Living In China
If you want a completely new lifestyle and experience the weird and wonderful, China may be for you! We all have our “China days” where things aren’t always perfect, but for the most part you get to live in an incredibly progressive, efficient and culture-rich world which is completely unique from anywhere else.
Here are just a few of the things you’ll experience while living in China.
Everyone will want your photo
Especially if you have pale skin/ blonde or red hair / blue eyes – you’ll feel like a celebrity. In bigger cities like Shanghai or Beijing, they are more used to foreigners. However, if you are visiting touristy spots, prepare to have a lot of photo requests, and some people may want to practice their English. Yes – this can get tiresome, but the people are always nice!
We say embrace it! It’s much more fun than being back home and blending in. No one will want your photo then will they and you’ll definitely miss being a novelty.
Your Phone is EVERYTHING
Your phone is everything. Do not lose it! You’ll use your phone for the metro, payments, communication – everything. It makes your life convenient and you definitely become lazy! You’ll also be able to find chargers you can rent in many shops/restaurants throughout most cities so you’ll never have to worry about your battery running low.
Some of the best apps are:
WeChat – for communication, purchases, buying train and movie tickets, etc
Alipay – If you’re not using WeChat, you’ll be using Alipay. It’s best to have both!
Didi – simply put, this is Chinese Uber. Luckily there is an English version!
Taobao – the equivalent of Amazon – but bigger if you can believe!
Eleme – order groceries, takeout, medicine, homewares and loads of other things
Google translate – You don’t need a VPN for this ideal translate app.
MAPS.ME – If you don’t have an iPhone and are able to use Apple Maps, we strongly recommend MAPS.ME for a great map app.
Metroman – for all of the city metros in China
China is incredibly safe
You will feel incredibly safe in China. Of course, practice all common sense rules; stay alert, don’t leave your belongings unattended, etc. There are a few scams you hear of, so do pay attention. But for the most part, there isn’t too much to worry about.
You will actually find that people are incredibly friendly and helpful! We have found the Chinese to be super patient if you don’t know any Mandarin, and will go out of their way to try to communicate with you and help you solve any problems you have.
China is great, but something that bothers many people is that the Chinese are NOISY. They sound like they’re having arguments, but they’re just talking about the weather. There’s a lot of beeping from the traffic, music, construction… the list is endless. It is crazy, but even the most sensitive to noise manage to tune a lot of this out over time.
Also be prepared for lots of pushing in busy situations, and there is a lot of spitting!
Yes! Even in the biggest cities like Shanghai, squat toilets are common. We recommend bringing toilet paper and hand sanitizer as they are not always available.
Be careful with what you talk about
And know who you’re talking to. It’s best to not talk too much about Taiwan or Tibet and even the one-child policy (repealed in 2015). Politics and religion generally are best avoided with new people!
Expect to pay for everything in advance
In some cities, you may have to pay 3-6 months rent up front – sometimes even a year! You will also pay for a yearly gym subscription. Paying monthly just doesn’t seem to be a thing here. Manage your money and be prepared!
The visa process is… interesting
It is generally agreed that the visa process feels tough and feels like endless paperwork. Trust the process, as generally it does somehow seem to work out.
You will need a VPN
If you pretty much want to keep in contact with everyone at home via WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, etc and watch Netflix – you’ll need a VPN. Be careful with which one you choose and ensure you shop around, but it will be one of the best things you do.
Transferring money out of the country can be a little bit of a nightmare.
- Going to the bank
- Western Union (mainly for Americans)
- A website called theswapsy.com
- Paypal (mainly for Americans)
- A local friend transferring money home via Alipay
Getting money home can be a bit of a nightmare, but it can be done and you’ll soon enough find the ways that work for you.
The air pollution is real
Air pollution is a real thing in China. Some days it can be really bad – particularly in winter. Invest in plants for your house and an air purifier.