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What’s it like to up and move to China? Read this book to find out

April 3, 2019



The Foreigners are in 709 is the book I suspect most of us would write if we had the gumption to just up sticks and move to China with our kids. Not a historical treatise, not a novel, not a deeply-researched analysis. Just the daily issues that come up when you relocate to China, especially when you don’t do it as part of a hefty ex-pat corporate package.

It’s what Hope Solomon Young, her husband and their two daughters did in for a year beginning in May of 2012. They were lucky enough to have mobile jobs, which allowed them to relocate for a year, and they took advantage of it.

The book is a rewrite of a blog that Hope kept during their time in China, so it’s got a day to day feel to it that gives a sense of the ups, downs (and sideways) of living in a foreign country, one where you don’t speak the language. It reads like a series of emails from a friend who’s over there rather than a research project, which is actually kinda fun.

Both girls were adopted from China and the Youngs took seriously the form they signed saying they would teach their children about their Chinese heritage. Their girls were in school at EE Waddell Language Academy in the Chinese immersion program, so they have been going to school in Mandarin since kindergarten.

The family moved to Beijing, in a grungy apartment in a highly unfashionable neighborhood where they never saw other Westerners. They also signed their girls up for a local public school. In fact, if there’s one ding I’d give this book it’s that I’d like to hear a lot more about what life was like for the girls at school, what they learned, how well they did and whether it was difficult to reenter an American school. However I realize that most of her readers are interested in the China part, not the language immersion part.

They had a lot of mishaps, none major, and a fair number of adventures. Especially their every-three-months visa runs to leave the country so they could come back in and renew their tourist visas.

I expect some of the things Hope writes about are different enough now that the book can’t be a roadmap for anyone thinking of doing the same. That said, it’s an honest look at what it’s like to live in China as a non-Chinese speaker and someone who’s not deeply steeped in the culture. If you’ve ever dreamed of doing something like this, I highly recommend it.

It’s available on Amazon here as a paperback.






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