Tips to survive Winter

shutterstock_743819602.jpg

China is a huge, diverse country with a suitably wide range of climates to match.

Whilst some Southern cities may have the pleasure of being warm and temperate all year round, many of the cities further north can be less forgiving. Long, hot Summers and equally long cold and dry Winters are bookended by just a few a few weeks of perfect weather in Spring and Autumn.

In this helpful guide, we will focus on how to stay healthy in the Winter months.

Layers

Winter need not be a time to hide away indoors, if you layer up properly. As you go about your daily routine you will experience many different temperatures as shops and other public spaces normally crank up their air conditioning to furnace-like temperatures.

We suggest getting some good base thermals from Uniqlo or Decathlon. Then make sure you have lots of wool jumpers, fleeces, and feather down jackets to add on top, but which can be easily peeled off when you step inside.

shutterstock_518323120.jpg

 

Invest in a good jacket and shoes

Thick jackets and sturdy boots take up a lot of valuable space in your case, (that would be better taken up by your favourite snacks) so you could be forgiven for having left them at home.

Don’t worry though, as it is pretty to get your freezing cold mitts on a warm coat here in China. There are many western shops, markets and even Taobao (China’s answer to Amazon) to choose from. There are few things worse than cold feet, and if you think you’ll get away wearing converse all winter then think again, invest in a good pair of boots to keep your feet nice and warm.

Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables

We’re not your mom, but a good diet is one of the best ways to ensure you stay healthy and survive the Winter.

If it is cold outside then there is nothing better than tucking into some comfort food such as a nice hot cheesy pizza, but don’t forget to put away some fruit and vegetables to get your vitamins. The best way to fight a cold is to eat and drink your way through it.

*Side note: The Chinese like to put fruit on their pizza, so if you can stomach that, then you are in luck!

bicycle.jpg

“Anti-bac” the s**t out of everything

We can’t stress this enough – germs get everywhere and we know that many of you are here to work with children, who are little germ machines (bless ‘em). Carry a bottle of antibacterial dry handwash in your pocket at all times, and when you hear that sneeze, anti-bac!

Wear a mask

Stop those germs getting in (or out) by wearing a mask. If you are sick, you will be doing everyone else a favour and if you’re not, it will help prevent you from getting ill. Also, it’s great for those polluted days which roll around once in a while.

Don’t scrimp on heating

You are here to work and you are not a student anymore, so put that heating on! Why freeze your ass off in a cold apartment when you could be nice and toasty with the heating on. Besides, energy bills are much lower than in Western countries.

Moisturise

The Winters can be super dry – especially in places such as Beijing which is right beside the desert – so make sure you stock up on plenty of moisturisers and lip balm. As you may be aware, the Spring Festival holiday is in February and, if you stay moisturized, you won’t be all flaky when you are lying on that beach in Thailand.

shutterstock_710575402.jpg

Drink hot water

This is the Chinese answer to everything and despite our initial scepticism, we are now firm believers in this as well. The best way to get through winter is to drink plenty of hot water 24/7, seriously!

We hope you found our tips helpful and if you are already a seasoned China expert, then leave a comment below with your own advice on how to stay healthy in Winter!

Advertisements

6 can’t miss attractions in Beijing

Beijing, the capital of China, is an essential stop for most visitors to China – it’s likely if you’re coming to China that you’ll fly into this mega city, or at the very least pass through it. There’s so much to see and do there, it can be over-whelming trying to decide how to spend your days. Should you stick to the ‘big ticket’ items, or try to find those more unique, ‘out of the way’ sights? Personally, I think a bit of both will serve you well, so here’s my list of 6 can’t miss attractions in Beijing.

The Forbidden City

The Forbidden City is smack bang in the middle of Beijing, and an amazing part of Chinese history. Whilst some of it is still off-limits to the public, there is some spectacularly quintessential Chinese architecture and artifacts to see in this grandiose palace grounds. Some 24 emperors called this place home over the Ming and Qing Dynasties (mid 1300s – early 1900s), and it feels really special to wander around these once exclusive grounds. My personal favorite is the garden; after a few hours walking around this massive space, it’s lovely to relax in this green area. I can only imagine what it would have been like to sit here in the dynasty days.

My tip: try to find a quiet pocket of the garden to sit down and rest for a bit (and people watch!).

the forbidden city

Tiananmen Square

This is the largest public square in China, and apparently one of the largest in the world. The gate to the Forbidden City (the Tiananmen Gate, or the Gate of Heavenly Peace) lies to the north of the square and is where the square gets its name from. Here you can watch the flag raising ceremony at sunrise or sunset, walk through Mao’s Mausoleum (where the real Mao lies embalmed!), or visit the National Museum.

My tip: include Tiananmen Square in your Forbidden City outing; it’s easy to fit them both in one day.

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties worshipped heaven, so it’s a very holy place for many Chinese people.This temple features some of the most stunning and unique Chinese architecture in the city. It takes several hours to walk the beautifully landscaped grounds, and every section is quite different from the last.

My tip: look out for the elderly locals playing cards, mahjong, or dancing near the main gate; it’s a feast for the eyes and ears!

Beijing (2).jpg

The Summer Palace

Whilst it’s a little bit out of the way, the Summer Palace is an easy subway ride from the city centre, and is definitely worth your trip. It’s the largest royal park in China and is UNESCO World Heritage listed. The grounds have a delightfully serene feel to them, with loads of gorgeous trees, a river that feeds into a massive lake, and of course beautiful architecture to marvel at, including temples, pagodas, and halls. It’s quite hilly and there are some steep stairs to climb and weave through, but the views from the top of this palace are simply breath-taking.

My tip: wear sturdy, comfortable shoes as some of the paths are uneven and can be challenging to navigate.

The Confucius Temple

This is the second largest Confucius temple in China. Many people whole-heartedly recommend the nearby Llama Temple, and whilst lovely, my pick in this area is most definitely the Confucius Temple. The Confucius Temple is not nearly as popular (so there are generally far less people there), and it has a much more tranquil feel to it. Here you can slowly weave around the grounds exploring courtyards, the beautiful stone and painted artworks, and admire the truly beautiful ancient trees.

My tip: this is a fairly small temple, so relax and take your time to really appreciate and absorb the vibe here; it’s a lovely little oasis from the hustle and bustle.

The Great Wall of China

You can’t come to China and not see the Great Wall! Set aside a full day for this to allow for transport to and from the wall, walking up and back from your transport, and of course photos, a lunch/snack break, and exploring. There’s a part of the wall to suit almost everyone’s fitness level and taste: some parts of the wall have been restored, some are super touristy, other parts are quite ‘rugged’, and are paths less travelled. You can choose to either walk all your way around, or grab a cable car up and back, and walk a little less.

My tip: for something a little different, try tobogganing down the hill from the wall at the end of your day.

Great Wall of China

One last tip for traveling in Beijing: of course, it pays to check the weather and smog levels before heading out for the day, but sometimes you don’t’ have the luxury of time. If that’s the case, I recommend investing in a good quality face mask to filter the air for you.

So there you have it, my 6 can’t miss attractions in Beijing. Of course, with a city as massive, and historically and culturally rich as Beijing, there are so many more things to do there, you could easily fill several weeks with amazing activities! Hopefully this list gives you some good ideas, and at the very least, a good starting point for you trip to Beijing! Enjoy!

What are your favorite attractions in Beijing? Let us know below.

Written by the Travelling Penster

Living Like a Local: How Do I Get WeChat?

I arrived in China before WeChat had taken over everything. In fact, I still remember carrying cash around and routinely taking out money from the ATMs. But I also lived in Luoyang at the time, which isn’t as developed and modern as Beijing and Shanghai. But I remember relying on the desktop version of QQ to contact people (QQ was all the rage back then) but there was no English version for phones just yet, and naturally the phone version of QQ did not include a translator. Things have sure changed!

Launched in 2011, QQ’s owner, Tencent, launched Wechat. A new instant messaging app that has since then taken China, and some parts of the world even, by storm. Similar to WhatsApp, Line, and other messaging apps, on the surface, but WeChat has developed a very sophisticated network of mini-apps, games, payment options, taxi-hailing, and bike-sharing. You can access just about anything form WeChat these days, and it can seem daunting at first, but believe me, just like Alipay, WeChat is a must have for anyone living in China.

Stay Connected

The most critical function of WeChat is to connect with people. You can stay in touch with friends and relatives, inside China and out. I had my family back in Denmark get WeChat on their phones because I do not always have access to Facebook. So now I can chat and call my parents and my sister with ease. You can send text messages, voice messages, videos, share your location, send a location, do voice- and video calls. WeChat has it all.

You can also let the world around you know what you are up to, using your Moments. Moments are similar to Facebook posts, and allow you to post short video clips, up to 9 pictures or text messages that others can “like” and comment on. This is how my family knows what I am doing every day.

You can add users based on their WeChat username, their phone number, QQ number (if they initially had one) and a personal QR code.

In WeChat you can also create chat groups. Groups can easily hold up to 500 members, and with some upgrades, they can have up to 1000 members. Groups are great for a couple of friends organizing an event or activity, or just putting your whole family together or even your department at work.

Shopping

WeChat pay, a feature similar to Alipay, has also become one of the cornerstones of WeChat. Restaurants, shops, even street vendors now allow you to pay with WeChat. You can have money in your WeChat wallet, or you can link your WeChat wallet to your bank-card as you do in Alipay and then do payments via scanning their QR code and sending the specified amount of money, or you can open WeChat pay, and they will scan your payment code. It is simple, efficient and very safe.

So how do I get WeChat?

Well, I am glad you asked!

WeChat can be found in most APP stores today, either as WeChat or 微信 (weixin) it’s Chinese name. Don’t worry, if you download the Chinese version of the app, you can change the language to English later. Open the app on your phone, and you can change the language on the front screen at the top right corner, log in at the bottom left, and sign up for your account at the bottom right.

On the following screen, you should enter your name, select the region of your phone number (in my case, I am already in China), enter your phone number and select a password. The password should be between 8-16 characters long and contain a symbol as well as a number. For example WeChat?0005

Click the green Sign Up button, and you’ll be taken through a little security check where you have to drag the missing piece of the picture onto the correct spot.

Next you’ll have to agree to the Privacy Policy guidelines, and finally, you will be asked to do an SMS verification. Using your phone number, send the shown text message to their number (you can click the “Send SMS” button, and it will do it for you). Once you’ve sent the message, return to the WeChat app and click the SMS Sent. Go to Next Step button, and after a short verification, your WeChat account will be open and ready for use!

Living Like a Local: How Do I Get an Alipay Account?

Alipay or 支付宝 (ZhiFuBao) is an excellent example of one of those apps in China that just make life so much more convenient. I am from Denmark, and we consider ourselves pretty tech savvy, but China really has it nailed when it comes to convenience and going cashless. I rarely have to pay cash anymore, as I can pay anything from utilities to groceries a flight, or train tickets directly using my phone. On top of this, Alipay is safe, and transactions are insured against fraud! Also, the app is in English! Bonus!

Once you have an Alipay account and you have it setup on your phone, you can use Alipay to:

  • Pay utilities for your apartment, such as Water, Gas, Electricity, and Internet Services.
  • Charge your phone bill.
  • Order a Taxi or a Didi (car service)
  • Transfer and Receive money
  • Shop on almost all Chinese websites like TaoBao and JingDong.
  • Pay in stores, bars, and restaurants, even most street vendors.

To set up an Alipay account, you will need to have your passport handy, along with your Chinese Phone number and your Chinese Bank Card.

I will go through the process of setting up an Alipay account on my Android phone, but the process is the same on an iPhone with iOS.

Step One: Downloading the App

The first thing you need is to downloads the app on your phone. You can download the app from the Google Play Store (using a VPN) or any other App Store you have access to. I will be looking through the App Store on my phone.

Finding and Downloading the Alipay app

Step Two: Setting Up Your Account

When you open Alipay for the first time, you’ll be asked to log in or Sign up. Select Sign up and use your Chinese mobile phone number to create your account. Alipay will verify your phone number and send you a 4-digit confirmation code that you need to enter. You will also be asked to choose a login password for Alipay. In the future, you can login using your phone number and this password.

Signing up for a new account using your phone number

Step Three: Adding your Chinese Bank Card

While adding your bank card isn’t strictly necessary to use Alipay, it is definitely the best way to go. You could ask a friend to transfer money into our Alipay account, but linking your bank card means you can top up your balance by yourself or pay with your card directly. When you open up Alipay you will be taken to the front page where you can see some of the most used mini apps.

Alipay Homepage and Account Details
  • Transfer – Send and receive money
  • Card Repay – If you have a credit card, you can pay it off here
  • Top Up – For charging your phone account
  • Yu’E Bao – Chinese Investment Opportunities
  • Movies – Ordering movie tickets
  • Didi Taxi – Order a taxi or a private car (Think Uber)
  • Utilities – Here you can pay utilities for your apartment
  • Zhima Credit – Points used to exchange for gifts
  • Air & Rail – For buying Flight and Train Tickets
  • Activity – Shows your recent transaction activities
  • ShareBike – Some cities offer bike sharing
  • More – There are many more uses for Alipay.

You can also see a snippet that says I spent ¥136.00 so I can easily keep track of the money I spent through Alipay.

After clicking the Me button in the lower-right corner you will be taken to the account management screen. Here you can check your balance, fill out your information and more importantly add your bank cards.

Step Four: Adding Your Bank Card

Note: Due to the standard naming convention used in China, I highly recommend that when you have your bank card opened, that you enter your name in ALL CAPS and in the order “LAST NAME” “FIRST NAME” “MIDDLE NAME”. For example, my name is Mikkel Stig Larsen, but my bank card will say LARSEN MIKKEL STIG.  This is how they will enter your name off of your passport, so if your name in your bank account has a different order, you might not be able to link your card!

Here I have clicked the “Bank Cards” option and clicked the plus icon in the top corner to come to the first screen below. Start by entering your bank card number (the one printed on the card). Alipay will already know which bank you are using.

(Alipay might ask you to create a 6-digit payment password before you can add a bank card. It may also ask you to create this password later, after adding the card).

Depending on the kind of card you are adding, Credit card or Debit Card, it may ask for different information but you will always need to confirm your name, ID Type (usually passport) and your passport number as well as the Chinese phone number you used to open your bank card with.

Note: In order to use your bank card through a phone app like Alipay you have to request the feature when you open the card or you can go to the bank and request it be opened.

Adding a Bank Card

You will receive another verification SMS message on your phone for linking your bank card to Alipay, once you have entered the text, you should be good to go.

If you are unable to link your bank card, it could be because of how your name is written on your Bank Card. When I first opened my bank card, they wrote my name as MIKKEL STIG LARSEN which is correct, but it doesn’t work when linking the bank card.

Step Five: Paying with Alipay

Now that you have your Alipay account set up and you have your bank card linked, you can start topping up your account, shopping on Chinese websites or paying at restaurants and shops.

On the main screen, you’ll see 4 big icons on a blue background.

Alipay Top Bar

Scan – lets you scan a shop or a person’s QR code and transfer an amount to them. Street vendors, Taxi drivers, and some stores prefer this method. You will see a QR code with an Alipay logo on it, just scan it and transfer the amount you have to pay.

Pay – opens up a QR code that a seller will scan on your phone. Typically bigger stores and supermarkets use this. When they scan your QR code they automatically withdraw money from your account.

Collect – lets you receive money from others.

Offers – will have offers like discounts and coupons for you to use.

Note: When you are paying shops and sellers, make sure to choose which “wallet” you are using to pay with. Using your “balance” means paying with the money that is in your Alipay wallet. Paying with one of your linked cards is the same as physically taking out your bank card and paying with it. Regardless of the method you use, you will have to enter the 6-digit payment password you created when you added your card!

Congratulations, you are well on your way to Living like a Local in China!