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Living in Beijing - Haidian or Chaoyang?

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Only two more weeks until I am in Beijing! I am spending my first few weeks in a hostel, from which during that time I will be looking for a more permanent place during my long-term, perhaps career-long, time there (cross your fingers, I need to learn Mandarin). That being said, I am deciding between the Haidian and Chaoyang Districts to live in. My first year in Beijing will be spent learning Mandarin and interning a company, which is located in Chaoyang.

That being said, I wanted to get a few opinions on which has the better quality of life. Here are my main questions -

1. Which district is better in terms of being in a "Chinese" environment? I'm not talking about the number of Mandarin schools, but in terms of being surrounded by Mandarin speakers and having the necessity of using the language to do most things. Haidian has a lot of students, and I've read there's a sizable number of foreign students there. Chaoyang seems to have the expat business people. That being said, which is a better environment for avoiding English-speakers.

2. Which place is more fun in terms of meeting people and things to do? I'm guessing Haidian I might be able to meet more people, but Chaoyang seems to have more things to do since it's near businesses and closer to the city center.

Thanks a bunch for any info!



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In my opinion, Haidian is boring. You will be paying a lot of $ in cab rides going to Chaoyang where all the good restaurants and clubs are. WuDaoKou in Haidian will not expose you to a "Chinese experience" as it is mostly filled with Koreans and other liuxuesheng.

I've lived in Haidian for almost a year. I'm planning on moving to Chaoyang when I come back in 2008.

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I don't like Chaoyang. Might as well stay in London and just sit in a coffee bar in the City and listen to people talk about their salaries here all day.

Everyone has different tastes. Rent for a while in Chaoyang near where you work and then move around as you see fit.

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Do keep in mind that Haidian and Chaoyang are very large districts, so your generalizations are only true to a certain extent. Chaoyang district extends past the East 5th Ring Road - I would think that the greatest concentration of expats would be in or around the Central Business District (CBD).

My advice to you is to first find a place that is convenient to get to your work. If your work is accessible by subway, then you'll want to find a place close to the subway line(s), or within walking/biking distance. The last thing you want to do is waste a couple of hours each day on the road getting to/from work (yes, the traffic is very bad here!) and have little time left to do other stuff. And being that you will be new here, I think you are making things unnecessarily difficult by avoiding English/foreigners. I do understand your wish to assimilate yourself and become proficient in the local language, but I think that with a big move like this you will have enough other things to worry about the first little while that you are here.

After your first year here, you'll have become familiar enough with the city and the language (hopefully!) that you can feel more comfortable branching out. And who knows, by then you might already be sick of (or can no afford!) the clubs in the CBD area and want to experience other things. :)

Anyways, good luck and I hope you enjoy your stay here!

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