11 Important Things to Know Before Moving to China

1. Location is everything. Many people who move to Beijing or Shanghai think that a little bit of a commute is not a problem, but those hours add up. In Beijing, you don’t want to live outside the second or third ring road because most things are going on in the city central.

2. When you first move to China, you end up paying a lot of money for rent because rent is paid 3 months at a time. You also have one month’s deposit and one month’s rent for an agent fee. You can find an apartment without an agent fee but you have to know where to look.

3. You need to know at least a few phrases in Chinese. Everyday people on the street do not necessarily speak English and even knowing the basic words for subway, bill, or thank you will be useful.

4. There are certain things that you will need to stock up on. Chinese people are generally smaller and shorter than Westerners and Chinese people don’t use products that you could find easily in the West. Shoes, bras, pants, deodorant, and makeup are some products that you may have trouble finding your size. Shopping at Chinese stores can sometimes be awkward and frustrating when you can’t find your size.

5. Buy a Bicycle sooner rather than later so that you can commit some Beijing bicycle sins.

6. Buy a VPN before you get to China. Surfing the internet with the Great firewall in the way is a frustrating and futile process. Buy a virtual private network like Astrill, ExpressVPN, or Strong VPN. It’s better to buy it when you are in your home country.

7. Unlock your phone before you come to China. Once unlocked, you can buy a phone card and buy as you go. Do not buy an international phone plan. This goes especially for Americans. It will save you a lot of money.

8. You can only withdraw 2000-3000 RMB from some ATMs at a day or per each time. You need to check with your bank.

9. China is a cash based society and many places do not take cards especially foreign cards. Credit cards are a toss up as well because some credit cards do not have pin numbers.

10. You insert your debit card first instead of putting in the ATM really quickly. Pay attention and don’t forget your card.

11. Definitely open up a Chinese bank account as soon as possible. If you lose your country’s debit or credit card, it takes a week or two to actually get it to China. You want to have money in a domestic China bank. Not being able to access your money is not a position you want to be in.

Kristen Carusos is from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a major in International Affairs and a minor in French. She studied abroad in China for the first time in Shanghai in 2010 and again in 2011 at Beijing Language and Culture University. She graduated and moved to Beijing in 2012 and has been studying Chinese since then. She works in the Marketing Department at the Sinology Institute.