Expat life in Nanhai

…is basically non-existent.  In comparison to Guangzhou, Foshan is still years behind in catching up in their expat life.  Nanhai is even more years behind.  Now don’t get me wrong, Foshan is expanding and growing fast.  Since my one year in being here I’ve seen more bars and restaurants open catering to foreigners then I saw in my 4 years living in Boston, MA.

So, what do we do for fun here in little Nanhai?

1. Eat and Drink

One of my favorite pubs,Paddyfields, originally opened in GZ and just expanded in the past few months to Foshan.  It’s about a 20 minute metro ride fromNangui Lu in Nanhai.  Paddyfields is an Irish Bar which according to my boyfriend, has the best fry he’s tasted in China and the most delicious chocolate cake.  To me, the food is mediocre.  What really makes this bar is their staff.  All of them greet me with a hug when I come in (which I’m not sure if this means I frequent this pub too often…or they really are just super friendly!) and check to see how you’ve been .  All of the wait and bar staff are Chinese locals with great English that are really just happy to see you there(It’s just like Cheers! Except they pronounce my name “Hilarween” instead of “Hillary”) .  There’s not a big dance floor but we’ve always been able to make do and pick our own music.


2. Go to the Spa

I must admit that while living in China, I have been ridiculously spoiled when it comes to massages.  Back in the US, getting a massage was a 2x a year type of thing.  Here in China it’s closer to once a week.  But in my defense, you get a massage with basically anything here.  Going to get your hair done? They throw in a 20 minute massage at the end.  Mani/Pedi time? Why not have someone give you a shoulder rub while they’re at it?  Going in for a foot massage? They add in an additional 30 minute back rub at the end (without even asking)!  Mind you, all this pampering cost less than 50 USD. I didn’t think this was real life when I first got here! But my all around favorite place to go is a 24 hour spa based in Nanhai called Osotto. I don’t even know where to begin.  First of all, it’s 24 hours.  They have an all you can eat buffet opened for 22 of those 24 hours.  They also have little pods you can sleep in overnight in complete and utter darkness or you can choose to sleep in a recliner in the common room which is hooked up to a TV.  There is a women’s spa room which has showers, steam rooms with Chinese medicines, baths and saunas.  While in there you can also opt for a honey rub (my favorite…they literally rub you down with honey then you stand in the steam room til it melts off) and other types of massages/body wraps  You can frequent this room as much as you want (also..free fresh juice all the time).  While you’re at Osotto you also have the option for foot rubs, full body massages, acupuncture, ear wax removals, shoulder massage, hand massage, facials…the list goes on.  If you want to opt just for the overnight stay, free delicious food and the steam room it’s about 60 USD.  If you want to add in the other small pleasures it can go up to 100 USD.  I’ve spent 24 hours there and gotten a 2 hour massage, honey rub and foot rub for a total of 98 USD. Can you really beat that?


3. Celebrate your normal holidays

This year I was really bumming not to be home with the fam during Thanksgiving.  However, Titanic Cafe in Foshan, run by expats, put on a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  About 10 of our faculty members from school came and Carl (the owner) served us a first class traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  Although I couldn’t be home with my family in NY, it was the closest thing I would get to homemade turkey and mashed potatoes here in China.


4. Attend Festivals

Typically, if you want to attend a holiday festival, you have to go to Guangzhou.  Which, in all honesty, is only a metro ride away (approx 40 minutes to an hour depending on where you want to go). This year, we went to an amazing Christmas Festival where we heard traditional holiday songs in both Chinese and English, were able to drink mulled wine, eat chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all our comfort foods from home.  We were also able to meet a Chinese Santa!


The most humorous thing about this Christmas festival was the end…which included a laser show and robots.  How do the Chinese think we celebrate Christmas around the world?!


5. Get lost

This of course, happened to me quite frequently.  However, there is beauty in not knowing where you’re going.  I’ve ended up down alleyways where I have met unique locals eager to make an American friend and practice their English.  I’ve found the most delicious street food about a ten minute walk away from my complex. I’m also now in love with Chinese soybean milk…seriously…I’ve never tasted anything like it (all because I got wandered down a sketchy street and needed a refreshment)!


6. Get active

On almost every street corner there are bikes to rent for very cheap (equivalent of about 5 USD for the day).  Foshan, although considered a small providence, is still HUGE (3.6 million people and 1,480 sq miles) You could walk for hours exploring.  Also, look out for triathlons or 5ks in Foshan or close by.  I did the Color Run in GZ and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had in China.


7. Creative Industrial Park

I am in love with Creative Industrial Park.  Just off the Jihua Park Metro Station is a serene area filled with colorful lights and outdoor bars to sit and relax. Restaurants serve a versatile selection of foods such as Indian and Tapas.


If it’s too cold to sit outside and enjoy a cocktail (which let’s be honest, it’s only  ‘cold’ in Southern China from about December to February) make sure to take a look at the creative artwork this area has to offer!


8. Pretend you’re a photographer

I’m not going to lie, sometimes I take my Cannon Rebel out and pretend that I’m shooting for National Geographic… because why wouldn’t they be interested in my photos? I’ll take pictures of a rock or a tree or a building that I believe has a cool architectural snazziness to it (when in reality, there’s just a bathroom inside) edit a bit and bam, I think it’s magazine worthy. However, in reality…it is just a rock.

A rock in my apt. complex
A rock in my apt. complex
Taken in my Apt complex
The ground in my apt. complex
Taken in my apt. complex
Taken in my apt. complex
A lamp in my apt complex

Still a fun way to make some memories!

9. Check out the history!!!

Now as I’ve said before, there are tons to see and do just a metro ride away, such as taking a boat cruise down the Pearl River Delta, visiting The Five Rams, going for a stroll around Shamian Island or visiting all that Zhaoqing has to offer.   However, there’s still loads of history to see right here in Nanhai, Foshan.  Such as Zuimo’s Ancestral Temple, Liang’s Garden or our ancient Kiln.

10. There sometime really is nothing to do

And in all honesty, sometimes really is nothing to do, and you spend your Saturday night  exploring hairstyles and listening to your students advice about putting a bottle in your hair to make it stand up straight.


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