blog once sent me an email to ask about this). Many Chinese oppose the Yulin dog meat festival and are pressuring to have it banned.

10.    Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living in China has increased a lot in the last 10 years. Some things are still cheaper than in Spain (for example, eating outside and transportation), but many others are more expensive (rent in the big cities, drinks in bars and clubs). However, if you don’t eat in expensive western restaurants and go out every day, life is still pretty affordable in China. I get to save a lot.

11.    What advice would you give other expats?
Learn some Chinese before you come! It will be very useful for your daily life here. You will also get a boost of ego when everybody tells you how good your Chinese is after saying just one word! Also, understand that this is another country and people have other habits and ways of doing things. Don’t get angry when things are not as you would expect them to be.

Marta Lives in China 12.    When and why did you start your blog?

I started my blog in January 2014. I had a blog in Spanish and a photoblog before that. I’ve basically been writing about my life online since 2004! I started the blog in English because I found several websites of women living in China and married to Chinese men. I had been dating my Chinese boyfriend for 2 years and I thought I could add something to the conversation. However, in the end my blog is more about my life in China than about my relationship with a Chinese man!


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