Who are you?
I am an Australian-born writer and owner of an international language exchange business in China.Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I moved to China, Guangzhou in 2013 to study Mandarin in Jinan university.
What challenges did you face during the move?
I planned to live and study in China for one year, so I worked in Australia and saved money for over one year to make life easier in China.
How did you find somewhere to live?
I made friends with a Chinese national in Sydney university. I asked her to inspect the apartments I looked up online, to evaluate whether the apartments were genuine or not. In the Chinese property market it is hard to tell whether the advertised photos are of the actual property.
When I decided on a property, I sent money via international transfer to my friend. My friend sent me the house keys via international mail. When I landed in China, Guangzhou, I had the keys to my apartment.
Are there many other expats in your area?
Guangzhou has a large expat community, but since my interests are in the local Chinese culture and community, I tend to make friends easily with locals.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
All the friends I have in China are locals. I came to China with respect and admiration for Chinese people and Chinese society, and so I am happy to make friends with locals no matter who they are.
What do you like about life where you are?
Food is inexpensive, life is bustling, there are many attractions nearby, and the convenience of being able to find a shopping center, metro, or any kind of shop within 500 meters of your apartment block.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Sometimes I miss the Sydney weather and beaches.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The pace of life. People in China cannot fully appreciate how laid-back Australian life is until they have traveled abroad to experience it for themselves.
Almost all social interaction is on WeChat as well, whereas in Australia we like to meet face-to-face, and hardly ever talk daily on Facebook or other social media.
What do you think of the food and drink in your new country?
Chinese food is great. The three staples, congee, soup, and rice, are foods you would never find as staples in Australia. I like spicy hot pot.
What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I like the tourist attractions and temples all across China. China is steeped in culture. You could spend years discovering all the various cultural treasures in China.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Learn Chinese, as language will open all doors. I would not have been able to make 95% of the friends and business associations I have made in China had it not been for my being able to communicate in Chinese. If you ask, “Excuse me, do you know where the metro is,” and the local person replies, “听不懂,” you have just lost an opportunity if you cannot communicate in Chinese.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to live in China for a decade, as I continue to develop my business Jioayu Community (交语社区) to help people find Chinese / English language exchange partners in China and abroad.
You can keep up to date with Tony's adventures on his blog and on Facebook.
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