Across China: German man pursues new career and love in Hainan

Updated: October 26, 2022 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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HAIKOU, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- Mixing beer syrup, milk and espresso, Sebastian Hahn skillfully made a cup of beer latte which is a specialty drink of his cafe. "This tastes very special and I personally quite like it," he said.

Hahn, from Berlin, Germany, opened a cafe about 500 square meters in size with his Chinese girlfriend this June in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan Province, embarking on a new career.

After graduating from Humboldt University of Berlin with a master's degree in 2011, Sebastian had a good job in Berlin, in charge of quality management in a company.

"I thought it's not what I wanted to do for my whole life," he said, "Why do only students go abroad and learn a new language? I can do it too." So he quit his job. Having considered going to Brazil, Vietnam or Japan, he finally decided to come to China.

"Hainan is the most southern part of China, and I wanted to have a life without winter," he said.

In 2014, Hahn traveled by train all the way from Berlin to China's Urumqi and then to Hainan. Originally, he planned to learn Chinese at Hainan University for one year. However, when he went back to Germany one year later he found that his Chinese was not good enough. He later returned to Hainan University and continued his language studies and pursued a master's degree in tourism management.

Hahn was diligent and managed to secure a Chinese government scholarship. "That was a very good opportunity and I'm very thankful," he said.

After graduation in 2020, Hahn met Tina, a Chinese girl. They fell in love with each other and Hahn decided to stay in Hainan.

"We had an idea to open a cafe, because we love coffee and we want to share our love for coffee with other people," he said.

It was not easy to transform their idea into reality. "We encountered a lot of difficulties because it's all new to us," said Hahn, adding that they had to learn everything from scratch, including how to design the counter and the kitchen.

To him, management is the biggest challenge. "Every day you have new problems and you need to solve them," he said. In addition to the challenges of management, business was also disrupted at times due to sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks.

"It was challenging but I think we have made the cafe really good," he said.

Compared to other cafes in Hainan, Hahn felt his was different. "We wanted to make our cafe not just a place to drink coffee, but also a place to enjoy, to make friends and to communicate," he said, noting that the second floor of the cafe had the potential to host cultural exchange events or English courses and even German language courses.

Hahn used to give free German lessons to those who wanted to learn at his home once a week, and is now planning to do it twice a week in his cafe.

"I'm not a teacher, but I like to share my knowledge and I really like to share more about my cultural background, so I really hope other people can have an opportunity to learn a foreign language," he said.

Hahn has lived in Hainan for eight years and is enjoying the life there. "I really like the weather because there's no winter, and people are very friendly here and on the street it's quite safe," he said.

He has also seen great changes on the island. "Hainan is developing very fast and it is opening up with more international universities to be founded here, so I think it's getting better and the environment for foreigners is also getting better," he said.

He thinks the construction of the Hainan free trade port is a very good opportunity for the island to become very famous globally, and attract more and more people, and feels that a more open Hainan will make it easier for everybody to live there.

"My future plan is to develop the cafe, and eventually to establish a cafe chain, so there's still a lot to do and it's not easy," he said.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of China-Germany diplomatic relations. Hahn hopes relations between China and Germany will get better and better and that people from the two countries will have more exchanges so they can understand each other better. 

Editor: Gao Jingyan