Two Years Later…, by Aoife Quigley

When I decided to move to Beijing, I expected to do a year, maybe two and try my luck elsewhere. However, as year three unfolds, I’m beginning to see myself here for at least a few more years.

I feel as though I’ve lived more in the last two years than I had in the 22 years before coming here. You could argue that it’s easy to be captivated by the bright lights of any new city, but you know there’s something special there when you still feel like you’re on holiday two years later.

Beijing is big. We’re talking 16,801 square kilometers big. Sometimes the differences between one subway stop blows my mind. As you can imagine, there’s a ton of things to see and places to go and I’m still accidentally stumbling upon them on a daily basis.

I’ll be the first to admit that my Mandarin in awful, so awful in fact, that I practically can’t speak any at all. This was the ultimate fear for me when moving to China, but I have since learned how to overcome it. (Translator apps go a long way.) Honestly though, I’ve become so comfortable living here. I feel that there are very few things I would be uncomfortable doing by myself. I’ve visited the doctor, gotten my eyes tested, I’ve even managed to find and move into a new apartment. It’s all a lot easier than you would think.

My new apartment is in a cute area called Zhangzizhonglu (don’t ask me to pronounce it.) It’s close to many great tourist attractions such as Tian’anmen, Lama Temple and Behai Park. It’s an ideal location for when I finally convince my mother to visit me. The area also has an extensive range of cuisines available. I’m not saying I made my decision to move here solely based on restaurants but it definitely played a big part in it.

I read somewhere once, that familiar food can make anywhere feel like home. Last year there was a Shepard’s Pie competition in Beijing, and being Irish, this warmed my heart a little. (I don’t think any of them would have topped my Nana’s but y’know.) There are a lot more exotic cuisines too which I have become partial to including Thai, Mexican and Indian. Once, while wandering through one of Beijings many Hutongs, I came across a small ‘taco’s’ restaurant that had Guinness on tap. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how much of a melting pot Beijing is, I don’t know what will.

There are plenty of other ways that Beijing has become my home. It has become a place of lots of ‘firsts.’ For example, I got my first promotion while working in Beijing, the first place I’ve moved in with my boyfriend, the first place I’ve managed to keep a plant alive…small things count too.

Another reason that Beijing can’t get rid of me, is the relatively low cost of living. The lifestyle that can be comfortably afforded here, would be unheard of in Dublin. I eat out or order in almost every night. My rent is very cheap compared to a similar place back home. Taxis are also extremely cheap and are readily available through the Didi app. Basic amenities such as water, gas and electricity are also very cheap and are super convenient to top up through WeChat.

Basically, I don’t plan to leave anytime soon. Roll on year 4!

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