A city built on China’s southern coast along the banks of the Pearl River, expats moving to Guangzhou arrive in a city with more than 2,800 years of history that is also a growing modern metropolis. As the capital and commercial centre of the wealthy Guangdong Province, Guangzhou is often overshadowed on the world stage by Beijing and Shanghai. As South China’s largest seaport, however, it is one of the most economically significant cities in the country.
One of the first free trade zones in China, Guangzhou has developed sturdy, expanding business and manufacturing sectors, and a growing consumer culture. The job opportunities that come with a larger economy has lured waves of inland migrants and expatriates to its towering skyscrapers, contributing strains of international flair and cosmopolitan diversity to the city centre.
In some of Guangzhou’s lesser travelled parts, historical temples, churches and mansions are reminders of different times and resist the frenetic charge of city life. Residents also have access to enclaves of natural beauty in the form of botanical gardens, hiking trails, river cruises and attractions such as Yuexiu Park and the Guangzhou Zoo.
The city is also a cultural center known especially for its arts, crafts and cuisine. While Guangdong embroidery and ceramics are well known, it is the food in Guangzhou that brings it international attention. Boasting the country’s largest number of restaurants per capita, the city offers Cantonese cooking at its best and has shaped the way the world perceives Chinese food.
It is a good place to raise a family, offering a variety of education options in the form of high quality private and international schools, a wide selection of real estate options and healthcare facilities of international standard.
There is, however, a large adjustment that expats have to make in terms of language and cultural barriers. English is often not an option in the simplest situations. Activities such as hailing a cab, getting the bill at a restaurant and opening a bank account become far more challenging for Western expatriates.
These barriers affect the way expats work in Guangzhou as well. Creating business networks becomes a unique challenge and a foreign concept, while translators often don’t carry across the cultural nuances at play in interviews, interactions and meetings.