Now that we’ve lived for almost a year in Shanghai, I would like to share my knowledge with newbies who are about to move to China. Especially all those things I wanted to know and couldn’t find out before we left!
- Apps to download for China
- Translator, Pleco & Google Translate
It’s extremely important that you download translation apps before moving to China, as very few people speak and understand English. Translator and Google Translate can help you translate images and written text and on Pleco you can search for keywords, if you are looking for a particular word or phrase to help you out. Translator also has a speech function, so you can record people and then have it translated in written to English. Luckily, the Chinese government recently allowed Google Translate to be used without VPN!
WeChat is life in China. Forget about WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage. Everyone in China uses WeChat and with everyone I mean children, shopkeepers, grannies, your local hairdresser… everyone! Make sure you add friends and colleagues as this is the main means of communications here and you can not only message or call them, but also see their latest photos that they have shared on ‘moments’. On top of that, you can link your bank account to WeChat to pay in shops and online and you can follow companies to see their latest news.
- Express VPN / Green VPN
Make sure you download a good VPN app before taking off to China. We use Express VPN and you need to pay for it, but it’s worth it, as it can be used on many devices and you can choose between different countries. Without VPN, you cannot access Google, WordPress, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, etc. And I have to say, life without Google can be pretty frustrating! Green VPN is free and useful for a short time connection.
No cash? No problem! You can use Alipay to pay with your phone in taxis, supermarkets, restaurants, shops,… generating a QR code or scanning the shop’s QR code. You can also add your friends on Alipay and transfer them money in seconds! You can download Alipay before moving to China, but you will need a Chinese bank account and mobile number to access and use it.
- SmartShanghai & Bon App
When living in Shanghai, these two apps are absolutely essential. On SmartShanghai you can find nearby restaurants, events and sightseeing spots and when opening the card for a place on this app, you can click on the taxi driver translation. If you don’t speak good Mandarin, this is an absolute lifesaver to get anywhere in a taxi. On Bon App you can view restaurants and bars in different categories, locations, etc. Going to nice bars, cafes and restaurants is one of the best things to do in Shanghai as the variety is just amazing and never fails to surprise me!
Download the app once you’ve moved to China. Simply upload a photo of you and your passport and once they have approved your account and you have paid a safety deposit of 300 RMB you can use this app to rent Mobikes all around the city. Just scan the QR code on the bike and use it as long as you like, for fares from 0.5 RMB! However, please don’t bike in China if you feel unsafe or unsure of the traffic ‘rules’ (which can be nonexistent!) and keep in mind that traffic lights are just a recommendation and you can’t hear electric scooters which can suddenly appear next to you out of nowhere.
If you are moving to China soon, I hope you find my list helpful. Please feel free to comment on my post for any further questions or suggestions.
My next blog post will be about what to pack and bring to China and what is cheaper to buy here.