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An Expat Talks about Living in Qingdao, China

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Qingdao

How long have you lived there?

2 years

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

There's always great live music at several venues around town, and organisations like Hash House Harriers and Qingdao Expat have weekly and monthly events where you can get to know loads of people from China and abroad. The essential guide to getting involved in Qingdao is the redSTAR magazine and website - they host monthly events which are always a blast (also free and open to all), and they also bring fresh international talent to the city a few times each year. You can sign in at www.myredstar.com to receive email notifications about events and great things to do (free and otherwise) throughout the city, as well as directory listings for entertainment and services.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

Qingdao people are very open and friendly but also relatively traditional. They are always willing to help or chat, and will often offer assistance if they see you struggling with something. But watch your own valuables on the bus! As far as diversity, there is a huge foreign population in Qingdao given its importance for trade and shipping, and many more foreigners visit every year as tourists. The Korean community alone is estimated to number over 100,000. Foreigners do not often get funny looks from locals. Also, the city is getting ready to take the 'world stage' in 2008 as it cohosts the XXIX Olympic Games with Beijing. Test regattas are going on each summer before the games, drawing huge numbers of tourists from around the world.

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

The main industries are tourism and trade, with trade offering a variety of work opportunities to anyone interested in factory management, product sourcing, marketing and business services. Many foreigners come directly from their home country with pre-arranged employment in these fields.

Another large portion of the foreign community come to Qingdao to teach English (and most, including this writer, find it to be a positive experience) or learn Chinese, and move from those fields to more regular employment if and when they so desire. Participation in community events like those promoted through redSTAR is a great way to find new job opportunities once you are in Qingdao.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Work is always going on, but people engage heavily with relaxation during the summer and family during the winter. While Qingdao has a growing services sector drawing staff from throughout China and the world, most people who work there still have family connections in the city. Summer is truly beautiful, with miles of beautiful beaches, state-of-the-art sailing facilities, municipal parks and a breathtaking mountain resort very close by.

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If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Unless a school offers you RMB 8000 per month plus housing and return airfare, get a six-month contract. The market is much more favourable to reliable, amicable teachers than you are likely to find applying from outside, so it is absolutely in your interest to avoid being tied down to a particular school for a year or more. And get involved! Check out redSTAR! This city is far from boring.

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