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China is a vast country and expats are usually found in the main cities. For newcomers to the country the pace and way of life, not to mention etiquette and cultural differences, may present a challenge not previously encountered and it can therefore be very helpful to gain an insight from other expats into how the country functions. Online expat groups and forums can prove a very useful source of information.
Expat groups generally are not country specific and consist of individuals from all over the globe. There are a number of Chinese forums and /expat-forum/China/5/ covers a wide variety of topics and is a valuable source of information.
A comprehensive list of a range of forums and activities open to everyone living in China can be found here: https://www.meetup.com/cities/cn/. The website lists a number of locations in the country and subjects range from rock climbing, hiking, outdoor adventure, various sporting activities, and language lessons. There are also events for restaurant buffs, singles, vegetarians and people interested in home brewing.
Expatwomen.com is a website dedicated to females who have either come to work in China or have accompanied their spouses and now need to build up their own circle of friends and connect with women in the same situation. The website not only covers the major cities in China but also includes Hong Kong.
The American Women’s Association of Shanghai (https://www.awcshanghai.org) is a social club for women living in Shanghai and arranges regular lunches and coffee mornings as well as fund raising events for community outreach groups. The AWCS welcomes all women living in Shanghai and is not restricted to those of American origin although all members must have a non PRC passport.
The Newcomers Club worldwide is another resource for expats in China to help them settle into their new life. The website gives links to various groups that welcome expats from all walks of life.
Some of the expat groups in China are well established and a lot can be learnt from their websites, although it has to be said that perhaps because there are not as many expats to be found in China as in many other countries, the choice of expat groups is not as wide as in many other parts of the world.
While it is a comfort to many foreign nationals to have such a link to their country of origin or other foreigners in China, one must not forget that the experience of living in any foreign country is enhanced by stepping out of one’s comfort zone and discovering culture, way of live and all other aspects of daily living while in the midst of it. The knowledge gained by finding out for one’s self the challenges living in China can present for someone not familiar with the country’s customs and ways of life are just as much a part of the whole experience of coming to live in China as meeting new people via an expat group. The insights gained by a newcomer who is not afraid to explore can then perhaps be shared with members of one of the expat groups already established. Alternatively, there is still plenty of scope in China for an expat to set up a new group.
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