I'm Marta. I'm originally from Spain and now I live in Suzhou, China. Previously I also lived in Beijing and Shanghai. I work as a translator and mobile game tester for a Chinese company. I have a blog called Marta lives in China. I wasn't very inspired the day I chose the name!
When and how did you decide to move to China? Is it complicated to settle down there?
The first time I came as a student. I stayed in Beijing for 3 years and I studied Mandarin with a scholarship. Then after a brief stint back home I came back to work. I think settling here is not complicated, and most companies will offer help for newcomers. Even if you are on your own, it's not hard to find an apartment. Better if you speak a bit of Chinese, of course. However, the visa and bureaucracy in general can be a nightmare. If you are coming to work, confirm with your company which documents they need to send you so you can process the work visa before arriving.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
Apart from China and my home country, Spain, I haven't lived anywhere else. I have traveled to some 30 countries in Europe and Asia. I have never been to the other continents yet!
What do you like the most about China?
I like that things change fast so you always have new things to discover. There are so many foods to try and places to go! I also like that people here are optimistic about life and positive about the future. I like watching the old people dance in parks and squares, I like going to the supermarket and finding strange things that I had never seen or eaten before, I like walking around the alleys in the old part of town and sneak a glance inside the houses, as everybody leaves the doors open. I have also learned to enjoy things that people in other places take for granted, like waking up to a blue sky day.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with your home country?
There are many differences, like food, life attitude, the way people have fun... but I never really experienced a cultural shock in the sense of feeling miserable and wanting to go back immediately. I might have a big shock in the future if I have babies, as my partner (and, of course, his mother) is Chinese. The post partum and child-raising customs are very different from what I would expect back home. Women are supposed to stay in bed for a whole month after giving birth!
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
Hehe, of course. Clean air, chocolate, cheese, fast and uncensored internet, and my family and friends.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
It doesn't happen that much in Suzhou nowadays, or maybe it's just that people are used to seeing many foreigners here, but sometimes you feel like a celebrity in China. People would stare at you, kids point at you and yell "Foreigner!" and some people want to take a photo with you or maybe even sneak one without you noticing. Some foreigners are annoyed by this, but I find it funny.
What does your typical day as an expat in China look like?
Nothing too exciting, I'm afraid. I currently work from home so my day is basically spent sitting in front of the computer, cooking, walking the dog and browsing the internet. It's basically like living in any other country! On the weekends I go out to eat, maybe watch a movie or go to the karaoke with friends. If the weather is nice I sometimes also go visit some places around the city.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
I started my current blog in January 2014. I also have a blog in Spanish that I started in 2012, when I moved to Suzhou. Before that, since 2004, I had a photoblog. I guess I have always felt the need to have a small diary online!
Did you make new friends with your blog?
Yes, a lot, and they live and write from many different places. I even got to meet some of them in person!
Why did you register on expat.com and what do you think of the website?
I saw the expat.com badge on other blogs and went to check what it was about. I think it's very useful for people living abroad or thinking about moving. I like discovering new blogs in the blog directory.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat.com members who would like to settle in China?
Come here aware that this is a different country and a different culture. Don't expect things to be done the same way as in your home country. Smile and be patient! Prepare and reserve some money in case an emergency arises. Learn some Chinese, it can make a big difference.