Moving to China can be a daunting task. Apart from handling the accommodation and the logistics of the move, there are several important factors that you should take note of before you leave for the country.
If you are in the early stages of planning the move, you might want to start by reading our guide to moving to another country. However, if you are all set, here are some additional pointers for you to keep in mind before moving to China.
Register with the police
According to China’s immigration law, every foreigner is required to register with the police within 24 hours of arrival in China. If you are staying in a hotel, the hotel staff will handle the registration for you. If not, simply head down to the nearest police station with the following items:
- Residence permit
- Leasing Agreement
- Copy of Landlord’s ID and Phone Number
This is extremely important as a fine of more than 2000 RMB may be imposed by local authorities if you fail to register.
You can read more about this here
Settle the Administrative Matters
a) Setting up a Bank Account in China:
Your Mastercard or Visa will work in most parts of China. But keep in mind that several bank terminals may not accept foreign bank cards. It will be more convenient for you to open a bank account in China in the long run. There are other benefits to opening an account (i.e. creating an Alipay wallet) and we will further elaborate later.
Here are the 4 major banks in China:
- Bank of China (BoC)
- China Construction Bank (CCB),
- Agricultural Bank of China (ABoC),
- Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)
Opening a bank account in China is relatively quick (about 20 mins if there is no queue). There is also a good chance that these banks will have an English-speaking staff. However, this may not be the case if you are living in smaller cities. If you are not fluent in Mandarin, bring along a local Chinese friend to help you with the banking terminologies.
Remember to bring along your:
- Proof of residence
- Work permit/visa
You can read more about this in this guide.
b) Setting up your Chinese SIM
After entering the country, you can purchase a China Unicom SIM card to get local service. Take note that certain phones are “locked” to their domestic service providers. It is important to check if your phone is “unlocked” in order to use their local SIM card. Alternatively, you can check with your current service provider if your phone is able to use a local SIM card in China.
Standby enough Start-Up Cash
During your first move to China, you will incur many large expenses such as your flight, your visa and your rent expenses. Rent in China is usually paid in three-monthly or six-monthly instalments, excluding the agent’s fee (one month’s rent) and a security deposit (one month’s rent). If you add up all the costs, including your first month of grocery shopping and other utility expenses, you will realise that the first month will be very costly!
So it’s crucial to carefully calculate your expenses beforehand and set aside enough start-up cash to prepare yourself for the first month in China.
Payment systems in China
On the topic of the expense payment, the emergence of mobile payment apps has transformed China into a cashless society. In 1st Tier Cities in China, 95% of businesses accept payment apps. Hence almost everything – from purchasing meals and clothing to the payment of bills and rent – can be done so using the payment apps.
Currently, Alipay and WeChat are the top mobile payment apps in China. However, these apps require you to have a local bank account, which is why it is strongly recommended to set up one. The biggest advantage of having Alipay and WeChat pay would definitely be the convenience, where you will no longer have to worry about not having enough cash on hand or make purchases with a language barrier. You can read more about how to use these payment apps in China here.
Communicating with the locals
WeChat is the Whatsapp of China and that’s so much about it. The app is used in almost every facet of a local’s day-to-day life in the country. Besides being a messaging tool, the app also functions as a food delivery app and social media platform, amongst its many uses. On an average day, a local can carry out several tasks of which all are done through using this singular app. WeChat is a huge part of China. So if you want to connect with the locals, use WeChat.
Overcoming the language barrier
Mandarin can be challenging even for those who have studied the language in school. Thankfully, there are several mobile apps that can help you to translate certain Chinese characters that you may not understand.
Pleco is a free app that provides an English to Chinese dictionary which you can use to search words in both languages. It also provides a pronunciation guide that will be useful should you run into any confused taxi drivers.
Getting around in China
Speaking of taxi drivers, getting around in China is pretty easy with the country’s version of Uber or Grab. Didi Chuxing, the Chinese equivalent of Uber, is a popular rideshare app in the country. With more and more taxis getting on board the app, you will find it harder to get a cab without the app. Take note that most of the taxi drivers do not speak English. So make sure you have the address of your intended destination written in Chinese on a card or use Pleco to help you get around.
Alternatively, you can take public transport which is relatively cheap and efficient. Make sure to download the Baidu Maps so that you will never lose your way.
Check out this list of essential apps that will help you get around in China easily.
Food & Delivery
Food delivery service is huge in the country. Meituan Dianping, Ele.me and Baidu Waimai are the three largest food delivery apps in China. However, these apps are mostly in Chinese with the exception of the McDonald’s app which is in English. If you are not fluent in Mandarin, you will need assistance from a local to key in your address and connect the app to your local bank account.
Taobao is life. It is a combination of Carousell, Lazada and Shopee – all in one app. You can buy almost everything from Taobao at a very cheap price. JD.com is also another major online shopping platform. If you love online shopping, these two online platforms will be your shopping haven.
Social Media in China
Unfortunately, because internet access is highly regulated in China, there are a number of websites and apps that are blocked in the country. The apps affected include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube (generally all popular social media apps in Singapore). What this means is that you will not be able to access these websites or apps through conventional means. But all hope is not lost, because you can still use them by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app.
And that is it! Here are the 10 important things that you should take note of before moving to China. While no amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the day to immerse yourself in this culturally-rich country, what’s most important is to keep an open mind and discover new aspects of life and culture while you enjoy your stay in China.