Ten essential apps for first-time expats in China

Ten essential apps for first-time expats in China

Ten essential apps for first-time expats in China

If you’re heading for China, these 10 apps will help avoid mistakes and enhance your experience.

To the vast majority of Westerners, China is one big mystery, notwithstanding endless coverage on TV and online. Becoming an expat in this vast, confusing land with its mysterious history and even more mysterious modern version of Mandarin Chinese is a magical, unforgettable experience. However, you’ll need help to get it right, with these 10 apps giving you most of all you’ll need to know.

The infamous Great Firewall of China won’t cause you any problems if you set up a VPN before you arrive. These virtual private networks override the firewall’s blocking action, allowing you to surf as normal via a secure internet connection able to access all your favourite sites as well as streaming movies and connecting with friends and family back home. Another essential is Google Translate, important for everyday contact with locals. It’s blocked in China, so download it before you leave, along with the PLECO English-Chinese dictionary famous for its language-learning, its native-speaker pronunciation and its OCR.

Another must-have is the ever-popular WeChat messaging app, on which you can do just about everything including ordering meals, booking flights and translating messages in Chinese. China is now galloping towards being the first cashless society in the world, with AliPay and WeChat Pay all you need to buy everything on your shopping list the easy, safe way. The only snag is the software only connects to Chinese bank cards. Taxi-hailing services are essential for newcomers, with the DiDi app the best answer when the subway’s shut and you’ve missed the last bus. It translates automatically between English and Chinese, making communication straightforward.

Baidu Map is a handy aid to city navigation, showing routes, times and other essentials, and AMap is its equally useful alternative. For expats staying healthy, another way to get around is by using the bike-sharing app Mobike. Bike sharing is popular in China’s massive cities as it helps avoid the equally massive traffic jams. If you can’t be bothered to cook, the Eleme and Dianping apps are lifesavers, providing a selection of meals for all times of day and night at cheaper rates than the majority of restaurants. If you’re a huge fan of online shopping, downloading TaoBao’s platform is the answer to all your needs and, if quality counts for you, the JD app gives strict control over what it sells as well as good returns policies.

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