It’s inevitable. One day, you’ll ask a friend where they got their latest purchase and receive the following answer: “Taobao.” With 760 million listings as of March 2013, Taobao is China’s largest online shopping site. Its name translates roughly to “searching for treasure,” but frustrated foreigners might describe online shopping more like a wild goose chase. For one thing, Taobao is entirely in Chinese. Secondly, the layout isn’t exactly user-friendly with all of its tiny links and features. Thirdly, payment requires the use of online banking or Alipay, a Paypal-like service in which funds are held in escrow until the merchandise is received. Unless you signed up for Alipay a long time ago, only the former is easily accessible to foreign nationals because Alipay requires a shenfenzheng (Chinese ID). Don’t worry; with a bit of patience, you too will be doing online shopping in no time.
Though creating a bank account in Beijing is simple, most domestic banks – even large ones like the Bank of China (BoC) – lack English forms and services, so it’s best to bring a Chinese-speaking friend. That being said, all you need to open an account is your passport and a proof of address. You’ll be asked to fill out a form and choose a six-digit PIN. Keep any papers that the bank gives you.
Unless your employer pays you through a specific bank, it doesn’t really matter which one you choose. Convenience is key, so pick a bank with several branches near you. If your work requires you to travel quite a bit within China, select a bank with many branches nationwide like BoC or ICBC. Open your account at a branch near your home or office since you’ll need to return to this specific location in case you lose your card or need to change your PIN.
Few things in Beijing are as essential as a mobile phone. Not only can users make calls, but they can also send payments, buy movie tickets, book flights, shop online, and more with just a few swipes of a finger.
As strangers in a foreign land, safety is always a top priority. Fortunately, by international standards Beijing is a very safe city with low rates of violent crime. Most incidents are limited to petty crimes like scams and pickpocketing. Like any other major city, however, more serious incidents such as traffic accidents, health emergencies, and serious crimes do occur; when they do, knowledge and preparation are key. We outline some common scams and offer basic safety tips for Beijing newbies.
Upon entering China, the immigration officer will give you a blue slip reminding all “aliens” to register at Beijing’s Public Security Bureau (PSB). That’s because the visa you used to enter China was issued by the Chinese Embassy in your country of origin, not the Chinese government itself. Registering at the PSB allows you to obtain a visa from the government and thus all the privileges associated with it – such as a Z (work) visa, which grants temporary residence rights to the holder.
Many expats wouldn’t dream of relocating without the assurance that their beloved pet could go with them, but the logistics and paperwork involved in moving an animal – coupled with the potential language barrier – are enough to worry even the most efficient planner.
Some people hire a pet relocation company; others opt to go it alone. Whatever the case, rest assured that relocating with pets can be a straightforward process with enough research and preparation. With help from the International Center for Veterinary Services (ICVS), we summarize the latest regulations and procedures for China.
This is part two. For part one, click here.
Sanlitun, Xingfucun, and Dongzhimen 三里屯、幸福村和东直门
The area around Sanlitun is a major expat hub. With so many bars, clubs, and restaurants concentrated in one place, it’s a fast-changing – and some would say noisy – area. Just west of Sanlitun lies quieter Xingfucun with its own developing bar and restaurant scene and to the north is Dongzhimen, which contains one of the city’s embassy districts. Inner Dongzhimen is a gateway to historical neighborhoods like Gulou, Andingmen, and Yonghegong.
One of the first things that newcomers and visitors notice about Beijing is how big the city is. That makes choosing a neighborhood to live in challenging at best and infuriating at worst. However, the upside to living in such a large city is the sheer diversity of housing arrangements. Whether it’s a courtyard home in Gulou, an apartment with a view in the CBD, or a spacious villa in Shunyi, there’s a place for you here. We survey the most popular expat neighborhoods in Beijing, with an overview of compounds, schools, public transportation, dining options, and more.
Ask any foreigner who’s been in China for a while and you’re likely to hear the same gripe – visas can be a real headache. Visa regulations are ever-evolving as the government tweaks the system to close loopholes and reduce ambiguities. In 2013, there was a major overhaul of visa categories, increasing the number of classifications from eight to 12. In China, visas are referred to by a letter code. Recently, both Canada and the US signed reciprocal ten-year multiple-entry visa agreements with China. Under these agreements, Canadian citizens are eligible for long-term L, M, S2, and Q2 visas while US citizens are eligible for long-term L and M visas. The application documents and materials needed for ten-year visas are similar to those for regular visas.
For families moving to a new city, one of the first priorities is figuring out where to get medical treatment for check-ups, emergencies, and other health needs. The good news is that Beijing has seen an increase in private, international-standard hospitals and clinics, though the selection is still relatively limited compared with some other capitals.
The bad news is that, unless you have health insurance, international-grade facilities are very expensive. Registration and consultation fees can cost up to RMB 2,000, with tests and procedures – not to mention prescription medication – possibly running into the thousands of renminbi. However, virtually all of these international hospitals and clinics take direct billing. Patients should double-check ahead of time if their insurance provider is accepted at their medical facility of choice.