Why did you leave Catalonia?
I moved to Beijing because of a good career opportunity. I had always wanted to work abroad, so I applied for the ad for teachers that the Insitut Ramon Llull published a couple of times a year and I was offered a job in Beijing, to teach Catalan.
Why did you choose China?
Even though China was not my first option, it looked like a great chance to discover a culture and a society very different to ours while doing a job I love.
How long have you live there?
I have been here for a year.
Are you happy with the job opportunities you found in your adoptive country?
I am! I am currently teaching Catalan and Spanish at university, and I really enjoy going to class and working with my students. They are eager to learn and are usually very grateful. It has taken some adjusting, because the way of teaching has nothing to do with what I am used to. It has made me think outside the box and expand my comfort zone to try to find a middle point between my way of teaching and their way of learning. I'm finding it a very enriching experience. The salary could be better.
What do you think is the best thing about living in Beijing?
Living here is never boring. You wake up in the morning and you have no idea what is going to happen during the day. It is a constant challenge of what “normal” means: here, when you ask for some water in a restaurant, they'll give you hot water. Even going to the supermarket is an adventure!
What do you consider the highlights for any brief visit for the first time?
A day-trip to the Great Wall. Other than that, I would recommend visiting the main city attractions: the Forbidden City; the Temple of Heaven; the Summer Palace; walking around Nanluoguxiang, which is a shopping street, Beihai park. Walking around parks is one of my favourite things to do. Any Chinese park includes a group of dancing women, people practicing tai-chi, men playing cards or chess, and more people walking around and doing strange gymnastic exercises!
And if visitors have more time or make a return visit?
I would tell them to get away from the city! Chinese scenery is amazing. I have loved everything I have seen so far. It is a huge country, which means you can find almost anything: tropical areas, desert, mountains, etc. I really liked the rice terraces in Guanxi and Yunnan provinces, in southern China.
What do you miss most from home?
Blue skies. In winter, the pollution gets bad and the sky is grey for days. I miss good coffee.
Do you plan to go back to Catalonia?
Yes, but I don't know when.
Some suggestionsM.Àngels Ribas
Can you recommend a place to have lunch with friends?
If it's spring or summer, I would recommend any Chinese restaurant with tables outside that serves chuanr (roasted meat on skewers). If it's winter time, try the hot pot (Haidilao has several good restaurants around the city).
Where would you have a special dinner for two?
There is a restaurant the specialises in duck called Quan Ju De. In fact, it is one of the most popular places to eat Beijing duck, both among locals and tourists. There are a few of them around Houhai, which is a great place to explore and enjoy a bite (57 Di'anmen Xidajie, Xicheng District)
When is the best time of year to plan a visit?
Spring! The temperature is delightful (dry and warm but not too hot) and the city starts to fill up with flowers.
What is the best kept secret about the area?
Go to the hutons (narrow alleys) in the old part of the city. Wandering around there is an experience of its own and you will always discover something, a hidden restaurant, typical shops...