been argued that the Web is more of a burden than a tool to make
life easier. Think about wasted productivity checking e-mail, hours
spent surfing useless sites, or whittling away the day watching
YouTube. China is case in point.
Who hasn't visited a .cn site muddled with flashy advertising,
jumbled text and links to English pages that don't work? You click
the English link and nothing happens. Click again, nothing. Keep
clicking and clicking until you're in a rage and just want to smash
Expat life in China isn't easy, and
despite the cluster the Web can be used to make it easier. There are
some go-to Web pages every expat should know, notably the city
magazines - That's Beijing
(www.thatsbj.com) and That's Shanghai (www.thatssh.com),
and City Weekend (www.cityweekend.com.cn), which covers
Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Sites devoted entirely to expat life are also invaluable.
Try AsiaXPAT (www.asiaxpat.com) or Beijing Expat (www.beijingexpat),
to name a few. Other sites cover a range of expat needs, from
healthcare to dining. China Daily sifted through the mess
to find the sites that work.
Finding a decent apartment in China can be tough,
especially one that is well-maintained and reasonably priced.
According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Beijing and Shanghai are now the 20th and 26th
most expensive cities in the world for expats to live in - largely
due to housing costs.
best bets for finding an affordable apartment are the city magazine
websites (both That's Beijing and That's
Shanghai carry apartment listings and roommate wanted
classifieds). Craigslist (www.craigslist.org) also has apartment
listings for Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Beijing, check out Wuwoo
(www.wuwoo.com), a bilingual site with an interactive map that lists
available properties by location. BJApartment (www.bjapartment.com)
also has good listings by location and price. If your dream is to
live in a newly renovated hutong, try Beijing Courtyards
(www.beijingcourtyards.com). This artsy site guides viewers through
remodeled hutong courtyard houses available for rent or
bed-and-breakfast stays. They are gorgeous but not
Beijing and Shanghai metro
websites (www.bjsubway.com and www.shtmetro.com) are easy to
navigate and have train timetables and guides to buying tickets.
Astonishingly, neither site has a system map. Maps can be found with
a quick Google search or on Wikipedia (for Beijing,
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Subway - that is, when Wikipedia is
prize for best English-language public transportation site goes to
Guangzhou Metro (www.gzmtr.com/en), thanks to its printable map
(stations are listed only in Chinese characters, however).
Information on Beijing bus routes can be found at
Beijing Public Transport Holdings web page
public hospitals in Chinese cities don't have English sites. Best to
stick to private clinics anyway, where English-speaking staff are
more common. International SOS, with clinics in Beijing, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Tianjin, has a website
(www.internationalsos.com) with information about services for expat
healthcare in China and elsewhere. For
alternative medicine, the Traditional Chinese Medicine International
Service Complex's website (www.tcmtreatment.com) isn't going to win
any design awards, but it does claim to be the world's biggest
English-language Chinese medicine website. Acupunture.com
(www.acupuncture.com) is also home to a wealth of info on Chinese
hotel and airline bookings, start with eLong (www.elong.com),
Expedia's China partner. eLong
provides access to 3,000 hotels in 280 Chinese cities and flight
ticket services in China's 50 major cities.
The site is easy to use and reliable. For other electronic bookings,
try Ctrip (www.ctrip.com), China Travel (www.chinatravel.com) or
Fancy a horseback riding trip to the Inner Mongolian grasslands but don't want to go
alone? How about hiking the Longsheng Terraced Hills or exploring
Huangshan Mountain? Check out the
Chinese Culture Club (www.chinesecultureclub.org). CCC organizes
tours and events that focus more on experiencing China through its
culture, less on boozing with backpackers. The website has
information on Chinese culture classes, such as calligraphy and ink
and water paintings, and news on upcoming cultural talk and
other travel needs: A comprehensive Beijing travel guide is available
at the Beijing International Travel website
(http://china.citw2008.com/), including information on visa
services, travel within and outside the city and flight bookings.
Package tours - including Yangtze River cruises, Silk Road tours and customized individual,
family and group packages - can be made through China Highlights
(www.chinahighlights.com), or China Tour (www.chinatour.com). Train
schedules are available at Travel China's website
There are a ton of Chinese language resources on the Web
but few as engaging as ChinesePod (www.chinesepod.com). Founded in
2005 by a group of language training and technology experts in
Shanghai, ChinesePod offers daily
podcasts, featuring pick-your-own lessons for beginner to advanced.
The site has 614 lessons so far, ranging from "Asking for a phone
number" at the Newbie level, to "Abducted by aliens" at the Upper
Intermediate level, and "Counterfeit iPhone" at the Advanced
Another good hanyu site is eChineseLearning
(www.echineselearning.com). The service allows students to
communicate live with a professional Chinese teacher through instant
messaging services like Skype, MSN or Google Talk. Private lessons
cost as little as $4.50 and are available for children to adults,
with topics ranging from Chinese culture to business
it comes to eating in China, start with How to
Order Chinese Food.com (www.howtoorderchinesefood.com). The site
features pictures, pinyin names and Chinese characters for an
assortment of Chinese dishes ranging from Kung Pao Chicken
(gongbao jiding) to a dish called Smells Like Fish Pork
(yuxiang rousi), which, according to the site, is "a sweet
and moderately spicy Sichuan pork dish cooked with wood ear mushroom
and green hot peppers".
delivery, try Beijing Goodies (www.beijinggoodies.com). Goodies
delivers food and drink from nearly 30 restaurants to home or
office. If you live in Beijing's Chaoyang District, within
the fourth ring road, delivery is within 60 minutes. The site is
easy to navigate and restaurant choices can be divided by country,
price, flavor and area.
Another good one is Isender (www.isender.com.cn), which
delivers from 27 restaurants in Beijing. The site's English isn't
great but it does allow for online ordering.
Shanghai bagel lovers, check out
Shanghai Bagel (www.shanghaibagel.com), which will delivery to your
doorstep all your bagel needs, including whipped butter, Skippy
creamy peanut butter and 10 different kinds of
an evening out, Clubzone (www.clubzone.cn) has to be
nightlife website. Clubzone has nearly 22,000 members and includes
listings of nightclubs in Beijing,
Shanghai and other major cities,
and it also sponsors its own parties. The site is too flashy, but
contains all the essentials for navigating urban China's bourgeoning club
(China Daily August