Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Beijing, China

Beijing, China 10/24/17

Background:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Five months.

View All Answers


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

U.S. government.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

There is nothing you cannot get here.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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...

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

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

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

China Unicom.

View All Answers


Pets:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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).

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Not that I have seen in five months.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Stereotype of China.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Patience, Wechat and a good online dictionary.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 12/03/15

Background:

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

Second. I have lived in Europe prior to this.

View All Answers


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?

Home base is Washington, DC, which has many direct flights. There are direct flights to most major cities in the U.S., though fewer than from Shanghai to the U.S.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

About six months.

View All Answers


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

US Foreign Service Officer.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy housing is concentrated in Chaoyang, an urban district near the Embassy, where commute times range from 30 seconds walking (Liangmaqiao Apartments) to 15-45 minutes depending on traffic (any of the luxury buildings in Guomao). Larger houses are out in suburban Shunyi; people who live there take a 30-45 minute shuttle in to work.

View All Answers


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

Most western items are available, but items that are not in the Chinese diet (dairy and bread are the big ones) are sometimes exorbitant (think $10 for a stick of butter). Chinese brand groceries are dirt cheap. Fruits and veggies, if you use local varieties, cost almost nothing.

View All Answers


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

Cheese, packaged American meals, craft beer, wine.

View All Answers


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

Tons, endless options, ranging from 50 cents for a full meal to extravagant higher-than-the-west prices at luxury restaurants.

View All Answers


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

None to speak of.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO at the embassy. If you get packages through int'l mail you have to go to the international post office which is a ways away from the embassy, but pretty easy to figure out once you get there.

View All Answers


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

Cheap and easily available. You'll invariably pay 30 kuai (US$5) an hour.

View All Answers


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

Yes. There's one at the Embassy. Facilities for the public are expensive.

View All Answers


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?

This is China. Counterfeiting and information theft is rampant here. Either use the embassy cashier or find an ATM inside a bank you trust and don't stray from it. Expect your credit card details to get stolen at some point and for your bank to turn off your card constantly.

View All Answers


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

There are some. They check your passport as you walk in to ensure you're a foreigner.

View All Answers


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

You need it. This is the least English-friendly place I've ever been. It's much worse than Shanghai and a little worse than Guangzhou. I've found people here often understand more English than they let on, but they refuse to speak it. You might find success speaking slow, simple English to someone who is responding in Chinese, or you might not. Some of the best restaurants also lack English menus, which can be challenging even if you've taken Chinese classes.

View All Answers


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

Yes. There is virtually no attention paid to the disabled here. It is well known that standard practice here is for families to hide away those born with physical/mental disabilities, and there's no expectation they will participate in society. I have seen one wheelchair in use on the street here ever.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Safe and affordable. Taxis start at US$2 a ride and I've never paid more than US$20 for a particularly bad ride to the airport. Uber is cheaper and lots of people use it. The subway is sort of disappointing in terms of its layout, but costs 60-75 cents a ride and is efficient for certain trips.

View All Answers


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?

I shudder at the thought. Traffic is horrendous and the driving culture here is... Unique and terrifying. Leave the car at home.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. But you're behind the Great Firewall, and you will grow to loathe the internet experience here. It is 1/20th the speed I'm used to in the U.S., almost all the websites I use daily are blocked, and the VPN crackdown is real. This is incredibly frustrating, second only to the air in terms of complaints.

View All Answers


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

Super easy. Three major providers, just pop in a SIM.

View All Answers


Pets:

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, 30 days in the airport unless you have a diplomatic note from the embassy requesting a home quarantine.

View All Answers


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?

Maybe? You'd be working illegally in all likelihood—I don't know anybody with a job on the local economy who isn't here on a tourist visa. Occasionally there are crackdowns.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I know some people have volunteered with aid organizations and with churches. They've enjoyed it.

View All Answers


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

Chinese people are pretty laid back. At my office I almost never wear a tie. It's chill.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

The Chinese government is hostile to western governments which can present challenges. Chinese cities are incredibly safe, though. There are occasionally incidents in which westerners that are clearly dating/married to people of Chinese descent are attacked, but these are rare.

View All Answers


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

Air quality. There is western-style medicine but most people I know here choose to avoid it. Others have had no problems. I've never been to the doctor here ad wouldn't go if I had the choice. The Chinese have a very, very different perception of how medicine should work.

View All Answers


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?

When it's bad, it's BAD. I got here this past summer and we had, largely, a pretty good summer. There lots of crystal-clear days. More commonly, the AQI hovers between 100-200, which you adjust to. Around 250, which probably happens once a week or so, most foreigners will start to wear masks, and the air has taken on a thick, acrid quality. Every couple of weeks, the AQI will push towards 350-400, and most people will lock themselves up in their houses by then. We just had a headlines-making horrendous pollution episode where the AQI hit nearly 900 in some parts of the city, and it felt like the world was ending. When it's that bad, no mask is helping you, it's incredibly depressing, and makes you question whether being here could possibly be worth it.

View All Answers


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

Food: you will never know what is in anything. If you have allergies you could have some serious issues.

I haven't had seasonal allergy problems here.

View All Answers


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

Beijing has a very dry climate but there are frequent rain storms during the short rainy period in July and August. Outside of that, you can expect rain/snow no more than once a month if that. When the pollution isn't bad, you can expect blue skies and sunshine almost all the time. Temperatures severe, though: hot and humid the summer, icy cold in the winter. It's sort of similar to Minnesota minus the snow.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

No experience, but I know there are a large variety and I've heard no complaints. People have their kids in American, British, French, and other schools. That's an advantage of being in such an enormous international city.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

Yes, and some int'l schools have indoor facilities. If yours doesn't, your kid is going to be ingesting the output of every factory for 200 miles while they breathe the air in, though.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large and tepid morale. It is common for people here to be experiencing "China rage." The traffic, cultural differences, air, and internet really get to some people (and get to everybody eventually). Most people here recognize they're in a really interesting city with a lot going for it, but everyone loses it from time to time.

View All Answers


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?

Going out for all varieties of Chinese food, going to a kung fu show, dancing, what have you.

View All Answers


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

For singles (that's me): there is a ton to do here. Lots of western food options, bars and nightclubs. Great museums to explore. There are a lot of expats here, so there's a decent dating pool. Dating locals presents some challenges but some people do go that route and have found success. You're also going to have a very nice apartment (or even a house if you're in Guang Ming) and can easily afford household help, so you truly can focus all your energy on exploring the city and come home to a good meal and your laundry done. Not a bad deal.

For couples: see above. Lots to do, so you'll have fun. Make sure you both speak Chinese or get ready to have your patience stretched.

Families: The Shunyi houses are large and nice, but you're going to have decent commute. Sounds like the schools are great. Many, many people refuse to come here with children due to the air quality issues having an outsize effect on developing bodies. I would not, personally, bring a child here if I had any way to avoid it. I would never stop stressing about their safety.

View All Answers


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

There's a semi-active gay scene here. The Chinese are fairly traditional in general, but they're not confrontational. You might run into some stares if you were to hold hands on the street, but probably nothing more than that.

View All Answers


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

This is an unusual aspect of life in China. Most Chinese people, especially those you are likely to interact with in the retail/service industry, have never been abroad and can probably count the number of long conversations they've had with a foreigner on one hand. Usually this translates to friendly curiosity, especially if you speak Chinese. There are downsides: you will never blend in, they will always treat you like you need to have your hand held through everything, you will have your photo taken A LOT, and most frustratingly, you will find that cabs CONSTANTLY pass you up on the street. Cabbies never speak English here, are often very rough, and generally don't want to deal with us "laowai."

View All Answers


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

A two-day hike along the unrestored Great Wall, eating fantastic meals for a fraction of the cost of a less-interesting meal in the U.S., travel throughout Asia.

View All Answers


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

Great bars in Sanlitun, fantastic hiking in the Jinshanling/Gubeikou sections of the Great Wall, amazing holes in the wall in the hutongs, best duck ever at Li Qun.

View All Answers


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

Paintings, rugs at the Qianmen Carpet Factory, tons and tons of food.

View All Answers


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

The opportunity to see one of the most important countries in the world jerk and stumble its way into becoming a developed country is fascinating. Chinese food is incredibly varied and largely excellent. It can be tough to motivate yourself sometimes given the challenges of the city and the country but there are endless opportunities to explore historic sights, cultural spaces, new bars and restaurants, and some great hiking outside of town.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Probably. I've had a hard time with that, though. Going out costs the same as it does in a major US city.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

The air is bad. We all know that, but, it's serious.

View All Answers


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

I would. I generally I like it. I think two years is probably the maximum acceptable dose of the air, so I will not be back any time soon.

View All Answers


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

Expensive electronics (you'll want to toss them after your time here)

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Cheese. Good quality mask (I use Respro). And chopsticks.

View All Answers


5. Do you have any other comments?

Impatient people need not apply.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 04/12/15

Background:

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

Yes.

View All Answers


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 Hours direct flight from DC.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing types - all. Most American-style single family homes are in the suburbs. While the 'burbs are not far from downtown, when you factor traffic into the picture it can be a daunting commute. To go from Shunyi to 3rd ring road on a typical weekday is about one hour but the distance is only 10-15 miles!

View All Answers


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

You can get most groceries and household supplies here, but you will pay a premium. Clothing and dishwasher detergent is very expensive (smallest box of clothing detergent will run you about US$11). US Wines will run you US$15 on SALE! Everything is about 25-40% higher. Mayo - US$6 for smallest jar.

View All Answers


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

Lots of detergent, wine, common staples that don't go bad - Cereal, flour, sugar, chocolate chips, condiments, oil(for cooking), lotion, shampoo, conditioner, SHOES (they aren't well made here), travel coffee mugs and water bottles (i.e. nalgene).

View All Answers


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

Yes. Pizza, McDonald's, etc. can all be found in addition to low and high end Chinese food. Price range is about the same as the States.

View All Answers


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

A lot of mosquitos in the summer.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

via work.

View All Answers


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

Very available. For a month (11 hours per day - 5 days per week) about US$650-750 per month

View All Answers


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

Yes! they have many different options including Crossfit. Crossfit is about 150 Rmb per class.

View All Answers


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?

It is possible, but this is still a predominantly cash-based economy in most establishments. Cash is the way to go.

View All Answers


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

christian, catholic, jewish

View All Answers


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

Quite a lot. Most lower cost household help doesn't speak any English, taxi drivers don't speak English, market shop owners no English, etc.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Very affordable. Taxis are somewhat scary if you don't speak chinese. Most drivers do not speak any English at all and many times don't really know where to go... you have to tell them.

View All Answers


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?

Any vehicle is fine. Check local restrictions - quite sure the vehicle cannot be older than 3 yrs old. Finding Toyota, Nissan, Audi dealerships no big deal. haven't seen American dealerships I don't think.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. About US$30/month.

View All Answers


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

Get a phone in the States, make sure it is unlocked and bring it here and put in a Chinese SIM.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Local orphanages.

View All Answers


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

business casual.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Not really. You are always being watched so no need to worry!

View All Answers


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

AQI. Medical care is decent. Large hospitals such as BJU and SOS offer pretty good care. Dental care is also available and isn't bad.

View All Answers


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?

Very unhealthy. Air quality must be considered before making any plans (as you typically consider the weather). The AQI is very unpredictable and can change drastically in a few hours.

View All Answers


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

Those with food allergies must learn to communicate that in Chinese in order to inquire as to whats in the food.

View All Answers


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

Climate is very much like the East Coast in the USA (Philadelphia/DC area).

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Many great international schools. Most of them are located in Shunyi.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

Yes. Through Sports Beijing, independant organizations, and some of teh international schools offer various activities.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large expat community. Morale relatively good.

View All Answers


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?

Dinner and get togetehrs with other expats.

View All Answers


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

Very excellent for families. Most of the suburban neighborhoods (in Shunyi) are great with kids. They are the neighborhoods where kids ride around on bicycles and ring their friend's doorbell without an "appointment". And very safe.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

We are an African-American family and do not find any prejudices. The Chinese are very INTERESTED in how different we look, and often try to touch our hair or stare... but my personal opinion is that it is just because they don't see people that don't look like them very much and not a prejudice.

View All Answers


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

Getting through the cultural barriers, learning Chinese very quickly as a matter of necessity (didn't speak any before coming), seeing the Great Wall.

View All Answers


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

We don't get out THAT much... it is just such a pain with the traffic. Haven't visited all of the popular sites yet, so not sure about the hidden ones.

View All Answers


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

Jade, pearls, porcelain.

View All Answers


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

Many expats living here. Great for networking and if you would like to live in an "expat bubble" it is very easy to do so. Many expat resources.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Yes if you don't go out to eat often.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Level of Chinese required and the inconvenience of the traffic.

View All Answers


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

Absolutely.

View All Answers


3. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Check out "idiot abroad in Beijing" on Netflix.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 08/17/14

Background:

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

i have lived in South America.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

Almost 2 years.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Post has family homes, apartments, some are government-owned and many are rentals. The LMQ is an apartment building right next door to the U.S. Embassy. (I live in the Fortune Garden and it's only 2 blocks away. People with school aged children tend to live in single homes about 45 minutes commute because there's an international nearby. Where I live, there are Canadian and German schools.)

View All Answers


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

Local products are cheap but imported one are expensive.

View All Answers


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

Electronics are expensive in China. But your computers will be tampered with by some unknown visitors so beware. I would bring an old computer and trash it at the end of the tour. Bicycles can be fun and useful. There are bike lanes in many parts of city but during rush hours, cars use them too.

View All Answers


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

All kinds of American fast food, and also many international restaurants of all kinds. The authentic Chinese food is extremely greasy, spicy and salty for my taste. Funny to say but in comparison, McDonald's food seems less hazardous to your health.

View All Answers


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

Some mosquitos and the itch is quite brutal if you're bitten. Overall, it's not too bad in the city. No ants or other insects.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO.

View All Answers


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

Reasonable, about US$600 a month and I heard when people go on vacation, they usually pay the maid for the time off. I don't have one just to keep my life simple and I like my privacy.

View All Answers


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

My apartment has a decent gym and pool. There's a big gym at work as well.

View All Answers


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?

I use cash mainly but many merchants accept Visa and American Express.

View All Answers


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

The church I sometimes go to has one English session on Sunday at 3:30 pm. However, it's more like a service and less like a mass.

View All Answers


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

Obviously, it's better if you know some Mandarin but I don't get language training prior to arriving at Post. Only Generalists receive 6-10 months of full-time language training for their tour. Specialists don't have that luxury. Anyone can get a 2 hours per week class while at Post but it's not an easy language to learn. I survive without knowing Chinese but have to live with some inconvenience.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Public transportation is safe, cheap and convenient. You don't really need a car unless you live in the Shunyi district where the schools are. People who live there either drive to work, a 45 minute ride, or take the embassy shuttle for a nominal fare. Subways can be so crowded every day, and I mean jammed packed, especially line 10. Sometimes, there are pushers - people in uniforms who actually push passengers into the trains during rush hours. I thought it was hilarious the first time I witnessed it.

View All Answers


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?

Cars or SUVs are fine. The driving here is very crazy so be very careful. Motorcycles, bicycles, tuktuk, pedestrians go any which way so you really have to watch out. Other motorists drive aggressive and cutting people of is the norm. I brought a small car but i rarely drive it and don't really need to.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Well, there's high speed internet but the speed you actually get is only about 30-40 percent of what you subscribe to. Any because of the China firewall, you can only get the normal contents if you have a VPN (virtual private network) and there are many good ones you can sign up for about US$6 a month. Without VPN, you won't be able to access any social sites, and even news sites would not be able to play videos. Heavy censorship is quite evident in China. BTW, I can be honest and write about this because, you guessed it, I have VPN turned on.

TV programs get blacked out almost every day whenever there's a news report about China, as if there's someone sitting there at the control room and ready to press a button when they don't like what they see/hear within a couple seconds, then poof, the screen goes blank until that news segment is done.

View All Answers


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

Smartphone or cell phones work fine.

View All Answers


Pets:

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 heard dogs, cats and birds were allowed into the country but it's complicated and costly.

View All Answers


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?

I don't think so. However, there are many job postings at the U.S. Embassy for EFM's.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

View All Answers


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

Dress code is mixed - from all ut suits to simple dress shirts and no ties. No jeans or shorts.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

No crimes. However, living in a communist country, expect your home to be entered by unknown people when you're not home. These people go through your stuff and do things to your computers. Supposedly, they look for whatever spies look for. My apartment has been invaded five times that I know of. Two of those times, I was actually home but because I always use a door latch so they could only open the door for a couple inches and by the time I came out to see, they had already taken off. When I checked with the front desk, the typical answer I got was security people were checking the lock. My neighbor said on one occasion, they were just talking among themselves about some problem with their unit, then a short time later, the repair people came to fix it even though they had never put in a complaint with the maintenance people. So you can assume they have some listening device too. How else would they know.

View All Answers


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

Bad air pollution, especially in cooler weather when the coal is being burnt. You hope for breezy days as the winds blow all the pollution away. Based on my own experience, on days that have no winds, the AQI index reads anywhere from 150+ - 700+. The U.S. Embassy provides good air purifiers for every household. Some people suffer from headaches or respiratory problems. One guy in my section was in the hospital for 3 days due to the bad air. Myself, I got severe headaches during heavy pollution.

View All Answers


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

China has 4 seasons but spring and fall are short, and it doesn't rain much in Beijing. Summer is hot, humid, and winter can be cold like the northeast in the U.S.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

There are several good schools in the city but I don't have school-aged kids so I'm not too familiar with this subject.

View All Answers


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

I heard there is a baseball program.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

The Great Wall, bars, restaurants. There are many parks and temples but after you see one or two of them, you wonder if you've already been there because they all look the same. there's really not much inside Forbidden City to see (big hype). Summer palace is nice but only if you don't go during summer time when it's shoulder-shoulder. The Beijing zoo has some pandas but they were dirty and lazy, yet another hype. The Center for Performing Art (the Egg) can be a good entertainment, depending on what's playing.

View All Answers


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

No religion per se in China. I sometimes go to a so-called church but it's really not a church like you might think of. No masses either. There are Buddhist temples around for the locals to make wishes and burn incense. For me, the smoke is too much and my lungs just choke up around it, kind of like an intense second hand smoke.

View All Answers


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

Seeing the Great Wall.

View All Answers


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

There are tons of shopping opportunities so if you like that, you'll have a good time. But, you must bargain hard and there are lots and lots of knocked-off products. Imported goods are better quality. China made products have even lower quality than those exported to the U.S. and that's really bad. I bought 3 pairs of shoes and within 2-6 months later, I threw them out for one reason or another.

View All Answers


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

Being in Asia.

View All Answers


6. Can you save money?

Some - with a 15% post diff and high COLA, you can save money if you buy more local products.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

No! I would not put Beijing high on my list. The city is quite dirty and smelly from the sewage. Even the plumbing in my apartment building gives off bad odor. The men spit phlegm all over the streets with the horrible gargling sound effects. Don't expect much in way of courtesy such as excuse-me, or thank-you when you hold the door for someone. Having been in many cities around the world, Beijing ranks low on my list.

View All Answers


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

Computers - but then again, who can live without his computer anymore.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Power plug adapters for 220V and universal plugs. The plugs here are different.

View All Answers


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

Lonely Planet guides.

View All Answers


5. Do you have any other comments?

Shanghai is a cleaner and nicer city to live in. It has character and charms. The streets don't smell and people don't spit. I've been there 3 times and I enjoyed it there much more than Beijing. Public facilities are beyond stinky and most of them don't have Western style toilets. My wife said in the Ladies room, there are usually just holes in the ground, some have doors and some don't. And even when there are doors for the stalls, the locals don't use them so... use your imagination. I tried to avoid them as much as possible and when I had to, I always tried to be quick and staggered out of there from holding my breaths.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 07/18/14

Background:

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

First posting with an Embassy, but I have lived in Spain and Italy previously.

View All Answers


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?

Dallas, TX. The trip is 13 hours to Chicago, then 2-3 hours for connections after that.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

17 months.

View All Answers


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

I'm the spouse of a US government employee.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments and townhomes in the city allow you to walk to work or take the metro. These commutes can be really short. A 2-3 minute walk or a 10 minute subway ride. If you live anywhere outside the main embassy area though, you will face significant commute times. The traffic is always heavy. We live in the suburbs outside the city where the main schools are located. Our commute is typically 45 minutes to an hour, but can be longer if there are any traffic accidents.

View All Answers


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

Very readily available. You can pretty much get everything you could every want or need here. In the suburbs, we have easy access to Jenny Wang's - a grocery chain that specializes in Western imports. That said, you definitely will pay a price for familiar food stuffs. Cereal (my kids' favorite food) is typically $8 a box so we usually plan ahead and order it through Amazon. You can get staples for a much lower price at Chinese markets and grocery stores.

View All Answers


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

Honestly, there isn't much. You really can find most things on the economy. If there are particular types of shampoos/body lotions you use, you might stock up on those.

View All Answers


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

Most Western fast food places are well-represented. There are Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere. Within a half mile of my house, we have a Mrs. Fields cookies, a Domino's pizza, Subway, Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, Baskin Robbins and a Papa John's pizza. Chinese food is typically quite inexpensive. You can get giant tubs of tasty stir-fried noodles for about $1 on the street near the house. Western food can be expensive. I like to eat at Elements Fresh and a lunch of salads, smoothies and sandwiches there for my family of 5 can easily cost $60-70.

View All Answers


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

Mosquitoes in the suburbs during the summer months. Other than that, no problems.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

We have DPO and Pouch here.

View All Answers


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

Readily available and quite good in my opinion, but increasingly a bit more expensive every year. $500-600 a month (or more) is a fairly normal salary for a full-time housekeeper. This was closer to $300/month a year or two ago.

View All Answers


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

There is a gym at the embassy. Most housing compounds/apartment buildings also have gyms. This is great because you really can't (and shouldn't) exercise outside due to the air quality.

View All Answers


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?

I use both credit cards and ATMs at several locations around time. Many people do not. I think you just need to be cautious and keep a regular eye on your accounts to make sure nothing is amiss.

View All Answers


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

I believe there is a synagogue, as well as Catholic and non-denominational Christian services. I'm sure there are more options downtown as well.

View All Answers


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

I have very little Chinese (I've been taking the EFM classes twice a week since we arrived) and it is really hard. Most people do not speak English and the language is very hard to read so you can definitely feel very frustrated and isolated if you do not have the language. We have to be organized and well prepared when we go out and about with directions, taxi cards, etc. since if we do get lost, it is typically up to us to figure something out. I think it would be very helpful to have some basic Chinese before arriving.

View All Answers


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

Yes. The sidewalks, if they exist, are typically crumbling. There is construction happening everywhere, all of the time, and crossing the streets is dangerous for people with no physical disabilities. I imagine it would be really rough if you couldn't run.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes, all are readily available, safe and affordable. That said, the metro is often quite crowded, which can make it tricky when traveling with a family. The taxi drivers are just really awful here. They frequently don't know where things are located and it can be very hard to get one to take you anywhere during rush hour. There is also the language barrier, which can be daunting if you do not have good Chinese language skills.

View All Answers


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?

We have a minivan here. It is big for the parking spaces and parking garages, but manageable. Lots of other people also have vans/SUVs. Pay attention to the age of your car. You can only import cars less than 5 years old and the rules change frequently so that is something you should explore early. Some people have luck buying at post while others have had to wait a while to find something suitable to purchase.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, although between the Chinese firewall and internet speed, you should prepare for things to be very slow. It is inexpensive. I pay $30/month for "high speed" internet and my phone lines. Speeds range from slow to super, super slow and you will want to go through a VPN to get to Facebook. The VPN slows things down even more.

View All Answers


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

Cell phone plans and SIM cards are readily available and inexpensive.

View All Answers


Pets:

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, there are restrictions on size and breed and there is a 2 week quarantine policy. The quarantine is typically waived for Embassy types, but you will want to do all of your homework on this. Vets and kennels are readily available and good quality.

View All Answers


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?

There is no bilateral work agreement between the Chinese government and the US. That means, you cannot work on the economy even if there are jobs available. The embassy does hire a lot of EFMs though and I think that if you want to work, you probably can. Just perhaps not in the capacity you would in another place.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are organizations that help children, pets, migrant workers, etc. I think you can find a lot of opportunities to help people here.

View All Answers


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

It is quite formal at the embassy. I see a lot of suits. The Chinese public are actually fairly casual and anything goes as far as daily clothing.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

I feel very safe here. I do think pickpocketing/stealing exists, as it does in any big city, but I think it remains relatively rare. I've also heard of some break-ins in the housing, but those are not a common thing either.

View All Answers


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

The air quality is a major health concern. If you have any type of respiratory issues, it is likely to get worse here. There are quite a few large, modern expat hospitals here though and we have a fully staffed Med Unit. Medevacs to Singapore for something or another are not uncommon.

View All Answers


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?

It ranges from unhealthy to very, very, very unhealthy. Our house has a lot of air filters and our kids' school has a state-of-the-art filtration system and domes that they can play outside in when the air is bad. True "good" air quality days are rare. My family has done well here, but I would be cautious about seeking this assignment if you have family members with asthma or breathing issues.

View All Answers


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

Quite hot in the summer, very cold in the winter. Beautiful in the autumn - often with good air quality as well - also nice in the very short spring months. Sandstorms can occasionally occur in the spring months. It is also very dry here. The summer is the rainiest season and we might see rain 1-2 times a week. We can go for months and months here without any precipitation at all. Everything is very dusty and gritty.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

There are lots of school options here. My kids go to the main embassy-supported school. It is quite large and well-funded. There are lots of sports teams and amenities at the school. You can find a variety of other options though, from smaller schools to bilingual ones to Montessori schools.

View All Answers


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

I have 3 special needs kids. Overall, I've found the schools to be helpful with managing their needs. There are quite a few special needs kids at post. We have a clinic with English-speaking occupational therapists, speech therapists and physical therapists. We also have an English-speaking psychologist in the area.

View All Answers


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, preschool is available, but it is really expensive. I don't have preschool aged kids, but I do have several friends with younger kids. The tuition is staggeringly high. Many do use a part-time program supplemented by time with their household helpers.

View All Answers


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

My kids aren't sporty, but between the school's offerings and Sports Beijing, I think kids can play every sport imaginable.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

This is a huge embassy. I think that Beijing is what you make of it. The embassy itself seems to be a stressful and somewhat intense place to work. Lots going on here. The high-pressure atmosphere combined with the traffic and air quality has a marked impact on morale. There are plenty of people who are quite unhappy here. We have been quite happy, but do find ourselves in periodic need of breaks from China since this post can wear on your after a while.

View All Answers


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?

We go out for dinners with friends a lot and have frequent at-home, casual gatherings with kids and adults. Much of the social life involves eating:) That is true among the Chinese public as well though.

View All Answers


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

I think there is something for everyone. Beijing has a lot to offer families, but the air quality will significantly dampen your quality of life. I'd think long and hard before deciding to do more than a couple of years here.

View All Answers


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

I'd imagine probably not.

View All Answers


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

I haven't suffered any problems, but my friends who are African-American have had people say some very rude things to them. The government here does make a point of separating foreign places of worship from Chinese ones.

View All Answers


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

Hiking the Great Wall, biking through hutongs, exploring the countryside around Beijing.

View All Answers


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

Take a stroll or bike ride through the city's hutong areas where you can see vestiges of the old city remaining. Drive outside the city to some of the lesser known sections of the wall and to some beautiful national parks like Longqing Gorge. Definitely ice chair skate on the city's frozen lakes in the winter months.

View All Answers


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

Furniture, paintings and pearls.

View All Answers


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

The culture is new for our family and there is lots to see and do in the city.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Maybe - if you don't buy any Western groceries or brands, eat at any Western restaurants or travel outside the city at all. Airfare from Beijing to anywhere else (even inside China) is quite expensive. I've actually been quite surprised by how expensive it is to live here.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Perhaps because of our lack of language, perhaps because of a more insular culture, it has been very hard to socialize with Chinese families.

View All Answers


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

Yes, but I do think 2-3 years is an adequate amount of time to spend in this environment. Between the traffic, poor air quality and high-pressure work environment, I think we will be ready to move on when it is time to go.

View All Answers


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

Expectations of any type of warm, tropical Asian climate. Although it does get hot here, this definitely isn't the tropics.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Bike and sturdy shoes:)

View All Answers


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

Midnight in Peking: How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China
by Paul French, by Jan Wong, Country Driving: A Chinese Road Trip
by Peter Hessler.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 06/19/13

Background:

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

No; I've lived in London and Nairobi.

View All Answers


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?

DC. 14 hour direct flight.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

I moved here seven months ago.

View All Answers


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

I work for the U.S. Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Lots of different options including spacious apartments in town and big U.S.-style houses about 40 minutes outside.

View All Answers


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

If you shop at international grocery stores, expensive, since it's all imported. Cheaper if you go to local markets.

View All Answers


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

Dark chocolate

View All Answers


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

Everything from cheap as chips noodles to fancy European-style restaurants (with European prices.)

View All Answers


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

None. Very little nature survives in Beijing.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Though the embassy

View All Answers


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

Widely available, about 600-1000USD monthly for full time depending on what you need done.

View All Answers


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

Yes. Most apartment complexes have one.

View All Answers


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?

Easy to use credit cards and ATMs.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

English language Chinese newspapers widely available and cheap.

View All Answers


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

The more the better

View All Answers


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

I've noticed most of the new metro stops have elevators, as do the newer shopping malls. But the older parts of the city are not designed for people with disabilities.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes and yes

View All Answers


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?

Brought my car. Roads are good, no special concerns.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is a big frustration. You'll need a VPN to access gmail and facebook.

View All Answers


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

Easy to find a provider -- China mobile and Unicom are what most people use.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

Not sure

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Not sure

View All Answers


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?

Haven't explored it

View All Answers


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

At my workplace, business attire

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

No, pretty safe.

View All Answers


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

As I mentioned, the air is the biggest one. My colleagues get constant colds, sinus infections, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, bronchial spasms... And because of the pollution, once you have something, it's hard to get rid of.

View All Answers


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?

Completely toxic. Greenpeace recently did a study that found it full of lead, arsenic and heavy metals. Before I came here I was told, "some days you can't go outside," but honestly, it's a big deal any time the air quality is good enough actually to be outside (and not just quickly commute to where you need to be.) Even on those "blue sky days" pollutions levels are so high it'd warrant a state of emergency in the U.S.

View All Answers


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

Freezing winters, hot summers. Lovely spring that lasted two weeks.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Excellent international schools but expect to pay New York City private school prices.

View All Answers


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

I've heard the bigger schools like WAB and ISB can accomodate special needs kids.

View All Answers


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 again, extremely expensive. I looked into a program for my one-year-old, and it would have cost $16,000!

View All Answers


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

Yes, good soccer program run by Brits. Lots of opportunity for Kung Fu. I've heard of kids taking ballet.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Massive

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Low when the pollution is bad. Over the moon happy when the sky is blue.

View All Answers


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?

Yes, tons of expats, good restaurants and bars.

View All Answers


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

Because of the pollution, this is not a good city for families with small kids. Because they are so active and their lungs are still growing, children face special and potentially irreversible risks. I have a five-year-old and one-year-old and regret bringing them here. They rarely can go outside. If you take the warnings about the air seriously, and I recommend you should, than quality of life for your children in Beijing will be poor.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

For expats, not that I've heard.

View All Answers


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

Awesome restaurants in Beijing

View All Answers


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

The Great Wall is a day trip. There are lovely parks. Hutongs fulls of hipster shops and restaurants.

View All Answers


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

Antique furniture, fake handbags, pirated DVDs

View All Answers


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

China gets a lot of attention as the rising world super power, and I think the best part of living here is seeing what that looks like on the ground -- total chaos of over a billion people fighting for space and resources. Lots to see and do in this massive country.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Sure, if that's your goal. But Beijing will tempt you with ways to spend it...

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Because of the air, absolutely not

View All Answers


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

sunblock

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

own high powered air purifiers, like IQ Air, and masks. Also stock up on cold medicine.

View All Answers


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

The Party by Richard McGregor

View All Answers


5. Do you have any other comments?

Beijing is an exciting city, and whatever your job, the work you do here will be interesting. But the air makes the city unlivable with small kids.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 08/27/11

Background:

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

Third expat experience. Wellington, NZ and Seoul, South Korea.

View All Answers


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 and/or Minnesota. 14-hour direct flight from DC / connect through Chicago from Minnesota (about 24 hours door to door).

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

3 years + (July 2008 - now).

View All Answers


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

Spouse assigned to U.S. Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The U.S. Embassy leases various apartments in town as well as owning some apartments within town and some larger single-family homes in gated communities in a nearby suburb. Commutes within town range from a walk across the street to 45 minutes in the car during rush hour, depending on your apartment location. The commute from the suburb is 30-60 minutes. Construction standards are much lower than in the U.S. and maintenance is poor.

View All Answers


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

Household supplies are readily available at reasonable prices. Local food items are relatively inexpensive, but come with uncertainties about quality (milk tainted with melamine or leather products; fruits, vegetables, and meats laced with chemicals). For those reasons, we buy mostly imported stuff, which is rather expensive -- especially for items not commonly eaten by the Chinese (bread, cheese, breakfast cereal, etc.). With cereal at around $12/box, we order it and other items online. Wine and other imported drinks are also pricey (about 150% of U.S. prices) --and beware of some sellers with “cut” or otherwise inauthentic products.

View All Answers


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

A tall kitchen wastebasket -- they can't be found locally. A digital scale that goes up to 50 pounds: the embassy post office doesn't sell postage so everything must be done online; the scale would allow us to do the weighing and calculating work at home.

View All Answers


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

Some American fast food is present (McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and others) -- and they have delivery service. Prices are comparable to the U.S. Most “decent” restaurants are foreign, though there’s a good Taiwanese restaurant near the U.S. Embassy, a good Shanghai dumpling restaurant, and lots of Peking duck places (but none of the above are cheap). Cheap dumplings and steamed buns can be found, and “jianbing” (a crêpe with egg and spices) from street vendors should not be missed.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Organic produce is available at most sizable grocery stores, but you will pay dearly for it. Vegetarian and allergy-friendly products are almost non-existent, especially when eating out. Significant effort would be required to maintain such eating habits.

View All Answers


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

Not much. A few mosquitoes in summer; a few roaches around some restaurants.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

We use the diplomatic post office (DPO) inside the embassy. No experience with the local postal system.

View All Answers


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

There are lots of housekeepers available if you ask around the expat community, though many will only work in certain areas (in town vs. suburbs; certain districts in town). Cost can vary wildly depending on that person's demands. Expect to pay around $3/hour. Live-in help can be found, but not sure of the cost. If your housekeeper is Chinese, expect a substantially lower standard of cleaning and be ready to have things rearranged and put in mind-boggling places. We've been here 3 years and are currently on our 5th housekeeper.

View All Answers


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

Yes, much of the housing has facilities in the building. I have never seen a stand-alone gym.

View All Answers


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?

China is still very much a cash society, with many small-scale shops who do not accept credit cards. Larger stores do. ATMs are generally not safe, with many reports of ATMs loaded with counterfeit bills. We use the embassy cashier, which guarantees the bills.

View All Answers


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

They exist, as some friends attended a Christian church, but I don't know any more than that.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The China Daily has an English version, but it is a very light read. Unless you're affiliated with the embassy and therefore are authorized to have an AFN dish and decoder, I don't think English-language TV is available.

View All Answers


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

Quite a bit. Everyone either: 1) Doesn't speak English; or 2) Doesn't want to try the English they know. Even if you speak Chinese decently, you will still encounter people who refuse to understand you simply because you're a foreigner. You will need at least a little Chinese to interact successfully with your housekeeper.

View All Answers


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

It would not be "difficult" here; it would be nearly impossible. Disabled access to buildings is almost unheard of and sidewalks are treacherous for everyone.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Have not used the trains, but have heard the normal ones are more or less safe, if cramped. The new high speed trains are plagued with problems and many fatal accidents -- I would stay away. Buses are overcrowded and routes are unclear. Taxis are mostly safe, except you won’t often find a usable seat belt. The subway is horribly crowded at rush hour and on certain lines all the time. All ground transportation is fairly cheap.

View All Answers


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?

Beijing periodically arbitrarily chooses a date, and vehicles made before that date are not allowed in. Check on that before you ship. As for size, it’s a bit of a paradox: a smaller vehicle is more maneuverable, but a larger one has more right-of-way (according to the unwritten “rules” of the road here).

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

The services available in U.S. embassy housing is supposedly "high speed," but most are limited by old or poor quality lines. We lived in two different locations, one of which had a consistent 2M and the other was usually 1M to 1.5M. You pay cash up front 6 months at a time, but you can get a slight discount (1-2 months worth) if you pay for the year. With the discount, we paid about $45-$50 a month. The biggest trick with the internet here is that, while you may have a decent connection, many sites are blocked without using a VPN to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

View All Answers


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

Not really. The embassy issues phones to employees. We bought a very basic one for visitors to use; it uses “refill” cards to add minutes to the account. Reception (for all cell phones) is sketchy in many areas and buildings.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No, just have up-to-date health certificates.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is one international veterinary center not far from the embassy that seems decent, and they have some limited boarding available. Their services are expensive, but from what I've seen of local Chinese veterinary facilities, you don't want to go the cheap route.

View All Answers


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?

No.

View All Answers


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

Work is mostly suits and skirts. In public, it's kind of an anything-goes affair: you'll see men rolling their shirts up in summer to air their bellies; the elderly wearing pajamas on the street; and plenty of East Asian "fashion" that will make you wonder. The rest of the people dress fairly plainly.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Depends on what you consider a concern. You are under constant surveillance by the Chinese government. But because of the tight control, crime is low -- and petty when it occurs (pick pockets, tea house scams, etc.).

View All Answers


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

Other than the major concerns of air quality and food contamination, I suppose the next biggest worry is being injured in a vehicle accident. There are no ambulances like in the U.S. -- only privately-owned vehicles providing a transportation-only (no trauma care) service. There are a few clinics/hospitals around with Western-trained medical staff. For anything beyond minor/routine care, I would recommend going somewhere like Seoul or Singapore.

View All Answers


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?

"Crazy bad" (search the internet for that). Sixty percent of days in Beijing have equal or worse air than the two most polluted cities in the U.S. have on their worst days (10% of the time). Frequently the air is "hazardous" according to the U.S. EPA air quality scale.

View All Answers


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

Summers in Beijing are hot (90°F and up). Winters are chilly (around freezing), but with a biting cold wind. The prevailing condition in Beijing is pollution haze, though the government weather reports refer to it as "fog."

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) and International School of Beijing (ISB) seem to be the most commonly used by Americans, though there are other options.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

I have heard that it is prohibitively expensive.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Quite large. The U.S. Embassy alone has several hundred families here, and you frequently see people from other countries out and about.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Outwardly: high. Actually: medium-low to "get me out of here!" I think most people come to Beijing with excitement and high expectations, as China is "the place to be" in terms of economic, political, climate and energy issues, and so on. But they soon discover the reality of living here, where every little thing is a battle -- communicating, shopping, getting around, or even just getting someone to fix something in your residence. People maintain a positive outward show, but in private everyone gripes about their most recent experience.

View All Answers


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?

Plenty of places to go out for dining and entertainment, though if American movies are your thing you'll only get to see about 10-12 a year in the theater, as they restrict the number that can be shown. Many people entertain in their homes, as going out frequently can drain your wallet rapidly.

View All Answers


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

If you can find things that make you happy, I imagine it could be good for anyone. The trick is finding something you like. Single men seem to have a decent time; single women much less so. Couples without kids (or with older kids) have a wide range of entertainment and dining options. Families with small children are more limited.

View All Answers


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

Unknown. Those scenes are kept "underground" here and I haven't gone digging.

View All Answers


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

Definitely, all of the above. Almost everyone here sees dollar signs light up over foreigners' heads and take every opportunity to bilk you for more money. Most Chinese also very much dislike black people. Women are considered inferior to men. Gatherings (religious services, etc.) are prohibited without advance approval; the government actively persecutes followers of Falun Gong.

View All Answers


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

Getting out of Beijing to see other parts of the country (and getting out of the country altogether).

View All Answers


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

Visiting any of the historic/cultural sites: palaces, temples, the Great Wall. Shopping at the Dirt Market.

View All Answers


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

Artwork of all kinds; trips around the country.

View All Answers


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

China is full of history, culture, and natural beauty -- lots of great places to see and visit.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't buy imported products and eat at expensive restaurants regularly.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Beijing, no. Other parts of China, maybe.

View All Answers


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

Sense of order, fairness, and logic. Expectations of good will or customer service.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


Beijing, China 04/07/11

Background:

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

Utrecht, Netherlands

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2 years. June 2009 to present

View All Answers


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

educator

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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

None

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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

Yes, Christian, but they are only open to foreign ID holders

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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)

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Pets:

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

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

My school works with ESL kids really well

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

Schools offer them

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

View All Answers


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?

Tons

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Riding my bike through Beijing hutongs

View All Answers


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

Get lost in the old city

View All Answers


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

Massage!

View All Answers


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

Saving money!The culture and expat lifestyle are also to be appreciated.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Definitely

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Makeup, deoderant, and tampons

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


Beijing, China 01/18/11

Background:

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

Yes

View All Answers


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 is Seattle. There are easy 12-hour nonstops on both Hainan Airlines and Delta Airlines several days a week. Air China also has a daily nonstop to Vancouver with an easy connection to Seattle on Air Canada (you pre-clear US Customs in Vancouver, which saves time). Major Chinese international carriers have excellent safety records and fly new, modern aircraft. I am comfortable flying them. Beijing is Asia's busiest airport and there really isn't anywhere you can't get from here.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

6 months

View All Answers


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

Corporate

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Let me start by saying housing is a nightmare in Beijing. The real estate market in China is white-hot (think California in 2005) and people are buying to flip. This is beginning to have a major impact on rents. Many landlords would prefer to leave a unit empty for months hoping for an inflated rental rate rather than set a reasonable price and rent their unit right away. So, you'll see a huge amount of overpriced inventory and a limited amount of reasonably priced inventory that disappears almost immediately. Having a good agent is your only hope of finding anything reasonable. My transitional housing allowance ran out and I ended up in a hotel for a couple of weeks before I eventually found a (not perfect) place because the housing situation is just that ridiculous. Start looking early and negotiate for 90 days of transitional housing in your relocation package if you can. So, let's talk prices and areas. Most foreigners live in the Shunyi suburbs or on the east side of Beijing in the Chaoyang district. Shunyi looks like an American suburb, soulless and corporate. Families with small kids and Embassy personnel like it. And that's great for them, and I wish them well. You'll need a car if you live there (although there is a new subway line/park and ride that just opened last month, so commuting on public transportation is now an option for suburbanites). Rental prices start at around USD $3,000 per month and go up from there. Many other foreigners live in a few "international standard" complexes. Seasons Park, Central Park, Park Avenue, and a couple of others. These were built by US, Hong Kong, or European developers, and have international management companies. Corridors are bright and well-lit, elevators always work (and don't have blaring advertisements outside), when something breaks you have an English-speaking management office to call and someone competent will come fix it, and your apartment will be equipped with all the stuff you expect - stove, oven, coffee maker, nice microwave oven, washer and dryer, etc. Of course, this comes at a price. You'll pay upwards of $1,500 for a 2 bedroom. OK, so you can't afford that. You can try a Chinese "international" complex. These are usually Chinese developers and Chinese management companies. The management office may have someone who speaks English, but more likely not. Chinese companies usually have different standards of maintenance than American or European companies, and different ideas of what is acceptable. Be prepared for this. Some of these buildings are quite nice; Boya Garden, for example, has a Chinese management company but was originally built by a French developer, the amenities are good, and the Chinese company has maintained the building reasonably well since (although the paint is peeling). Other buildings, not so much - Phoenix City is visibly falling apart and it's only a couple of years old. You generally cannot expect the same amenities in a Chinese building as you can in an international complex. The kitchen will likely be tiny, and will not have an oven (make sure the thing that looks like an oven isn't actually a dish drying rack). Electric clothes dryer? No way, you'll have a balcony built into your apartment where you can hang your laundry for 3 days in the frigid winter until it dries. In a Chinese building, you'll pay anywhere from somewhat less to considerably less depending how "local" the complex is. I am living in an entirely local, and older, but high-end building in the central Dongcheng district. I choose to live in a more local building and neighborhood since I wanted a better commute and a more historical area to live in. It's away from the "expat bubble" and this limits my social life, but I don't have much of one anyway in between work and Chinese lessons. Customarily, apartments are furnished--but everything is negotiable. I hated my landlord's furniture (it was used and broken) and negotiated for him to get rid of most of it, and I paid lower rent since I'm buying my own furniture (cheap IKEA stuff - I can buy a whole house full of furniture for less than the differential in 3 months' rent vs. comparable alternatives). Generally you will deal with an agent to find an apartment. They will not charge you a commission, but the landlord pays them a commission of an entire month's rent. This in effect builds an automatic rent increase into the second year's rent since they will be charging you as if the commission is bundled, but it will no longer be. So, you may be able to get a better deal if you pay the commission to the agent. Finally, you may need a "fa piao" (official invoice) if you have a housing package and want to claim the expense. Even if you don't have a housing package, your tax situation can benefit by having a "fa piao." You're exempt from income tax on up to 30% of your income upon presentation of a "fa piao" proving rent payment in that amount. This is no small savings - you'll save aminimum of 5% and up to 40% income tax depending on your tax bracket.

View All Answers


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

Everyone says "you can get anything here." This is true, except for Ivory soap. And what they don't say is "...and it'll cost you." At the market around the corner from me, milk is $12 per gallon, butter is $1.50 per stick, and at Wal-Mart cheese costs $7 for a small block of Land O Lakes cheddar. Extrapolate accordingly. Obviously your average Beijing resident who makes $600 a month isn't paying these prices, they just eat entirely different things, some of whichnewly arriving Americans would consider weird and alien. You'll either need to change your habits (and lower your standards - Chinese products are not the same quality you'll be used to) or pay through the nose.

View All Answers


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

Drain cleaner. I haven't found it here yet. Otherwise, I did pretty well - I made a big Costco run before I left and bought a bunch of stuff I knew I couldn't easily find here or was prohibitively expensive (camping food and supplies, glow sticks, everything electronic I could possibly want for the next 2 years, good quality paper towels and toilet paper, spices). One thing I have had a heck of a time finding is an electric frying pan to make pancakes, so if you like pancakes, bring one of those. For the most part, it isn't that you can't find it here, it's that when you do, you won't want to pay $4 for a roll of paper towels even though they're good and work and the local ones are terrible and don't. Bring any supply of medication with you (prescription and non-prescription) that you will need for the length of your assignment. There are problems with counterfeit drugs and you may have trouble finding what you want (especially Pepto-Bismol).

View All Answers


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

American chains McDonald's, Burger King, Fatburger, KFC and DQ are all here. Except for McDonald's and KFC, they all cost $1 to $2 more than the same thing would cost in the US. KFC is cheap but has a very different menu than the US. McDonald's has a localized menu as well, but they have many American favorites (the Big Mac) and things cost $1-$2 less at McDonald's here vs. the US.There are plenty of other great restaurants as well - Chinese people love to eat out and this being the capital, you can sample any type of Chinese cuisine from anywhere in the country. You could eat at a different restaurant every meal every day for 3 years and maybe sample 10% of the restaurants in Beijing. Chinese food is cheap, you can go with 10 people to dinner and the bill comes to maybe $3 each with drinks.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

China is very modern, but is still a developing country. You may be able to find this stuff, but good luck.

View All Answers


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

Lots of mosquitoes in the summer (some places worse than others), also cockroaches and ants. There is no malaria here though.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

The company has a lot of people traveling back and forth to headquarters so I usually send things back with colleagues to mail, or have them bring me things when they visit. The local mail is inexpensive, honest and reliable, but you have to go to the post office in person to mail packages. This takes a long time because post offices are very busy (like everything in Beijing).

View All Answers


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

My apartment came with a housekeeper. She's worked here for the past 7 years for the previous 3 tenants and already had a key so just assumed she worked for me now. She is cheap (works for $3 per hour with a 4 hour minimum) and only expects to come once a week, and she'll do things like come during the day and wait for deliveries. Seems to be honest, too. I am still not sure that I really need someone to do my laundry for me and clean my house, but that's just an example of how cheap and available domestic help is I guess.

View All Answers


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

Yes, most of the high-end expat buildings have these. There are some private clubs as well, but beware--these sometimes go out of business with little or no notice, even if you just paid your annual fee yesterday. In cash, of course, because that is how you pay for everything here. Sue? Hm, maybe you can try, good luck with that.

View All Answers


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?

This is mostly a cash economy although an increasing number of merchants are taking local credit cards. The credit card system here is called Union Pay, and merchants need a separate machine to take Visa, MasterCard, etc. Most of them won't have this so until you have a local bank account you'll need to be prepared to pay cash. Many ATMs do not take foreign cards. Bank of China, HSBC and Citibank ATMs work with foreign cards reliably. Of the three, I trust HSBC the most. ATMs are sometimes stocked with counterfeit bills, and you have no recourse if you are cheated. For this reason, I always use the same ATM in the lobby of my office; it is always stocked with brand new fresh uncirculated bills.

View All Answers


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

Yes, just about anything you can think of is available here. However, I've been told Chinese people are not allowed to attend religious services with foreigners and you have to bring your passport to church. I am not religious myself so you're advised to double-check this locally.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Global Times is the communist party's newspaper, costs 30 cents and runs a lot of local interest articles, some of which are pretty controversial. It's important to note that the party isn't the government, there are many factions and the Global Times is left-leaning. China Daily is the official government newspaper, staid, dry and conservative. GDP is the big story, every day, inexorably marching to the moon and stratosphere in a great harmonious society, and by the way, won't you visit Wenzhou too? Here's a dry profile about how they manufacture butane lighters. You can obviously tell which I like better. Some free-to-air satellite channels are available, although I think having a dish is technically illegal (there are tons of them everywhere, so this isn't enforced if it is). Programming comes mostly from the Philippines. I don't have a TV so I don't really care. The Chinese government has an English-language TV station called CCTV 9. It is very special. I don't own a TV so I don't get to experience how special it is. CCTV 9 is legendary in expat circles. Hope you packed your Pepto.

View All Answers


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

You can get by without knowing any, because most signage is in English and Chinese. You won't make many Chinese friends or get close to the culture, though. After 6 months of living here without language skills, I'm now spending 10 hour a week taking Chinese lessons. It's sufficiently disruptive and isolating not to speak the language to merit this much of a time investment.

View All Answers


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

Beijing made great strides toward accessibility during the 2008 Olympics, and major tourist sites and transportation hubs in Beijing are accessible. However, some of the infrastructure that was put in for the Olympics hasn't been maintained since they ended, and is no longer working. There's a big difference between being a tourist and living here, though. I don't recommend living in Beijing if you are physically challenged; daily life requires an awful lot of stairs.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Trains and subways are safe, fast and efficient (although often very crowded). Taxis are sort of safe; drivers are very aggressive here and do not follow the rules of the road you may be used to. Petty crime is common on buses - one time when I rode one, a fight broke out and the driver locked all the doors, not letting anyone off the bus until the police came. All are affordable. You can ride a taxi for 2.5km for $1.50. After that, it's a 15 cent fuel tax and then 30 cents each additional km. This is the most expensive option. The subway is 30 cents (this will get you anywhere in the system, well over 100km of track) and buses cost 6 cents.

View All Answers


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?

Don't bring a car here. The paperwork is an incredible hassle and you won't be able to get parts for it (foreign branded cars are manufactured through local joint ventures and have different designs in China even though they look the same). Beijing recently implemented a new system that makes it incredibly difficult to get a number plate. As a result, you will have great difficulty buying a car here. If you do get one, your reward is joining traffic-clogged streets that make LA rush hour traffic look fast. Take the subway or ride a bicycle (or electric bike) if you want to get anywhere.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

There is a 10Mbps service shared with the entire building for $18.25 per month. I have this, but also subscribed to my own 2Mbps ADSL line for $24.25 per month (so I have two connections in the apartment). Between the two, I have enough bandwidth to do what I want. Keep in mind I'm a very heavy Internet user and work in the high tech industry, and this is barely enough. Speeds are variable depending on the time of day - in Beijing, the Internet has traffic jams just like the streets. You will need a VPN to access YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and many other sites outside China.

View All Answers


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

China Mobile has the best coverage but they don't have international standard 3G service (it's a local Chinese standard that only works in China with Chinese phones). China Unicom has far worse coverage but uses the same international standard 3G that AT&T does. China Telecom runs a network using the same 3G technology Verizon and Sprint do in the US, but you can't bring your phone from home and use it here (except through roaming, which is very expensive). You will have to buy a local one if you go with China Telecom. I use China Unicom and the service is anywhere from bad to awful, but it's a job requirement that I have a world phone so I don't have any choice.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

One of my co-workers had to quarantine his cat on the way in, but it didn't have to be quarantined on return to the US.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

There are lots of jobs, but at local pay. Ever thought of being a model? You could be one here, and see your picture on the front of thousands of boxes of some product exported all over the world. Chinese companies always have a need for someone to provide English customer service. Or maybe you just want to wear a nice suit and go to a formal dinner where you have no idea what's going on, but you smile and nod and shake hands and enjoy the very high-end cuisine, and get paid for showing up (some companies just need to have a white guy somewhere for whatever reason). Have a nice voice? Why not try making voice-overs? And of course you can teach English, anything from teaching adorable first graders how to say their names to helping Chinese businessmen improve their conversational English. Now let's talk about the pay. The average salary in Beijing is $600 per month. If you aren't working for a multinational company or an embassy, the most you can hope to pull in is about $2,000 per month.

View All Answers


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

In my industry, it's casual, but this is an exception. In China, people consider it important to look professional - suit, tie and slacks are standard professional attire for men, and women wear slacks and a blazer. That being said, as a foreigner you may be able to get away with a lot - people expect foreigners to be different.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Beijing is the capital city of the world's largest population and second largest economy. There are definitely special security concerns, but they generally won't affect you. The Chinese government maintains excellent security in Beijing. I feel safe everywhere here. That being said, petty crime and small-time scams can be a problem in tourist areas.

View All Answers


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

There is one JCI certified, international standard hospital in Beijing (United Family). It's very expensive, for some procedures even more expensive than US hospitals, but it's really your only option if you want the quality of care you'd expect in the US. A handful of international-standard clinics are also available, all much more expensive than local hospitals but more familiar environments. Local hospitals are very cheap, but 70% of people who show up there end up on an intravenous IV antibiotic drip (antibiotics are grossly overused here, to the point it's scary - you can buy hardcore ones over the counter at the pharmacy). I try to avoid setting foot in any medical facility since I don't want to be exposed to MRSA or other multi-drug resistant bacteria. The quality of care is OK, but if I could, I'd personally head back to the US, Japan, Hong Kong or Singapore for anything serious. Excellent quality and inexpensive dental and vision care are both available. Take advantage!

View All Answers


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?

It's actually all of these. Occasionally the air is clear and you can see the mountains. The clearest day here is like a pretty bad air day in Seattle. Usually the air quality (according to the US embassy) ranges from unhealthy to very unhealthy. Sometimes it gets off-the-charts hazardous. The embassy described it as "Crazy Bad" when this happened just before Thanksgiving, which just about sums it up. Most of the time the air quality isn't very good, so you don't want to spend a lot of time outside. To give you an idea of how bad it is when it's really bad, you'll blow your nose after an hour outside and it comes out black. There is nothing anywhere in the US or really developed Western countries that could even so much as give you a point of reference for how bad the air quality can get here. So, don't come here if your lungs are sensitive or you have asthma. On bad days, I lock myself in my bedroom with my Ionic Pro Turbo and I have to clean it every day (normally you have to clean it once a month).

View All Answers


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

Ridiculously cold winters, and very dry (it's near the Gobi Desert, folks). You will need humidifiers in every room, and if you go to sleep without running one you'll wake up with a bloody nose. In spring there are crazy dust storms that blow in sand from the Gobi, and you can't even see across the street sometimes. Summer is very hot and humid, just like most places in Asia. Fall is the best time to visit, but it's really short (only 6 weeks or so).

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

There are international schools and parents here have the same complaints about the schools as they do anywhere else in the world (with some unusual ones like one school where a kid was run over on the playground by an Audi - no, I have no idea what it was doing there). I don't have kids so if you do, do your research. I've heard that the Chinese government allows children of foreigners to attend local schools, and this can be much less expensive than the private international schools.

View All Answers


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

China isn't a great place to be for someone with disabilities or special needs.

View All Answers


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?

These are available but very expensive.

View All Answers


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

There are soccer moms in Beijing just like anywhere in the US.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

There won't be official numbers until the census results are out later this year, but official estimates are over 100,000. Keep in mind that nearly every country in the world maintains an embassy here, so many of these people are embassy personnel from small Asian and African countries. There are probably around 20,000-30,000 people from English-speaking developed countries. This includes a mix of students, professionals and embassy personnel.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Depends on the expat. Some people are amazed every day that they are here, some can't wait to leave. Sometimes it's the same people and a different day of the week.

View All Answers


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?

Practically anything you can imagine and lots of things that you can't. You'll never want for something to do in Beijing. From wandering the hutong of Nanlouguxiang late at night to dancing all night at the Great Wall to learning great Chinese cooking to trivia nights, the social scene is exciting and vibrant. Or try board games, tea and KTV with your new Chinese friends.

View All Answers


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

Yes, for all of these. It's a very diverse city and there is something for everyone.

View All Answers


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

I am gay. There is a small but growing scene here. The government seems to be coming to grips with this and trying to figure out how to manage it - they don't seem to particularly want to suppress it, but they also don't want Beijing's image tarnished by lots of public cruising or bathhouse orgies. A cruisy park and bathhouse were both busted this summer. So far, the happy medium has been Destination, the nexus of gay nightlife in Beijing. A couple of new gay bars just opened, and I expect they will be successful. There isn't nearly as much gay culture here as other cities of Beijing's size, although there is a very big arts scene and I expect that the two may intersect at some point in the future, when there is more clarity from the local authorities on what is legally acceptable.

View All Answers


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

Yes, definitely. You are "laowai" and while Chinese are unfailingly polite in business and friendship, you will never be one of them.

View All Answers


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

Oh, too many to list! Dancing while the sun comes up on a beach in front of the Great Wall with over a thousand people enjoying some of the top DJs in Asia playing. Ringing in the New Year in a former Communist weapons factory packed with thousands of revelers and the most ridiculous sound system I've ever seen. Being instantly befriended by a bunch of college students in Tianjin and taken on a whirlwind tour of the city after riding there on a bullet train. Riding in a Beijing taxi at 2 in the morning listening to gangster rap, which the driver perfectly mimics (while understanding none of the lyrics). Having dinner with friends in a restaurant while a gang fight goes down in the room next door and pretending not to notice (eventually one of the gangsters came over and apologized--in perfect English--for the disturbance). Waking up every morning and looking out the window at the Confucius Temple, then walking through a narrow hutong alleyway that looks straight out of a movie, but this is actually just my everyday life and it's just my normal commute. Going to the little foreigner shop, you know, kind of like the Chinese or Indian market back at home, small selection, jammed shelves, except that it's all full of American stuff because the tables are turned and you're the foreigner buying weird stuff now. Too many more to list, and I've only been here 6 months!

View All Answers


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

Great Wall, 798 Art Zone, the Summer Palace, Beijing's many parks, the Forbidden City (which is worth seeing once or twice), Zhongguancun Electronics City, and ... honestly, my favorite thing to do here is to take the subway somewhere I have never been and just wander around. There is as much diversity to the neighborhoods here as there is in New York. It's a really incredible place and you'll never get bored if you have a sense of adventure.

View All Answers


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

A society with 1.4 billion people makes few unique things. Settle for things that are definitely Chinese. The best gift I've found is silk bathrobes at YaShow market - real pure Chinese silk, very high quality, about $30. There really isn't much to buy here, though - it's all the same stuff you can get at Wal-Mart in the US, except lower quality and at higher prices (China has a 17% value added tax, and with incomes so low, the quality of items sold here tends to be either akin to dollar stores or super high end luxury goods). Of course, you can always buy a "Pravda" bag or a "Cucci" watch. If you're a geek, head to Zhongguancun. The fake (aka "Shanzhai") iPhones are hilarious, and you can buy incredibly powerful laser pointers with a 2km range.

View All Answers


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

If you enjoy Chinese culture and want to learn more about Chinese history, there is no better place than Beijing. It's the capital, and there are thousands of years of history here. Beijing is a great home base to explore China and the rest of Asia. Nearly every country in the world has an embassy here, so it's relatively easy (though rarely cheap for US passport holders) to get visas. With the incredible air, rail and bus connections here, it's easy to find a change of scenery. All of the Western conveniences are available here (at roughly European prices) but you can live really inexpensively here if you want to. I traded my $200 car payment and roughly the same amount spent on gasoline a month in Seattle for a clean, fast and efficient subway commute that costs only 60 cents a day roundtrip.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

This really depends on you. If you live in a high-end foreigner complex, eat Western food every day, shop at the foreign market for everything, have an ayi who waits on you hand and foot, insist on either having a car and driver or taking taxis everywhere, and buy lots of consumer stuff, no way. The ayi and taxis are relatively cheap but you'll be paying 3-4 times as much for everything in general vs. the US. Oh, and the bars. Many expats, unable to figure out that they're living in an amazing city of 30 million people with virtually limitless possibilities, drink away their evenings to the tune of several hundred dollars a month (or more).Anyway, just come to accept that you're not in the US anymore. You can have an American lifestyle here, but will it ever cost you. And it's totally not worth it. If you're going to be in China, do things the Chinese way!Take the subway most of the time, use local products, downgrade to a local complex (albeit a nice one), shop at local markets and buy local products, eat mostly Chinese food when you eat out, and take full advantage of your employer's benefits and reimbursement policy (taking full advantage of your meal allowance and filing for reimbursement for any little thing you're entitled to claim - it sounds weird, but locals do it so you won't raise eyebrows). If you're making a decent salary (more than 10,000 RMB per month), you'll be truly amazed how quickly the RMB pile up in your bank account.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Ask me again in 6 months. It's been a blur since I got here (I transferred in at a very busy time in my job, so I've spent way too much time at the office) and I'm just finally starting to get my life together and get established here. I'm either going to love this place or hate it in 2 years.

View All Answers


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

...expectations of traffic rules, propriety, and preference for uncrowded places.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Everyone says patience and sense of humor. You will need both of those, but also don't forget the most important thing: your reason for coming here. This place will test your patience to the limit and then some, so have a really solid reason why you want to be here. Otherwise, after a Bad China Day, you'll be on the next plane home wondering how to put your life back together.

View All Answers


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

Any Judge Dee mystery novel you can find. Or all of them.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

There were a lot of DVDs produced for the 60th anniversary of the Communist Party. While they're in Chinese and hard to find outside of China, there is a lot of great cinematography showing off the city.

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Beijing is at the epicenter of one of the most incredible national transformations that has ever happened in human history. There are definite challenges and growing pains, along with an exciting new confidence and national pride in a nation both young and old. There are skyscrapers juxtaposed with upper-middle-aged couples happily dancing in public squares on warm summer nights. The hyper-modern technology district of Zhongguancun sits side by side with thousand year old hutongs. Belching smokestacks sit beside smoking tailpipes idling beside orchards tended with donkey carts, with bicyclists always traveling faster than the incessantly honking Audi A6s. Everything in China is layers upon layers of complexity that you can hardly begin to understand, and everything is seemingly contradictory, but uncannily consistent in the context of five thousand years of history. Chinese people are inconsiderate yet warm, pushy yet polite, avaricious yet honest, and always eager with a "can do" attitude except when they're saying "mei you." Sometimes it's enough to drive you to distraction, and then one of your Chinese friends calls and invites you to dinner just because and you have the most amazing meal of your life, except that you just had that last week, and you could have it every day here. Never lose sight of how amazing your life can be if you just open your mind to the possibility, and you'll do fine.

View All Answers


Beijing, China 04/29/10

Background:

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

My fifth overseas experience, after St. Petersburg, Moscow, Yerevan and Almaty.

View All Answers


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?

Almost 14 hours direct from DC on United.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

3 years: 2007-2010.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are nice big houses in Shunyi, on compounds (mostly River Garden for govt employees). Kids can wander freely throughout the compound with no worries. But you'll pay for that with your commute to downtown. Commuting from Shunyi to the US Embassy, for example, is a minimum of 30 minutes, and can take well over an hour. If you choose to live downtown, your housing will likely be in an apartment, and the ones I've seen are quite nice.

View All Answers


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

You can get just about everything here at Jenny Los and other shops, but oh, is it expensive! Chocolate chips: $5/bag. Cereal: $10/box.

View All Answers


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

Chocolate chips. Razors and shaving cream. Cleaning supplies. Cereal. Dog food. Wrapping paper. All are incredibly expensive.

View All Answers


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

Starbucks: $4.50 for a grande mocha (oops, just gave away my not-so-secret addiction). McDonald's, KFC, Subway - even a Fat Burger. But I still prefer the many Chinese food options, many of which are dirt cheap and delicious.

View All Answers


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

Mosquitoes are awful. We sleep under mosquito nets. Occasional ants. That's about it, really.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Embassy DPO.

View All Answers


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

Everyone has an ayi. Prices vary, usually starting around 2000 RMB (about $300) per month, plus one extra month's salary at Chinese New Year. She will work a 40-hour/week for this. She will likely speak no English - prepare to pay more if she does. You will never want to give her up if you find the right ayi.

View All Answers


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

Most housing compounds have small facilities. Pools, too. You have to work out inside most days because of the air quality.

View All Answers


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?

You can use a credit card and ATM, although you run the risk of getting counterfeit bills at the ATMs. I personally never use my credit card, but lots of people do.

View All Answers


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

It depends. The government shut down the Catholic church for quite some time during our stay. Worship is restricted in some areas, and we're not typically allowed to worship with the locals. We have to present foreign passports when we go to church.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

China Daily, but it's a joke. Imported newsmags are expensive. I get my news from the internet or not at all.

View All Answers


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

You must learn to speak on some level if you want to leave the house. Lots of service workers speak a smattering of English - but lots more don't.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Taxis are safe, but the drivers don't speak a bit of English, so make sure you have a map or a Chinese-speaker with you. Don't plan on using a seatbelt.

View All Answers


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?

There is a company in Shunyi called ST Car Care that can service pretty much any type of car. If they can't find the parts, as happens sometimes, you'll have to order them from the States. They also offer roadside assistance, which we've had to use.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

High-speed? Ha! It's pretty slow going, and you have to use a VPN to access facebook, blogs and certain news stories.

View All Answers


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

You can buy one here, install a SIM card, and buy pay-as-you-go cards. You must have a phone. You do not want to get lost or injured and be without one, because no one will help you. They'll step right over your carcass and keep on going.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

No. But not all pets are allowed in all parts of the city. Large dogs have to stay in the suburbs.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are good kennels and decent vets.

View All Answers


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?

No. Some people find work as substitute teachers, but most spouses don't even bother to look. There are usually a few good jobs to be had at the embassy - WAE, professional associates and others.

View All Answers


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

I see an awful lot of Chinese women who think the height of fashion is stiletto heels, tights, shorts and a "Hello Kitty" t-shirt. So ... anything goes. I dress the same way I did back home and haven't bought a Hello Kitty t-shirt ... yet.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

There is very little crime against foreigners, other than the occasional purse-snatching. But you will feel "watched" all the time.

View All Answers


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

Basic care is fine. If you go to BJU, you'll pay western prices, and their billing system leaves a lot to be desired. Several women have had real problems with OB care. Many folks are medevac'd for surgeries. But if you need stitches or an x-ray, you'll be in good hands.

View All Answers


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 is AWFUL. Let me rephrase that: the air is disgusting, frightening, and sickening. I've never before lived in a place where I so feared for the health of my kids. Truly, that is the one reason I can't wait to get out of here. We regularly have days that are in the "dangerous" zone, when you aren't supposed to go outside. But of course, we do go outside, because you have to.

View All Answers


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

Cold winter - the wind will freeze you to the bones. Short, beautiful spring. Hot, dirty summer. Short, beautiful fall. Make sure your guests come in April-May or Sept-Oct. Those are the nice months here.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

We have kids at ISB. I love everything about it except the Chinese program. If your kids go to a big int'l school, they will not learn Chinese. The schools all split native speakers from non-natives, and they pretty much ignore the non-natives, or teach them to sing songs about bunny rabbits and things. They will not allow your child to "sink or swim" with the native speakers, no matter how much you beg. But they will put brand new kids in your child's Chinese class, even if your kid has been here for 4 or 5 years, and they'll expect your kid to sit and behave while they catch the new kids up. VERY frustrating. I've also seen kids (whose first language is Chinese) turned away from the native-speaker program because they don't "look" Chinese. No joke. Lots of families end up hiring tutors. Some send their kids to 3e, the only bilingual international school. Other than my issues with the Chinese program, I've been quite happy with ISB. It has a fabulous facility, amazing teachers, and a terrific PE program. WAB is also very, very nice and quite popular.

View All Answers


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

Very few. ISB cannot handle special-needs kids at all. WAB can handle the basics. There is an organization here that can help you figure out your options: www.careforchildren.com. Contact them before you come to see if they have any suggestions.

View All Answers


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?

Oh, don't get me started! You have a choice: pay for preschool or save for college. Preschools are ridiculously expensive here, so if your employer doesn't pay for it, don't bring a preschool-aged child here. Preschool tuition at ISB, for example, is over $20,000 a year -- for part-time! We had a child at Eton preschool in Shunyi, which had a deal at the time for embassy employees, making it more reasonable. But it is still expensive.

View All Answers


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

Tons, with a wide range of cost. Sports Beijing offers everything, but we can't afford any of it. Club Football runs a fantastic and affordable soccer program at many of the international schools. Terrific British coaches. I know ISB offers lots of afterschool programs, like wushu, swimming, juggling and jump-roping for younger kids -- and team sports for older kids. The PE program at ISB is amazing: track and field meets in the ES, swim classes during school, juggling and circus routines, and even a "secret-agent program" that the least athletic kid will love, love, love.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge. I run into new folks every day.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Some are miserable. Some wouldn't think of leaving because they love it here. It's a challenging place, and some people can't rise to the challenge. Surround yourself with enthusiastic, adventurous types and you'll be fine.

View All Answers


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?

There's always something going on. Lunch with the ladies, dinner parties, hiking and camping with the boy scouts - something for everyone. Mostly informal gatherings. Summertime socializing tends to revolve around the pool, so bring a cover-up!

View All Answers


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

Good for all, if you're adventurous. It's a big place, with something for everyone.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

There are no real racial or gender issues that I've noticed. But you will be stared at and photographed incessantly if you stand out physically in any way.

View All Answers


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

Everything from walking the Great Wall to hanging out in Starbucks with friends. Learning to cook Chinese food.

View All Answers


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

Shop. Hike. Walk the Wall. Go out to eat.

View All Answers


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

Fake everything if you're into name brands. Jade, pearls, silk dresses, cashmere coats, lamps.

View All Answers


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

It's a shopper's paradise: pearls, clothes, even furniture. And there is more to see than you could possibly fit in: the Great Wall, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City... Lots of people travel to other cities within China, but we pretty much stayed in Beijing or used our tourist dollars to escape to Hong Kong and Bangkok.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

If you don't have any kids in pre-school, yes. It also helps if you don't eat cereal.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Ummmm.... depends on which day you ask me. On a blue-sky day, when my ayi is watching the kids and I'm out to lunch at a fabulous Chinese restaurant with friends - absolutely. But on a day when the air quality is off-the-charts hazardous and I'm hacking up a lung while some local is taking my picture, heck no.

View All Answers


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

fondness for people who wait in lines and behave rationally behind the wheel of a car.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

hand sanitizer, bike helmet and sense of humor. Truly, don't come here if you aren't prepared to laugh at yourself -- and everyone else -- on a daily basis.

View All Answers


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

Insider's Guide to Beijing, Lisa See's "Snowflower and the Secret Fan", "Lost Daughters of China", anything by Peter Hessler.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


Beijing, China 01/26/10

Background:

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

Not my first. As an adult, I have lived in France, Switzerland and Italy.

View All Answers


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?

France. Between 15 to 20 hours, with Paris as the connection.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

15 years

View All Answers


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

3 years with an International Organisation and 12 years as a trailing spouse and educator.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A lot of variety now in housing and plenty of it.

View All Answers


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

Chinese groceries are cheap, but they have had a lot of food scares such as melamine in milk and all flour products, growth hormones in milk, problems with pork production etc. Imported food is safer but more expensive.

View All Answers


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

Clothes, shoes, medicines and toiletries.

View All Answers


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

Plenty of fast food, American and local. There are some decent restaurants in different price ranges.

View All Answers


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

Mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis, but not much else.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Letters are fine. Parcels are subject to surveillance for banned literature etc.

View All Answers


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

Easily available at between 10-15 rmb per hour.

View All Answers


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

Plenty of private healthclubs.

View All Answers


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?

An increasing number of ATMs. Debit cards are easily available.

View All Answers


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

I understand there are some American churches here.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

You can have subscriptions for most newspapers and magazines, although sometimes they disappear and sometimes they arrive with pages ripped out. Some satellites are available (although illegal).

View All Answers


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

You need the basics to be polite, shop, take taxies etc.

View All Answers


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

It has improved, but there is a history of hiding disabled people away in China, so I think it would be quite challenging.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Local trains, buses and taxies are relatively safe and cheap.

View All Answers


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?

No need to bring, both local and imported cars areavailable (although parts are not). Petrol is relatively cheap.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. Your main problem with the internet is accessibility. Now (January 2010) no access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, IMDB, Google docs or any nings. Intermittent access to Google and google images, wikipedia etc. Censorship is by keywords in the url, so you cannot look at information on a range of topics related to Chinese modern history.

View All Answers


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

Easily obtainable and cheap.

View All Answers


Pets:

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?

Don't know about now. Didn't use to be.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

No. Veterinary science is still at a low level here. There is now a foreign vet who commutes from Hong Kong, but local vets have quite a high attrition rate.

View All Answers


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?

Not really. You need a full Z visa to work legally here and the employer gets that for you. Foreigners are guest workers and not expected to stay here. There are age restrictions also for people over 60.

View All Answers


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

Neat, clean and tidy and not overly casual. The Chinese are not sloppy!

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Depends on your point of view. There is not much crime as it is heavily policed, but the downside is your lack of access to outside information i.e. internet.

View All Answers


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

Air quality is the main health concern. There are a couple of expensive but good quality foreign hospitals here.

View All Answers


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?

Air quality in Beijing is appalling and many families leave because of it. There are many days in the year where the AQI is very high. Wikipedia has a good guide to AQI in Mainland China. Beijing rarely falls under 100 and is often over 400 (when we do not allow students to go outside).

View All Answers


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

Hot humid summers and cold dry winters with dust storms in between.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Most of the schools are national schools in an international setting. So ISB provides the American curriculum, the French Schoolthe French curriculum, Japanese the Japanese etc. There are only three international schools who provide the full International Baccalauriat curriculum: WAB, BISS and BCIS. All are good schools.

View All Answers


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

WAB has excellent support for special-needs students at all levels of the school and at most levels of need. Some schools do not take special needs students. It is better to assess this before you come.

View All Answers


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?

Quite a variety now at varying levels of price and interest.

View All Answers


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

Sports Beijing runs a comprehensive programme of sports for kids.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Sizeable.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Generally good, with some irritation at the vagaries of daily life!

View All Answers


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?

Big variety.

View All Answers


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

I came as a single and left as a couple! Its okay for families as long as no one has asthma or any respiratory issues.

View All Answers


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

Used to be dreadful - a bit more open/less illegal now and there is a 'scene'.

View All Answers


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

Not so much gender prejudice. Religion is a difficult issue in China, and so is race.

View All Answers


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

My Chinese friends.

View All Answers


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

Hiking in the mountains, visiting temples etc.

View All Answers


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

Furniture and silk.

View All Answers


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

Having closer access to Asia.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

No.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

View All Answers


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

Clean lungs and books on Tibet.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Moisturizer and medicines.

View All Answers


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

Beijing Coma. - read before you come, its banned here, as is Lonely Planet China.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

If you don't care about current affairs and have a robust constitution, you can be perfectly happy here and have a reasonable standard of living.

View All Answers


Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)

Read More