Preferably somewhere where they speak more English, and Pizza is more readily available.
If you didn’t already know, Chinese cities are categorised into ‘tiers’. There are four tiers in the system, all of which are assessed and placed depending on population, politics, and gross domestic product.
Theres a really helpful website which breaks it down here.
Essentially, Tier One cities include Beijing and Shanghai – the more developed of the bunch. If you move to one of these cities you’ll probably be one of a higher number of expats, and may find that life here isn’t so different to back home! More English will be spoken, and plenty of the locals will have a grasp of basic English.
The largest category of cities is the Tier Four category, with over 400 cities encompassed. These areas are representative of most of China’s urban population. As a general rule, no one will speak English. Maybe ‘hello’.
Xiangyang, the city that we have been living in for the past 8 months, is graded as Tier Three. Almost no one in our city has knowledge of English, aside from our Chinese teachers, and this has made it very hard to integrate into the community. The locals are characteristically friendly, and overwhelmed when they see a ‘wàiguó rén’, a phrase they consistently mutter as they FREAK out. Young children will run and grab their friends to share in the amazement; parents with babies will shamelessly begin to use their child as an excuse to greet us. These consistent encounters have sometimes become exhausting, but generally the encounters are heartfelt and leave us with an elated feeling of appreciation.
Wàiguó rén - Foreigner
Within Xiangyang, western food is relatively hard to come by. We find ourselves eating ‘niúròu miàn’ most evenings for about £1, unless we drag ourselves to the local store and cook. In a Tier Three city you will usually always be able to find yourself a McDonalds, Starbucks, KFC, and Walmart. Its surprising how quickly you find yourself tired of McDonalds when it is one of the very limited options. ‘Niúròu miàn’ it is.
Niúròu miàn - Beef noodles
I think from both my perspective and Joel’s, we hold our time here in high esteem because of our heightened appreciation for how lucky we have been in our lives. We have been fortunate enough to experience a great deal, and have had opportunities available to us that are not so accessible elsewhere. Having said that… we feel that we have experienced all we can from our city, and next year we are ready to face new challenges. Preferably somewhere where they speak more English, and Pizza is more readily available.
Here’s some pictures of Xiangyang, if you want to see what its like in a Tier Three city!