Loneliness in China Enterchina.ru

Loneliness in China

I came to China because my business in Russia started to struggle due to the war. If I had delayed any longer, everything would have ended disastrously—I would have been left with nothing: two teenage children, a wife whose earnings were insufficient to support the family, and a sense of emptiness inside me.

Initially, China felt like an entirely different world. I didn’t know the language, customs, or traditions, and every morning seemed like a new challenge. China was a completely foreign country to me. The city I settled in—Shenzhen—was enormous and noisy, with a constant flow of people and cars.

I rented a tiny apartment in one of the city’s older districts. It was modest but cozy, and at least there I felt somewhat safe. My family stayed in Russia; I couldn’t bring them over because I needed a work visa for that. However, I only had a six-month business visa.

After arriving, I went out into the streets of the city every day in search of business opportunities. I tried to make contacts and meet potential partners but faced many difficulties. The language barrier was one of the main obstacles. I had a small amount of money and highly sought-after skills, but they were completely irrelevant here. Let me tell you a bit about myself so you can understand better.

My name is Denis, and this fall, I will turn 47. By education, I am a writer, specializing in creative writing. However, since around 2002, I have been involved in internet marketing, back when it wasn’t even a thing yet. In 2007, I founded TexTerra.ru, which has grown into a fairly large and well-known Russian advertising agency. We were the first in the Russian internet market to offer content marketing services to our clients. Before the war, the agency employed about 100 full-time specialists and just as many freelancers.

But the war changed all our development plans. I didn’t shut down the company; I entrusted it to my junior partner and went to China to seek new ways to survive. On May 15, 2024, I arrived in Shenzhen with just a backpack, blocked bank cards (our Russian cards are not accepted anywhere in the world), and a modest amount of cash and cryptocurrency. The changes were swift and painful. In Shenzhen, I found myself alone, without the support I was used to receiving from my team and loved ones.

Every day was a struggle for survival. I attended business events and tried to establish contacts but felt like an outsider. The Chinese business culture was different from what I was used to in Russia. There were its own rules and unwritten laws, and I had to learn them from scratch. My English was mediocre, and I knew no Chinese.

One of the first people I met in Shenzhen was Misha, a good Russian guy and a polyglot who also fled the horrors of the war. (In today’s world, it’s not easy for Russians to go anywhere other than China.) Misha spoke nearly perfect Chinese, English, Spanish, Persian, Portuguese, and a dozen other languages to varying degrees. He had opened his own company in Shenzhen just a month before my arrival.

Working with Misha was the first step in feeling useful and in demand. I quickly launched a Russian-language website offering services for the supply of any goods from China — enterchina.ru. And I quickly promoted it for various search queries. We wanted to work honestly, earning our bread through hard work.

Requests started coming in. I would say—many requests. But then another problem arose. Chinese banks stopped accepting money from Russia. We sat in the office with these requests, processing them out of inertia, even though we knew our clients wouldn’t be able to pay us for our work because there were no legal channels for transferring money from Russia to China.

Our team has slowly begun to take on an international flavor — Ronald from Peru, Daniel from Ethiopia, Zuvi, and the Chinese guys. I’ll share more about each of them and how they joined us later.

launched a new website, dsconsult.pro, tailored for both English and Spanish audiences. The competition in the English-speaking market is fierce, and we’re only just starting to see some traffic to the site. However, we have ambitious plans for its growth. Additionally, I have an older domain (the one you’re currently on) where I’ll be sharing updates about my life in China, for anyone who might be interested.

Beyond these websites, we’ve decided to extend our services to Chinese businesses looking to enter foreign markets. We offer assistance in setting up companies in various countries, creating multilingual websites, and promoting them. I also launched a Chinese website, loongxiao.cn. Despite initial challenges with our Chinese partners’ understanding of internet marketing, Misha and I took the initiative to educate them. We started with content marketing for our Chinese site, and to our surprise, we quickly received two inquiries for international promotion. Notably, one of these inquiries came from a leading Chinese company that manufactures lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. During the month of working together, we did a great job — we launched several Internet projects and began to receive applications.

However, loneliness still haunted me. I missed my family, my children, and my wife. We kept in touch through video calls, but it couldn’t replace the warmth of face-to-face interaction. I longed for the day when I could hug them again and share all my adventures in Shenzhen.

I worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. On my one day off, I would explore the city. Sometimes it felt like I was surrounded by a massive crowd, yet completely alone. In the evenings, when I returned home, I felt exhausted and worn out. My wife tried to support me remotely, but I could see how hard it was for her too. The kids were slowly getting used to the new routine, but I knew they missed me as much as I missed them.

One of my few comforts was taking walks through the parks and along the waterfronts. During these moments, I could unwind a bit and reflect. One day, while strolling through a park, I met an elderly Chinese man sitting on a bench playing a traditional musical instrument called the erhu. His music was extraordinarily beautiful and touching, as if it were telling a life story. I couldn’t understand the words, but I felt every emotion.

We struck up a conversation. It turned out he knew a bit of English and was happy to chat. His name was Li, and he shared his life story with me, including how he lost his family.

To be continued…