Is Guangzhou as Chilled Out as People Think?

The Pearl River metropolis is known to be shockingly relaxed and affordable for a major Chinese city. But is this just hype?

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3:20 PM HKT, Tue July 9, 2024 1 mins read

In Guangzhou, life seems to flow at a leisurely pace, with the city offering a unique blend of work and relaxation. Guangzhou stands out among China’s first-tier cities for its unique, laid-back approach to life. In contrast to fashion-forward cities like Shanghai and Chengdu, where young people — even office workers — will meticulously put together their looks for the day, in Guangzhou it’s not uncommon to see people heading to work in slippers and shorts. And while Shenzhen has its world-beating tech scene, traditional Cantonese culture has found a bastion in Guangzhou.


As such, an article by Chinese media outlet Sanlian Weekly has attracted attention online by asking if Guangzhou’s chilled out reputation is actually rooted in reality. Netizens around China may dream about savoring dim sum, sipping tea, and strolling by the Pearl River in a winterless climate, but does this reflect locals’ experiences?


It seems the truth is more nuanced. Guangzhou’s laid-back aura isn’t merely a façade, but it’s not the whole story either. The city isn’t just about chilling; there’s a “work hard, play hard” spirit that runs deep. Beyond the chill vibes lies a community of hardworking individuals who know how to balance ambition with leisure, and don’t look down on any kind of job. Speaking to Sanlian Weekly, one young woman who operates a roadside stall on the weekends commented that she wasn’t too concerned about the stall‘s revenue. She simply feels that spending weekends glued to her phone and binge-watching dramas is too decadent, so she runs the stall to avoid a listless life.


Guangzhou subway line in rush hours, photo via Caixin

The Guangzhou Metro during rush hour. Image via Caixin.


Others in Guangzhou have to hustle a bit harder, exemplifying the city’s blend of ambition and relaxation. Garment factory workers need to wake up as early as four or five in the morning, and Line 3 of the Guangzhou Metro has earned the nickname of “Hell Line 3” for its heavy rush hour traffic. But even as migrant workers flock to Guangzhou in search of economic opportunity, the city’s inclusiveness welcomes them and initiatives them into the local lifestyle in a way that may not happen in other Chinese metropolises. As Sanlian Weekly’s investigation indicates, the city isn't just about a laid-back vibe — it’s about striking a balance between striving for success and embracing serenity. Here, you don’t have to choose between hard work and leisure: Guangzhou shows you can have both.


Banner image via Sohu.



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