Posted by: thelocaldialect | June 12, 2009


I’m long overdue for a proper update, so here goes.

As much as it pains me to write this out (and thus make it real), we’ve decided to stay in Beijing for another six months to a year. If this decision had been mine and mine alone, we’d have been back on the first plane to Kunming about a year ago, and up until very recenly, the plan was to go back after my contract with the high school ended in June. But starting a few months ago my husband started making noises about staying in Beijing. He had his reasons — the biggest one seemed to be an absolute dread of moving cross country again (and I will admit, the first time was a massive massive hassle. Imagine moving from South Carolina to San Francisco, that sort of headache), but there were also sound financial reasons too.

The undeniable fact is that I make a lot more money here than I could possibly make in Yunnan. And while I’m willing to take a pay cut and move back there, it would be nice to move with a bit more savings. Considering that we’re expecting baby #2 in December, savings are pretty important. Moving would eat up most of what we had, and I would not be able to get a real job in Kunming until at least next Spring, which would leave us reliant on whatever myself and my husband could scrape together through freelancing. So facing the logic, I agreed to ask my principal for an extension on my contract.

The process of getting my contract extended was really drawn out and we were in a sort of limbo for weeks until a few days ago. The school obviously had reservations about re-hiring a pregnant woman, but ultimately I was saved, I think, by the fact that there is a sort of changing of the guard going on at my school and the principal had my back. What clinched the decision for me was being told that I’d be paid over Summer holiday, which was a tremendous relief, because even assuming I could extend my contract, I’d been very stressed out about what a Summer in Beijing without income would do to our savings, which isn’t to say they’d have been depleted completely, but a nice chunk would have gone to rent alone.

So anyhow, we’re staying in Beijing, as much as I am not a fan of Beijing. We do plan on moving to a new apartment, since this one is starting to feel a bit small, not to mention the fact that it is an older apartment (not charmingly old, just old) and that comes with its own issues. With Summer income we should also be able to take a trip somewhere without touching our savings, and I am really pulling for another trip to the beach, perhaps Thailand if I can convince my husband, as well as a visit to Kunming so that my son can see his uncles, aunts, and cousins. So I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. The good thing is that I do like my job, the hours are good, the pay is good, and I’m rather attached to my students at this point. Finding a good job in China is not easy — there are a lot of mediocre jobs, but not a whole lot of jobs that you can really say are great. Which isn’t to say my job is perfect, because it isn’t, but overall I don’t have a whole lot to complain about. I’ll also be able to have our baby in Beijing, which means more options for the birth and hopefully my husband will be able to be present this time. Beijing has other perks too, easy access to Western food, and English language books whenever I want them. The downside means we’ll be spending another year away from friends and away from the only family that my son has in China, living in the big bad city, far removed from any semblance of natural beauty.

Anyhow, it is what it is, and I’m trying to remain positive. Right now we’re placing a definite limit on Beijing and will not be here any longer than another year (but watch me say that again next year, heh), by which time we should be in a better position to move. It really took me awhile to accept the fact that staying here was the best decision for our family, even if it isn’t really what I want in my heart to do. But hey, that’s part of what being a family is all about, it isn’t just about me and what I want anymore, is it? And that’s probably good, because left to their own devices my wants are often far from practical, and in fact tend towards wildly irresponsible. So Beijing it is, and although I don’t have to exactly like it, I’m going to deal with it. We have our whole lives left to live in Kunming, the fun has only just started.


  1. Congrats on baby #2! I didn’t realise that you were pregnant. That’s excellent that they extended your contract even though you’re pregnant. While in theory bosses shouldn’t discriminate against pregnant women in reality they often do (all over the world and I assume also in China).

    I can only imagine what Beijing is like – it’s huuge isn’t it? Rome now seems like the big bad city to me and it’s only about 3.5 million which is tiny by Chinese standards. Now that I have a kid I can definitely see the advantages of living in a smaller city/town or even further out in rome. Unfortunately we can’t move since my husband runs a B&B nearby and has to be there at all hours or the day and night. I kind of fantasise about living the suburband Italian life: car, larger apartment, big balcony, parks nearby…. But we’re stuck here.

  2. Hi there, I am so glad that I found your blog! I am a Malaysian chinese from Australia and my family(husband+kids) will be moving to Beijing end of this year.

    Glad to have gotton some tips and to hear your ramblings too….I’m sure I’ll be feeling lots of that when we get there.

  3. I know you wanted to go back to Kunming so I am sorry to hear you are staying in Beijing but at least you know it is temporary!

    Congrats on the official announcement of baby #2 on here, due month buddy!

    So glad to hear your work extended your contact- I wish I could find some part-time work but here they will not hire me if I tell them I am pregnant and I doubt I could hide it for more than another month if I did get the job so I think I am stuck looking for private students for now. Hope some of them turn up soon!!!!

    Will be nice that you are moving into a new apartment- Does China have the same up front costs that Japan does- like key money, rent upfront and bond etc? Here it is crazy, making moving a VERY expensive exercise which is such a shame because I would like to be able to move now. Hopefully soon though!

    Take care, Lulu

  4. kat — yeah, BJ is HUGE, it has like over 10,000,000 people (I think I got the number of zeros right. It has over 1000 wan people. A wan is 10,000. I am awful with math). I wouldn’t mind living in the suburbs here, but we can’t really afford it either. We’d need a car for one, and that is a huge expense in China. Oh well, we’re in the big bad city for now! I am very lucky about the contract, it was a combination really good timing with a switch in the administration and my old boss sort of looking out for me. I was not getting anywhere looking for a new job while pregnant, so I’m glad it worked out.

    anobech — welcome to Beijing! Let me know if you have any questions about the city. Despite my griping, it isn’t all bad, especially when you first get here and there’s all this new stuff to explore.

    Lulu — The startup costs are big here, but I don’t think as much as Japan. We usually have to pay between 3 and 6 months of rent up front, but some places are hard-nosed an want a year. The security deposit is usually a month’s rent, at most 2. If you go through an agent you have to pay another month’s rent as a finder’s fee. Lots of people go through agents because it just makes things a lot easier, but you can find an apartment without them if you’re patient. All in all you do need a good chunk of savings. I’m lucky in this regard too though because my school pays my rent. All that they won’t pay is the agent’s fee and the deposit, and even that they will help out on and just take it out of my paycheck if I need it. I really lucked out with this school, so that’s partly why I’m a bit reluctant to leave, as much as I want to be back in Kunming.

  5. It sounds like you’re doing quite a good job keeping positive about a less-than-ideal situation. 🙂

  6. WOW – the start up costs sound WAY more than Japan. In my case we had to pay 1 months rent as a service to the realitor, 2 months rent as deposit, and then the first month of rent… so 4 in total? Sometimes places also want a month of “key money” which is an unrefundable deposit.

    Hope you can get back to Kunming within a year or so… believe me I know how crappy it is to be forced to stay in a place you really don’t want to be – yuck!

    I’ve always wanted to visit Beijing though so maybe I can time if before you guys move back – I’ve enjoyed reading your blog so much I would love to get the chance to talk in person someday!

  7. Sorry I am late making it over here = ) It reminds me a lot like Japan, it makes me ill to think about all the money we threw away moving so much.

  8. Sarah — yea, moving here is really expensive. The start up costs are astronomical when you first move to a big city like Beijing. I’m lucky that when I first moved here I had a sign on bonus that pretty much covered our start up rent because the savings we had from Kunming was pitiful in comparison to what it costs to live here.

    By the way you should totally come visit sometime. It isn’t all that far, Beijing to Japan, and I think flights are fairly affordable. Seoul to here is super super cheap, less than $50 cheap, so Japan couldn’t be a whole lot more.

    April — yeah, I know the feeling. We’ve moved around so much from place to place (mostly house to house) in the last few years that we really did waste a lot of money that could have been better spent doing other things. That’s partly why we just decided to stay put for now and not waste more money on yet another move, even though I want to. At least the money we save should finance a fabulous vacation for us this summer, hehe!

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