It’s officially been a week since I packed my bags and moved to Qingdao, China. Another adventure, so much uncertainty! Interestingly, I attempted to move to China 2 years ago, and left after 3 days (I was in the middle of nowhere, and the culture shock of moving from Haifa, Israel was quite overwhelming). Second time around is a charm, right? However, this time I was much more smarter in my move, first I found a summer job all on my own (I have a big mistrust of agents), and this time around chose a city rich in culture, with a community of expats, healthy environment, and opportunities to do business. And it worked!
For those who are not close to me (yet read my blog, Thank you!), leaving Bangkok, my friends, my Jewish community, a kick-ass network, a boyfriend (who absolutely supported me and my dreams), and customers was not easy. I reached a point where if I stayed Healthy Hair Asia would not reach its maximum potential. As an English teacher my limited salary could not support this business. Plus, Bangkok is not going anywhere, to start a business foreigners need about 2 million THB and to be really honest one needs money to start a business. What can a girl do? It’s not cute being broke in Bangkok :/ My friends and community are happy for me and understand my vision for Healthy Hair Asia, as Bangkok was a testing ground. The roots of Healthy Hair Asia will be built in China.
Why Qingdao, China?
For those that are unfamiliar with Qingdao here are some facts: Qingdao (Tsingtao) is located in the East coast of China in the Shandong province, with an urban population of about 9 million people. It is a coastal city (kind of reminds me of Boston), is one of China’s “most liveable cities” and has the world’s largest sea bridge, Jiaozhou Bay Bridge (which I definitely plan on visiting!) Qingdao was colonised by the Germans from 1891 until WWI which remains today old German home (classic red brick roofs), industrial and government buildings, and the famous Tsingtao Brewery, created in 1903, now the 2nd largest brewery in China. Given the strategic location and close proximity Qingdao was occupied by the Japanese during WWI and again in the 1930s, then finally was taken by the Communist party in 1949. Aside from outside powers, this city has a history dating back 7,000 years and always had significant role due to its location and the unique culture of the people (I went to the Qingdao Museum this week, quite interesting stuff!)
My biggest challenges: Internet & learning a new language
Of course I didn’t know all this history and strategic importance of the city, but I believe the biggest part of being an entrepreneur is taking risks. Plus, I don’t have “real responsibilities” like a husband, children, or a mortgage to pay, so I would give myself the summer before I made any definite plans. The biggest challenge I knew I would face ahead was learning how to use a new type of internet, no Google, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram (well, I do have a VPN), and how to shop and sell on platforms like, Alibaba, Taobao, and WeChat. I’ve traveled and live in countries where I didn’t know the language, but having Google made it easy to navigate, and Facebook, made it easy to connect, and YouTube I could learn new things, how could I live without all these essential tools?? Well, it’s a challenge that I’m happy to take on, because there are 1 billion people in China and millions of people in the world who don’t have access to the internet, and they are OK, and use alternative means to navigate and shop. The next biggest challenge is learning Chinese. Since I didn't learn (formally) the language in my previous "home countries" (Hebrew and Thai) I told myself I HAVE to learn Chinese (kind of unavoidable :/) and the best way to learn is living with a family.
What and I doing in Qingdao?
So what exactly am I doing? To get a deeper understanding of the culture, learn the language, and support myself, and “test” out China I decided to become an Au Pair! What better way to get free housing, travel, learn the language, use my English skills, and learn about the business culture (and future customers), than living with a Chinese family? For those that aren’t familiar with what an Au Pair is, it’s like a nanny (mostly university students, travellers, and young women) living with a family. The kicker, is that I’m no ordinary Au Pair, in China what families (middle class-wealthy) want are “live in teachers” because they want to eventually send their children to study overseas (US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand) and give their children extra practice to speak English at home (most of their children go to international schools). So, when it came to job hunting, I was quite a “hot commodity” because I’m American and a certified TEFL. So it’s a great exchange and learning environment for me and the family :)
And over the course of 7 days, I’ve learned the 4 basic tones of Chinese (I’m learning from the mom who studied English in university), how to properly drink tea, basics of Taoism and Chinese philosophy (from the father over our tea time) and how people are obsessed with shopping and selling things online (malls are slowly dying out here because it’s so easy to shop on your phone!). Yes, I definitely made the right decision to move to this coastal city.
Healthy Hair Asia in Qingdao?
Since I’ve built Healthy Hair Asia on social media I knew moving to China I would have to temporarily close up shop. Now, my priorities right now is learning Chinese, learn how to shop online, and building a professional network. This will take a couple of months but I’m excited. And of course, explore and travel!
Hint, hint, Qingdao is a 1 hour flight from Seoul, Korea…..and a few hours train ride from Beijing and Shanghai…so the next couple months there will definitely be some trips ;)
Source: Wikipedia Qingdao: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qingdao#Ancient_times