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This is part of our ongoing series called The Local View – travel writers on their home towns. We often overlook the places closest to us, but here travel writers share their local pride. This article on Dongguan expat life in China comes from Agness Walewinder.
My first proper travel experience started in August 2011 when I set off for a year adventure to Huayuan, China – a very small town hidden in Hunan Province. As I had an unforgettable travel and teaching experience there, I decided to extend my stay in China for another 2 years. This time, I moved to Da Lang, Dongguan where I’m currently enjoying myself every single day teaching, travelling and living like a local girl.
About Dongguan, China
Dongguan is one of the largest cities in China, situated in central Guangdong Province. It borders with Guangzhou, Huizhou, Shenzhen (three most common business cities in China) and the Pearl River. I have chose to live here for two reasons. First one is the location – it takes me only 2 hours to get to Hong Kong – a great travel and shopping spot. Second one is the weather – hot, sunny and humid. It gives me a boost of energy every morning and I don’t have mood swings anymore.
Although Dongguan has earned a reputation as the “sex capital of China“, it’s extremely peaceful, charming and cozy. Locals are hospitable and treat foreigners really well.
Dongguan is home to one of the world’s largest, though largely empty, shopping malls, New South China Mall and it has one of the most beautiful lakes in this part of China – Songshan Lake where I often hide to meditate and do some yoga.
Teaching in Dongguan
You may wonder what I’m doing here. I teach English to kindergarten students and I’m having a blast every day. Dongguan is a great place to start your first teaching experience as there are many private and public schools seeking foreign teachers. It’s easy to find a well-paid job which will allow you to save up to $18,000 a year, while still traveling inside and outside China. Moreover, you will be provided great with a free apartment and meals, working Z-visa and free ticket back home.
My working schedule is always the same. I start work at 8 am from greeting all parents and students at the front gate. At 9 am sharp my classes start – I have 3 morning classes and each of them lasts 25 minutes. I’m off work for 3 hours at 11.15 am and I need to get back to my office at 3 pm in order to do my office hours and one short class with children and parents involved. I’m off to go home at around 5 pm.
During my classes, I have a lot of fun with my 2, 3, 4 and 5 year old students. We dance, sing songs, play drama and watch some short English movies. My students are adorable and they are always willing to play with me. They keep smiling and jumping and they make me feel like I am 5 again!
When I’m done with my classes, I head back home to relax and blog. I make myself a cup of hot Chinese tea and I go through my e-mails. When the night comes, I go out for a dinner with Chinese friends or cook some Western food at home and invite them to join me. We (me, Cez and a bunch of co-workers) are all big lovers of baozi (traditional Chinese dumplings), grilled veggies and rice.
I travel a lot at the weekends. I try to see as many things around Dongguan and Hong Kong as possible. If I’m too tired, I often head to Songshan Lake where I work out, read a good book and chill out.
Dining in Dongguan
Although I mostly prepare my healthy meals at home, there are days that I don’t feel like cooking and I go out to grab something to eat in the city center. When it comes to food, Dongguan is such an adventurous place. You can eat everything here – from local dumplings called baozi, tea eggs (eggs hard boiled in green tea and soy sauce) to BBQ pork and chicken dishes and my favourite grilled oysters with veggies.
There are plenty of local restaurants around the city, but I enjoy my dinners at Dongguan’s night market. There is a great variety of Chinese BBQ dishes on the cheap.
I must admit that getting used to Chinese breakfast options took me a while. I had to replace my oatmeal and toast with noodle soup, baozi and sticky rice wrapped in a leaf. I’m ok now, but I do really miss Western style food in the morning!
Daily and weekly activities
Although there are not many foreigners here, I never get bored in Dongguan. When I feel like sightseeing, I go either to Gate of Ying’en Tower (very historical and mystical place which features charming fountains and green areas), Opium War Museum (it has interesting exhibits that feature sound and light) or Jin’ao Tower (100-foot high and 400-year old completed with stone staircase and beautiful gardens).
When I feel like relaxing, I pack my yoga mat and go to Songshan Lake. If not, I cycle around the city, explore Opium War Museum or read a book in Pomegranate Flower Park.
What do I love Dongguan for? For its diversity, hospitality and the fact I’m surrounded by lovely people who never make me feel homesick!
How do you like Dongguan? Would you like to spend a year here to experience Chinese culture, traditions and unique cuisine?