Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there - 10/24/17

Personal Experiences from Beijing, China

Beijing, China 10/24/17


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, we have lived in five other countries.

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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?

Washington, DC. 13.5 hours direct.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Five months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is either close to school or downtown. Houses close to school are relatively large. downtown is mainly apartments or small townhouses. Either kids or parents will have the commute, If you live downtown with older kids it is a long and treacherous commute for them especially if they have after school interests.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Grocery prices are not cheap especially for U.S.-type products. If you can find your way to larger mainstream markets like Carrefour or Metro, prices are about the same as in the U.S. or less.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

There is nothing you cannot get here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything can be delivered if you have WeChat. Think of living in NYC but bigger.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Surprised at how many mosquitoes there are in the summer and fall.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

U.S. postal services at the embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Part-time will run you $300 to $400 a month. Drivers start at about $800 a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Lots of gyms but most housing comes with a membership to their gym. Classes run about $15 a class. Yoga, Pilates etc...

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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?

In larger stores you can use an international credit card but every where else only accepts cash or Wechat. In order to use Wechat you have to open a Chinese bank account with your passport. Once you have that you can use the Wechat wallet feature which makes life much easier here for paying anyone.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I have heard people who go to church have places to go.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You have to have some Chinese. Tutors run from $15 to $40 per hour. Lots of language schools are also available. Classes run about $15 a class. Learn some basic phrases before coming!

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably dodging all the cars and bicyclists would not be easy but definitely not insurmountable.

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1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Subway easy to navigate, taxis are affordable, DiDi works well and there are car and driver services that are easy to use with Wechat.

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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?

Very safe here. Doubt cars get stolen too much since cameras are everywhere. Every kind of car imaginable works here. If you live downtown you probably don't need a car.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, usually you can get it up and running within a couple of days.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

China Unicom.

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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?

I don't have a pet but many people do and there are two vets within walking distance from our house which is close to the International schools.

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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?

It is not easy to work on the local market if you are here on a diplomatic passport.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of volunteering opportunities. You just have to look for what you are interested in and what is close by.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dress code is similar to the U.S.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is the safest place we have ever lived--including the U.S.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Care is is similar to the U.S. If you have prescriptions make sure they are available before coming. Some are not on the market here.

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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 pollution here is not as bad as we expected. From what we have heard the Chinese government is really cracking down on the big polluters.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

There is peanut oil in most Chinese food dishes here or nuts.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not having your Chinese understood can make you feel helpless at times.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Haven't been here a full year yet but the fall is lovely and the summer is hot!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

People tend to go to ISB or WAB. Both are good schools although WAB is a feel good school their academics are not as strong as ISB and if you are going to college in the U.S. ISB prepares kids for that well.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

Lots of childcare choices most people with small children have full time "ayis" (housekeepers).

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

The schools have about any sport you can imagine and if the school doesn't have it you can find it somewhere here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, and it is divided between people downtown and people out by the schools. Overall the morale is good.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you are out by the schools it is easy to visit and have dinner with neighbors. Downtown there are expat clubs but from Shunyi the trip in and the commute does not make it attractive.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a large world capital and there is a place for everyone.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Seems to be. I have never heard any anti-gay anything and among the expats there are plenty of like-minded people.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I have seen in five months.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

The Great Wall and hiking opportunities and the food is amazing!

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go to the Beijinger and you will find more things than you can imagine after you have seen the typical landmarks.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

This is a first-world city and a lot of the old markets are being razed. This is definitely not that kind of country any more. There is the Pearl Market but it is so commercial. You can find handmade lamps and furniture but the prices are not cheap.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's amazing to be in such an important city in the world right now. It is a huge capital city and with money and time it is all yours!

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How bad the traffic is and how long a 10 mile commute is. Give yourself an hour to get anywhere. More if it is further than 10 miles. This country is not cheap or easy to travel around.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, quality of life is good and if you have an open mind you will find the Chinese are not much different than Americans.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Stereotype of China.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience, Wechat and a good online dictionary.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Wild Swanns by Jung Chang.

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