Beijing, China Report of what it's like to live there - 04/12/15
Personal Experiences from Beijing, China
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington DC. 13 Hours direct flight from DC.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
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!
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.
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).
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.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
A lot of mosquitos in the summer.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
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
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.
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.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
christian, catholic, jewish
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.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes. Through Sports Beijing, independant organizations, and some of teh international schools offer various activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat community. Morale relatively good.
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.
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.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
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.
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.
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.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Jade, pearls, porcelain.
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.
10. Can you save money?
Yes if you don't go out to eat often.
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.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Check out "idiot abroad in Beijing" on Netflix.