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Are you planning to become a Beijing Expat? Maybe you are already in Beijing and are looking for more info on life in China’s capital?

The Beijing Expat Guide provides great information and resources for new or soon-to-be Beijing expats. But even if you have been in Beijing for a while already, you may still find some useful new info and maybe want to contribute your own experiences.

Beijing Expat Guide - Moving to ChinaWe, that is my husband and I, moved to Beijing from the US in 2011. This was not our first international move, and it will not be our last. The way we move across countries, actually continents, is pretty much on our own, without the support of a big company that sends us on an all-expenses-paid 3-year assignment with return ticket. We do our own research and figure things out by just doing them, finding help independently when we need it.

By now we have settled in and learned a lot about life in Beijing. One thing we learned is that there are many resources available but not one single place to find everything you need to know when starting out in Beijing.

Often, more general info was easy to find. As we got the basics covered and ventured out more and more, we searched for more specific things. Like where to buy Thai basil and lemon grass in Beijing, how to use the bus system, what taxes to pay, etc., just the everyday normal life stuff that travel guides and relocation sites usually don’t cover. Stuff that you sometimes find in a great blog or buried in an expat forum or magazine. With this website I want to share what we have learned and make it easier for others making the move to Beijing.

Of course our insights are very much influenced by our chosen life style, which emphasizes local experiences. They are likely different from someone who lives in an expat complex and has a car with driver. Leaving the “expat bubble”, as a friend who lives in the “bubble” himself called it, can make for a great experience. Just give it a try.

You get your very first impression of Beijing probably when you arrive at its capital airport. Its airport code PEK is based on the old previously commonly used name Peking, as it is still called in some European countries. We thought this code is a fitting icon for our website link.

The Beijing Expat Guide

The structure of this site follows along the key stages everyone goes through when moving to a new place:

  • Understand Preparation & Money to get ready for the move
  • Learn about Housing & Transportation to get you settled
  • Dive into Daily Life in Beijing
  • Gain insights about cultural differences for Work in China
  • Learn Mandarin to make daily life easier (not really a separate step but helpful along the way).

Click on each section header to learn more.

Preparation & Money

Making the move from a Western country to a city of over 20 million in China is a huge change, even if you have moved to other countries and experienced different cultures before. A change like this may teach you things about yourself you weren’t aware of before (it definitely did for us). This section helps you to explore what to expect and potential challenges to help make the move successful.

Before moving to Beijing, or even before making the decision to do so, you will likely have many practical questions. You came to the right place! This section also addresses practical topics you may want to consider ahead of time – air pollution, healthcarewhat to bring, banking for expats, how to stay on top of your income taxes while abroad, how to stay connected, and more (besides all the obvious: packing).

Housing & Transportation

Once you arrived in Beijing, you will set up your new life and settle in. This section helps you with that. It provides insights on what to consider when looking for a place to live and info on practical matters such as utilities and mail. Here you also find practical guides to transportation in Beijing and how to use subway, buses, taxis.

Daily Life

This section of the website covers every day activities like shopping, eating and having fun. That sounds simple, huh? Well, with the right info it is! Find out where to go for western groceries, tips for eating out in Chinese restaurants, and more. Also read about the people you will encounter here, both Chinese and expats, and challenges you may face.

Work

Most people come to Beijing because of their work, or the work of their spouse. This section explores the effect of Chinese culture in the workplace and other aspects of working in Beijing.

Mandarin

Chinese language skills, at least on a basic level, can make everyday life much easier and the experience of living in China much more fun. In this section you can read about the challenges of learning Chinese and find some helpful tools.

You can also search the site using the search box or browse through the categories listed on the left hand side.

We are still learning new things about life in Beijing every week, and you will continue to see this site expand. Please check back often for new content. And please let me know with your comments or contact me directly if you have questions or suggestions for additional topics.


CityWeekend Beijing expat magazine

China’s leading English-language lifestyle and entertainment magazine and website called the Beijing Expat Guide a “wonderful blog by expats for expats

InterNations Beijing expats featured blogRecommended Expat Blog by InterNations, the largest global expat network with over 1 million members worldwide and more than 500 members in Beijing

Also featured by:
Russian TV news station       ExpatsBlog.com - Where Expats Blog       Expat Beijing


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Comments

Home — 58 Comments

  1. I’m gay 27 moving to China. I’ve read so many different contradictory things about the LGBT community in China. Reading your blog I understand that you aren’t gay, but do you have any tips? Is it ok to be openly gay with my Chinese co-workers/friends? Or would this be unadvisable in order not to harm the prospect of my development or even endanger myself?

    • Hi Laura, I have gay friends in Beijing, both Chinese and foreigners. China is definitely less open about it than big cities in the US or Europe but I have not seen it being hostile towards gays either. Most gay friends keep quiet about it, at least at work, but I think that depends on the type of company. The older generation of Chinese is certainly not very uncomfortable with homosexuality, so it may hurt your standing with managers.
      There are LGBT groups in Beijing, and gay-friendly clubs and events in the expat areas. I don’t know about other cities but would expect the same in Shanghai and other more international cities.
      Best of luck with your move!

  2. I am moving to Beijing, Haidian area, in a couple of months. I wish to ship some of my personal items ahead of time. The package will consist of clothes, shoes, a sewing machine, dishes, dog items, bedding. Nothing is new. Should i expect import fees/duties on this package? If so, what should I expect. What can i do to reduce the chances of fees?

    Also, can you recommend an apartment agent?

    • Hi Lindsey, I have not shipped items to China since many things are cheap to buy here, so I don’t know about import fees. I wouldn’t expect duties on personal belongings but you should check with a relocation company. Also know that taking an extra piece of luggage on the flight can be cheaper and faster than shipping a box.
      Haidian is pretty big, and most agents focus on specific areas. I think it is better to look for areas you like once you are there and then find a few agents to show you apartments in that area. There are many agent offices everywhere and they are easy to spot.

  3. My wife is coming to Beijing to teach AP art for one year at the Beijing National Day School (BNDS). My 15 year old son and I are planning to stay for 4 months to support her move and help the transition. The school offers an apt on the school campus a day we were also considering a service apt near Guomo area. We are still trying to determine if we should put our son in an international school or the National schools international (albeit small) program. Any help with decisions would be greatly appreciated!

  4. Hi, great to see you all. My friends say it not easy to find kitchen utensils, such as potato masher, table runner, cake server, pizza cutter, coffee machine etc. If you miss these, I recommend a place to buy, online! just go to paknsave.taobao.com, check what you are interested in. They have English contact service. Ask you Chinese friend how to start to talk there.

  5. Hi Gina

    My name is Joyce, I am a marketing executive at expatfinder.com which is a leading expat information and services website.

    I saw on your blog that you are and expat. I wish to interview you to further share some of your tips. The questions are mainly about the housing, the daily life etc.
     
    It just takes 5 minutes (or more depending if you have lots to say 🙂
     
    Of course, if you accept we can add a link to your blog or some of your website. 
    If you are interested to participate at this project, please send me an email at interview@expatfinder.com.

  6. hello sir mom excuse me i,m hadi from iran i look for job in china .actually il,m in iran now i,m coming bei within3 weeks pls can u contact my viber 00989142401539 xie xie.ill be happy to contact with u my pleasure.i was student in philipine almost v3 years.im so exited to work in china.ill wait u on viber or my email:hadiiraninia1000@gmail.com

  7. Great website and super useful information in the ebook. Thank you!
    p.s. I will ask around and let you know if I find any collection points for batteries containing toxins in Beijing.

  8. Manning International Center has a wide selection of offices and coworking space available for Beijing companies. For more details call Olga on 186 1275 3745

  9. My girlfriend and I want to travel and teach in Bejing.She has a BS In science and 6 years of law enforcement experience. I,on the other hand have four degree, 2 bachelor’s and 2 associates, criminal justice, interdisciplinary studies, crime scene technology, and homeland security.I also am a disabled combat US NAVY veteran.do u think we will both be able to get teaching jobs?

  10. Hello,
    I am from Mauritius and I just got a job in Beijing and will be coming in February. My boyfriend is also looking for a job in Beijing . He is following TEFL course and he can speak English and French fluently . Do you have any teaching job opportunities he can apply ?
    Thanks for your help .

    Regards,
    Anushka

    • There are many English language schools in Beijing that hire foreign teachers. For full time teachers, they should provide a work visa. For part-time teachers they usually don’t. A place to look for jobs is the employment section of classifieds on thebeijinger.com, a popular expat magazine and website. Best of luck!

  11. HELP PLEASE

    My name is Austin Scott, I am a 22 year old, native English speaking American. I am very interested in the possibility of teaching english as a second language to students in China. Currently I am taking TEFL courses to help my chances of obtaining a job as an english teacher overseas. My only concern is that I do not have a four year degree. I am very professional, polite, well dressed, intellegent, and I am currently tutoring three Spanish speaking children in Chicago to speak English as a second language.
    I understand that eastern China specifically, is seeking Native English speaking teachers from America, so I believe that I could be an asset to this community. My question is, are there any schools in Beijing that are flexible in hiring teachers with less than a four year degree?

    Thank you in advance for any advise you can spare me, I really appreciate it.

    Austin Scott
    13austinscott@gmail.com

    • Hi Austin, from what I see in Beijing, as a native speaker with a TEFL certification and teaching experience you should easily be able to find a job in Beijing teaching English. There are now also International kindergartens looking for teachers. I’ll email you a contact. Best of luck!

  12. Free 24/7 Chinese tutors for brave souls willing to help us beta test.

    And by brave, we mean motivated enough to click a download button and make calls to beautiful Chinese teachers. That type of brave.

    Our new APP, LinGoChat, lets you call anywhere, anytime and instantly connect to live Chinese tutors — give you the necessary time and opportunity to really improve your spoken language and impress your family and friends (not guaranteed.)

    Come sign up at http://www.lingo.chat and get speaking Chinese.

    And again, it’s free.

  13. Hello,

    I am looking for jewellery making courses here in Beijing. Basically a beginner’s class would suit me. I am also willing to do a one to one private class if anyone is interested to organize one for me. Please help, any information would be appreciated.

    Looking forward to get some feedback.
    Elizabeth

    • I don’t know of any classes, Sorry. You may be able to find a private teacher. The Yahoo group Beijing Mamas could be a good source for referrals. There is also a Facebook group Beijing Expats where you could ask. Best of luck! It sounds like fun 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth, I am looking for a jewellery making class in Beijing (preferably silver making) did you manage to find anywhere that had classes? I can only see classes for Shanghai and Hong Kong.

      thank you

      Melanie

      • Hello, Melanie. Have you found any course? I’m moving to Beijing next month and am also interested in jewellry classes. Regards, Danielle.

        • Hello Danielle, a friend of mine just went to a jewellery class, and she really liked it, I don’t know much about it, but I met with the teacher and he is a very talented designer. Hope it can help.

          teacher’s name: Nicolas Favard
          ID wechat: NicolasFawade

  14. Ni Hao! I am in Beijing now. I just arrived a few days ago. My school is helping to find apartments but this process is not going so well. The places are either slums or too expensive. I have read your articles but nothing I read gives specific places to look. Do you know of any realtors? I have to have a place in a week.

    • Welcome to Beijing!
      Finding a place here needs some patience but still can be quick. Realtors are hit and miss, so I would look for the apartment buildings you like and find an agent outside or agent office close by. They usually have apartments for lease in that area. It’s okay to work with more than one.
      You can also check the classifieds of The Beijinger online. Just be aware that many agents post there as well.
      Don’t be put off by how a building looks on the outside or even in the hallways. The apartments inside can still be nice.
      Good luck with your search!

  15. Good Morning,

    Can you please advise if there is a magazine and/or website that is for Australian Expats?

    Thank you
    Mariella

  16. Hey Guys.
    Are you looking for biggest coworking space & expat community in China ?
    We have our own coworking place with ove 100 startups with us, also terrace venue for events.
    Get in touch if you are looking to be a part of our place and also grow your business in China here with us, there is always someone who can help another here, so its great positive and high energy atmosphere here.


    Sina Omidvarnia
    Events Manager

    Manning International Commerce (Beijing) Co., Ltd
    曼宁国际商务(北京)有限公司

    http://www.manningbeijing.com

    Tel: 1355 2740 694

    3rd Floor, Manning International Center, No. 53 Maizidian Street, Chaoyang, Beijing
    北京市朝阳区麦子店街53号曼宁国际中心3层

  17. TO WHOME IT MAY CONCERN
    HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THE POLUTION. NOT JUST AIR POLUTION BUT FOOD POLUTION.
    AND HOW ARE YOU TREATED AS A FORIGNER BY THE NATIVES.
    PHIL

  18. I have a group of 15 college students that are interested in touring the Forbidden City. Does anyone know of a local, enthusiastic and informative tour guide that you would recommend?

    • April, you may want to check out Beijing by Heart. I met both co-founders of this small company, they are energetic, fun and very knowledgeable about Beijing. They organize walking tours and customized visits of Beijing’s sites.

  19. hello !
    i am interested in knowing more about Beijing.
    i am french, art director of http://www.laplantation.cn
    in Beijing Chaoyang, near the red brick museum and the Orchard restaurant.
    do you know some other interesting places nearby ?
    Philippe
    ps : philippe2046 is my personal wechat
    chineseliving on wechat is about learning tea, incense, flower art ,guqin and calligraphy here, in case of …

    • Hi Philippe and Gina , hope you are enjoying living in Beijing! And Gina, I hope you don’t mind me borrowing your platform to send a message like this. 🙂

      It is a bit random but I am trying to reach to the expat community in Beijing for a market research. I am currently based in Hong Kong so searching on the Internet and messaging people randomly is my only choice right now…

      I would greatly appreciate if you could help me complete the survey below, it will only take you 3 minutes if not less. It is a market research in regards to yoga studio targeted to expats living/working in/near the CBD area in Beijing. It would be even greater if you could maybe ask your colleagues to give it a go if it is not too much hassle for you. 🙂

      Anyways the link is as below:
      http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=wze5w5n8i3nz87s398942
      and if anyone needs a Chinese version of the survey, link is below:
      http://kwiksurveys.com/s.asp?sid=vr0d30tj78qbm0k402438

      Thanks in advance, appreciate any help!

      • Hi Xing, I don’t live in your target area but am happy to leave the info up for other expats. Best of luck with the survey.

  20. Thankyou for your most helpful site . My daughter will be studying abroad in Beijing next month. I am concerned about her safety especially her groups travel across the Silk Road. Any extra advice for a 20 year old that does not speak chinese yet?

    • Happy to hear you find my site helpful, Laurie.
      Overall, China and Beijing feels like a very safe place. My post here about safety looks at it from several perspectives. But as in every tourist place, there are scammers in China. Most are run by people posing as students, who want to practice their English and try to lure you into an expensive tea house, where you are expected to pay the inflated bill. Or artists, who try to get you to follow them to some gallery. Best approach is to just ignore those scam artists. Or tell them in Chinese that you don’t want: “Bu yao!” Make the “yao” sound like you are stomping your foot, and you’ll get the tone right 😉

  21. Thanks for your blog. We are planning on moving to Beijing in a year or so. I’ve been offered a teaching position. I will be bring my husband and three girls whom we’ve adopted from different parts in China. Between taking my TEFL course and learning Mandarin, I will be soaking up all your wisdom. My first question would be, how can you blog from China? When I was there last year I couldn’t get access to my blog as well as other social media. Thank you again for sharing.

    • Hi Tamara,exciting plans you have, moving with your family to the origin of your daughters. All the best for that!
      Regarding your question re blogs in China. If you want to access a free blogging platform like Blogger, WordPress.com, Tumblr etc, and other social media in China you need VPN. Read more about VPN in this post. My website is accessible without VPN because it is not hosted on a free blogging platform. (I pay for hosting, so the ads and affiliate links on my site help with the cost :))

      • Thanks! I did find the VPN part after I asked you about it. I’m really enjoying your blog, very informative.

  22. Hi Gina,

    Loving the website and juicy info! Such a great resource for the waiguorens living in this wonderful city.

    I sent you an email but not sure if you received it. I’d like to discuss something with you if possible. When you receive this comment please let me know 🙂

    Xie xie!

    Chris

    • Hi Chris, Thank you for your kind words. My apologies for not getting back to you per email yet. I will do that today.

  23. Fantastic idea, loved your page. I am seriously considering moving to Beijing for a teaching job, and I have 2 young girls, one is 11 and the other is 9. I am very concern about the pollution, how do you survive it? is it worth it to take the job and the risk of getting sick?

    • Thanks for your comment Lola. The pollution is a major concern for many foreigners, especially those with kids. I have two posts about the smog here and here. The myhealthbeijing website has more medical info on this topic. At the end, I think this is a very personal decision that only you can make.

  24. Hi! I’m moving to Beijing in January and I’ve just come across this website. I just want to say THANK YOU! Great idea about creating something stuffed with such amount of useful information. 🙂

    • Hi Patrycja, Welcome on this site, and soon to Beijing. I’m happy to hear you find my website helpful. If you have any specific questions that I have not covered (yet), please feel free to ask me.

  25. Sorry to be niggly, But your statement about the PEK being based on “the old name” for Beijing isn’t quite correct. You see Peking is still the name for Beijing in Cantonese. You could say it was the name the world used to use misguidedly.
    You see prior to China emerging from seclusion about 25 or so years ago the main point of contact the rest of the world had with Chinese people was Hong Kong and HKers who had emigrated overseas. HK people, being Cantonese speakers populated the world’s ears with the Cantonese word for Beijing, Peking. Just as they did for Nanjing, as Nanking. Bei means North as does Pei, Jing or King means Capital (city).
    Beijing means Northern capital, Nanjing, Southern capital and Dongjing (Mandarin for Tokyo), Eastern capital. (They considered Japan theirs a long long time ago when they had a big Navy).

    My two cents worth.

    Cheers,
    Bob

    • Hi Bob, Thanks for your 2 cents. Always welcome. I’m still learning new things about Beijing… So “old name” should rather read “previously commonly used name”

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