Below is a list I have personally created based on my time living in Chengdu, China; which is -- as of today: 1 year, 3 months, and 19 days. This list is quite thorough, but not exhaustive; following the guidance below will definitely increase your China IQ and will make the transition to a life in China soooooooooo-to infinity-oooooooooo much easier!!! I can guarantee this or your money back! While I remain in China, the list will grow until it is a monstrous beast of instructions and helpful tips that I wish someone had written and shared with me 16 months ago!
- For Goddess' sake take Chinese language lessons! If you arrive in China with basic conversation ability, or take lessons immediately upon arrival, you will instantly jump up to a 125 China IQ; in fact, your learning curve will take about one month instead of more than one year (like mine). You probably already read this in your home country anyway, arrived with all the apps downloaded, etc., etc., you Intellectual Snob!
- Download a VPN in your home country for all your communication devices (phone, tablet, laptop). Many people use Express VPN, but it is frequently down. I switched to Astrill and never have a problem. Many people swear by a socket pro type such as shadowsocks, etc.
- Download as many Chinese apps as possible and learn how to use them!
- Ensure you have a home-country Paypal account, along with a Chinese Paypal, so you can transfer smaller amounts from your Ch. Paypal to your other PayPal, friends, etc. Details below.
- Download and get familiar with WeChat because you will use that for EVERYTHING! Link your bank account to pay bills, order food, chat, social media, buy train tickets, etc. Read Chengdu Expat's Guide to WeChat. Get friends and family to download WeChat, too -- free international text/calls.
- Ditto above for Alipay: pay bills, pay for purchases, order food, bike rental, (but no social media).
- Use Baidu Translate App to screenshot translate everything from menus to the Chinese Apps in #1. Google Translate also has this function, but not as accurate and needs VPN.
- Use Chengdu Expat* mini-program or website to find just about everything from tourism to western restaurants, grocery stores, etc. *or your city , ex.: "blahblahblah - Expat" or "GoKunming", etc.
- Learn to use Meituan (Kangaroo), Didi, and Taobao Apps ASAP. Since these are all Chinese apps, this is where Baidu Translate becomes your Personal Savior.
- Order Western food and other imports from Waifood, Sally's (Chengdu) ,and Baopals.
- Buy cross-country train and within-China plane tickets on WeChat, Flying Pig on Taobao, and Alipay.
- The High Speed Rail System (AKA High Speed Train or Bullet Train) is sick!! Business Class is the highest level and very worth it! Often cheaper and definitely easier than flying, plus, the scenery is beautiful! First Class is nice too. I took third/coach once and never will I suffer that again! If you consider getting to/from an airport, mandatory hour-early arrival time, boarding, deplaning, etc. train trips are often shorter or time equivalent.
- Use Booking, Trip, and Skyscanner for plane travel (these are English language apps).
- Download the subway map/app for your city; info also on your phone's Chinese map app.
- Use Baidu Maps (in Chinese) and Google Maps (need VPN) to navigate.
There are many more tips, rules, and guideline on the following page. Click Read More to the right!