Quote from Roz in Kunming: “If you put a smile on your face, you can solve every problem.”
Canadian expat, Roz decided to move to China in 2005 at the age of 58 for a great job opportunity in the education field. After working in Beijng and Qingdao, she settled in Kunming where she now lives as a retiree “with a zest for life”, pursuing her passion for writing and food and travel…
Why did you decide to move to Kunming?I worked for 7 years in that position, as Principal of a few International Schools, living in Beijing for 5 years, then moving to Qingdao for one year to open a new Kindergarten, and another stint at an International School in Kunming. During that job interview, when given the choice to move back to Beijing or move to Kunming, the ‘Spring City’, I chose the later.
That choice actually was no contest. I had visited Yunnan for the first time in 2007, and then returned to this area for visits often. The climate, the people, the beautiful natural scenery, the large ethnic nationality population, that all made Kunming the winner!
How was the moving process?
I hadn’t been happy with my job in Qingdao but wasn’t actively searching. Then when a friend in education said there was a perfect job waiting for me, I went for an interview. We hit it off and agreed to the terms of my contract. In the beginning my Kunming boss did all the formalities of the contract very well. I stayed in a hotel for three weeks until we found the right apartment, signed the lease and waited for the place to be ready to move in. The quality and standard of living accommodations was lower in Kunming and I was determined to find a good place with the right neighbourhood. The moving process from Qingdao to Kunming was nothing like from Beijing to Qingdao. The Beijing movers were professional and packed, moved and unpacked everything perfectly. But the logistics to Kunming, a third tier city, were impossible. My belongings were transferred from truck to truck to an unloading and loading station, in open-air trucks with just tarpaulin covering my furniture and belongings. Many other problems arose in Kunming before I could finally take possession of my belongings.
Which formalities did you have to go through to be able to work in China and then to retire?
At all my jobs, a visa was provided for me by the school. It’s simple once you provide the right paperwork and get a government-required Health Checkup.
What surprised you the most in Kunming?I suppose that getting used to the high altitude of 2000 meters above sea level so quickly is most surprising to me. With the exception of local attractions, the rest of the city looks just like any other city I’ve lived in or visited in China. The buildings look the same, the traffic is the same, the huge amount of road and building construction going on and sheer volume of people is the same. I am fascinated by the differences in the variety of local food products which are available Kunming but not in most of the rest of China. Things like Xuan Wei Ham, Ru Bing, Ru Shan, Er Kuai. The other surprise is the the amount of spice in restaurant food here, even when you ask for “Bu La” (meaning not spicy) and the server tells you it’s not spicy at all, but – wrong!
Did you face some difficulties to adapt to your host country (language, culture, do’s and don’ts)?
Yes, without a working knowledge of Chinese, its a challenge for any non-Chinese to manage the day to day life issues that come up. But a good attitude and positive thinking can get you through. Also a phone with a dictionary and translator, as well as a list of friends who are eager to help, will get you through all things. Chinese people are very helpful, friendly and giving towards foreigners, so if you put a smile on your face, you can solve every problem.
What do you miss the most from Canada, your home country?
I miss my family and friends the most, second I miss driving. But for the first one, I use Skype, Facebook and email and stay in touch, contacting all those people often and regularly. For the second, I bought an ebike but stay very close to my local neighborhood, not going very far afield and not driving on main roads with drivers who rarely obey the traffic rules.
Could you please share with us something you like about Kunming and something you don’t like?
I love the weather….the Spring City has my kind of weather, never too cold, never too hot with blue sky and white, fluffy clouds most of the days. I dislike some people who refuse to try to understand me when I try my best to speak in Chinese. One of the reasons is that there is a local dialect here and some people don’t understand PuTongHua (Standard Mandarin).
Tell us more about your day-to-day life in Kunming:Since 2005, I have spent 8 wonderful years in China, 5 years in Beijing, 1 year in Qingdao and now 3 years in Kunming, Yunnan Province. I am currently writing my second cookbook in the series called Roz Weitzman’s World of Yunnan Food. Now that I am retired I have more time to pursue my passion for writing – my cookbooks, my memoir, my blog, and communicating daily with friends all over the world, expat friends and Chinese friends that I have met while in China.
Each day I walk to my neighborhood wet market to buy locally grown vegetables, fruit and staples for my daily meals and to research and cook recipes for my cookbooks. I work every day on writing my cookbooks, and also preparing my lessons for the classes that I tutor in Kunming. It’s wonderful to go full circle in my career by returning to the ‘classroom’. I teach English classes in my home and in two families homes. I have 30 students from age 2.5 to adults. In the evenings I go for dinners with friends. I enjoy my travels around the Kunming area. My favourite places include Dianchi Lake, Guandu Old Town and downtown at Green Lake Park and Yuan Tang Temple.
How did your passion for Chinese food start?
I’ve always had a passion for cooking. When I was 11 I baked my first cake. When I came to China, I fell in love with Chinese food. Determined to learn the secrets, I watched and took notes while my friends cooked, took a cooking class and a class to know the local market ingredients, and then just started trying simple foods on my own.
How did your choice of moving abroad impact your life?
The impact on my life has been all positive. I am able to cope better than I ever was, I have learned to have patience, I am contented to be here, and I live my life to the fullest, grasping every opportunity to learn and to experience something new and different from my life in Canada.
Which advice would you give to people wishing to settle in Kunming?
Be prepared for a lower standard of all infrastructure, and a pace of life and doing business that is slow, very slow. For some it’s a good thing; for some others it may not make them happy!