Working and living in…Beijing
Cindy Jensen (BComm’84), EMBA’09 (Rutgers University) is an executive coach and managing director of BOLDMOVES CHINA, a boutique management consulting firm based in Beijing. The Alumni Rep for the Dalhousie Alumni Beijing Chapter, Cindy moved to Beijing in 2002 with her husband. Clearly in love with the city she now calls home, she says Beijing is “amazing, dynamic, challenging, exciting, complicated, frustrating, but ultimately, fulfilling.”
Best Networking Advice
“If you’re interested in networking with a lot of people, get in contact with the Canadian Embassy here of course, but don’t limit yourself to your home country’s embassy or Chamber of Commerce. You can attend British or American events as well. Also, there is the Beijing Canadian Alumni Network, representing 38 institutions from across the country. It’s a great way to connect with other Canadians. One thing about Beijing is that once you begin developing your own network, you’ll have Chinese friends and also develop a strong relationship with expats from around the world. They’ll become like family. There are also organizations for specific groups, like VIVA, the Women’s Professional Network Organization. Through these groups, you can meet a really diverse and eclectic group — artists, businesswomen, those who work for NGOs, entrepreneurs, athletes and more.”
What’s it like to Live and Work in Beijing?
“We love it. It’s not an easy place to live, and some people don’t stay long. It can be challenging from a work standpoint — you have to have a lot of resiliency, patience and determination. The pace is very fast. But, we came for 5 years initially, and now it’s going on 14. It’s an incredibly dynamic, exciting, intellectually stimulating city. I love the people here, and I also love getting to know people from all corners of the world, as more and more people are discovering China and travelling here for work. For instance, I work with a lot of multinational companies, so you can have a meeting in the morning with Germans, lunch with Brits, and an afternoon meeting with Danes. I love all the cultural diversity here.”
Best Volunteer Opportunity
“There’s a Canadian organization I am involved in called Educating Girls in Rural China. I’m on the board. We sponsor young women from rural China with no financial means to continue their education. The program enables young women from rural China to go to university. A couple of years ago my daughter and I travelled to Gansu province to meet some of the girls’ families. We got to see the extreme poverty they come from firsthand. We hiked up into the mountains to visit one young woman’s family, and their home was literally a cave. Academically, these women are brilliant. They just need support to overcome their extreme poverty.”
Best Spot for a Lunch Meeting
“It really depends on the type of meeting you’re going to be having. If you have to have Western food, you can go to Sanlitun. Meizhou Restaurant has wonderful, traditional Beijing food — real home cooking. My husband and I are real foodies, and we find when we’re in a new place, the first restaurant we go to often becomes our favourite. This is the case with Xiao Wang Fu Restaurant. Morel’s Restaurant & Cafe also has great Belgian food. When we’re really craving Western Food, we go to Lily’s American diner for burgers, pasta and pizza.”
Getting the full Beijing Experience
“Beijing is full of history, even though the city is becoming very modern and there’s been an incredible amount of development since the Olympics. Historical sites are a must-see. You could explore the Forbidden City, which is across from Tiananmen Square and of course, there is the Great Wall. There are also amazing temples in Beijing.”
Best Place for Friday Night Fun
“With a city of 23 million, you don’t have to worry about an exciting night life! [Laughs] There is a buzz everywhere. The city really doesn’t shut down. If you want to get your hair done at 10 pm at night, you can go ahead. It can really extend your day. If you didn’t get a chance to go to the printers, you can go at midnight.”
Best local delicacy
“Peking duck is a local delicacy that is a ‘must-try.’ It’s what Beijing is known for.”
Best place to eat on a dime
“Just about anywhere. Walk down the street, and you’ll see a huge variety of open bbq grills with lamb and chicken skewers. If you see a lineup of locals, then you’ll know it’s a good neighbourhood haunt.”
Best neighbourhood for newcomers
“It depends. Some want the true Chinese experience, and some want to live in the suburbs. We wanted to live in the heart of the city, and many professionals want to as well. We now live in a traditional, yet modernized courtyard in the suburbs. We have all the amenities of the city, but as you walk outside, it is real-life Beijing: old men playing mah jong cards, kids running around. It’s fantastic.”
For inquiries on Dalhousie’s alumni chapters, please contact Bill Chernin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo of Beijing by Sam Gao.