After living in China for some years, I feel I now have a good grasp of what it's like to live in modern China. Today, China is a country on the move. Change is a part of everyday life, and things move fast. Despite what you may have read or heard, it's surprisingly easy to live in China. It's safe to say, I love living here, and here are five reasons why.
Getting around the city or country is never a problem in China. There are many options to choose from; depending on where you're heading, how fast you want to get to your destination and even how much you're willing to pay for the tickets. If you're visiting a neighbouring city that's hundreds of miles from where you're working, your best bet is the high-speed train.
Subways are also present in most major cities in China and are the most convenient way to travel around. Signs at the subway stations and coaches are both in Mandarin and in English, so there's no need to worry about getting lost. Taking the bus is also nice if you fancy a more relaxed (or slower) way to travel. You might need to learn a bit of Mandarin though as most bus routes and signs aren't written in English. You just have to remember bus numbers and how many stops there are before you get to your destination.
It's freezing outside, and you just want to stay in and keep warm in the comforts of your bedroom. But then you realise you've got nothing in your fridge except some week-old yoghurt. Don't worry! Grab your phone, search for Sherpa's or Ele.me (if you haven't downloaded the app already) and order away. It doesn't even matter what time of day it is, whether you're craving for an early morning snack of hot steamed buns, or some Chinese barbecue at midnight, your food is just a few taps away. Your Chinese friend will be more than happy to teach you how to order food online. All you need is ask.
One of the first things you need to do when you arrive in China is download and link both Alipay and WeChat to your bank account. These two apps are used for paying for almost everything - from your local fruit shops to utility companies. It's not only incredibly convenient; it's the way of life around here. Some shops also offer you discounts when you pay with these APPs.
You'd probably say, "Nah. We've got great shopping websites back home!" So, what makes online websites different in China? For starters, there are always great deals and steals on popular shopping sites. The U.S. may have Black Friday, and the U.K. Boxing Day but here, they've got 11.11, 12.12 and so many special days where bargains are mind-boggling. If you're shopping for toiletries, skin care products or home essentials you can go to Taobao or T-Mall. If you're a bit of a techie and want to buy some gadgets, you should visit JD.com. These sites are in Chinese so you might need a local friend's help placing orders. It's also worth checking out BaoPals, a website linked to Taobao and T-mall designed for English speakers.
Living abroad can be worrisome, especially when you think of eating food you're not used to. Food prices can also be a concern. If you happen to work in Shanghai or Beijing, there's no need for you to splurge on eating out every day. Fresh fruit and veggies are sold in supermarkets for cheap unless you opt for organic ones. Around your neighbourhood, there are small but nice restaurants that serve lunch or dinner for a fraction of what you'd spend in a fancy place downtown. If you're adventurous, you can find places that sell local food like steamed buns, dumplings or noodles for less than 5 USD.