Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there - 04/07/11
Personal Experiences from Beijing, China
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
My home base in Houston, Texas. I always fly via NYC with continental airlines. It's the shortest route at only 19 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
2 years. June 2009 to present
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Everyone lives in an apartment of sorts. I love the Chaoyang (east third ring road).I refuse regular transport due to the rediculous traffic and opt for a bike or scooter that allows me to break all the rules and avoid the piles ups.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There is an excellent selection of import grocery stores but they are pricey
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Food is cheap in China but it isn't very good quality. Very greasy but you can eat from street vendors and get fat on just a couple bucks a day. You can also blow your entire paycheck on some place fancy if you want as well.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
There is an organic grocery store called Lahao. It's really good. And the fresh tofu everywhere is fantastic!
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Be careful... stuff you ship can have some major duties tacked on. It cost me $200 to get my repaired computer back. Also, a colleague had teacher resources held up for months in customs.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I have an ayi (maid) come twice a week. She does everything in my apartment and charges $75 per month. If you want someone full time, Mon-Fri for all cooking, bill paying, childcare ect it will cost $385 per month
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yep but they can be a bit pricey if you want anything clean
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
ATMs are everywhere!
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, Christian, but they are only open to foreign ID holders
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A good amount and you will still not be able to funcion
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Very difficult city to live with a handicap. I had surgery and was on crutches and in a wheel chair for some time and it was impossible to get around.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains, buses, taxis and subways are very cheap. You can get wherever you want on the subway for 2 RMB (.30 cents)
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
None. Buy an electric scooter when you get here
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, $20 per month (USD) but it isn't fast
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring your favorite one from home and buy a sim card when you get here. The you don't have to worry with the language issue
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Nice casual. I wouldn't wear a sweat shirt out with sport shoes out and about though. When I do I always feel way under dressed.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It is the safest place I've experienced thus far on planet earth. Just be careful to keep an eye out on those taxi drivers. They love to see if they can rip you off.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Pollution, hygiene, food issues are all concerns. Western medical care can be found at a price or with good expat insurance. I had a major surgery here and while they did a good job- culturally it was intense. They don't believe in pain medicine, modesty, privacy, ect.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air quality is rediculously unhealthy
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winter is extreme and beyond what I ever hope I have to endure again for the rest of my life. I write about it a lot in my blog. Spring is splendid but too short. Summer is disgustingly humid and smoggy and fall is glorious.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I teach at Yew Chung International School. It's a good one. I've enjoyed my time here and the children are lovely.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
My school works with ESL kids really well
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Schools offer them
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Best for families and couples. If you are a single western woman, good luck getting a date!
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Nope... I am sure if I were to press the issue in regards to religion it would become one really quick.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Riding my bike through Beijing hutongs
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Get lost in the old city
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Saving money!The culture and expat lifestyle are also to be appreciated.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, but it's not a place to stay for a long time. Two years is plenty.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Makeup, deoderant, and tampons
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Last Empress by Anchee Min