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Bye Bye China

View over UBC with downtown Vancouver in the background

After over 13 years in Beijing and Shanghai I felt it was time for a change of scenery. So over the past year Grace and I started looking for a new place to relocate to with the family. My time in China was fantastic, better than I could have imagined when I moved here as a 27-year old expat for Daimler. But over the past years I realized that China was changing and that I had changed as well.

Our main criteria for a new home were based on a different lifestyle for the family: a place with more nature around us, with a better air quality and where I would not have to work 24/7 anymore. We made a shortlist that included among other San Francisco (USA), Auckland (New Zealand) and the south of France, but after spending a week in Vancouver last August we eventually decided that would be our preferred place to settle down.

Moving from Shanghai to Vancouver

We applied for immigration in early November, got our visa approved in early December, bought a house in early January, arranged cars, schools and furniture in early February and a couple of hours ago the whole family took a one-way airplane trip from Shanghai to Vancouver. We are now somewhere above the Pacific flying towards a new life. Things moved very fast, because once I have made up my mind I don’t want to sit around but just move ahead.

The last weeks were extremely hectic, preparing for the move and saying goodbye to many of our business and personal friends in China. There was not enough time to see all of them personally, but luckily the Internet makes it easier to stay in touch and I am sure we will see most of them again in the future. We wound down most of our business activities over the past weeks as well, mainly changing directorships and shareholdings in companies. In hindsight we should have taken a few more weeks for everything (Grace told me so but I insisted to leave sooner rather than later).

Checking in for our flight from China to Vancouver

Last Tuesday I had a farewell party at Spil Games Asia with some really touching speeches. I am normally not very emotional, but during that event I just managed to keep my eyes dry. This morning while saying goodbye to our staff and to Grace’s family at the airport even I had tears in my eyes. Partir c’est mourir un peu…

We brought 10 big and 4 small suitcases to Vancouver

I will miss China. I will miss the fast-paced business life, the amazing clubs and restaurants in Shanghai, and the luxury of having staff at home to help you with everything. What I won’t miss is the air pollution (which was the #1 reason for us to leave), the traffic jams and the slow, restricted Internet. Every country has its advantages and disadvantages, and although the balance has shifted a bit recently the advantages of living in China have always outweighed the downsides for me. If it was purely for business reasons I would likely stay, but I have a family with 2 young kids now and I also need to think of them.

Luckily I will still be back regularly for projects and investments. In Vancouver I joined a venture capital fund (CrossPacific Capital, see that invests mainly in Canadian/North American companies and actively helps them to expand to Asia. This fits my experience as entrepreneur and investor in China and I look forward to my new role. More about this in a later post.

As for this blog, I plan to keep on writing it although the focus will likely shift to my new life(style) in Canada. But I will closely keep following what happens in China, so I expect that there will be regular posts on that topic as well. I look forward to my new life in Canada and I hope all of you will keep following me here.

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  1. Hope you will find time to drop in on Montreal. Look forward to a celebratory beer with you 🙂

  2. Gee. That was easy! Emigrate to Canada?! Just like that!? 1 month??.

  3. Marc, Grace, and family: welcome to Vancouver. I just left Suzhou a couple of weeks ago after two and a half years – a little hard to adjust to being home fr sure as it is so quiet here. Enjoy settling in. Vancouver is in so many ways a beautiful city.

  4. My friend
    I can imagine how you feel. Like you, my life journey took me to several places unknown to me before. Vancouver is a beautiful city. I will come visit.

  5. Such a sad news! But I do understand your motivations to leave China. All the best to you and your family! Celebrate your new arrival with a nice glass of Champagne … Moving on with class !!! Santé.

  6. @Peter: I’ll certainly drop by Montreal one day, but no plans yet
    @Ben: The government supported the immigration application based on my entrepreneurial background, which means our visa were granted very fast
    @Patrick: Thanks, adjustment may take some time (things in Canada generally go a bit slower than in China) but I am very happy to be here
    @Tuff: Looking forward to seeing you here!
    @Anne-Marie: I’m too jet lagged to enjoy Champagne right now, but for sure later this week!

  7. Marc, best of luck to your family and you on the change of lifestyle. I am sure there initially will be some business frustrations w the much slower moving pace but the upside is a more straight forward business climate – at least in my limited china experience.

    Congrats too on moving over to the investor side supposedly full-time; if I we get involved again in a US-China startup I will surely drop you an email 🙂

    Take a deep breath of fresh clean air and don’t buy a treadmill; Next goal is running 1 year only outside (Vancouver unlikely get much under 0C)

  8. Hi Marc,
    As a proud follower of your Spil, Tudou work/empire and fellow dutchman I can understand you reasons for air pollution and kids.
    I wish you and you family all the best in Vancouver.

  9. Congratulations on the move, Marc! It’s been a while since we last spoke, but I wish you all the best in my sort-of-hometown.

  10. All the best!

    The air in Beijing is much worse than that in Shanghai. But moving to another country is not so affordable to me, so I am considering moving to Shanghai or Hangzhou which are also closer to my hometown in Zhejiang.

  11. Wat bijzonder om te lezen. De snelheid, stoerheid en vrijheid om zulke ingrijpende keuzes te maken… succes in Canada. Begrijp je beslissing…

  12. Ce n’est qu’un au revoir indeed. Nice move on the job front too. makes a lot of sense to remain on the investment and entrepreneurship sides. Good luck on the new start and See you guys soon. Never been to Vancouver, but I hear a lot of good things about the place

  13. Marc, wish you a gezellig life in Canada! And never lose that “我们都是一家人"spirit wherever life leads you. Big hug from Brazil, Alex

  14. So sad, how China is ruining it’s territory.

    Vancouver, interesting choice! I guess, it is also for the convenient flight connections to China 😉

    Say hi to Grace and all the best for a new start!!!

  15. So sad, how China is polluting and exploiting it’s country.

    Vancouver – great choice! Would love to visit!

    Say hi to Grace! Wishing you and your family a smooth and happy start for a great new life!!

  16. Best of luck Marc,
    Sad to hear you go, another negative on my list for staying in China as well – see more and more of us foreigners fleeing China.

    I’ve been that 27 year old entrepeneur like you were in China for 5 years now (turning 32 next month) and understand these frustrations too well.

    But I’m here still trying my best, hope China can come around somehow – its the basis of my current startup


  17. Dit kordaat optreden siert je en een begrijpelijke beslissing. Vancouver is een boeiende stad – goede herinneringen aan ‘old gas town’ en Stanley Park. Kwam er met regelmaat. Succes in Canada!

  18. I am very exciting after learn this news, also i would like to say goodbye to you . do you know i alway read your blog after you have leaved from Kashgar , Xinjing . and I am very injoying from this becous it is easy to understand your letter for me . THANK YOU AND KEEP WRITNG .
    Abdulkirim (tour guide)

  19. Hi Marc, have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog for the past two years. It has at times served as an inspiration while studying Chinese language here in China. Wish you and your family a great new start in Vancouver. I do hope you will find the time to continue writing,
    cheers Bas

  20. Marc, Grace and whole family, Bon voyage. All the best to new life in Vancouver! Big hugs!!

  21. Hi Marc, welcome to Vancouver. We moved here two years ago from The Netherlands and I love it over here. The Vancouver Marathon is at May 5th… Training in groups is easy at the RunningRoom (mine is at Alma). Have fun, Pieter

  22. Hi Marc,

    good luck and great choice! After 20 years in China we also have the same feeling and just bought a house in Victoria, BC. Family will move over after school is finished in Shanghai this year.

    We also have 2 smaller kids and it would be great to meet when you visit Vancouver Island.

    Great Skiing and Diving all year around!

    All the best


  23. Congrats Marc, seems like it was relatively painless. Am heading to Singapore later this year with my family too.

  24. Marc, I stumbled upon this article via Wall Street Journal (“Why Leave Job in Beijing? To Breathe”)

    It is a great honour to have you in Vancouver not only as resident but also as a VC (who hopefully has a strong interest in local tech :)).

    I hope you can push our startup scene to not only serve local audience but also to go global (especially in Asia). The talent, the infrastructure, the culture, the work-ethics are all here!

    Enjoy living in Vancouver! Ski and hike a lot 🙂