Beijing expatsI first came to Beijing in 2011, following my husband for his job and leaving my own corporate career behind. We were excited to start a new chapter of our lives in China. He was not sent by an international company with a full expat package, so we needed to figure out many things on our own. And 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.

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.

Like so many expat marriages, especially in Asia, our marriage didn’t survive China. When it happened and my old life fell apart, I was far away from my friends and family, in a country where I didn’t speak the language, understand the culture, had any friends of my own, nor had a job.

Nevertheless, I decided to stay in Beijing. And I’m glad I did. I successfully built a new life here.

My lifestyle changed completely. I moved apartments a few times to different neighborhoods of Beijing, made great new friends, learned the language and culture, kept busy with the Beijing Expat Guide and other projects, and overall enjoyed life in Beijing.

The Beijing Expat Guide became more successful than I ever expected. Besides being top ranked in Google, I was interviewed by a Russian news channel, the US travel show with Emmy-award-winning host Peter Greenberg, and CCTV America. I published three Kindle ebooks. All amazing experiences that would not have been possible without the Beijing Expat Guide.

I have to disclose that I now don’t live in China full time anymore. After a few years here on my own I decided it was time to move. But I keep coming back, for weeks or even months at a time to see my friends here and eat myself silly on Chinese food. Beijing does that to people – it keeps pulling them back.

I’m in China right now as I am writing this. And I have big plans for keeping the Beijing Expat Guide going, with up-to-date information, more content and more resources. After all, maintaining and expanding it gives me a good excuse for coming back to the place where I started over. (Luckily, my work also allows for the travel.)

If you haven’t already done so, please sign up for my newsletter. You’ll receive great tips about getting started directly to your inbox. I look forward to hearing from you.

(Originally published April 2013, updated 2017)


About — 41 Comments

  1. Hi i came across an amateur sports group website in beijing organizing soccer matches, basketball games, American flag football, etc….anyone have contacts to this? THANK YOU.

  2. Hello Beijing Expat, I am from the UK and find your newsletter most interesting and helpful, thank you.
    Do you believe foreigners can apply for a credit card regardless of location in China?
    I am based in Henan Province, do you have contacts here to help me in this area?
    Thank you again

    • Thanks for your kind words. I’m sorry I can’t help with banking contacts. It’s not that easy to get a Chinese credit card as a foreigner. It’s best to ask the banks directly about the requirements. Best of luck!

    • Yes you can. Just go to those bigger banks such as BOC, CCB, CMB, etc. Best service from experience is China Merchants Bank

  3. My young daughter is living in China. She comes home to visit for Christmas and I would like to buy her things, but it is very expensive for her to bring them back. Are there websites/shopping places in China that she can access while there? Can I order things for her from websites that are “local” to China that can be delivered to her home address over there, if that makes sense? Just looking for ways I can shop reasonably and avoid delivery charges, etc., or get her gift certificates to shopping places that are accessible and won’t take a tonne of money for shipping.

    • That’s a tough one. Most online shopping in China is with Chinese websites. And gift certificates for stores are country specific. Sorry I can’t be of more help here.

    • hi Richelle! you should be able to buy things for her with amazon china and pay with a visa card. if you have any mandarin skills try taobao (the chinese verion of amazon:) good luck

  4. Hi! I am Nerissa, a Filipino living in Italy.
    I just started a website dedicated to the lives of all those living in a country other than the one where they were born. Thru PeopleAbroad.org I intend to increase connections, awareness, and understanding among people.
    Sorry for taking some of your precious time. If you are not interested please stop reading it now and forgive me for my intrusion.
    I would like to ask you to contribute to the website by writing one post with photos and/or videos about any region of the world. Your post will be linked to your personal websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter account, and/or anything else you like, in order to promote your own activity.
    I could also publish some of your posts as a summary and link them to your website where your articles could be read in full length. If possible, I would also like you to write your story (bio – where you live and how you decided to live your life abroad) – example: https://www.peopleabroad.org/nerissa-filipino-living-in-italy/.
    To contribute, it is not necessary to live in a different country from where you were born, but simply to know a bit of the world by having lived, studied, or traveled.
    This website is still under construction, I do not have yet made it available to search engines for indexation. I am just starting and that is why your help is essential.
    All the best,

    • Thanks for sharing Nerissa! I love your story, especially the part of getting married on a Ferris wheel.
      I’d be happy to contribute and encourage my readers to do the same. Please let me know which posts or summaries you’d like to use.
      Regarding the bio, I haven’t updated my About page in a long time, and a lot has happened since I wrote the first version. I did write an update but have not published it online…
      All the best with your project!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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

  8. 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 …

  9. 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 😉

  10. 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


  11. 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,

  12. 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

  13. 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.

  14. 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! 🙂

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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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