An overwhelming city that is packed full of life, adventure and vitality – Beijing is a fascinating place to live. One of the fastest growing areas in China, it offers newcomers a wealth of opportunities and excitements that are sure to captivate and mesmerise.
Understanding a megacity Beijing
Defined as a city with over 10 million inhabitants, megacities are exactly what the name suggests. As urban cities which contain a high population volume, they are naturally areas thriving with business opportunities and growth potential but that doesn’t mean they’re without their challenges.
Lloyds of London actually wrote a blog post entirely about Chinese megacities and the risks which they can face – with some interesting conclusions.
According to their article, China expects to have a massive 221 cities with over one million inhabitants by 2025 and this will give them an urban population of one billion; leading to the creation of numerous megacities such as Beijing.
Life in Beijing: weather
Known for its extreme temperatures, life in Beijing can be difficult for newcomers to adapt to. Winter seasons are cold and windy while the summer can be very hot and humid with sand storms from the Mongolian steppe not uncommon in spring.
In addition to this varied natural climate, the city is also known for suffering from year-round pollution which can cause some individuals difficulty when adjusting. In fact, a recent article on the BBC outlined how marathon runners taking part in the 34th Beijing International Marathon actually wore masks over their faces to address growing concerns over pollution levels.
The risk of natural disasters should also be noted when reviewing the weather and climate of China and Beijing in particular. According to the World Bank and IMF, five of the top 20 natural disasters that have occurred in the world since 1965 have been located in China and this puts them at considerable risk.
Robert Wiest, the Head of Strategy and Operations at Swiss Re Asia, commented on the situation by explaining that a natural disaster to today’s Beijing would result in a “major event on a nationwide basis”. This was done by taking “an historic earthquake which hit the place around Beijing and [modelling it] on the current infrastructure, size and population” of the city.
Given that Beijing is so quake exposed, it is hardly surprising that a modern disaster would be such a major event. In fact, Weist expects China to become another peak catastrophe zone in the future – joining the likes of the Japan’s wind and quake zone and the USA’s wind and quake zone.
Life in Beijing: transport
As well as the risks mentioned above, Beijing also presents a few challenges where transport is concerned. For starters, roads are considered fairly dangerous in the city with accident rates high and driving conditions often chaotic. For this reason, newcomers to the area are advised not to drive themselves around with an article even claiming that some companies forbid expat employees based in Beijing from driving whilst there.
Instead, company cars, that come complete with driver, and licensed taxis are the most common forms of transport. More adventurous residents may also wish to try the subway or bus networks.
For those hailing taxis, it is important to only use licensed drivers. You can easily identify these from the number plate of the vehicle which should start with a “B” but should ensure that you always check and ask for the following information with any fare:
- Note the name of your destination in Chinese characters
- Ensure the meter is running correctly
- Ask for a receipt at the end of the journey (Chinese: fāpiào)
Life in Beijing: attractions
While the above analysis of Beijing may have made it seem all doom and gloom, the truth is the city has far more to offer newcomers. A thriving area full of business opportunity and growth, it is a great place to live for those who are prepared for it.
In addition to overcoming and addressing the challenges mentioned above, those considering moving to Beijing also need to acknowledge the many attractions which it offers. It is important to remember that this capital city is a big tourist hub which makes it even more diverse and exciting for locals.
Here are some of the attractions – outside of the typical Forbidden City and Great Wall of China – which you can’t afford to miss out on if moving to Beijing or paying the famous city any kind of visit:
- Temple of Heaven: located in the southeast part of central Beijing, this collection of religious buildings attracts a great number of tourists each year and is known for its striking and distinctive beauty
- Summer Palace: a vast collection of lakes, gardens and palaces, this is one of Beijing’s most beautiful attractions. It has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1998 and is perhaps best known for the dominating features of Kunming Lake, which covers 540 acres and is entirely manmade, and Longevity Hill which stands 200ft high and is covered with numerous halls and pavilions at the front and left naturally beautiful at the back
- Great Hall of the People: as well as being the meeting place of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese Parliament, this grand building is also used by the Communist Party of China for ceremonies and other official business
- Mausoleum of Chairman Mao: the final resting place of the famous communist chairman who governed China from 1949 until 1976, this is a great place for history fans to visit
- Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception: the oldest Roman Catholic church in the city, the original structure of this place of worship dates back to 1605 with the current baroque-style building dating back to a more recent 1904