Moving to China requires preparation and a whole lot of courage. As stressful as it may be to travel halfway around the world to a place with a new language and culture, this transition can be made a little smoother with a solid plan. Here are eleven things you should definitely do before you arrive in China:
Moving to China is a completely different experience than moving to another state or county. There are no U-Haul trucks in sight and anything you bring has to fit in a suitcase. Before arriving, consider what you actually need and what you'll be able to buy there. A great way to weed out any unnecessary items is with a packing list: furniture, groceries and excess clothing can all be purchased from stores in China.
If there's one thing you don't want to procrastinate on, it's getting your Visa. Be sure that you apply at least thirty days beforehand--although more time is recommended. These processes take time, and you never know what could go wrong; the last thing you want to have to do is try and postpone a trip you've been planning for months because an office clerk accidentally misfiled your paperwork.
When traveling to any foreign land, it's always important to keep valuable information in an accessible place--such as digitally/electronically. Some of the documents you might want to think about include: birth or marriage certificates, a passport or proof of citizenship, social security cards, vaccinations, medical and dental records, insurance policies, academic records, employment records, proof of residency (like a bill or statement), and even a living will and testimony. Keep in mind that it could take several weeks in order to obtain all these, so give yourself plenty of preparation time. Keeping digital copies will not only ensure everything is organized but also lowers the risk of someone snatching valuable information out of your bag.
Notifying your bank about your relocation to China is definitely something you want to handle before the big move. Depending on your bank, they can discuss the different options with you about how to manage your funds overseas. One popular way that many expats and travelers have chosen to keep track of their accounts is with International Online banking. Don't forget to bring backup banking cards with you--a lost debit or credit card is harder to replace when your local bank is thousands of miles away.
If you come from a country like the USA, you might be shocked to learn that your favorite websites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are blocked in China by the government. Their internet is censored in general, but the best way to get around this is by downloading a VPN app such as ExpressVPN. A VPN will unblock these sites, and allow you to keep in contact with family and friends on social media. The only thing to keep in mind is that some VPNs will slow down your internet, and it may take a little longer to stream Netflix or upload your favorite pictures to Instagram.
If you don't want to hassle with expensive international phone call bills, try downloading WeChat. The video and messaging app will allow you to send texts back and forth, and even make free calls to family and friends that are an ocean away.
These aren't the only apps worth downloading though: Waygo is an app designed to translate Chinese characters into the English language simply by hovering your smartphone over the letters; this comes in handy if you're out in public and can't read a sign or menu. Other apps like Metro Man and China Train are made to help you navigate cities better and get you where you need to go using the subway lines and trains.
Once you arrive in China, you don't want to be stuck at the airport with no clue as to how to make it to your destination. Be sure to have a map of the city on hand along with knowledge of how to make it to the nearest subway stop or train station. Make sure you have memorized or written down the address of your destination, and it's always a good idea to have an idea ahead of time on how you plan to get there.
See our Career China Travel Guides
Too many first-time or inexperienced travelers have moved to China with the mindset that they'll just "pick up the language". It really doesn't work like this--the alphabet, grammar, and pronunciation are difficult and unlike anything else. (That one Spanish class you took in high school won't be any help here.) If you really want to learn how to speak the language, you'll need to take a class or hire a tutor.
If you don't have time for that before you arrive in China, then just make sure you memorize key survival phrases, buy an English-to-Chinese dictionary, and download apps like Waygo to help you. Once you get there, there's plenty of affordable tutors across the country that you can hire.
Don't allow yourself to get caught at the airport or train station with a dead phone. Make sure all your electronics are charged beforehand so you have access to the internet and your apps once you arrive in China. Another thing to also think about is adapters. Countries like the USA use 110-120 volts of electricity, while China uses around 220 volts.
If you want your devices to work and stay undamaged, it's time to invest in an adapter; make sure you buy one that will specifically work in China. Luckily, these handy little things are pretty affordable--just make sure you purchase them before your trip.
Even if you've worked out a way to manage your funds with your bank, it's always a good idea to bring some start-up cash with you. Cash is accessible, and sometimes easier than trying to hassle with a banking card. Just be sure that you don't convert all your funds into cash--if this money were to get stolen, you'd be left with nothing.
It's easy to take advantage of the time you spend with friends and family when they're only a few miles away. Even if you don't think so yet, you'll probably miss them dearly in China--especially if you're planning to live there for several months or years. Be sure to dedicate some time to your loved ones before you leave, and keep in contact with them through WeChat once you actually arrive in China.
Even if you're moving to China because of work, you can still count on your time in Asia as being an adventure. Though you may be nervous or stressed, remember that this is a new adventure--the sights you see and people you meet will be unforgettable and some of the best moments of your life.
Taking the plunge and moving to a new country--especially one halfway around the world--is nerve-wracking. Luckily, by planning and preparing what you need, you can relieve some of this stress and embrace this new chapter of your life.
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