Home can be closer than you think, by Charles Wolbers

Going to live and work abroad in a different culture provides you with a very unique and wonderful opportunity. It’s also challenging as well. When I talk to my friends back home, they wonder how a person who loves American sports as much as I do could possibly leave all that behind and travel to the other side of the world and live. (NFL season ticket holder, a big NHL fan, MLB, NBA, Tennis, NCAA football and basketball, and I play anywhere from 3-4 fantasy sports a year hopefully you get the picture.) I live a pretty active lifestyle and a lot of that revolves around sports. Mainly sports that are not traditionally popular in Asia.

It turns out there are plenty of options in Beijing to get your American/European sports fix. For example, my flag football league meets up once a week on Saturdays. We have 10 teams of 8 or so people in the men’s league and 6 teams in the co-ed league. We meet up in the morning, usually have breakfast at an American style diner then play all afternoon. Afterwards a large group heads to a restaurant or pub and it’s just like my league back home except people don’t flake out as much. I think we’re all a tad bit more grateful to be playing football over here in China.

As far as watching my favorite teams during the season I use an app that shows the broadcasts from the states and I can also get it on my laptop. I have met a lot of European friends over here and there are a few really good spots to go and catch an EPL or Champions League match in the city. I really thought I would miss the sports tradition I had become so accustomed to back home a lot more. I had no idea there would be thriving flag football, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, rugby, ultimate Frisbee, and rec soccer leagues over here. I was under the impression it would be all badminton and ping pong options.

It’s really cool to be able to bond over things like sports with people from all over the world. I’d say only 50% of my flag football league is from America. About 30% are from China, 15% or so from Europe sprinkle in some guys and gals from New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia and it’s a pretty eclectic group. Beijing is so big it can offer you a diverse range of activities you might not expect from a typical place in Asia. You can go to your spin classes; there are crossfit places, yoga, hiking groups, cycling etc. If you’re passionate about an activity and you’re worried you won’t be able to do it over here, think again. Not only will you be able to do it but there’s no doubt that you’ll meet some interesting people along the way.

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