What to know before moving to China?
March 20, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

What should I know before moving to China? I'm moving to Beijing in two weeks and all housing/money/visa issues are fully taken care of but I feel like there's something I'm forgetting. What is that one thing you forgot you needed before leaving?

Notes: this is not my first time in China. I will be there for a couple months but not nearly long enough to have things shipped to me. I don't speak Chinese but am hoping to learn while there. No food suggestions, I am not paying an extra $50 for a suitcase full of Kraft Mac and cheese.

Thanks for any ideas!
posted by boobjob to Travel & Transportation around Beijing, China (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was a US expat in Beijing in the late 90's for a few years, so that's my disclaimer.

You need to think through how you will face those quiet hours as a stranger in a strange land (to borrow a phrase). For me it was a decent collection of books, I also had a dog for companionship. For other expats they all had hobbies (from wushu to religion), and it takes time to cultivates friendships, but being in such a differentlace does open up all kinds of unique experiences.

So many things you can source locally, especially clothes and "stuff". Not sure about now, but back then I could not find anything close to Mexican food, I just did without. A lot of the preparation is just thinkong through what you don't want to live without, and making some contingency plans.

Have a blast! China is an awesome place.
posted by scooterdog at 6:36 PM on March 20, 2014

I just came back from a few years in Beijing. I'd suggest you sign up for a VPN before you get there otherwise you won't be able to access the New York Times, Facebook, the "real" Google website (as opposed to google.hk), The Wall St Journal etc. Also, buy some 3M N95 respirators (face masks) at your local hardware store or online for the bad pollution days. They sell them in BJ but the masks seem flimsy and fake.
The subway and bus system are excellent. take the time to learn where the major lines go. Both Android and iPhone apps work well there but you'll want to get a prepaid SIM card with data capability once you get there.
There's a buzz to Beijing these days. Lots of interesting people young and old, expat and local. You'll enjoy it!
posted by mono blanco at 7:16 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to China in a while, but I am planning to in the near future and one thing I swear I will not forget THIS TIME is bug bite medicine. Any place hot and humid, it's gotta have bugs that love my blood. I'm very allergic to bug bites, so packing some allergy meds is a must that I often forget. (Every region of the world has its own way of dealing with bug bites, which may or may not be effective on you. In Korea, they had some pills that did very little for me and an ointment-on-a-stick WHICH WAS SUCH A GODSEND!)

Of course, you might not care at all about bug bites. But if it were me, I'd pack some anti-histamines and maybe even a small mosquito net for convenience's sake. Unless you're in the most modern of hotels in China, those bugs will come and get you IN THE NIGHT.
posted by myntu at 7:26 PM on March 20, 2014

Yeah, masks. They're great little personal humidifiers.

Tip: check air quality at urbanair.msra.cn before going out.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:45 PM on March 20, 2014

Yeah, a selection of over the counter meds that are familiar and have labels you can read! Sick in a foreign chemist is miserable. Female? Tampons/pads. (Lived in Japan for a year, was in China for a month)
posted by jrobin276 at 11:45 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding tampons if you use them. Books, or a Kindle, since the selection of non-Chinese language books isn't great. Underwear. Of course, there is underwear in China, but I didn't think the quality was awesome, and bras, if you are a... hard-to-fit size.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:52 AM on March 21, 2014

These days, Beijing has almost everything- there are restaurants from all over the world, foreign import grocery stores, and maybe even tampons (I'd still bring some just in case). Bring bras if you wear anything over a C. There are lots of western clothing stores, such as H&M, Zara, and I think the Gap is in Beijing now, but often they don't have sizes over a 14. However, if you wear larger sizes you can cheaply get clothes made with a tailor. If you don't want to do that, though, and wear above a size 12 or 14, I'd recommend bring some comfortable clothes from home. (however, don't bring TOO many clothes- they still will have larger sizes somewhere and the clothes are usually cheaper, at least at local stores- they are a bit more expensive at western chains)

Also- yes, get the VPN (although you can also purchase that while in China.) I had luck with ninja vpn (I think they're called).

If you love to read, you might want to bring some English books, although there is a placed called the Bookworm, which is an English bookstore and cafe carrying new titles.

Re: comment above about China in the 90's- completely different place then. Trust me, you won't lack for stuff to do or people to meet in modern-day Beijing- quite the opposite!

Have fun!
posted by bearette at 6:27 AM on March 21, 2014

I have been studying in Beijing for a short while and while I don't know much, I do know that masks are very helpful.
I second that suggestion.
posted by lalunamel at 8:53 AM on March 21, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions so far, I didn't even think about tampons so you've already saved me a lot of grief. I'm not to terribly worried about clothing but last time I was in Korea I broke my shoes and could not find a single store selling 9 US. Had to wear size 7 flip flops for 3 weeks. Is this problem the same in China?
posted by boobjob at 10:33 AM on March 21, 2014

Nope. You'll be fine getting shoes, possibly not everywhere but somewhere. Especially in the more western areas like Sanlitun!
posted by Ramo at 6:49 PM on May 18, 2014

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