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DH has an opportunity to go work in Beijing for a spell. It's an 'open' opportunity, which, if we take it, we'd have some control over for when and for how long. So we're just starting to ponder the possibility for (maybe?) next spring or fall for (maybe?) 1-3 or more months.
What we should think about? It's really a new thought and we haven't explored anything - but wondering about school requirements (5&7ys), language/cultural barriers (we won't blend in!! very fair irish/german), ease of finding a 'home,' etc. DH would be working a lot so me, the one without an ear for music/language, would be trying to make my way around a system which I (currently) know little about. Likely my kids would pick up language quickly as it seems to be a talent, but I am slooooow with language.
Any good ex-pat communities/resources online that I should try to find? How does one go about finding/feeling at 'home' in a place without language or cultural basis for a start? intrigued but wary
I've visited Beijing 2 years ago, hardly makes me an expert but I do have a lot of expat experience, setting up new homes in new countries and I would say in such a short time period, don't put so much pressure on yourself about language. I doubt your kids will learn it either. I have found the most useful phrases are 'Where is...' 'Do you have...' 'How much...?' and of course 'Thank you' and get by with that, then you play charades understanding the answer but at least you know they got the question. Always carry a card with your home address in the chinese charactors - ha ha that was one mistake I made the very first time I went to China thinking I could say Hilton Hotel and that the Taxi driver would understand.
The good thing about Beijing is that it was an Olympic city, and this means things are set up for visitors to be able to get around. I managed the subway by myself easily as things are in english too, that will make your stay much easier.
For such a short stay I would DEFINITELY use a short term relocation agency for housing and all the other stuff that may be required - otherwise you'll spend all your time doing that and I can only imagine in china it will be incredibly time consuming and stressful - you want to enjoy your time right not spend it all doing red tape stuff. You probably want a more authentic experience but honestly it's just too short of a time to set up a more integrated life there, not since you have 2 young children and a husband who will need to work. Personally I'd live in one of the expat communities and just relax for the few months. Sorry don't have any names but they have them there somewhere, and their probably cushy and nice.
Sorry don't know about Beijing expat sites, hopefully someone will have a source on that for you as those websites are often incredibly helpful! anon
I am looking for a hotel in Bejing for me and my young child. We are leaving in a couple of weeks. I would like to find something affordable -- about $100/ night -- that offers the amenities Americans would expect to find in a U.S. hotel. 'Raffles' has been recommended to me, but I need to find something less expensive. I hope you can help. Hitting the road
Our experience in Beijing has been that 'local' hotels turn typically-wimpy 'air-conditioning' OFF at about 9PM.
The only option in a 'local' hotel is to open small hotel-room windows at night. Sleeping with windows open, allowing coal smoke into our room (and our lungs) is not an option for us.
When we go to Beijing, we stay in slightly-more-expensive hotels where real and effective air-conditioning (and, therefore, air filtration) runing 24/7.
We have really enjoyed visiting Beijing (though we have often covered our faces in late April, through May, and into June, as many Chinese in Beijing do, because, in Spring, sandstorms, born on hot winds, exacerbate year-long soot), but we also need to be able to sleep and eat comfortably !
Tripadvisor.com has quite a few hotels listed in Beijing under $100 per night. You can see pictures and people's reviews.
Ctrip.com is China based travel site, similar to Tripadvisor. Vivian
I'm planning a trip to Beijing, China for the first time with my somewhat elderly parents, and don't know whether it'd be better to purchase one of those packaged vacations that include air + tour or to buy our plane tickets separate of a tour and to find a tour group to join when we're there. I'd rather do the latter, but don't know how to go about it. My parents are insistent that we join a tour for most of the days that we're there. They're not ones for 'exploring on our own', especially since we're only going to be there for 7 days and need to make the most out of the trip. Can anyone whose been to Beijing recommend a tour group they've joined, or a vacation package they purchased, that they felt gave them a good bang for the buck? Thanks! Tourist Trapped
This was from a Chinese person living in US. 'Two years ago, I took my family to China for vacation. Our trip included a week in Beijing. My kids have never been to China before.
Although the ground traffic is heavily congested, Beijing has an amazing subway system that can get you pretty much anywhere you need to be for most major tourist attractions except the Great Wall. If the visitors do not speak Chinese, I think it's better to join a guided tour as it will save time and money, as well as all of the hassles for foreigners. Be aware of those handouts you will be given in the Beijing streets for tour deals that sound too good to be true. Some of them claim to cover virtually all of the attractions for an equivalent of $10. This bait-and-switch trick usually does not work for the experienced locals, but may still get the foreigners into the traps.' Vivian
Beginning in April, we'll have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be away from home for a few months. We think we'd like to spend the time (2-3 months) living in China. We won't have an employer to smooth the way, and are on a pretty modest budget. We also don't speak Chinese. We have lived outside the U.S., including in low-income countries, but never in Asia. We'd love to hear about your experiences in China. Any recommendations about where to settle, visas and other formalities, finding housing, transportation, insurance, healthcare, making friends, what to visit, etc. would be much appreciated. Are there any books, websites, or other resources you recommend? Our teenagers have been studying Mandarin, so advice about creating opportunities for them to build their language skills would be a bonus. Off to China, we hope!
I'm Chinese living in US and I work with a lot of Americans going to China for jobs. Since you don't speak Chinese, it'd be safer to stay with bigger cities, like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou. Shenzhen is very close to Hong Kong and has a huge expat community. There are a lot of expats living in 'second tier cities' like Chengdu, Qingdao, Suzhou, etc. and really enjoy it. These cities are only small in Chinese standard, they all have bigger population than San Francisco.
Our Man in Beijing is a good Visa agency, run by Brit, has great experience working with expats from different countries.
Pacific Prime International provides healthcare for travelers. A friend of mine traveled in Asia for over a year and highly recommends their insurance (basically it's cheap good coverage ;-)).
Popup Chinese and ChinesePod are two highly recommended podcasts with good online lessons, especially as additional practice material for someone already taking lessons.
You can find links to all these on the site I gave you. And I'm more than happy to introduce you to some of my friends and associates living in China. Vivian
My husband's current company wants to move our family to Shenzhen, China and we're thinking about going. We have a 13 month old and I currently work full-time in a technical field. We will be having a second child in April, probably in China, if we go. This opportunity will enable me to be stay at home and be in a new culture also. I love to travel, and my husband has to fly there every couple of months anyway (which is nearly impossible with me working too). He'll be making lots more money besides having most of our living expenses paid for. I'm wondering about living there and not knowing Mandarin? Is there an expat community there to tap into? I don't want to end up isolated nor do I expect to have enough time with little ones to learn a new language fast and well. What about the health care there? Am I crazy to think about giving birth there? How hard is it to find childcare that can speak English? I'm really looking for some experiences that people have with that area in terms of an only English speaking family with little kids. I've also heard the pollution there is really bad. Thoughts/comments? -Thanks!
You didn't mention if you had visited Shenzhen yet. While my husband was busy with work, I walked around the city and found it had very little charm but I think that's common considering it is only 30 years old and I was only there 4 days so take that for what it's worth. It IS polluted, it is NOT scenic on the whole. We have friends of friends who moved there 7 years ago and love it and plan to stay, they have learned the language and have brought some family members over (but they are from the Ukraine which also has harder conditions), so I was really excited to visit it. But I didn't really like it, I felt I couldn't live there - until I saw Portofino and then I thought well, maybe...
I am sure there is a big expat community, there must be and if you hook into that you'll be fine. It does not seem the type of location that you will be able to fit in with the local culture. I too live overseas and I also am an outsider in our current country but that's okay, it's still fun.
The good thing about Shenzhen is it is close to Hong Kong - now that's a city I would be really excited to move to - is that possible for you? Because that would solve your language concerns too. Anyway if Shenzhen is your base, you can do trips around asia to places you might not have visited.
I would be concerned about the pollution and just overall toxicity of stuff and food but I think you can be careful about that especially with a new baby.
Don't have advise about having a baby there. English is not common but think they must have some medical resources for english speakers.
So my thoughts are if it is a 2 year assignment - do it! It's not the greatest place but it will be fun and 2 years goes by quickly, you'll probably regret it if you don't. anon
I really want to visit Beijing and Tokyo but I feel hesitant about traveling there (especially to Beijing) because I have an 18 month old and I also hope to be in early pregnancy during the time of travel (Jan. 2008). I am concerned about us becoming sick from the water and/or food. Does anyone have advice about what the danger level is for a toddler and/or someone who is pregnant to visit these parts of the world? Do you recommend such a trip? What precautions should I take, etc.? Thanks!
Anyhow, it's one of those places that can earn you bragging rights still. Bring your tour books. There are high end restaurants! and lots of historical sites. Our infant (she's three years old now but was 5 months when she took the first China trip with us) reacted way better in Beijing than Shanghai. In fact after that trip we almost bought a condo in Beijing (and now we are kicking ourselves as real estate in Beijing has trippled since then). No one drinks tap water in Beijing, everyone drinks purified water from bottles. They have a yogurt drink which is delicious! It tastes like our non fat plain yogurt but more like a smoothy. I think the food there is great but don't eat at street vendors.
Anyway, our daughter has been to China 5 times now (we did buy a place but in the southern region) and Beijing was a place that definitely she had no trouble adjusting. So I would recommend Beijing over Tokyo, if anything they don't eat raw fish in Beijing. Have fun wherever you end up! Alameda Mom
The precautions that I took were the same as those of my fellow travelers: I wore seatbelts, I didn't drink tap water (this included boiling the water I rinsed my toothbrush in), and I didn't eat street food. I also avoided meats that weren't hot (in case of Listeria) and, of course, alcohol. The other issue is morning sickness - I was not feeling sick at that stage of the game, and it certainly helped me enjoy the trip more. I don't think there's an increased danger per se if you're naseous, but Beijing like many big cities has lots of strong ODORS! If you're throwing up all the time you might be tempted just to stay in your hotel room, which is no fun at all! You should check with your OB of course but I think early pregnancy can actually be a good time to travel.
That said, I would say that traveling with an 1-year-old is a whole different ballgame. I will leave it to others to comment on the safety issues, since I don't know much about kid life in urban Asia. But I did travel with my son to Europe when he was about 18 months. It was a family trip that I didn't plan, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I didn't want to miss out on. I ultimately was grateful for the chance to travel, but it was really, really, really hard. At that age, they appreciate absolutely nothing about what they are seeing, and experience travel as only a series of traumatizing changes and disruptions of routine and sleep. My son was cranky and unhappy almost the ENTIRE trip. Even now I don't really enjoy looking at the pictures of the trip because I remember them as, oh, that's where I had to carry him through the streets for miles and miles because he refused to sit in the stroller, or that's the restaurant where he screamed so much he threw up all over the table, and so on. Your toddler may well be less demanding or rigid than mine, but if s/he responds at all negatively to changes in routine or other trips you have taken, I would propose rethinking the timing of your trip. I LOVE to travel and am anxious to see so much more of the world, but after that trip I've decided to wait until my kids are either old enough to understand what they are seeing, or to stay at Grandma's without me! Staying home for now
[Editor]: also see Visiting Japan
We are looking for suggestions about taking a tour this year to China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Yangtze, Hong Kong) with our two older children. This will be our first time. What should we do to prepare for our trip? How to find the ''right'' travel package? Recommendations on reasonably priced travel agents, what not to miss, and what to avoid, would be very welcome. Signed, China newbie
We will be traveling to China in July with our 3 yrs old, and spend about 4 days in
Beijing for work, then plan to travel around for 10 more days or so, and fly back
from Shenghai. I would really appreciate any suggestions of kid friendly attractions
and activities. Also, if someone has tips on how to manage food, what should we bring
with us? Is it easy eanough to buy western -type food outside the big cities? can
one buy milk easily? (we have a pretty picky eater - white rice would work great, but
that might be just about it) .
Thanks for any advice, clueless in china
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