The first week of living in China is crazy, you will most likely remember nothing that is told to you and everything seems just... well strange. This craziness is why we all love China, it’s got its own system and method to everything, the learning curve is steep but oh how it will pay off in the future.
Given your first week will send your head spinning we wanted to give you a quick list of things that will make your life so much easier from day one.
1. Register with the local police
(Temporary Residence Permit)
This is something that might make you uncomfortable or seem weird but you must do it. Within 24 hours of arriving in China by law you MUST register with the local police station. They want to know where you are living, this is a must for all foreigners in China whether you like it or not. There are big fines if you get caught not doing it.
Technically if you stay somewhere for more than 24 hours you will have to register with the local police, this is up to you but at least do it when you live somewhere.
When you go to register with the local police then take your passport (which has your visa) and the contract/lease for the residence you are staying in.
2. Mobile/cell phone number
This may seem really obvious but it’s even more important in China because everything runs on your mobile. China missed the whole PC generation that the west had, they went straight to smartphones, this means nearly everything in China is linked to your mobile phone. You will learn that using email here is rare. Things like WeChat and QQ will dominate your life.
WeChat is Chinese Facebook but it’s so much more than that, it’s your taxi app, bicycle rental app, bank account, method of payment online and offline, networking device and so so much more. Once you have WeChat then you will be hooked into China’s ecosystem mostly.
Tip: To avoid forgetting your password and losing everything (including the money on your WeChat wallet) when you sign up for it, link it to your email at the very least. Then if you ever forget your password or have your phone stolen then you can simply send a password reset email.
4. Bank Account
Getting a bank account is another obvious one but it will allow you to link directly to your WeChat and Alipay accounts. Once you are linked to those accounts you can pay for things offline (on the street, in restaurants and nearly anywhere) as well as online and you can even instantly transfer money to friends directly from your WeChat or Alipay.
Tip: Make sure they put your correct name on your bank account in an order you remember. Every bank account you get must have the same name and order, if it doesn’t then you will not be able to link more than one bank account up to your WeChat and Alipay.
Unlike the western banking system, China instantly verifies your name for any electronic connection to your account. Chinese banks have trouble with western names and therefore put them in weird orders or only partially.
Bank accounts to my WeChat pay because one was John Jack Doe and the other was Doe Jack John.
WeChat Pay is your link to the Chinese world, it’s literally amazing how much this will open up China to you. You can do everything from pay the woman on the corner who sold you breakfast from the back of her motorbike all the way to Taobao (the world’s largest market place).
WeChat Pay is very easy to setup:
1. Press ‘Me’ down the bottom right hand corner.
2. Press ‘Wallet’.
3. Press ‘Cards’.
4. Press ‘Add a Card’.
5. Enter your bank account name (This must be the exact same order as your bank account and use upper case or lower case the same as well).
6. Enter the card number or use the camera to find it.
7. Then enter your passport number and mobile phone number.
8. Then you’ll be sent an SMS verification number, enter it to verify your phone number.
9. Then you are all set to go.
Tip: WeChat Pay acts as a wallet and a bank card. You can either keep money on your WeChat like a bank account or directly draw from your bank account every time you want to pay for something.
Link into the Local Social World
This is important for your sanity, to make friends and also to start learning quickly about China. Connecting to the local social world is a long road given WeChat isn’t as open as Facebook. You can’t just search groups you want to be a part of on WeChat, you have to be invited to them.
To quickly connect into the WeChat groups in your local area I would recommend jumping on Facebook, most cities will have an expat group. Once you are on the expat group then ask about a local WeChat group you want to be invited into or just a general question and put your WeChat ID up (warning you might get weird people add you). People will add you on WeChat and then you can ask for any local groups of interest or about areas of interest you want to visit.
When I first came to Nanjing I put a post-up on the Nanjing Expat group asking where a local techno club was. I then got some WeChat’s and then it all went from there. Expats have a lot of groups for nearly anything so you can probably find what you are after.
Pleco is a translator, dictionary and Chinese teaching app and it’s really freaking awesome. I recommend downloading Pleco and buying the basic pack. The basic pack will get you everything you need, the most important in for new comers I think is the live OCR function which allows you to point your phones camera at Chinese characters and it will translate it instantly... this is important when ordering food!!!