Archive for expat life

14 years in (and out of) Hohhot

 

Early September marks the anniversary of my first arrival to Hohhot in 2002. Although I haven’t been here continuously, coming in and out for 14 years I’ve gotten to see some pretty amazing changes in the city. I posted articles in the past from news sources about some of the changes, but this post is my own reflections on what has changed in the Blue City since I first arrived.

Airport Arrival

When I arrived in 2002 the current airport wasn’t in existence yet (the old HET was a few hundred meters to the east of the current location) and the road (Xin Hua) into Hohhot proper wasn’t paved.

Western Food and amenities

There were 4-6 locations of KFC, two locations of Dairy Queen and that was the extent of international establishments. The newest big “thing” was the mall that’s now called Kai De, although it had a different name then.

There was, surprisingly, a decent sit-down Western restaurant that could rival, and arguably upstage, Hohhot’s current Western restaurants.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Currently Kai De mall, the newest large shopping center at that time.

Communication

I didn’t have a cell phone. Some foreigners and very few locals I knew did, but they weren’t a necessity. Every convenience store had a red public use phone one could use for a few mao.

This situation meant that one had to know the full Chinese name of one’s local friends because you weren’t calling them directly. The mother, father, roommate, etc might answer the phone and one had to be able to ask for Wang Shao Hong (or whomever).

I also think this made us (foreigners) learn the city better since we had to be able to get to a location without the aid of being able to call multiple times along the way when going to meet someone.

Transportation

EVERYONE with the exception of professional drivers and government officials rode a bicycle. I didn’t even know anyone who owned an electric bike until 2006 and didn’t know anyone who owned a car until 2007. (And I wasn’t a hermit who sat inside and didn’t know people).

The only vehicle on the road were taxis, public buses, deliver vans, and black government cars….and LOTS of bikes. Lots and lots of bikes.

Also, the size of the city was much smaller. The second ring road was an anticipated enigma much like the subway now and places that are now six lane roads were dirt alleys then.

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

My first bike, purchased on day two or three of my arrival in Hohhot. This one was in my possession less than 36 hours before the transfer of ownership to bike thieves. (Some things never change!)

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Intersection near Manduhai Park circa 2003

Standard of living

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is the standard of living in the average person’s residence. Housing in Hohhot has come a LONG way in 14 years. For the first few years I lived here, one would have to inquire if a home had hot water all the time, or just the standard two days per week. The public water service provided heated water through the pipes at set times, twice per week, and landlords were only just becoming willing to fork over money for a hot water heater if one wanted hot water all the time.

I only knew of one complex of “high rise” apartments (I think it’s called the Metropolitan, west on Da Xue Lu). Otherwise, most lived in 4 or 6 story walk-ups and some in ping fangs.

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Not an uncommon sight in 2002

Many homes still had plain concrete floors and interior design wasn’t a thing.

BUT, we’re all paying for those upgrades in our rent now. The first two bedroom house I rented was 450 RMB/month. The second one, 4-5 years later was 600 or 700. Even in 2007 I only knew 1-2 people (families with kids) who were paying more than 1000/month.

Interesting enough, though, it was much more common to be invited to someone’s home for a meal, instead of being invited out to eat. My guess is that economics is the reason for this. Meals could be prepared at home much more affordably than eating at a restaurant, which was still a luxury for many.

Entertainment

There was roller skating, bowling at the Xin Cheng, and KTV was big. The squares, particularly Xin Hua, had lots of cool things it doesn’t have now….a camel to ride on and take a photo with, and cars like these, below. They weren’t bumper cars and they weren’t for kids. Just small electric cars for adults to drive around the square.

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Other old photos

Chang Le Gong

Chang Le Gong and the New York New York Club used to be located in the same building.

I've heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

I’ve heard that this was the tallest building in Hohhot until the late 80s or early 90s.

back at it

Well, that was an unanticipated and longer break than I intended. We had all kinds of issues on the back end, but I think we’re back up and running now.

I have a few posts already for the coming days, so we’ll see how this goes!

How have you, lovely readers, been in the past six months????

Inner Mongolia Museum

We have guests visiting us for a couple weeks (hence the lack of posts). We took them to visit the museum yesterday which made me realize I hadn’t dedicated a post to it before.

 

The museum used to be located in the building with the white horse on top in the center of the city.

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In 2007 or 2008 it opened in its current location. (map below) It’s across the street from Wanda 万达.

mseum map

It is closed on Mondays. Tickets are free but you have to stop at the ticket window on the south side of the building before entering through the main doors. And as of yesterday, they had a notice posted that foreign visitors have to present their ID to enter.

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The museum is truly well done, although the English signage is not always great.
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The third floor has three main rooms: one for the ancient peoples who pre-date Mongolians, one for Mongolians, and one for the other minorities in Inner Mongolia.
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Mongolian wrestling outfit

The second floor has exhibits about China’s space program. On both the second and third floors on the north end is the dinosaur and other fossil display. The dinosaurs move and roar and have a light show (kids will love it) but only the official tour guides can turn it on, so get in line behind a tour group if you’d like to see it.

Speaking of kids, there’s a cool room on the south end of the third floor with hands on activities for the kids. Pictures of the kids room are below.

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You can learn about more about the museum by following the wechat account nmgbwysjb.

Have you been to the museum? What do you like best? Leave us a comment.

 

Hohhot: a city of opportunity?

Last month China Wire re-posted a story from Enterprise Innovation about a study recently done on China’s 2016 cities of opportunity. (You can download the full study at the last link)

Guess what?  Hohhot wasn’t on the list.

But here are the cities that were: “(in order from north to south and from east to west): Harbin, Changchun, Shenyang, Dalian, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Xi’an, Tianjin, Qingdao, Zhengzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Changsha, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kunming and Nanning.” from PwC

I feel like that list of cities is a good sample of different kinds and sizes of cities, it just didn’t happen to include our little slice of paradise. (insert the emoticon of your choice here)

And guess what else? No one asked my opinion. But, that’s one reason I have this blog. So, using some of the categories the article mentioned I’m going to rate Hohhot on the same factors. I have no idea how they measured, but I’m going to use a scale of one to ten. One being the lowest and ten being the highest. Here we go.

 

intellectual capital and innovation: 3

This one I don’t have enough experience to really evaluate well, but I wouldn’t say Hohhot is known for pioneering ideas, great inventions, or cutting edge innovation.
Although I think 20 years ago or something Nei Da was involved with cloning a sheep (details hazy)

important regional cities: 8

It’s definitely the educational and cultural center of Inner Mongolia, but there is arguably more enterprise in Baotou or other nearby cities (Taiyuan, Zhangjiakou, Yinchuan, Ordos,  etc)

technology readiness: 4

This is another category I have no real knowledge in, but I feel like even apps and such are slower to take off here or are being used in other cities but not here.

healthcare, safety and security 3,8, 4 for an average of 5

I won’t give healthcare more than a 3 until there is the ability to wash one’s hands in the bathrooms of our hospitals. Assuming you stay away from dodgy places (and people) Hohhot is safe, but I rated security lower because of theft and the complacency of those in protection roles (security guards, airport/train station baggage scanners, police, etc)

transportation and urban planning 5

The traffic situation deserves a -3 or something, but other transportation factors are improving. (number of flights, diversity of locations of flights, more rail, faster rails, plans for a subway, etc). And if you haven’t been to the City Planning Exhibition Hall, check it out and see what Hohhot has planned.

sustainability and the natural environment 6

This number drops substantially if you go outside the city, but the city itself is above average when compared to other cities its size with pollution, right? Our air is better than most. There’s not much “natural” in the city, but when comparing to other similar Chinese cities, I’d say we’re just above middle ground.

culture and lifestyle    7

I think most reports say that Hohhotians have more expendable income than other cities which gives them points in the lifestyle category. (What? you actually want me to site things?  If I find a link I’ll add it here later).  Although “culture” in the sense of ballet, fine art, and theatre may be lacking there is plenty of culture in the minority arts genre.

economic clout 3

Anything that pairs Hohhot with the word “clout” gets a low rating. For some reason it still has the persona of being “backwards” or underdeveloped. Ordos is making a name for itself in the economic clout category, but I’m trying to keep these ratings focused on Hohhot.

ease of doing business 2,6

2 for the “ease” (I mean hassle) of starting and 6 to continue doing business. Having spent 8 months of the last year in the business registration process, Hohhot should just be happy I didn’t rate that one in the negative, too. Once you get up and going it gets easier, but they don’t make it easy to start.

cost 8

I mentioned this point above, but lower housing prices and decent salaries mean a pretty nice standard of living for the growing middle class. Lower commercial rental rates make business costs lower and I’m assuming taxes are comparable to other similar cities.

 

The gives us an overall rating of 4.9.

 

So this is my blog and therefore my ratings. Leave your ratings in the comments. 🙂

 

Use ChinesePod to learn Chinese

We’ve written about some of our favorite ways to learn Chinese, but ChinesePod is now offering a special just for us, Hohhotians! (Is that what we decided to go with? or is Hohhotites better?)

 

Use the link below with the promo code “HOHHOTPOD” and receive $50 off an Annual Premium subscription!!!

 

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They have hundreds of lessons for free, too, but with just some pocket change you can have access to thousands of lessons you can listen to at your convenience!

Have you used ChinesePod? Tell us about your experience in the comments

Friday’s foreigner: Preston

After a couple weeks off, we’re back with our Friday’s foreigner series. This week, meet Preston!

**I’m editing this post to include a link to the guest post Preston submitted for us some time back about buying a car in Hohhot.**

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Preston Decker, and I’m from the Greater Boston area in the USA. I’m here in Hohhot because my wife is a Hohohotite, or Hohhotian, or Hohhotanese, or whatever you call someone from Hohhot. We came back here together in 2014 after working in Xiamen the two years previous to that.

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If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When Linda (my wife) and I first came here, I had just stopped teaching English at a high school in Xiamen, and was preparing to set up a translation service in the States (I already had several years of translation experience at the time). The translation service is going strong, and so I now have a translation business in the States. We’re only in China for a few months a year at most, so I don’t need to look for a job in Hohhot when we’re back.

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I’ve been studying the Uyghur language for the last four years, which I became interested in during my year of teaching English in Xinjiang. Progress has been very slow, but that’s my main personal project at the moment. Other than that, exercise, preferably off in the Da Qing Mountains, or up on the plateau, but most often at the gym at Hailiang.
You’re recently returned to Hohhot after some time away. What, if any, differences or changes did you observe upon your return?

The Second Ring Road! My wife’s family’s home is right next to the south Second Ring Road (南二环). Last year this whole area was an absolute hellhole (sorry for the language, but it’s true), with tons of dust spewing into the air from construction, and roads that looked like they came right out of a Texas horror movie (potholes galore). We left to go back to America in June 2015, and just got back here a month ago—what a difference! The second ring road is beautiful, and we’ve saved hours already off our driving times (I have a driver’s license and my wife and I bought a car here two years ago). It used to take me over an hour to fight through city traffic up to the Da Qing Mountains to go hiking, but it now takes only 25 minutes via the Second Ring Road. Only 20 minutes to get to Jinchuan, whereas it used to be 45. 15 minutes to my wife’s driving school, down from 30. Good job by Hohhot on this one!

You’ve also lived in other parts of China, what comparisons and contrasts can you make about Hohhot in relation to other places?

I’ve lived in Tianjin, Beijing, Xiamen and Kuitun (Xinjiang). The easiest comparison is with Xinjiang, especially in terms of the terrain and cuisine—lots of open space and mutton. I still contend that there’s no better place in the world than Xinjiang because of its wonderful mix of deserts, alpine forests, grasslands, history and culture, but Inner Mongolia comes in a pretty close second of the places I’ve lived.

All of the cities I’ve lived in Northern China (Beijing, Hohhot, Kuitun) have been pretty bad in winter in terms of pollution, and Xiamen definitely comes out a cut ahead in that regard, although I’ve heard things are getting a bit worse there too.

Hohhot is definitely the most free-wheeling of these cities. I’m pretty sure some of the more gentle inhabitants of Xiamen would go running back home if asked to take an e-bike out into Hohhot traffic. I’d also say, oddly enough, that people in Hohhot are more parochial and conservative in their attitudes towards outsiders (and foreigners), even if they’re more boisterous with friends and relatives.

Surprisingly enough, Xinjiang has the most easily understandable Mandarin of these four cities. I think it’s because the Han people there mostly move out there in scattered groups, or as part of more diverse movements (the bingtuan 兵团, etc.) ,and so were forced to drop their local accents in favor of one with which they could communicate with each other more easily. Beijing has that great hamburger gurgle, while Xiamen residents struggle between being made fun of for their Mandarin (fu instead of hu, etc.) and trying to maintain their local language which is in danger of dying out. Xiamen Minnanhua really is a completely different language from Mandarin—I’ll never forget going to a church there filled with old Minnanhua speakers and listening to an interpreter translate the priest’s Mandarin into Minnanhua sentence by sentence.

What’s surprised me is how different the Mandarin accent is here: even after 15 years of Chinese study and 5 years in China, I still struggle to pick up Hohhot’s local Cidihua accent, especially when spoken by my wife’s family who live up near Bailingmiao (百灵庙)。

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

Definitely Shao Mai and mutton of all kinds.

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

How about a road that runs a circuit around the city at 80 km per hour and has no traffic lights? Oh wait…

Jokes aside, probably better trash collection. We live in the old part of the city, about a mile and a half south of Dazhao temple, and while it’s fun to wash the local dogs play amidst 10 feet high piles of trash, it would be nice to see those piles get cut down in size a bit.

If you had a friend visiting and could take them to only one place in Hohhot, where would it be?

The Da Qing Mountains or anywhere on the Inner Mongolia Plateau. I really like the country near Xilinhot, though that’s a long car trip away.

What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?

Last year I developed a bit of an obsession for a little place on the Mongolian border north of Bailingmiao called Mandula (满都拉). It’s a secondary border crossing with Mongolia, only open during certain periods of the year, and I had the fantastic idea that it would be fun to go up there for a visit. So I drove up there last June. It was a beautiful drive, and I drove up past Zhaohe, before continuing through Bailingmiao and heading off towards Mandula.

Mandula is about 120 km past Bailingmiao (which itself is about 150km from Hohhot). There were no signs to warn away foreigners (I had been worried about that), and the country was beautiful, with alternating grasslands and hills. I even saw a couple of herds of camels.

I got up to Mandula and found it to be a one road town with a few earth houses and shops hugging the road. A cow lounged in the street. The border crossing had just closed two days before, and so the town was nearly deserted, although there was plenty of foreign goods (and I’m sure fake foreign goods as well) like alcohol and chocolate in the few stores that were open. If you’ve been to Erlian, you know the type, as all these goods come over the border from Mongolia.

I was having a grand time walking up and down the street, when a soldier in army fatigues spotted me and came over. He was clearly suspicious, and quickly called in his superior officer, who took me back to the base. They kept me there for four hours, questioning me about why I would ever come alone to see a place as remote as Mandula.

In fairness to them, the soldiers were quite nice and polite, and all border areas in China are rather sensitive, but it was still a nerve-wracking experience. As it turned out, part of the reason it took them so long to let me go is that none of their superior officers wanted to take responsibility for my situation, meaning my case got passed up a long line of officers, and then, as one of the soldiers said “we’ll have to wait a long time for the final decision to get passed back down that line.”

Luckily, the final decision was to let me go, which is why it’s a funny, not alarming, story.

So I guess the moral of the story is that although the surrounding area is beautiful, and although there’s no sign prohibiting a foreigner from driving a car up there, it’s probably best to stay away from Mandula.

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?

Marrying me!

 

 

Things I’ve Never Said while living in Hohhot

I try to keep a positive outlook on life here, and I hope you’ll see this post falling in line with that. Sometimes though, you just need a little humor to make it through. I’ve been here off and on for 13 1/2 years, and here’s the list Handsome Husband and I came up with of things we have NEVER said:

  1. I wish there were less sauce on this pizza.
  2. (at any hospital in the city) Oh great, look! There’s hand soap in the bathroom.

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    Something is missing in this hand washing station, yes?

  3. I wish the heating was warmer on the upper floors of City Mall (mo er cheng). [I mean, seriously, how does it get so much hotter with each higher floor!]
  4. I love it when someone smokes in the elevator!
  5. I’m so glad [insert any government process] was so easy!
  6. I wish more strangers would touch, pick up, or photograph my children.

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    on a trip to Kangbashi

  7. Yes, I would love to buy that product because you broadcasted its features in a megaphone as I walked by in the supermarket
  8. Just what I was craving…shrimp flavored potato chips. (or durian, or other flavors we find odd)
  9. In the same vein as the one above, “I’m so glad this is bean paste filling and not chocolate, taro and not blueberry!” [But at least now I’m not surprised by it]
  10. I’m so glad there are so many housing development flyers stuffed into my bike basket. (Although I have said, “Wow, that old lady has seriously good aim to get all those people whizzing by her.”)
  11. It’s so convenient that this giant building with 12 doors has exactly one that is unlocked.
  12. Sure, Mr. Airport Taxi Driver. I’ll pay you 100 RMB to take me into the city.
  13. I wish I could find an apartment to rent that had more strobe or multi colored lights.
  14. This hotel’s carpeted flooring is so clean.
  15. This is the softest mattress I’ve ever slept on!

 

Leave us a comment with the phrases we’ve left out. Two notable exclusions: the cold weather and the traffic. Reasons for exclusions: it’s not always cold. Summer is coming. And the traffic hasn’t always been this bad, so in my early days I never complained about it.

Friday’s foreigner: Fabio

Well, another week has come and gone. That means it’s time for our next edition of Friday’s foreigner. A few weeks ago you met Pedro. This week, meet his coworker and fellow countryman, Fabio.

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!

 

What’s your name, where are you from, what brought you to Hohhot and when did you arrive?

My name is Fábio Castro, I’m from Portugal and I arrived in Hohhot on the 19th of October to work as football coach for the Luís Figo Football Academy. For those who don’t know him, Figo is a famous ex-football player from Portugal and won the “Ballon d’Or” in 2000 and was considered the best player in the world by the FIFA in 2001.

Photo

 

If you are doing something different now than when you first arrived tell us about that also.

When I arrived in China I passed one month working in Beijing for the same academy, we have centers in different cities of the country.

 

What have been some of your professional successes in your industry?

I played as a amateur level football player and soon I realized I would like to become a football coach. Because of that, I decided to go to the university to prepare myself for this role. I made my graduation in Sport, one master degree in Physical Education and another one in High Performance Training, with football option. Besides that, I made my coach’s licenses to be able to work.

Until now, I worked with all the age groups and I had a short experience working in India. It was a fantastic experience that I will never forget.

 

Share with us some of the moments you were proudest of your students/players.

I don’t have specific moments, what I have are many memories from all the places I worked, the words from some of my players, special moments that only the football can give us. Those who have had the experience to share time with a team can understand my words.

 

If you have free time, what do you do with it?

I like to do different things during my free time, however, once I still don’t know very well the city I’m going to the cinema, I’m eating at some occidental/Asiatic restaurants, exploring the city, meeting some cultural places and I’m going to the gym.

 

Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life that most people here don’t know.

As I told, before come to China I worked in India. Before India, I was working in Portugal as Physical Education Teacher and as football coach.

 

Favorite local food and where you like to get it:

As local food, I tried the lamb and I really have to admit that the leg is good. Besides that, I like to try different kinds of food as the noodles, the barbecue, the hot pot, the dumplings… I also ate Japanese food here and was really good too. The names of the restaurants I don’t know them and I like to try different ones.

 

If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?

I would like that the Chinese could respect more the traffic rules and especially the places for the bikes, once I drive one electric bike and most of the times the cars don’t care about anything. But what I really would like to have here it was a beach, even if it was artificial! I like to walk near of the beach and relax at some bar in there too. I’m missing that from my country!

 

What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?

I knew a little bit about the Chinese culture and their traditions, however I wasn’t expecting as much cold as I felt here. I never passed by situations with these temperatures in my life and getting used to that was surprising for me.

 

What’s the most culturally awkward situation you’ve been in here?

One day I was on the taxi and I saw one person burn some money on the streets. After some time, I understood that wasn’t just one person but many people doing that and I asked what meant and the reason for many people have done small fires in the streets. The answer was that they were sending money for the dead people, usually for family and the money was fake. I never saw something like that…

 

What advice would you give to someone just arriving to Hohhot?

If the person knows another cities of China I would say to be prepared for a more quiet place and consequently, maybe a quiet routine too. And of course I would advise to bring warm clothes!!

 

Where do you go to “escape?”

Once I’m here for four months and once the weather is cold, I didn’t find yet that place. If I had a beach, definitely I would go there. As I don’t have I will try to find it for sure and until there, a ride on my bike with good weather should be good and enough for me.

 

When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?

Certainly memoirs, new experiences, funny moments and once that I will start to learn Chinese language I want take that with me.

 

You can connect with Fabio in any of the following ways:

Email: castro.fabio5@gmail.com

LinkedIn: pt.linkedin.com/in/castrofabio5

WeChat: fabiocastro5

 

If you’re interested in more information about Winning League Football Academy call 13171090089 or 13304712425.

more help for Chinese typing

I used to know this, then I forgot, then seeing this article reminded me again. Here are some instructions for using pinyin input method when you don’t know the pronunciation of a character. Hope it’s helpful for you!

It is reposted from the wechat account of The World of Chinese. You can follow them using wechat ID Theworldofchinese
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Friday’s Foreigner: Steven

Hello, Hohhotians. (A scholarly book I read about Hohhot used that word, so I’m going with it) What’s with the air here today?? pollution or sandstorm? I hope you are inside with your air filters on.

Here’s some reading for you if you’re passing the time

This week I’d like to introduce you to Steven, the voice behind the podcast The Culture Bum. Check out his site and subscribe to listen. He’s also guest posted for us here before, so check out his review of the Wanda area here. 

Check out our previous interviews here, and check back next week to meet someone else!

I moved to China in 2014 to be a teacher and just kind of see the world. I landed in Beijing and hated it immediately. The pollution left me sick all the time and I hated the massive amount of Westerners using Beijing as their own personal bragging right. I met a beautiful woman while there and she was moving back to her home city, Hohhot, and suggested I go with her. I found a lot of job opportunities and figured why not. I am still a teacher but I have bounced my title around.
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Tell us something about your pre-Hohhot life we may not already know.
Before moving to Hohhot I was a teacher of several years in the US so I don’t feel like I fall into the “couldn’t find a real job” camp that often plagues ESL teachers. HOWEVER, the year and a half before moving to China I was a taxi driver. Budget cuts had led to a lot of my teaching opportunities drying up and what was supposed to be a 3 month ordeal turned into a full time job. I don’t hate my time driving A taxi, it was actually one of the more fun jobs I’ve ever held, but it is a go nowhere type of situation.
Favorite local food and where you like to get it:
I wish I had better answers but my favorite Chinese dishes fall into 2 categories: Something so simple I can make it at home (rice with mu er and spring onion) or horrible greasy unhealthy messes (chow mian or malatang).
It’s impossible to live in Hohhot and not go out to Hot Pot at least once a month.
I recently spent time in Datong which is famous for its noodles and I did get a little hooked on rice noodles with vinegar for a while.
If you could make one city-wide change to Hohhot, what would it be?
Compared to most foreigners I don’t have that many complaints about Hohhot. I do wish there were clean places to do outdoor swimming.
I’m surprised there aren’t easier ways to get to the airport on public transportation.
Most foreigners will complain about a lack of cultural events compared to bigger cities but I chalk that up to just not a lot of foreigners in the city so when we do a “foreigner” themed event your lucky if 12 people show up.
What has been the most surprising aspect of life here?
Being able to slow down. In America I was very used to 60-80 hours a week and in Beijing you usually have 30-60 minute commutes to work each way. Hohhot provides me a comparable salary to Beijing but so much more free time. I work 30 hours a week, every week, never a minute more and my commute is less than 20 minutes by bus or bike. I am able to relax, walk around and take my time without ever feeling I’m in a rush.
What makes Hohhot more appealing than other cities?
Some foreigners in Hohhot tend to act like they’re in purgatory, but these are the people who complain no matter what. There are a lot of people who see Hohhot as a slower, more manageable pace of life, much larger opportunities to save money, a more Asian cultural experience away from being over run by Western food on every corner and a chance to see the Mongolian culture that is usually out of peoples minds.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve experienced here?
Donkeys pulling carts next to the traffic is a bit odd even after everything else I’ve seen.
donkey cart audi

donkey cart and Audi dealership

What is the kindest thing a local has ever done for you?
When I first got here I did not work for about 2 weeks so I sat at home very bored while my future wife went to work. I eventually demanded to go outside and do something. She would set me up like a kindergartner with notes and maps to get to various places in town like a super market. On my first trip I had to make one turn to the super market and I managed to screw that up but the first person I asked for help, a very elderly woman on her way home with a large bag of groceries, walked about at least 1 Km out of her way to walk me to the super market and make sure I got there. This was a very big change of pace from Beijing.
 
Where do you go to “escape?”
 
I have a few Western friends who are very close and we like to go to 7 Pizza Bar or Yummy Box and disappear. In the Summer I took a few hikes to the mountains where it was easy to pretend you were in Michigan. Right now with the NFL starting me and a few friends download the games and beer makes the rest of the world go dark.
When your time here is done and you return home, what do you want to take with you?
I would take back the idea that you don’t have to work yourself to death and live in constant jealousy. I enjoy my lazy life so much in Asia. I am not hung up on material things and I value the experiences and comfort afforded here not to mention my very high proportional salary.
I’m here for the long haul! I see Hohhot as an opportunity and not a curse. Every day there are more people and in the coming years I see Hohhot as a cultural hot bed of foreign students, grassland people moving in to occupy the hundreds of apartment complexes being built and I’ll be here for years to come.
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