Living in Beijing does present itself with some very unique challenges. The language can make living in Beijing daunting yet exhilarating at the same time. Kids can learn five basic life skills that will have them explore more of the city they call home. This can be a good learning experience for adults as well as these skills have unique aspects. Once I started to acquire these skills, life in Beijing became more manageable. Here are the five skills:
Use Public Transportation
Beijing’s public transportation is a doozy if you can’t read Chinese, but a gold mine if you do. Buses, subways, taxis, and even bikes make navigating the city easier than most capital cities. The taxi hailing (apart from Uber) and bike sharing apps have Chinese interfaces, so it would be a handy skill for kids (old enough) to try at least three different public transportation systems to understand how it works. In our Home and Relocation Guide, we have compiled different taxi hailing apps that can be found here.
Local Market Grocery Shopping
The access Jenny Lou’s, Jenny Wang’s, BHG Marketplace, and April Gourmet are a good start for kids to learn how a supermarket works. But for a real adventure, have your kids head to the local market and buy groceries using the Chinese system of calculating weight. This is also a good way to teach kids to appreciate food and money. The Hutong, for example, has culinary tours available for children to learn the best methods of grocery shopping at local markets.
Speak to Strangers in Mandarin
Kids in China are adored, and strangers walk up to kids and start talking to them unlike other places in the west. To truly experience culture while building communication skills, take your kids to the local neighborhood, or hutong, and have them sit with the locals and chat about Beijing in Chinese. This will be an unforgettable experience for them as the locals will share their personalized version of the city’s history that will open their minds to a new perspective. Learning how to communicate with total strangers is also a confidence booster for kids.
Order at Restaurants
Being able to order at is a very good and useful skill to master. It’s especially handy if you have visitors who you would like to take for a local treat. If your kids know how to order in Chinese and speak to the waiters about special requirements, then your meal will be more enjoyable, creating a better Beijing experience for your guests. Learning how to do this will gradually let you focus on what you want to eat and have the kids decide to order on their own.
Learn to Cook
Cooking is a basic life skill regardless of where you live. There’s a limit to how much take out people can have in one week. After buying groceries, let a Chinese friend or ayi teach the kids how to make the family’s favorite Chinese dishes. The ability to cook will come in handy on those surprise birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. The possibility of learning different regional cuisines is on the edge of the knife.