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Charlie E-mail
Magazine - City Interview
Written by ND
Charlie is a fellow China expat who currently lives in Chengdu. He's lived in China for more than 5 years and is an independent freelance DJ (Check out and the website for his monthly party in Chengdu (called DISCO DEATH) and Web Developer.

He values life in China as an expat and is fascinated by the radically different contrasts in China and the possibilities that it offers to those who are open minded and ready to look beyond the horizon. In the following interview, Charlie will give great insight into his experience and views about China and give valuable advise for those interested in living in China.

What country are you native to?

I'm from USA, specifically the Washington DC area. I was born in Georgetown and grew up in the DMV (that's slang for D.C., Maryland, and Virginia).

How long have you lived in China?

Five years

Why did you Choose China, or what factors helped you decide to choose China?

I sought out the most culturally alien place possible, basically. Japan was too expensive. I like the contrasts in China - the economic, political, and cultural clash of old and new. I like that no matter how much time I spend here I'll never have it all figured out. The breadth of China is overwhelming, but an enjoyable challenge.

Was it difficult to get the documents you needed to live and/or work there?

No, I've been buying my own business visas since I got here. It's been a hassle, of course, but I haven't had any unusual difficulties. The costs are high, but not as high for me as some, since I fortunately carry a German passport. If you have a US passport you pay much more.

What are your favorite activities in China?

Speaking to people, asking questions, learning about local history and culture, studying Mandarin, eating new foods. Just walking around on the street is enjoyable and interesting.

Do you speak Mandarin?

Yeah, as soon as I arrived I started a self-study program. I'm pretty proficient for someone who's never taken a formal lesson. I speak/read/write and have lived with non-English speaking Chinese for years.

Do you think it is crucial to know the language in China, or can you get by with English?

You can get by working at McDonalds, but most people aspire to greater things. Speaking the local language is like that. You can get by, but to really enjoy China you must speak the language. If I don't speak Chinese with people on the street they treat me differently. Even if you speak a little bit of Chinese, locals will respect your willingness to learn and adapt to your surroundings and it will change your entire experience.

How do you earn your living in China?

I'm a touring DJ and freelance web designer and developer.

How did you go about finding a job in China? Was it easy or hard to locate work and get a job?

I came to China with the goal of not working for someone else, and I've held to that. I'm freelance in all of my business, but in terms of DJ'ing, integrating into the local scene wasn't difficult. When I arrived in Chengdu there was an undeveloped nightlife culture. Overall though I think it's easy for foreigners to make money here.

Are there local customs that would make it difficult for foreigners to fit in?

Yeah, sometimes Chinese people can be really obnoxious. Anyone who lives in China knows what I mean. You get used to it though. Things like yelling into cell phones right in a crowded elevator, spitting on the street while looking you in the eye, rushing onto elevators before the people on it can walk out, etc. The social dynamic changes when you have a billion people.

What are the top ten things you like about China?

Off the top of my head:

10. China is one of the culturally richest civilizations on earth

9. The history is fascinating and manifests everywhere in normal life

8. The food is some of the best anywhere. Sichuan food especially.

7. It's a geographically enormous country with a lot to explore

6. It's a post-Taoist pseudo-communist nation. It's constantly a trip

5. It's relatively cheap compared to other east-Asian countries like Korea and Japan

4. Chinese people loooooove people with white skin. You can get away with almost anything.

3. It's among the best places on the planet to do business

2. Traditional Chinese music

1. Hundreds of millions of people have been in the process of coming out of poverty in the last 30 years. There's a brisk wind of optimism in the air

Do you have any suggestions for people who are thinking about moving to China?

Take the jump and do it. You only live once and China is an experience like none other. It was virtually a different country 30 years ago and it will certainly be yet another after 30 more years.

What else would you like to say?

Check out the site that me and my friends in Chengdu work on,

Shout out to Sascha, Eli, Reed, Adam, and the rest of the Chengdu crew. Also, we love Xian!

Our valuable Editor ND has been with us since Monday, 15 June 2009.

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+2 #6 laoshijimmy 2010-05-13 17:31
that's cool! I wanna move to chengdu but the girls are not so beautiful there! Sichuan girls are small..not that tall like in inner mongolia! that true? har har har! this site rocks! Westbam is still alive! F***! greetz,jimmy parker
+2 #5 Charlie 2010-05-11 02:36
@busterxchina Disco Death is on the 28th of this month (the last Friday of every month) at Xiong Mao club. For more info, check out site:

@ Cameron I play multi-genre sets, everything from trip hop and reggae to drum & bass and 2-step. I'm especially interested in turntablism and hip hop style DJ'ing but with other genre's of music. I can't remember if I've been to 1+1, I haven't been to Xian recently, but I've DJ'd in Xian before and had a great time!
+1 #4 busterxchina 2010-05-11 01:41
nd rulezzzzz, cool stuff! where is the disco death?? address? i will visit chengdu this month, charlie is loved by my female students here......jealous.......muahaha
+1 #3 ND 2010-05-09 02:14
Cam, Update: Check out and the website for his monthly party in Chengdu (called DISCO DEATH)
+2 #2 ND 2010-05-09 02:04
hi cam, i told charlie about you and lead him to your pages here on ND where ur phone number is etc. perhaps you can connect with each other. see ya!
+2 #1 Peter 2010-05-09 01:41
hello Charlie, being a fellow expat dj here in China I am interested to learn what kind of music do you play? I dj in a club in Xi'An known as 1+1, have you heard of it?

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