China: Living in a new country

by Jennifer Venter February. 12, 2019 1370 views

Living in a new country whether as your forever or temporary new home, both come with some interesting new adventures. Living in China has definitely created some puzzles to be solved but everything is possible with a positive attitude and local friends to help you along the way.

Qindenghu Lake, Foshan

Qindenghu Lake, Foshan

Here are my top 20 thoughts :

  1. Language: Since English is not the primary language here, relying on translator apps or pictures helps in most circumstances (else refer to #20).
  2. Currency / Payment types: Make sure you research this before arriving as sometimes currency exchanges are not readily available and not every bank is able to or wants to change currency. In China, cash is not used that often as everything is purchased via WeChat Pay (on your mobile phone) else the AliPay app on your phone.
  3. Accommodation: In China, land is at a premium so high rise apartments are the norm. The size of apartments tend to be quite small but this depends on how much you are willing to pay for your rental and its location. There are many furnished options.
  4. Transportation: We live in a main hub, so we do not need our own car and tend to walk most places. We also have access to subways, buses, Didi (taxi service similar to Uber) and normal trains. {We have been advised to avoid the buses as the driver often changes the routes at a moment's notice.}
  5. Climate: This is a good one to check on before moving as this affects your clothing choices as well as other things you tend to forget about e.g. skincare options. Most apartments come with air con so that is a big plus but does hike up your electricity bill. Internet research can be misleading so try to check directly with those already living in the location.
  6. Fashion: If you are a fashionista, then you may need to revise your wardrobe very quickly. Sizes are very different and many times you may not be able to find your size without a search.
  7. Papparazzi: If you are a foreigner living in an area which has very little foreign residents, then you will quickly need to learn to handle people openly staring at you/taking photos/taking videos or even asking for selfies with you. There is no harm intended with this, only curiosity. Be polite and smile.
  8. Food: Living in China, the food revolves around noodles, rice, fish, fresh produce and many other options that you may not know how to handle or even cook. But if you are willing to shop across multiple supermarkets then you will find enough to eat and eat well. Many labels are only written in Chinese, so this does create some interesting questions. We are fortunate to have a few western type restaurants in our area.
  9. Water: Find out whether the tap water is safe to drink before you drink it. The water used in the shower may affect your skin and hair as the chemicals are different.
  10. Personal products: As mentioned above, most labels are written in Chinese so one has to rely on pictures on the products and hope for the best or just don't buy it. Most items are bought online which helps a lot.
  11. How to cook: Our apartment came with a one plate induction cooker, so you learn to be more creative with meal options. You can buy microwaves and mini ovens but this is pricey and takes up more space in an already small apartment.
  12. How to eat: The Chinese use chopsticks or a big spoon to eat but many places will offer a fork, if needed. But they do appreciate the fact that you tried to eat with sticks. The culture is such, that to eat with your mouth open and make munching/slurping noises means I am enjoying my food. This takes some getting used especially if your Mum was strict with you as mine was in terms of table manners.
  13. Etiquette: Before moving to China, I read a very helpful article on etiquette and I would strongly suggest you do the same to avoid any awkward situations.
  14. Shopping & Restaurants: Shops have many people trying to market things but they tend to only speak in Chinese. Even though you don't understand, they will still try sell things to you. Always be polite and say no thank you whilst walking away. Some people can speak a little bit of English but often too shy to try. Don't assume that people do not understand you, as this may backfire horribly. Restaurants - most places want you to pay before you receive your food and no tip is needed. Follow the other patrons and you will be fine.
  15. Communication: WeChat is the main communication mode as well as email.
  16. Friendship: It is easy to make friends with others, just bear in mind that they may have different traditions / ways of doing things so follow their lead. Most people do not like to hug/kiss on cheeks etc. Shaking hands is the safest.
  17. Safety: We live in a safe environment, where can walk anywhere day or night, but always check with others in the know before testing this.
  18. Entertainment (Television & Cinema): TV Channels are in Chinese except for a rare one or two which you need to actively seek out. We managed to find an English news channel so we can keep up with world news. As far as we have heard, some movies are offered with subtitles. Cinemas are found in most of the malls where we live. There are some tv boxes on sale which offer more English options.
  19. Sites / Apps blocked: Many websites, search engines, social media and apps are blocked so bear this in mind before you move.
  20. Asking for help: Don't be afraid to ask for help, even if it is something simple e.g. where do I buy my contact lense solution. There is always someone that can help you somewhere. People are very helpful even if they do not speak English.

If you have any questions or thoughts to add to my list, leave me a comment below. Stay Fabulous ! Jennifer

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Jennifer Breakey 2 years, 2 months ago

Brilliant Jen - and I loved (and found most interesting) the linked document on do's and don'ts in China.

2 years, 2 months ago Edited
Jennifer Venter Replied to Jennifer Breakey 2 years, 1 month ago

Thank you so much for following my posts. Feel free to share. Love J

2 years, 1 month ago Edited
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