If you are getting ready to move or come visit China and Dalian, you probably are very excited about all the amazing things that you will get to do and experience. In the midst of the excitement, though, there are still some of the less exciting, everyday things that you need to think about. This post helps ask some of the mundane questions and gives you some tips about different miscellaneous things that you will need to do in preparation for coming. I hope it can be a help to you.
How will I get my money, banking, etc.?
You can easily withdraw money at a local ATM. Most ATMs will allow you to use your American bank`s debit card to withdraw money in the local Chinese RMB currency. Depending on your account type and what ATM you use there may be a small ATM fee as well as a percentage that your American bank charges to do a currency conversion. ATMs are located everywhere in Dalian and most of the time you can access them twenty-four hours a day.
You can also get a local bank account and debit card. You must bring your passport with you to the bank and have a local Chinese address. Not every bank will do an account for a foreigner so you must find a bank that will. ICBC and China Construction Bank both issue accounts for foreigners. The card you receive when opening an account is the only card that is issued for that bank account. The card number on the debit card will be the same number as your account number. You set a six digit password for the account, and you use that password whenever you use the card. You can deposit money into this account via a local ATM and use the card throughout China.
One of the advantages of getting a Chinese bank card is that you can link it to the wallet feature in the WeChat app. By using the card through WeChat, you can pay your phone bill, send money to someone, buy movie tickets, order a taxi, and in some cities even pay your utilities. All this can be done from your phone using your local bank card.
What preparations can we make before leaving for the field?
Depending on your situation, purpose, and length of your stay in China there will be a multitude of things that you will need to do before moving to China. You probably will have a hard time thinking of everything needed. In this section I will name some things you may need to do before coming to China.
Physical Exams-If you are moving to China for a long period of time it would probably be wise to go ahead and have a doctor do a physical for you. If you have a medical condition that must be treated in the United States, you would want to find out about it before moving all the way to China.
Vaccinations-If you or your kids have any vaccinations due, it is best that you get them before coming to China. High-quality vaccinations, like we have in the United States, are not available in China unless they are imported in. The Chinese vaccinations have a higher risk of ill side effects. You can get the imported vaccinations in Beijing and perhaps at other international hospitals in China. However, it is best to save the time and expense and get as many of your vaccinations done as possible before moving to China.
WeChat-You should download WeChat before coming to China and go ahead and add as contacts the people you will be seeing or visiting when you get to China. If you don`t download it before you come, you will have trouble getting it set up until you get a Chinese phone number. Having it already downloaded allows you to message people using WiFi as soon as you land. You don`t have to wait to get your phone set up.
VPN-It is a good idea to have a VPN set up and working on your computer and phone before coming to China. That way as soon as you land you will be able to access the websites you need that are blocked in China. You will not have to wait to get one set up.
Documents– It is probably a good idea to get an international drivers license in the United States before coming to China. Although it is not recognized in China, it will be useful for you to have in case of traveling to nearby countries.
If you plan to change to a different visa from a tourist or other visa while in China, you will need to get a copy of your marriage license and your kid`s birth certificates certified by the Chinese Embassy in the United States. This will need to be done before coming to China.
Banking-It is best to carry an international credit card that is in both you and your spouse`s name that can be used while traveling internationally. This will be helpful in a case of a long plane delay or other travel emergency. It is a good idea to have two checking accounts set up that you can use to withdraw funds from while living here. This way in case you lose the bank card to one of the accounts, you are still able to access your money using the other checking account. Also, before leaving make sure to notify your bank and credit card companies that you will be traveling. This way they don’t lock your card for seeing a “suspicious Chinese transaction” when you use it.
There are probably many more things needed in preparation for coming to China than the few things I named here. However, I hope this will give you some help getting a start on figuring out what preparation you need to do before coming here.
Do I need a will? Why?
If you do not have very many assets in China, then there really is no reason to have a separate will in China. The purpose of a will is to disperse your assets to people you name once you die. If you have minimal assets in China there is no reason to have a separate will as it is likely that the cost and trouble of getting an official Chinese last will and testament will not be justified for just a few small assets.
However, If you do have several large assets in China, it would be beneficial to look into getting a Chinese last will and testament in addition to your valid US will. The reason is that a US will while valid in the US it may not be considered valid in China. It may not be written according to the standards of Chinese laws, Chinese laws may require your estate to be divided differently than you spell out on your will , and lastly a US will is written in English. Your estate would maybe have to pay for a costly official translation of it into Chinese for it to be deemed valid. For these reasons if you own considerable assets in China, I would look into writing up an official Chinese will.
How do you do laundry and dry-cleaning in the country?
Washing machines are readily available in Dalian. There are all sorts of sizes and styles. Many people use a washing machine to wash their clothes and then hang them up to dry on a rack in their apartment or on a balcony. This seems to be the most common way that people do their laundry.
Picture of Washing machines for sale at a local appliance store
Drying machines are also available for sale but are not as readily available as the washing machines. I walked into an appliance store to look at the machines they had for sale. About 90% of the machines were washing machines it seemed like, and only a few were dryers. This doesn`t mean that you can`t get a dryer. If you want one, you can easily get one. You can custom order a dryer or find one that you like at a store. They just aren`t used near as much as washing machines by the local Dalian people. Probably because most people can`t afford them.
picture of a dryer for sale at a local appliance store
Dry cleaning is readily available in Dalian. There are many small dry-cleaning places scattered around the city at convenient locations. They even offer to pick up and drop off your clothes for you if you live close enough. I attached a photo of the price list of a local dry cleaners for reference. The prices seem fairly reasonable. Your average piece of clothing will cost about 3$ based on an exchange rate of 6 to 1. While living here, if you need your clothes dry cleaned you will be able to get them done without any problem.
Dry CLEANING PRICE LIST
Can we drink the water?-Do they have water purification?
The water in Dalian is not safe to drink straight from the tap. I have asked ten different local Chinese people about the water, and none of them have told me that the water is safe to drink from the tap. Even the local people know that the water is not very safe. Many of them said that if I boil the water then it would be safe to drink. However, I have also been told by some of the foreigners that live here that even boiled the water would still contain heavy metals or strong chemicals. These could cause health problems long term if someone continually drinks the tap water. I would say the safest thing to do would be to stay away from drinking the tap water altogether. There is an abundance of bottled water for sale that is safe to drink. You can buy bottled water in regular bottles at the store, or you can buy a water dispenser and have the big blue bottles of water delivered to your house.
There are water purification systems for sale. Online you can browse a multitude of different kinds and systems that you can buy and install. These systems probably help make the water significantly safer, but I still don`t think they would remove all the bad things in the water. I think the safest thing to do in Dalian is to buy bottled purified water that is safe to drink.
Picture of different water filtering systems for sale online
What kind of clothing can I buy in “Country”? Do they have my size?
All kinds of clothing and styles are available for purchase in the many different malls and stores around the city. You will find little clothing stores scattered everywhere. You will have no difficulty in finding clothes that you can buy. The question is will they have the style you like and will your size be available.
Chinese people are generally smaller than people in America. Therefore, the big sizes of clothes and shoes needed by some Americans will not be readily available in China.
According to extensive research done in 2008 by Alvanon, the global size and fit expert here is a list of the average sizes of Chinese people compared with Americans.
— Average Chinese Female Height 5’4″; Weight 125 Pounds; Chest 31″; Waist 28″; Low Hip 35″
— Average U.S. Female Height 5’4″; Weight 155 Pounds; Chest 37″; Waist 34″; Low Hip 42″
— Average Chinese Male Height 5’8″; Weight 145 Pounds; Chest 35″; Waist 31″; Low Hip 36″
— Average U.S. Male Height 5’9″; Weight 191 Pounds; Chest 41; Waist 37; Low Hip 41″
As you can tell from these statistics, Americans generally weigh a lot more than Chinese people and need much larger sizes. People that are above average American weight will probably have trouble finding clothes that fit or at least will have a limited selection. If this is your case, then you may want to consider bringing over all or the majority of your clothes from the states.
For pants size, if you wear a larger size than a large for men (Waist 36-38) and a size 10 for women (Waist 30-32) then you will have a hard time finding your size. It may be available in some places, but you will have to look hard and will not have as much of a selection.
For the shirt size, the largest I have seen is a double XXL for men and an XL for women. It is definitely hard or maybe impossible to find a bigger size than these, and I am not sure that the selection would be very good even at these sizes.
Most shoes that you find for sale at a local shoe store will have the size in millimeters printed on the shoe. See photo below:
This shoe`s size is 280mm or 28.0centimeters
Sometimes stores that sell imported shoes or a store at a nice mall will also tell you the size in a scale similar to the one used in Europe. Also even if the shoe does not have this size printed on them, the storekeepers will know what the approximate European size is. If you tell them your European shoe size, they will be able to find you a shoe that fits very quickly. The following charts are helpful in comparing the sizes. Take out the decimal point in the centimeter section to know the shoe size in millimeters.
Mens and Womens Shoe Size Comparison Charts
The men`s shoe in the picture above is 28.0 centimeters which according to the chart makes it about a size 44 European and a size 11 US. These charts are helpful, but it is best also to try the shoe on to make sure it is the right size. China doesn`t have as large of shoe sizes available as the US. In most stores, the largest shoe size will be an 11US (44Eu) for men and an 8.5US (39Eu) for women. If you wear shoes larger than this, it will probably be best to bring shoes with you when you move here.
A great resource for foreigners in buying clothes is the GAP store located in the Pavilion mall in Dalian. This store has a good selection of clothes that are similar to the clothes you would find in the GAP stores in the United States. Also, even the sizes are printed the same way as you would find in the States.
Resources used in writing this article:
- Shoe Size Comparison Charts Used From http://www.zappos.com/c/shoe-size-conversion