Now that I’ve been in Beijing for a while, I have five tips to help you get the most out of your China experience. I wish I’d figured out some of these things sooner, because they make life a lot easier in China.
WeChat is the most popular social media app in China. You will find that you cannot survive in China without it. Everybody uses this app to communicate, and you can add new friends with a single scan. Most classes have class WeChat groups, and it’s a good way to communicate with your classmates and teachers. Clubs also post occasional job opportunities that would interest foreigners, like English tutoring jobs.
2. Digital Wallet Apps
In China, paying with your phone is really big, especially WeChat Pay and Alipay. Since most stores and restaurants accept WeChat and Alipay, sometimes you don’t even need to take your wallet. WeChat Pay is also convenient to transfer money to friends. It’s like Venmo, but everyone has it!
3. Bike Shares
Bike sharing has gotten huge in China since I’ve been here, and I think it’s great. Since the bikes are loose, you just have to find one on the street and go. When you’re done, you lock up the bike, end the ride on your phone, and you’re good to go! Just download the app and connect it to your WeChat or Alipay. The rides only cost 1 yuan (~15 cents) an hour, and if you have a student ID, the first hour is free. Beijing is a very bikeable city, and biking is one of the best ways to explore the city.
4. Take Advantage of Public Transit
Public transit in Beijing is cheaper and much more convenient than in SF. The extensive subway system can take you to most places you would want to go, and it costs, at most, about 1 USD. A bus ride costs 15-30 cents. You should get a refillable transit card, so you can just swipe to get on. Take advantage of the great transit system to see the beautiful museums and historical sites that Beijing has to offer.
5. Stay Safe and Healthy
This is probably my most important tip. Although an amazing city, Beijing brings certain health and safety hazards that are not a problem in SF. I think the one that people are most concerned with is the pollution. It’s not smoggy every day; some days are actually really nice, but the pollution is a problem. On bad pollution days, try to wear N95 face masks when outside. The most popular ones are by 3M. Also, many people find that having an air filter inside helps. Another thing to get used to is the fact that cars drive differently here. Many drivers will not stop for you in the street, which means that you need to exercise caution when walking and biking. Try to walk while a group of others are walking, and do not bike in the street until you are more used to Chinese road habits.
I hope my tips will help you in your China experience!
Until next time!