Ah, the old expat drinking problem. With your extra 60 hours per month of free time, you’re going to want to go out. You’re earning a lot more money and the cost of living has gone down significantly for you. Why wouldn’t you want to celebrate from the windooooooow to da wall?

You’re probably thinking, “Monica, please. You reference booze in every blog you write.” And that’s true. Trying new beer is my second favorite form of enjoyment next to trying new food. But because I’ve been out the ultra-freezing temperatures of Inner Mongolia for almost two years (where did the time go?!) and comfortably situated in larger and more modern city, there is so much more to do than downing a bottle of Yanjing in hopes of staying warm and entertained.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. I still like to get it in. Just not every time I go out. The reason for that, depending on the city you live in, is because there is just some much to do throughout Beijing. I’m regularly impressed by how many people are passionate about what they love, enough to rally up hundreds of expats and locals alike to partake in whatever they’re offering.

If drinking isn’t your thing, you’re perfectly in luck. Aside from travel and language study, you now have the time and resources to practice your own hobbies or pick up a new one.


1.) Exercise

Not that you need a gym to exercise, but chances are you can totally afford one now. Over the last few months, I’ve taken on kickboxing and aerial yoga. I have a well-trained private teacher that shows me how to kick some serious butt, while also doubling as a Chinese teacher. For yoga, I’m wrapped up in silk and bending in ways I didn’t know I was capable of. In the US, while I made free time to be active, most private classes were way out of my price range.

2.) Take a Chinese Cooking Class

Everything costs money, and if you read my last article, you’ll know that you’re finally making some of it. I took an awesome cooking class in Beijing that I learned so much from, and I’m far from a newbie in the kitchen. Even if you’re not passionate about food, there’s no reason not to learn how to prepare it.

If you don’t feel like taking a class with other people, ask one of your new local friends to teach you how to make their favorite dish. This is so much fun to do in the comfort of your own home, and soon enough, you can return the favor and teach them how to make one of your favorite foods!

3.) Quiz Nights

Granted most quiz nights are held in pubs, that doesn’t mean you have to get wasted to enjoy them. Rally up a team, or ask to join someone else’s and make some new friends. This is the perfect way to get out and put all that useless knowledge you’ve been Googling to use.

4.) Go on a Hike

Geographically speaking, China is wildly diverse. One moment you’re in the largest city in the world, an hour later, you’re climbing up one of the world’s man-made wonders. Each province in China has numerous mountains and trails. Conquer them all throughout your stay!

5.) Join a Film or Book Club

I have to admit how poor my film taste was before China. The only time I’d watch movies was when I needed to let my brain waste away after working all day. I could never settle into something serious. Same with reading, I just didn’t have time, and if I did, it was dedicated to reading whatever Facebook was feeding me.

In major cities you’ll find cafes that double as film bars or libraries. There they hold Q&A’s, allow you to meet authors or film makers, have discussions about new and old film and literature. Whether or not you’re a film buff or book worm, there’s no reason not to read or watch something out of your element.

6.) Pick Up Photography

I come from a family of photography nerds. The life of my siblings and myself is entirely documented, and I like it that way. After maxing out the camera on my iPhone, I was able to afford a DSLR, something I dreamed of owning since I started traveling.

Pick up a camera, wander around your new city, and snap photos of the weird, charming, and ridiculous things we see day to day.

7.) Join a Sports Team

While I just started taking a liking to team sports this year, the boyfriend has been shootin’ hoops with the locals since the day he stepped foot in this country. All he did was make his way to the court, ask if he could play, and just like that, he took something he loved from back home and incorporated it into his new life.

In Beijing, organizing sporting events is much more common than in smaller places. Ultimate frisbee, softball, and both traditional and American football are a few of the leagues here. The best part is that anyone is welcome to join.

8.) Document Your Travels

Honestly, whether it’s writing, photography, or filmography, you’ll likely want to find an outlet to express what you’re experiencing. Take an hour a day to write about what you saw. Pair it with some photos or video. People will love to see your personal experiences abroad.

9.) MeetUps

This is more general, but MeetUp.com has tons of events in larger cities. Whether it be for aspiring or current entrepreneurs, fitness, investing, specific diets, etc., you can find a MeetUp that will work for you and help you get acquainted with people that love what you love.

10.) Volunteer

You’re already doing something good by teaching a language, and that’s great. Why not step it up and work with kids who can’t afford to study with a foreigner? There are loads of opportunities to get involved with a non-profit you’re passionate about. Dedicate a couple of days a month to working with the less fortunate.

11.) Get A Part Time Job

I know this sounds weird since you’ll already be working as an English teacher, but in major cities, there are restaurants, bars, start ups, hotels, and tons of other businesses always looking for foreign talent. Some lucky foreigners even get their start as models, actors, and voice actors.

12.) Build Your Own Empire

I already warned you about going through interviews with schools and mentioning that you want to start a business here. While you shouldn’t mention it to potential employers, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it in the back of your mind while you scope out ideas, locations, business partners, and investors. Although China is incredibly developed, there’s no reason it can’t always use some improving. Have an idea? Make it happen!

13.) Get a Pet

This should honestly go without saying. If you’re not an animal lover, convert yourself now. There are so many here waiting for a home. And, to be honest, there have been times where I wouldn’t have made it through without my homeboy Carl, a mutt I paid $15 for just two weeks after arriving in China. It doesn’t stop at dogs! I know expats with rabbits, reptiles, and, cats.

It’s clear that this list is a tiny fraction of what’s possible to do with all of your extra time. What have you done besides getting wasted? No seriously, tell me. I need ideas.

Leave your thoughts in comments below. Or share this with a friend who has a drinking problem. #kidding #nobutseriously

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