Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there - 05/21/20
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?
Previous posts in China and in EAP as well as other regions. Great posting - huge embassy, amazing schools, great places to eat, explore, and wonderful schools. Chinese is a challenge.
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?
Direct flights (pre-COVID) from several U.S. cities including United from DC. Expensive flights sometimes, but deals too! Great places to explore in country and in the region.
3. How long have you lived here?
Three years this tour. Prior tours three years too.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Posting with U.S. State Department.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Great housing - ranging from apartments to townhomes to larger houses. Commutes can be brutal. If you can walk to work and live in a smaller place, I'd do that. Expat locations tend to be grouped, Chaoyang, some suburbs, etc.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Seasonal foods and veggies are totally affordable. Everything can be delivered to your door by app by a bike messenger. Some imported items are super expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
If you can ship items you love, baking goods, mexican food, specialty ingredients, do it, but you can really find ANYTHING.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Chinese food is amazing. I still dream of soup dumplings. Lots of choices, lots of delivery. Beijing is a culinary delight.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Just the usual ants and similar.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
All DPO or pouch for the Embassy. You could use local mail, but we didn't. Shipping and buying items from Taobao and similar offline is super cheap and delivery is fast and cheap.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Lots of folks had helpers - huge range in abilities and prices. Quality and trustworthy folks, especially for kids were in high demand and more expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, and totally mixed.
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?
No. You have to work out WeChat. good luck.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, but limited.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I think you can make it with no Chinese in Beijing, but anything you can pick up will help you. Tons of language choices and abilities. Download pleco and a VPN before you arrive.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. China is trying, but not there yet.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes and yes, but take the high-speed trains instead!
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?
Anything works. Great for road trips to Mongolia or around town, etc.! Lots of folks have scooters too.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but it is waaaaay inside the firewall. Goodbye facebook, youtube, twitter, gmail...be sure to sign up for several VPNs...
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You could try to keep a mobile to avoid the firewall, but you need a Chinese number for WeChat...
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?
Yes, and it depends. Lots of regulations on dogs.
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?
Challenges with security, connectivity, and so much more for spouses.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots - but also limited by Chinese regulations.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Only for balls. Pretty casual most of the time.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
China is super safe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Western clinics and dental offices are used by most expats.
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?
Ranges from good to horrible. Yes, you have to plan for air - pack monitors, and filters. and air masks...
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Air pollution is no joke. Hard to manage some allergies, but possible.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Super dry and can be very very hot and very very cold.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Great schools so many choices - including downtown. WAB, ISB, YCIS, BSB, so many more. a bit expensive for pre-k, but super great choices.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Folks seem to be happy with services and attention, but not all the schools are the same.
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?
Yes, but preschool is expensive! great schools and choices. For childcare most people hire a helper.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, but expensive. Great programs at the Canadian school with Dragon Fire, but lots of other choices too.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge and mixed, but you can find your crowd.
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?
Lots of groups and clubs of all kinds.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Mixed, but seems to be okay.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It is not easy to make local friends.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There can be - but most folks seem to be okay.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Camping in inner Mongolia, villages in Yunnan, pandas in Chengdu - there are amazing things to see and do!
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
So many great ideas and places to visit, but beware - don't travel on Chinese holidays!
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, so many things - furniture, pearls, and so much more.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
gGeat place to live and work, but with real challenges too. You'll earn the hardship, but it will be a fun ride too.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
So many great choices, grab a guidebook, check out movies of history or current culture.