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

Personal Experiences from Shijiazhuang, China

Shijiazhuang, China 10/19/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

12 months.

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

Educator - working as a teacher at an Aviation Academy.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Approximately 12 hours from both Europe and the U.S.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I can't comment on this, because I lived in a hotel, which is not so unusual. English teachers in the city generally had 1 to 3 bedroom apartments, sometimes located on campus. Apartments are the most common, houses are rare.

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

There are numerous Chinese supermarkets with local goods that are quite cheap. Some European and American goods are available at the more upscale supermarkets and prices are similar to the US.

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

Nothing. There is nothing I couldn't live without, although I am a pretty hard core expat. I would have liked to have more English books.

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

McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC are everywhere. There are several Japanese and Korean fast food places that are good. The World Trade Plaza restaurant and cafe have very good Western food, as does the Greenery Cafe located in the Garden Hotel across the street from Beiguo department store. Many cheap Chinese restaurants serve decent food.

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Daily Life:

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

I am sure it is cheap.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

There are only a few ATMs that will accept foreign cards. Most require a pin of 6 digits. Bank of China ATMs are the most reliable. Credit cards cannot be used for purchases, unless they are Chinese. Cash reigns.

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

I doubt it.

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

Satellite TV is available and will provide you with the usual channels, but I didn't have it so I don't know. CCTV 9 is the international channel and is in English.

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

Hardly anyone speaks English, and if you can speak Mandarin, life will be easy. However, with only a few choice Mandarin phrases you can get by, with quite a bit of frustration! Bring a GOOD phrase book and dictionary.

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

Serious difficulties. The sidewalks are often in a state of disrepair and ramps are not always available.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right.

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

Trains are safe and very affordable. Buses and taxis are as safe as the driver - which may or may not be safe. They are affordable, but negotiations are sometimes required for taxis.

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3. 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 wouldn't bring an automobile because driving here is insane, and it is very difficult to get a driver's license.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Good internet access via DSL, although there is a great deal of censorship and blocking. You can get around that though, just visit www.anonymouse.org

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

Everyone has one, they are cheap, only about 40 yuan per month. You need a Chinese national to help you get an account or SIM card.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype! Or use a calling card.

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Pets:

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

NO.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No, unless you want to teach English, then you will get paid decently, receive housing and an airline ticket.

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

Whatever you want, but most people wear jeans.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very unhealthy, although there has been some improvement lately.

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

Hardly any at all. Just observe the usual precautions you would anywhere else.

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

Medical care is available, but be warned that the doctor may not speak English and you must pay before being treated. A friend had a horrific experience giving birth there. The main health concern would be the pollution.

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

Continental. Hot in summer, cold in winter. Lots of pollution.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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Expat Life:

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

In Shijiazhuang, the expat community is small, perhaps 200, mostly made up of English teachers and university students. (American, European and Russian.)

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2. Morale among expats:

Depending on the day, good to not so good!

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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 are several popular bars.

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

It is a good city for all. They will all be equally bored!

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

There may be some problems, as this city is fairly small and rural.

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

There is an underlying feeling of prejudice against all foreigners in China. People of African heritage and Japanese will feel more blatant prejudices.

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

Not a lot, frankly. The city is only 3 hours from Beijing by train, and that is what most expats do for fun - go to Beijing.

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

Chinese crafts and silk, but not in Shijiazhuang. Go to Shanghai or Beijing to shop.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I would return to China, but not to Shijiazhuang.

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

Computer and buy whatever you need here!

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3. But don't forget your:

English books.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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