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Living in Beijing

Can any give me information or advice on living in Beijing, China?

DH and I might have an opportunity there and I would like some info from people who have been, even just on vacation.

What attractions would you recommend?
How friendly are the locals?
How difficult is it to get around using public tranpo?
Did you find that most people spoke English?

Has anyone gone through the process of learning Mandarin or Cantonese?

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Re: Living in Beijing

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  • I lived in Beijing for a little over a year.  I already spoke chinese before I moved - I learned it here in the US. Some people speak English but not everyone. The locals in Beijing are pretty friendly in my experience.  The taxi drivers are another story ;)  It's very simple to use the subway. The buses can be confusing but they are manageable - my husband used to use them occasionally.  Attractions: too many to name. The biggest drawback is the pollution.
  • I lived in China for about 6 years, though not in Beijing. Spent A LOT of time there, though.

    I think it's a bit soon to be thinking about attractions in the city itself before you really plan to move there. You'll have loads of time and there is a tonne of stuff to do and see in and around Beijing. Travel within China is ridiculously cheap as well, and you'll never find yourself bored. 

    Locals are typically very friendly to foreigners if you are friendly and open to them.

    Public transportation is super easy to get around with in Beijing, the underground train is great and taxis are dirt cheap. We take taxis everywhere when we are there. Stay the feck away from public buses if you can.

    Most people in Beijing don't speak English, but the ones that you will typically be dealing with (restaurants in the city, some taxi drivers, train stations, airports, hotels, spas, bars, tourist attractions, etc. will speak enough for you to get by.

    I learned Mandarin (Cantonese is in Guangdong province and Hong Kong) in about 3 months after having moved there. Granted, I was in a place with NO English whatsoever, so that helped. It's not very difficult if you forget about learning to read and write and just focus on speaking and listening. If you really want to learn the language, you can learn reading and writing quite easily and quickly if you've already got the speaking and listening down.

    Chinese, though a character based language, has a western alphabet system called Pinyin, which makes the speaking and listening easy for westerners to learn and get by on, as even a lot of taxi drivers can read pinyin if you write it out for them.

    I'd move back to China in a heartbeat if the opportunity came up.


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  • Most Beijing people can speak some simple English ,not everyone, so you'd better learn some Mandarin before you go there .Local people is pretty friendly , please do not worry. about the public transpo, metro is very convenient in Beijing

    About the attraction,  I recommend you Great wall and Palace MuseumStick out tongue

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  • I lived in Beijing for four years and loved every single minute. Some more than others, of course, but overall it was a fantastic experience. Getting around was easy; taxis are abundant and cheap. Knowing a few basic phrases was helpful (turn left, turn right, stop, etc.) After a while you learn some of the place names and you could use those to help you as well; say one of the names you know that's close to where you actually want to be, then give the driver directions from there. You can also get taxi books that list tons of places in Chinese so you can just show your driver the name of the place you want to go; they have taxi books as iphone apps now as well. The subway system is limited, but it was helpful depending on where you wanted to go, and it was ridiculously cheap, as well as being clean, easy to use, and not that crowded. 

    I found the Chinese to be very friendly and welcoming; more than I expected when I went. Most have no English, but as an earlier poster said, in most of the markets, tourist attractions and expat restaurants, the employees have enough English for you to communicate. Most restaurants have menus in English or with pictures so you can still order.

    There is a huge expat community in Beijing and there are tons of things going on. You will never be bored and will be able to make friends if you make an effort. There are lots of expat-friendly restaurants, great bars, food stores with Western groceries. I really didn't miss anything while I was there, but there's tons of food I miss from Beijing. You will eat food like you've never tasted before and you will never be able to stomach food court Chinese again!

    Shopping was fantastic and never-ending; antiques, silk, jewelry (pearls!), carpets, furniture, tailored clothes, knock-off bags and shoes, DVDs - I really just finally had to leave because I was shopping myself into a stupor! There are also tons of temples, parks, etc. to visit - you could never hope to reach the end of exploring Beijing.

    The major downside is definitely the pollution. Most days are fine but there will be several days a month that are absolutely horrid and you can't believe you're actually breathing that air. But, it does make you appreciate the nice days even more. Some people hated the winter, but it didn't bother me. It does get quite cold (probably comparable to Chicago temperatures), but it's very dry so there's almost no snow and you don't have to worry about icy sidewalks, clogged roads, etc. It's also a bright, clear, sunny kind of winter. Spring and fall are lovely, summer is gloomy and muggy and rains a lot but I was usually away during most of the summer.

    In short - I miss Beijing all the time and would love a chance to live those four years again. Take the chance and you won't regret it! 

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