Since I came here for work, I haven’t had time to do very much sightseeing yet (soon, once training ends!). This particular post will largely summarize some of the things I’ve seen/experienced since I moved here:
My first day at work (Beijing’s air is quite smoggy, so the view from the office wasn’t very good that day–you can’t even see beyond the building behind me) :
…as my hair morphs from day to day thanks to the humidity (I feel like I’m still in Florida):
We finally found an apartment & signed a confirmation document a few days ago—yay! It’s been a really really long weekend. In China, apartments are sold extremely quickly, so time was of essence and the roommate-finding process was not on our side.
- Contact a realtor or contact landlord directly.
- See the house. If you like it, it’s best that you put down few thousand yuan as a holding deposit to prevent the landlord from showing it to others (In China the apartment you saw in the morning, could be sold by the same afternoon).
- The holding fee must be paid by the people that intend to live there. If you get different roommates, those individuals must ALSO pay a holding fee even though the apt was already reserved. (we had to pay twice)
- Sign a confirmation document saying that you’re definitely taking the house
- (Here’s the kicker) Sign the contract, pay deposit (equal to 1 month’s rent) AND THREE-FOUR months of rent in advance in CASH. There are MANY upfront costs with living in China
- In China, rent is usually paid quarterly, not monthly.
After you’ve signed, you have to register with the police (in 24 hours), pay to turn on water, gas, internet (can take up to 7 days to be turned on), etc..
SN: “3” is the magic number in China. Most apartments are 3-bedrooms. Dining flatware sets are sold in 3s. Our dining room table came with 3 chairs as well.
Here are some photos of the place:
Apartment shopping at Ikea & Wal-Mart:
<<— It’s quite common to find a group of Chinese people genuinely taking naps on the Ikea mattresses (or laying on the sofa playing video games) to try to them out for real comfort!
Subway (ditie, 地铁🚇 ): VERY easy with the aid of Chinese/English maps.
The dominant downside: PETTY THEFT. I get a headache riding the subway because I’m paranoid of a sly thief swiping my phone or iPod from purse. Without my devices, I’d be in lots of trouble (my translating app is on them).
Taxi: Even if you speak Mandarin, the main problem we encountered was the Beijing accent. If we gave an address in proper Mandarin, the drivers would either refuse to drive until we said it the Beijing way or not understand us so we’d have to show a photo of the destination’s address in Chinese characters.
Bright side: VERY CHEAP. Avg taxi ride cost us 25-30 yuan (about $6 USD)
Even cheaper than the subway. Just a bus. Here’s some things I see during my commute to training sessions:
<<–Beijing National Stadium aka “Bird’s Nest”
NEVER eat meat from American fast food places in China. The meat is even worse here than it is back home. Oddly enough, some fast food places, such as Pizza Hut (see photos) are turned into upscale dining sit-down restaurants providing seductively dim lighting and a selection of alcoholic beverages.
<<—This was from KFC. I didn’t like the food there, but picture menus have been saving my life! (We didn’t learn very many food terms in my Chinese classes back in undergrad)
Traiditional Chinese meals… are shared. The whole table orders about 1 different dish per person, and everyone eats from each dish. To pay, either one person offers to pay for the entire meal or it’s split evenly (“Going Dutch” is called “AA” ).
<<—Italian Red Meat Flavored Lays are not very good… I only bought them because I thought they were Salt N Vinegar.
I’ve always been fairly good with my chopsticks, so I’ve probably used a fork only 1x since I’ve been here. That’s because I went to Annie’s italian restaurant in Chaoyang (close to the Sanlitun area).
My FIRST barter!:
Everyone talks about how Chinese barter and haggle over goods endlessly. Well, it’s true (except in modern shopping malls/foreign restaurants). I went to a foreign market, JouShou (famous for fake goods. Esp Ralph Lauren), to purchase an iron. With the help of a friendly South African I was able to learn how to properly bargain in Chinese markets. Subsequently I went to a beauty store and got 60% off of hair conditioner. (American products are really expensive here, so I bought a Chinese product that has an ingredient list I can’t read):
<<—Works GREAT!! Might become my new favorite hair product.
Today, I’ll just mention all the Africans. I know you were curious. Black girl in Beijing. I understand. In SanLiTun (an area saturated with expatriates), I ran into massive amounts of African men, mostly Nigerians (I have yet to see any black women aside from my coworkers). Apparently Shanghai is a city that attracts more foreigners than Beijing, so there’s not much to really say on the subject.
Visit to Lama Temple (YongHeGong):
The other day I went with my roommate to China Unicom to add a data plan to her phone & discovered a few fun facts. The Chinese don’t really use SMS text messaging. WeChat is the communication method here so most of the phone plans were more focused on Data than Calling, and there was only one phone plan that offered text messaging.
That being said… add me on WeChat (username: shandianxia28) or WhatsApp (contact me for my phone #).
SN: Our hotel, HePingLi.. only offers wireless in the hotel lobby, so my new favorite hangout spot is the sofa in front of the check-in desk. Weird.