Resources

We compiled a list of great resources that we use ourselves on a regular basis or that helped us to get started in the beginning. Some of those are free, others are not.

Please note that some of these products are affiliates. That means if you buy using the link on this website, I receive a small commission for the referral, at no extra cost to you. This way you can support the Beijing Expat Guide without spending any additional money.

I only recommend products here that I have used myself and would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family. Of course, you have to decide for yourself if these may be useful to you.

Beijing expat magazines

You can find free print copies of these expat magazines in many expat restaurants and bars. All of those four provide restaurant listings and reviews, write about activities and many other topics for expats.

Expat networks

  • InterNations – A very active expat community that hosts regular events, has activity groups, an informative forum and classifieds. Requires a free membership; some activities and resources are for premium members only (affiliate link).
  • INN Beijing International Newcomers Network – Targeting newcomers to Beijing but also attracts some long timers with monthly meetings and coffee meetings in different neighborhoods. Since meetings are during regular work hours, you will meet mostly expat spouses.
  • FC Club Fortune Connection Club – A now global networking organization with focus on China that hosts regular events targeting professionals.
  • FCGroup – A Beijing networking group that hosts regular events (Colin, who organizes these events, gives specific info on the regular events in his comment below)
  • Meetup Beijing – A source for finding meetings with people of shared interests.

Activities

  • Beijing Hikers – Well organized day hiking trips with local flair, often to less restored sections of the Great Wall and local villages. Opportunity to meet like-minded people. Also offer travel trips within China.
  • Dandelion/China Hiking – A small outfitter with more of a family feel. Organizes regular overnight camping trips to more remote sections of the Great Wall (decent gear is provided) and also longer hiking trips all over China.
  • Black Sesame Kitchen – Chinese cooking classes. Semi-hands on (you do some prep work but the chef demonstrates the actual cooking), fun, and tasty.
  • The Hutong – Cooking school for Chinese and global cuisines and other activities.
  • Hutong Cuisine Cooking School – Hands on cooking classes for authentic Chinese food. Unlike other cooking classes, requires a deposit when making reservations, which makes it a bit of a hassle.
  • Agoda – A travel website with a great selection of hotels in China and in Asia in general, all at good prices. I like it for the the user reviews and the good descriptions, with many photos of the hotel and every room. You can also book flights with Agoda.

Useful products and services

  • VyprVPN – A great VPN service that works well in China and is easy to use. (If you are already in China, use this link for better access within China.)
  • Bluehost – Web hosting that I use for this website with no problems to access the site from within China. I helped someone move their site from GoDaddy to Bluehost to make it accessible in China again. Most free blogging sites are blocked here. If you want to run your own website or blog in China, then a WordPress site hosted by Bluehost is a great option.
  • Traveling Mailbox – A virtual mail service provider that lets you receive mail at a US address and forwards only the mail you want.

Apps

Most of the apps listed here are available for Apple and Android devices. You can download those directly from the app stores.

  • WeChat – Similar to WhatsApp, you can send text, audio and picture messages for free, have group chats, post Moments, make audio and video calls, and more. Almost everyone in China uses it.
  • TrainChinese – I use this dictionary app almost daily on my smartphone to look up words or get the audio for pronunciation. You can also review vocab using the flashcard function, train your listening skills with their audio app or learn numbers with their number app. It can be installed it on your smartphone, iPad and computer and sync across all devices.
  • HanPing – We use the Pro version of this great dictionary. While the audio is not as good as TrainChinese, HanPing lets you write unknown characters to look up in the dictionary.
  • Sohu TV – With this app you can watch TV and movies including some foreign TV series and movies. It is entirely in Chinese but not too difficult to navigate. You can also go directly to their website.
  • PPTV – An app like Sohu TV, just with a different selection of TV shows and movies. Available for Android and Apple.
  • Skype – Video calls over the internet, essential  for keeping in touch with folks at home. Skype to Skype calls are free. We have an account so we can also call land lines and mobile phones in other countries. We also use a Skype number (paid service) as our US phone number.
  • US Embassy Air Quality – The US consulate publishes air quality readings taken hourly at the embassy compound in Chaoyang to keep their citizens informed. In addition to the app, this website has more detailed info for more locations.
  • WayGo – This translation app is fairly new to me and not yet available as Android version so I haven’t used it much. It translates menu items from Chinese characters to English when aiming the iPhone or iPad at the name of the dish.

Learning Mandarin

  • A Practical Chinese Grammar – The best Chinese grammar book I came across. Very well organized with many useful examples using English, Pinyin and Chinese characters. Most other grammar guides I saw make very limited use of Pinyin, so you have to be able to read characters for those books.
  • Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters – A fun approach to understanding, writing and memorizing the 800 most useful characters.
  • Fluenz – This language learning software, similar to Rosetta Stone, is not cheap but from my perspective the best way to get started learning Mandarin before coming to China. Fluenz is geared towards adults learning Chinese using great explanations that relate to your own language, rather than full immersion without explanations.

Last but not least: Our own Expat Guides

I hope you find these resources useful. If you have a specific question, please just send me an email. I can also offer more in-depth consulting services via Skype for a fee. Drop me a note if you are interested at gina@beijingexpatguide.com.


Comments

Resources — 22 Comments

  1. Wow this looks like a great site. I am moving to Beijing in August and look forward to using some of these resources. Do you happen to know I there are any yoga schools in Beijing that give class in English?

  2. How come I’ve just found out about this! Thanks for compiling such an informative site. Great work! I’ve been having problems with my Skype though. There’re days I just can’t log in. Is it in anyway related to the censorship? It never happened back home. And, at the risk of sounding like an ad… may I offer an app update to your list? Grabtalk. It’s released like last week? I know it cuz my roommate was on their user panel. Never paid attention to Grabtalk until when I was stuck in Sanlitun the day before. I couldn’t get a taxi and the Uber driver canceled on me…yea my Chinese was too bad. So I thought I’m up for anything and downloaded Grabtalk. Turned out this is a great Laowai survival app. I texted my location and where I was going, it got me a ride minutes later and told the driver all the essential info for me. Later on I tried Taobao shopping with Grabtalk too, the service was pretty nice. Just thought you might want to know 🙂

    • Thanks for your nice words, Chris! And for sharing your good experience with Grabtalk. I’ll check it out and add it to the page. Keep the good info coming!

  3. Thank you for providing this great website full of useful information. I’m technically a 北京人but I’ve been living in NYC for over 20 years ever since I was a kid. During this time I’ve lost touch with all my school friends since we didn’t have email or internet back then. My wife, a Japanese American, and I have been back visiting my parents for about 3 times now but we often find things quite boring because people here only seem to care about shopping and eating. We are planning on using all the info you e provided to our advantages! Thanks!

    • I’m glad you find my website helpful. I sometimes hear from returnees that they feel like strangers in their former home country. Check meetup.com to find people with shared interests here. Best of luck!

  4. Hey Gina! Check out a WeChat app called “Spoonhunt” (Add account ID: Spoonhunt), it lists local restaurants with their top recommended items in English with prices & photos. Covers almost all tier 1-4 cities in China, so it’s helpful for your travels as well : )

  5. Hello,

    I will be in Beijing from nov 14th until dec 02nd.

    I would like to know if you have tai chi classes during these days and if I could have some classes.

    Thank you,
    Mayra

  6. Hi – wonder if you can direct me to a tech support group, or individual, who can help me in English with my computer problems?

    • Hi Jan, I send you an email with contact info for a great IT guy who helps with software and hardware problems.

  7. Looking for any and all help I can get reguarding moving to Beijing this Spring. We need housing advice but most importantly I need animal advice. We are coming from Manilla with an old dog and a young kitten. So Vets and no quarentine airports please.

  8. The most useful app I have – Pleco
    I honestly don’t think I would make it through my life here without it. It’s saved me more times than I can tell you!

    • Pleco has good functionality. It’s not my favorite dictionary app but very popular among expats. (You can find my review of Pleco and two other apps here.) No matter which Chinese-English dictionary app you use, you will definitely need one for every day life in China.

  9. I really like your website. I would love to visit China although I am not able to do that. I do some Chinese cooking at home here in America and enjoy it immensely. I would like to do some schooling but, not able to do that either. Is there some really good dvd’s available that a person could use as cooking lesson’s?

    • I’m happy to hear you like my site Terrence.
      I don’t know of any good cooking lessons on DVD but there are a some videos posted on YouTube.

  10. Please note and correct the information about the FC Club (Beijing). In January 2012 I changed the name of the FC Club (Beijing) which I organised from late 2006 to the end of 2011 to the FCGroup. The FCGroup address is http://www.fcgroup.org

    We currently host activities every Tuesday.

    – 1st Tuesday: Foreigners and Chinese – An All Industry social networking evening to help stimulate new ideas that can only be found outside the box.

    – 2nd Tuesday: Future and Career social networking evening to matchmake job seekers with staff seekers and young professionals with mentors.

    – 3rd Tuesday: Fashion and Creative social networking evening – An evening where FAME Fashion, Media, Arts, Entertainment meets PRAMS Public Relations, Advertising, Marketing and Sales.

    – 4th Tuesday: Finance and Consumers. A social networking evening for BEEF & I … Business, Executives, Entrepreneurs, Finance and Investors, Start-Ups, Hi Tech, Legal.

    The FCGroup additionally organises larger scale events once a quarter and during the warmer months “Escape Concrete Beijing” daytrips.

    • Thanks for the detailed info, Colin.
      I added the FCGroup info and link to the list of networking groups above.
      The FC Club as global networking organization is still active under that name with some events in Beijing and other Chinese cities, so I left the info up there as well. The more options to network, the better, I think.

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