Beijing expatsMy husband and I are Beijing Expats and moved here in 2011 for his new job. But this is not our first Expat experience or move across continents. We are originally from Europe and moved to the US many years ago.

My husband was not sent by an international company on a three-year assignment with a full Expat package but was a so-called “local hire” at a Chinese company, expected to figure most things out by himself. While his company took care of our visa and arranged for a hotel for the first two weeks, the official help ended there.

His Chinese colleagues helped out where they could, especially in the beginning, but we needed to get self-sufficient quickly. Since we didn’t live in an Expat area, there were not many people around to ask the typical questions a foreign newcomer to this amazing and enormous city would have.

Over the course of two years here we learned a lot and gathered a great amount of valuable information from many different sources. Sometimes we had to search hard and deep for it, sometimes we stumbled upon it. We often found ourselves saying “Oh, I wish I had known this earlier. It would have … (insert the following: made life easier/saved some hassle/been fun to do earlier/…)”

We had moved across the world before and traveled extensively in South East Asia but coming to China was very different and more challenging. We learned a lot, about China, the people, the culture, and also about ourselves. I want to use this site to share our insights with other Expats and to help those new to Beijing to make the transition from West to East easier.


About — 32 Comments

  1. I accidently came across your blog and find it interesting and meaningful as a Chinese. It’s interesting to find how foreigners see our lives and I also got a chance to review my life again. Thank you!

    • Thank you for commenting Daniel. I’m happy to hear that you find it helpful from the perspective of a Chinese as well. Our cultures and habits can sometimes be so different and I hope that my blog helps foreigners to understand and enjoy life in China, which is such an exciting place.
      Please feel free to share what you might find peculiar about waiguoren in China.

    • I would use a company address. You could also ask a friend, or maybe a hotel or business that you are dealing with. Make sure to provide the sender with the address in Chinese characters.

  2. Hello, we are US citizens currently currently leaving in Belo Horizonte, Brasil. We just learned that your next expat assignment will be in Shanghai. We should be moving at the end of the year. I have a Miniature Schnauzer that we need to bring with us. Any advice or experience relocating dogs from Brasil to China? Any chance you know a company that can help us? Thank you

  3. Hi Gina,

    I enjoyed very much reading your blog and comments made by the readers.

    I am wandering that you might be able to help me to find an English teacher for my 18 year old son during his Spring holiday of 25 Mar to 18 Apr. The main purpose is to improve his writing skills as an A-Level students in a boarding school in the UK.

    My email: zq.zhang@outlook.com; Mobile: 186 0119 7853


    David Zhang

  4. Hi! First, I wanted to say thank you for your tremendously helpful website. I was offered a teaching position in Beijing yesterday and I’m trying to quickly decide if the city is the right for me.

    Besides the typical culture shock, I’m mostly concerned about the air pollution and the weather. As a Florida girl, I’m used to spending most of my time outdoors in the sunshine. I know this is subjective, but are the cultural experiences worth putting my lungs and mental health at risk? I get very down if I have to spend more than a few days indoors away from nature. Between various blogs, websites, and news sources, it’s hard to tell how consistently bad the pollution truly is.

    • Congrats to the job offer Lisa. And thank you for your nice words about my website.
      The pollution in Beijing is not consistently bad – there are good days and bad days. Bad smog usually doesn’t last for more than a few days in a row. You could download a Beijing air quality app and follow in real time to get a better picture. Right now it is bad because of all the fireworks for Chinese New Year …

  5. Have just come across your very interesting blog because we are just hosting a young Chinese couple for the first time at our home in the Highlands of Scotland through Airbnb and I just wondered what their lives were like working in TV in Beijing. It sounds a nightmare to me living in such a highly populated city, but like everything you probably get used to it. After living and working in London and Frankfurt, we are now happily retired in a beautiful spot in the Western Highlands. Good luck for the future.
    Best wishes, Sue

    • Thank you Sue. Scotland sounds like a great place to retire. You definitely wouldn’t find that much peace and quiet here 😉

  6. Hi Gina,

    I found your blog very interesting with great information. I’m in charge of a literary project in China and we are looking for contributors, in English, Spanish and French. I’m sure you have a lot of stories to share or can spread the word.

    If you want more detailed information you can write to my e-mail or visit the blog http://orientabismos.blogspot.com


  7. Dear Beijing Expats,

    My name is Joyce and I work for ExpatFinder.com.
    ExpatFinder.com is a free one stop website for people preparing to move or working and living overseas. We provide a myriad of services for expatriates and we have over 2,000 articles to help and support the people moving around the world and we are now creating an interview section to help the expats with real life experiences!
    We quite enjoy your blog about living in China, it is very interesting and informative. Would it be possible to interview you to further share some of your tips and feature some of your first hand experience as an Expat and your interview will be published on our Expat Interview section as a guide for our expat readers. The questions are mainly about the day to day lifestyle of an expat. If it would be possible, could you also send some photographs that we can use?
    Of course, if you accept, we can add a link to your blog or some of your website.
    The questions are enclosed, feel free to respond freely. You can return the doc with your answers if you accept this invitation.
    Thanks in advance and do let me know if you prefer other means to conduct this interview and we would be happy to accommodate your terms.

    Best regards,

  8. Hello Gina,

    Very cool website about Beijing and those are amazing resource:)Beijing is your favorite city in China?

    My name is Yang and I am Chinese. We actually recently put together an infographic about foreigners in China. So I want to send it for you to take a look. I think it’s good information for foreigners in China. Maybe you would like to share to your readers. Can I send it to you because I can not attach here.

    Thanks and hope to hear from you Gina:)



    • Hi Yang, Thanks for your kind words. I’d be happy to take a look at the infographic. You can email me directly at Gina(at)beijingexpatguide.com

  9. Thank you so much for this amazing resource! I am moving alone to Beijing to teach for a high school there after several years teaching at a public high school in Las Vegas, where I currently live. I will be poring over your site in the days to come and appreciate any advice you may have for me personally!

    • I’m glad you find the info helpful, Abigail. Good luck for your move! Let me know if there are specific topics you are looking for.

  10. Hi Gina – Just wanted to say thank you for putting something like this together. I am planning a move to Beijing this August, and you’ve really given me a clear picture of what to expect. Cheers! 🙂

  11. Gina,
    Yours is a fantastic blog. The most helpful and even-handed one I have found yet as you clearly write it to help all expat types.
    Thank you and keep up the great work!

  12. Gina,
    Your blog is fantastic… well-organized, insightful, and informative. I wish I had stumbled in upon it before moving to Beijing! Nevertheless, you provide wonderful tidbits and I love perusing your entries. In fact, I’ve considered putting something like this together, but now I can recommend your site instead!
    Do you, by any chance, have any knowledge of classes in some of the traditional Chinese arts that are taught in English anywhere? or taught in translation? (My Chinese is not yet good enough to be able to take classes in Mandarin!) Or even would you know where I might begin? (I’ve had no success with finding anything via google…)
    Thanks much!

  13. Hi there,

    Thank you for the information. I am seriously thinking about a move to China, but I don’t speak a word of Mandarin. I want to study the Chinese language for two years at a university in the Wudaokou area. But all of the schools state that I need a HSk 3 certificate before I can be eligible for enrollment in any college.

    Can you please help me clear a few things up? Please feel free to mail me at sanrizz.tjonakon@Gmail.com. I’ve read your blogs, and they are very helpful!

    • Hi Sanrizz, Happy to hear you find my blog helpful!
      I’m not really familiar with university requirements here but the Beijing Language and Culture University offers beginners Mandarin classes for foreigners. There are also many private language schools in the Wudaokou area where you can start at any level and even prep for HSK exams. I met a few people who did both, they were enrolled at BLCU but also took classes at a language school, mostly for the smaller class sizes. Hope this helps.

  14. Hi There,

    I live in Toronto surrounded by Mandarin speaker but it seems no body is interested in teaching you some Mandarin. I would love to learn it, so I’m wondering if interested in share some.


    • Hi Jose, I found some inexpensive Mandarin classes in the USA at the local community college before I came to China. You can also try software learning programs like Fluenz or Pimsleur.

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