Friday, April 14, 2017


China is moving fast! I came to Suzhou almost five years ago and I witnessed many things changing during this period: new building have been built, new residential areas have been developed, many shops have been opened and many other closed. Technology has also changed: in 2012 nobody used his smartphone to pay his coffee at Starbucks or his grocery at the market, nowadays everybody does. Back then, I didn’t even own a smartphone (in Italy I used my mobile only to make phone calls, text to friends and take a glance at the clock) but, once arrived here, I soon realized that I needed one of those gizmos. Day by day, my smartphone became one of my best friends: I couldn’t live without it! I’m not speaking about being addicted to social network or email checking (here Facebook and Google don’t work, anyway!) but about finding some easy and simple solution to everyday small problems and needs.

So, which are the five things you really need as soon as you set your foot in China?

1) A smartphone, of course. I take for granted that you already have one. But, if not, do yourself a favor and buy it!

2) A Chinese SIM card. It’s easy: you just need to choose one of the providers (e.g. China Mobile, China Telecom), get into their shop (there are plenty everywhere) with your passport and, in a way or another, choose a plan. Usually, for less than 100 RMB/month you can get a good plan with enough minutes and data. Maybe you can ask a Chinese friend or colleague to help you with this if you think it’s too complicated. They will make you choose a telephone number (numbers are an important matter in China, so choose wisely!) and a password and finally will install your brand new SIM card on your phone. That’s simple! Remember that every month you have to pay your fee, otherwise you won’t be able to call, receive calls and use data: you can go to every “your provider” shop or use Wechat (next step!). If you don’t pay for three months your SIM will automatically expire and you’ll have to buy a new one. 

3) WeChat account, if you don’t have one already. WeChat is an instant messaging and social media application and almost everybody in China uses it, both locals and expats. Believe me: not installing it on your phone will make you feel isolated from the rest of the community! It will be useful to you not only to chat with friends, be part of groups (very common here, we create groups for virtually anything!), share your pictures or links on Moments, but also to call a taxi and pay your bills (see step no. 5!)

4) A bank account. Don’t be afraid: this is also very easy! The biggest banks may also have branches in where there is someone who speaks English, check among your friends if they know. All you need is your passport and a small amount of cash to make your first deposit (usually not more than 100 RMB). They will make you choose a password and you’ll have to digit it a couple of time, they will ask your information such as telephone number and give you your Union bank card and your online banking login credentials, plus a bunch of paper that you will keep with care. Now you are ready for the next and last step!

5) WeChat wallet. once you have your bank card, you can link it to your WeChat account and activate your WeChat wallet. This will be extremely useful for your life in China, sometimes even vital! With WeChat wallet you’ll be able to buy online using e-store apps such as Yihaodian or JD, pay your bills at the restaurant or in the shops, call and pay a taxi (using DiDi app, which is already inside WeChat menu), pay your mobile phone’s monthly fee or your utilities. If all this sounds unnecessary to you, is because you don’t live in China yet!  

It may seem complicated (and sometimes it is!), but if you can find a friend who can help everything will go smoothly. And, believe me, the sooner you’ll manage to get these things, the better your daily life will be! 

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