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FIRST EDITION 2010

THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE BEIJING WWW.BRITISHSCHOOL.ORG.CN


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TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREPARING TO GO

THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE BEIJING

HISTORY PEOPLE & CULTURE LANGUAGE GEOGRAPHY CLIMATE ADMINISTRATIVE PREPARATIONS BOOKS, FILMS & MUSIC

WHEN YOU ARRIVE 54 58 64 66 70 74 84 88 92 94 104

Essentials Guide Beijing 1st Edition Copyright © The British School of Beijing 2010 All Rights Reserved Chief Editor - Travis Murray Primary Design - Shanghai Yang Ma Advertising Primary Copywriting - Tom Bewick Secondary Copywriting - Travis Murray, Mike Embley, Laura Westley Proofreading - Aelred Doyle While every possible effort has been taken to ensure that the facts contained within this guide are accurate, The British School of Beijing cannot accept any responsibility for any errors or omissions that this guide may contain. No part of this guide may be reproduced, or distributed by electronic means or any other without the prior permission of the British School of Beijing.

20 26 32 34 38 40 46

LIVING IN BEIJING HEALTH & WELLNESS PRACTICING RELIGION EATING & DRINKING SHOPPING TOURIST ATTRACTIONS FAMILY ACTIVITES GETTING INVOLVED BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS

126 132 136 142 150 156 162 172

LANDING GETTING AROUND MONEY & BANKING GETTING CONNECTED HEALTH CARE TEMPORARY ACCOMODATION FINDING HOUSING GETTING SETTLED CULTURE SHOCK EDUCATION EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT


Introduction

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here is no easy way to prepare for a place like Beijing. There is simply nothing else like it in the world. Beijing is a dynamic, vibrant, inspiring and cosmopolitan metropolis. Most expats reveal experiencing an overall feeling that ‘this is where things are happening’. At the same time, Beijing is one of the world’s most historically and culturally rich cities, with six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and over 2,000 years of history. Beijing surprises newcomers with its lasting beauty and street level charm amid alarmingly rapid growth.

The charm lies in the city’s ancient cultural and architectural roots, combined with its unrelenting drive into the future. Although an outsider will always be a laowai (foreigner), the people of Beijing are welcoming. Look forward to good friendships and respectable business relationships with local people.


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eijing has a way of luring people in and keeping them. Be prepared to hear from expats and Chinese alike that they came to Beijing to work or study years ago, and then couldn’t bring themselves to leave, even after experiencing the August heat and January freeze.


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iving and working in Beijing means amazing career opportunities, exciting language challenges and cultural immersion. You can enjoy food from all over Asia, mingle in a large and diverse expatriate community and be a part of the fastest-growing economy in the world. However, this also comes with frustrations. Beijing is crowded, noisy and chaotic.

People push on the subway. The air quality is low. Adjusting to a new language, a new culture and a new government can be frustrating. Acclimating to a vastly different environment takes time, patience, flexibility and a good sense of humour.


Beijing Essentials Guide is designed to help you T hisprepare for Beijing, and settle in once you get there. Despite its challenges, Beijing is an easy place to live as an expat. It has world-class hospitals, Western-standard accommodation and high-quality accredited international schools. Newcomers can find countless cultural events, interest groups and organisations to make Beijing become a home away from home.


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CONTENTS

HISTORY

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PEOPLE & CULTURE

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LANGUAGE

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GEOGRAPHY

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CLIMATE

38

ADMINISTRATIVE PREPARATIONS

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BOOKS, FILMS & MUSIC

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Preparing to go will be as much a mental journey as it will be a practical one. Understanding more about the dramatically different culture you are about to encounter will help prepare you for the experience. You can read a book or watch a movie we recommend or you can engage in your own research. Either way, the process will reward you. The practical aspects of preparation are of course vital to ensuring that your journey begins on a positive note. This section will help you prepare on both fronts.

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HISTORY

HISTORY

History

i The Chinese are intensely proud of their history. Learning more will help you understand the complexities of China better.

The iconic ‘Turret’ of the Forbidden City at night

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ike many of the world’s great cities, Beijing has been defined by its location. Tucked away in the northern corner of China, Beijing is far from the coast and major waterways, making it an unlikely place for a capital city. Unless you are fortunate enough to have a view northward from high up in a building on a clear day, you are unlikely to notice how close Beijing is to the mountains that historically divided the world of steppe nomads beyond the Great Wall from the sedentary agricultural communities on the Beijing side. It was from these northern passes that the non-Han rulers of China who have, over time, held the city longer than ethnically Han regimes, emerged. The historical wheels that created modern-day Beijing were set in motion over 2,000 years ago when the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) began fortifying the city’s northern boundaries from threats from the strategic mountain passes used by nomads to attack and pillage. The ancient Great Wall helped establish the city of Ji, a regional seat of power, and allowed communities to peacefully farm the fertile lands to the south. Throughout the 1,200 years after the fall of the short-lived Qin Dynasty, Beijing was somewhat of a frontier town, frequently changing names and rulers. The Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) was relatively prosperous for several centuries, but eventually succumbed to nomadic tribes. After its collapse, the region came under the domain of a series of kingdoms founded

by proto-Tibetan and Turco-Mongolian nomads. As each kingdom settled in, it used Beijing as a fortified staging ground for strikes against other steppe nomads eyeing the fertile farmlands on the south side of the Great Wall. The Jin Dynasty (1126-1234) was the first to designate the Beijing area as the capital of a significant portion of China. By the late 12th century Zhongdu (Middle Capital) had a population of nearly a million. However, in 1215 Zhongdu was virtually destroyed by one of the most powerful forces to ever cross continental Asia: Genghis Khan’s Mongol armies. Under the reign of Genghis Khan’s grandson Kublai Khan, the Mongols established the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). They chose to govern from Beijing, making it the capital of all China for the first time (Khan’s palace stood in what is now Beihai Park). It was during the Yuan Dynasty that the foundations for modern Beijing were laid, including the city’s rectangular, grid-style layout. Marco Polo amazed Europeans after visiting the Yuan Court with his descriptions of a modern, opulent city using paper money and other unheard-of technologies. Polo described it as “so rich and so beautiful that no man could ever do anything superior to it.”

Ming and Qing Dynasties

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n 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang led his rebel forces to victory over the Mongols, restoring Chinese rule under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). A few decades

The former palace of Kublai Khan at Beihai Park

REALITY CHECK You are moving to one of the world’s great cities... prepare to be overwhelmed.

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HISTORY

HISTORY

i There is no better city in China for those interested in history.

later, Emperor Yongle began a huge construction project with the intention of creating a grand Chinese capital, which he called Beijing (Northern Capital). High walls were built, along with a grand palace, known as the Forbidden City. The Great Wall – the one visible today – was restored and built up, and Ming China became very inward-looking. Eventually, however, inept and apathetic governance bred widespread unrest that paved the way for a takeover by the Manchus, assisted over the Great Wall by a Ming general. The ensuing Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) expanded China to include Manchuria, Mongolia and Tibet. The Qing maintained an ethnic hierarchy, forcibly removing Han families to the southern Outer City. They enlarged the Forbidden City and built enormous imperial pleasure gardens in Beijing’s outskirts, the most famous of these being the Old Summer Palace, which upon completion was said to be more magnificent than Versailles. However, foreign encroachment in the mid- and late 19th century and the resulting discontent would soon doom China’s last empire. The Opium Wars and the Boxer Protocols crippled the Qing Court and humiliated the proud Chinese. The tides of revolution grew, led by Hawaiian-educated doctor Sun Yatsen. When Empress Dowager Cixi died in 1908 and was succeeded by 2-year-old Emperor Puyi, it marked the end of the Qing Dynasty. Dr Sun Yatsen led the military uprising in 1911 that officially ended thousands of years of imperial rule in China.

The May Fourth Movement and the Communist Party

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amed for the demonstration of May 4, 1919, against the attribution to Japan of Germany’s concessions in China by the Allied Powers at Versailles, the May Fourth Movement is credited with initiating the New

Culture Movement. Westernised youth demanded gender equality and a vernacular literature. Around the same time, a young library assistant at Peking University named Mao Zedong was showing interest in the young Communist Party. During the years leading up to World War II (or the War of Japanese Aggression), China was splintered between warlords, Communists (CCP) and the Kuomintang Nationalists (KMT), led by Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek. Full-scale civil war broke out between the CCP and the KMT after the Japanese were expelled in 1945. Mao Zedong led the Communists to victory in 1949, forcing the KMT to retreat to Taiwan. Chiang Kaishek took 13,484 crates of Chinese imperial treasure – hidden from the Japanese in Shanghai – with him. On October 1, 1949, Mao stood on Tiananmen Gate and declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

Revolutionary Beijing

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n the past 50 years, Beijing has arguably changed more than it did in the previous 500. Chairman Mao immediately set about taking down relics of Beijing’s imperial past and rebuilding the city as a functional and industrial capital. Ming Dynasty walls were torn down to make way for the 2nd Ring Road; courtyard homes were subdivided and parcelled out to working families; enormous apartment blocks were constructed; and, in an effort to push China into the industrial age with his Great Leap Forward initiative, small and large factories were built and staffed by agrarian workers to promote steel production. This last initiative was a catastrophe that drove China into famine. During the ‘Cultural Revolution’ that followed (1966-76), many of Beijing’s temples and other architectural treasures were damaged by zealots who saw them as vestiges of Old China.

i Take a walk through one of the remaining hutongs in Beijing and you will see authentic remnants of the revolution.

One of the few remaining hutongs in Beijing

The Great Wall of China

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HISTORY Today’s Beijing

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i Beijing underwent a massive transformation for the 2008 Olympics. Some say the new Beijing is almost unrecognisable.

eijing’s physical transformation was further accelerated after Mao’s death in 1976 under the reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping. Eager to make changes, Deng famously declared that “Reform is China’s second revolution” and that “Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious.” These statements more accurately reflect Beijing’s attitude today than the austerity and cultural purges of Mao’s rule. True to his word, Deng Xiaoping opened up the economy in the 1980s, sparking rapid economic growth and a massive construction boom. Nevertheless, in the 1980s Beijing’s tallest building was still the 17-storey Beijing Hotel. In the 1990s Beijing’s growth was steady, but it hit break-neck speed just after the turn of the millennium, when China was accepted into the World Trade Organisation and awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics. Since then, hundreds of new malls, apartment towers, international hotels and skyscrapers have sprung up across the city, producing a skyline that rivals New York or Chicago. The 2008 Olympics were an opportunity for Beijing to showcase itself as an international city and demonstrate its potential as a world superpower. A logistical success, the games were enjoyed by millions. Thanks to years of vigorous preparations for the Games, Beijing’s infrastructure rivals that of any Western city.

Beijing: The New Frontier?

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eijing is still a frontier city in many ways. State-sponsored projects like the 2008 Olympics have left lasting physical impressions on the city, but the more profound changes defining Beijing are social and economic. Millions of rural migrants have moved to Beijing seeking not only jobs, but also a taste of the glitz and glamour that Beijing now offers as a global

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HISTORY

metropolis. To satisfy the tastes of a new moneyed class, Beijing abounds with new malls, boutiques, international restaurants and flashy nightclubs. As the one-child generation has come of age, it has turned a city of bikes and horse-drawn carts into a city of cars and trucks. Beijing’s youth are independent and outward-looking, heavily influenced by their exposure to international ideas and culture. Indeed, nothing on the gargantuan scale of Beijing’s transformation could have happened without this opening-up to the outside world: foreign investment, technology and millions of annual international visitors have permanently transformed Beijing and China. As China expands, this foreign-driven transformation is becoming reciprocal. Of course, rapid progress has a price. This is initially visible in the air quality. Despite government measures taken prior to the Olympics, Beijing remains one of the world’s most polluted cities. On some days, it is at dangerous levels. Most of the charming old hutongs have been demolished in favor of more efficient people-holding apartment blocks. In fact, unless you are standing in the middle of the Forbidden City, there is little evidence that you are in historical China. And although inflation is centrally controlled, prices are still rising and the poor are not keeping up with the rich. The rapid population increase and improved standard of living have taken a frightening toll on China’s water supply. Only one reservoir remains, and academics fear that by 2020 Beijing will be unsustainable as a city.

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Must-see hutongs are around the area of Gulou. Here you are close to a fantastic lake, Houhai, and a renovated hutong, Nanluoguxiang.

Looking to the future, Beijing will define China, as it has for centuries. It is the frontier of cultural change and economic growth, and of China’s challenges. The nation will continue to look to Beijing for direction.

Beijing SOHO

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PEOPLE & CULTURE Population

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stimates of Beijing’s population vary, depending on whether long-term and temporary migrants are included in the calculation. The residential population is projected to reach 14 million by 2010, which does not include a floating population of 4 to 6 million unregistered migrants. Included in the first number are about 80,000 registered foreigners. The majority of the Chinese are Han, followed by significant numbers of ethnic Hui and Manchu. Koreans are by far the most common foreign nationals in Beijing, followed by Japanese and Americans. Foreigners from every corners of the globe call Beijing home.

i While China remains strongly unified, it is still very diverse. Understanding traditional regional rivalries and differences will help you understand China and the Chinese people better. These differences can be understood by a northsouth east-west relationship. You will find that southerners are different than northerners and easterners are different than westerners. Sound familiar?

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PEOPLE & CULTURE Despite these stereotypes, the truth is that Beijing is immensely diverse and it is difficult to generalise about the attitudes and personalities of its people. The city is, and has always been, a melting pot of different ethnic groups. Chinese people from outside Beijing make up a substantial part of the city’s population, which has doubled since 1978. Given that the one-child policy was introduced in 1979, most of this growth is the result of rural migration. You will find most people in this international city welcoming to foreigners and tolerant of different habits and customs.

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Beijings Foreign Population

Beijingers are well known to be kind and warm hearted with a wicked sense of humour.

Culture

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etting to know a new culture is one of the most exciting aspects of living abroad. A city as vibrant and diverse as Beijing presents endless wonderment to Western visitors. The city is composed of migrants from all over China and the world. Beijing has been China’s political and cultural centre for centuries and, for better or for worse, Beijingers hold that title with great pride. ‘Beijingers’ are generally considered people whose families have lived there for at least two generations. Chinese speakers can distinguish them by the ubiquitous ‘rrrr’ of the local dialect, which non-Beijingers jokingly say sounds like a mouth full of bean curd. They are known in China as being serious and politically savvy. Beijingers, like most Chinese, are welcoming hosts who are proud of their city and their role as bearers of the national torch.

Despite its open and international character, Beijing is still in China and in many respects very Chinese. There are a few intricacies of Chinese etiquette to be aware of before arriving in Beijing.

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PEOPLE & CULTURE Face

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he concept of ‘face’ is prevalent throughout China and can never be underestimated. People go to great lengths to acquire it by displays of wealth or generosity. For example, never insist on paying for a meal hosted by a local, especially if it is in their home. This would be a serious faux pas. Complimenting someone on their appearance or business acumen – especially in front of their pals or colleagues – is a sure winner. Confrontation and public criticism are guaranteed face-destroyers, and will inevitably be counter-productive. When in doubt, be lavish with compliments, or at the very least, be quiet and respectful.

i Expect to see an interesting fusion of Eastern and Western fashion when you arrive in Beijing. What you may consider inappropriate at home does not necessarily apply in Beijing.

In business, understanding ‘face’ can mean the difference between success and failure or promotion and demotion. If you want to become a master, study how locals handle social situations and pay attention to those situations where subordinates are deferential to their superiors.

Gender

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any Westerners misperceive the position and treatment of women in Chinese society. While there is still a lingering ‘old boys club’ mentality in some sectors, you will encounter female professionals in almost every field. Keep in mind that as an expat – male or female – your behaviour will be more heavily scrutinised than if you were Chinese. In some cultures, flirting and casually touching members of the opposite sex is normal and

PEOPLE & CULTURE harmless, but this is generally not the case in Beijing. Even holding hands can be considered very intimate behaviour. Casual flirting can start rumours, particularly in the workplace. It is best for expats to avoid physical contact with acquaintances of the opposite sex in public.

Public behaviour

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void expansive gestures, emotional displays, unusual facial expressions and sarcasm, as these will generate confused reactions. The Chinese dislike being touched by strangers. Conversely, the Chinese generally stand closer to each other than Europeans or North Americans when they are speaking. Putting your hands in your mouth is considered vulgar, so nailbiting and flossing in public are big no-nos. Beijing is a smoker’s paradise. Cigarettes are cheap and smoked by many. A few restaurants are finally offering smoke-free sections. Spitting is very popular, ranging from minor spittle to a full-throttled, lung-rattling, expectorant cough. This is revolting. However, the belief is that it is healthy to expel noxious fluids from the body, and despite half-hearted public efforts to encourage civility, it is hardly on the wane. The Chinese are generally not fond of public displays of affection such as kissing. While you may see women holding the arms of their loved ones, bolder displays are uncommon.

Conversation

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egative replies are considered impolite. Instead of saying ‘No’, answer indirectly. Replies such as ‘Maybe’, ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘We’ll see’ will generate a much better reaction and allow the questioner to save face. When addressing a group, acknowledge the most senior person first. Questions about your age, income and marital status are common. If you don’t want to reveal this information, prepare non-specific responses. Do not be surprised if there are periods of silence during dinner. It is a sign of politeness or thought and need not be broken with uncomfortable small talk.

REALITY CHECK If you want to be happy in China, leave your preconceptions at home and open your mind. Everything will be very different and confusing at times...but the experience will help you understand the world better.

Politics

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void controversial topics such as Falun Gong and Tibet. You’ll immediately be faced with hushed silences and possibly even suspicious stares. Googling these same issues could lead to your server being shut down. Avoid being openly critical of the Chinese state or culture around people you don’t know well, even if it happens to be the topic of conversation. For many Chinese, it is OK if they complain about government policy or activities, but they may take offence to foreigners doing so. When in doubt, it is best to commiserate by lamenting similar problems within your own government or culture.

Prepare to sacrifice personal space in public areas.

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LANGUAGE

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Language

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i For some, Mandarin learning will take a few years, for many, it can take over 10 years to become fluent

hina’s official language is Mandarin Chinese. A notoriously difficult language to learn, it has no set alphabet and instead uses characters, which number approximately 50,000. Fortunately for Mandarin learners, not all are in everyday use and mastery of about 3,000 is enough to read a newspaper. Learning spoken Mandarin is made easier through the use of pinyin, a phonetic system that uses the Roman alphabet to represent characters. Nonetheless, Mandarin is still tricky to learn because it is a tonal language. Each character is assigned one of four main tones in spoken form: first tone (high and level), second tone (rising from medium to high), third tone (starting low, dipping lower and then rising again) and fourth tone (sharply falling from high to low), as well as a fifth neutral tone. Depending on which tone (and character) is employed, the same pinyin word will have numerous meanings. For example, the word ‘ma’ can mean ‘mother’, ‘hemp’, ‘horse’ or ‘to swear or reprimand’, among other things. This, of course, could cause embarrassing misunderstandings.

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he Chinese are generally extremely patient and forgiving with Westerners struggling through Mandarin. Locals greatly appreciate any effort to learn their language, and speaking a few phrases is seen as a sign of respect and will help you interact and integrate with the locals. It is advisable to learn some words and phrases right away. Pick up a phrasebook, and watch or listen to a tutorial a few times before you go. All of these resources are easy to find at bookstores or online.

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nglish is spoken in most central and expat neighbourhoods, such as Chaoyang Park, the Central Business District, Lido and in and around the popular tourist sites near the city centre. Generally, you can get by without any Chinese in establishments frequented by Westerners. Hotels, cafés, restaurants, bars, banks, museums, fitness clubs and boutiques will normally have at least one English-speaker on hand. However, while English is spoken, it may not be spoken or understood well. You will soon learn through experience to enunciate well and speak slowly in order to be understood. Do not expect to find English-speakers among the average passers-by on the street, in taxis or buses, in local restaurants and markets, and generally in non-central neighbourhoods that are not near expat areas. Many signs, notices and publications in Beijing are characterised by what can only be classified as ‘Chinglish’. This new, developing form of communication is derived from poor translations done by Chinese English-learners. It is usually decipherable with a bit of patience and a keen eye for humour.

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Water painting poems

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GEOGRAPHY Geography

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eijing lies on the Huabei plain, in northeastern China. The Xishan and Jundu moutains to the north, northwest and west shield the city and northern China’s agricultural heartland from the encroaching desert steppes. The Great Wall of China, which stretches across the northern part of Beijing Municipality, made use of this rugged topography to defend against nomadic incursions from the steppes. The municipality of Beijing is bordered by Hebei Province to the west and the municipality of Tianjin to the east. A few hours drive east of Beijing is the Bohai Sea, an inlet of the Yellow Sea. About 200 km beyond the mountains to the west are the sands of the Gobi Desert, which is very influential on Beijing’s climate. Mount Dongling, in the Xishan range, is the municipality’s highest point, with an altitude of 2,303 metres.

GEOGRAPHY Cityscape

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he urban area of Beijing is located in the south-central part of the municipality and occupies a small but expanding portion of its area. It spreads out in bands of concentric ring roads, of which the fifth and outermost, the Sixth Ring Road (the numbering starts at 2), passes through several satellite towns. Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace) and Tiananmen Square are at the centre of Beijing, and are directly to the south of the Forbidden City, the former residence of the Ming and Qing emperors of China. West of Tiananmen is Zhongnanhai, which is the residence of the top leaders of the People’s Republic of China. Chang’an Avenue runs from east to west through Beijing and is one of the city’s main thoroughfares.

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i

Bejing shares the approximate lattitude of Ankara, Denver and Philadelphia but due to its elevation and monsoonal influences it has a climate that is unique.

Following the revolution, Beijing’s cityscape was radically transformed to the point that little remains of its architectural heritage outside of the major sites; however there are many of these.

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Climate

eijing’s climate is classified as humid continental and is strongly influenced by the Mongolian plateau to the northwest and the East Asian monsoon to the east. It has distinct seasons defined by extreme conditions. Summers, influenced by the monsoon, are long, hot and humid, with an average temperature in July of 30ºC (87ºF). High temperatures frequently top 40ºC (104ºF) and occasionally reach 50ºC (122ºF) in August. Rain is most likely in the summer and can lead to temporary flooding. More than half of the city’s annual 700 mm (27.6 inches) of rain falls in July and August. Winters are long, cold and dry, with cold fronts from Siberia down through the Mongolian plain bringing bitterly cold winds and crisp, clear skies. Temperatures in January average -10ºC (14ºF). Due to its proximity to the Gobi Desert, Beijing is prone to sandstorms from March to May. These are extremely uncomfortable, smothering the city in a choking yellow fog that can linger for days. Unfortunately, these are increasing in frequency because of soil erosion caused by deforestation, farming and overgrazing by livestock. The best weather is in September and October, called the ‘golden season’.

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Air Quality

his is a legitimate concern for anyone moving to Beijing. Cars and coal are the biggest culprits and, despite the government’s efforts to curb emissions through various stopgap environmental measures, Beijing is still one of the world’s most polluted cities. There are over 3.5 million private cars on the streets of Beijing, and over 70 percent of the city’s electricity is produced with coal. The surrounding mountains have a bowl effect that keeps bad air lingering over the city if there are no easterly winds. Things have improved since 1998, when Beijing had only 100 ‘blue sky’ days, but the burgeoning economy and steady population increase continue to strain municipal efforts and lead to measures such as banning cars on certain days. Local newspapers report air quality on a daily basis. On bad air days, try to stay indoors. Most expats buy air purifiers for their homes and use filtered air conditioners. It is very unlikely that the pollution will cause you any long-term health problems if you take these measures.

Sunshine

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ADMINISTRATIVE PREPARATIONS

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Administrative preparations

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he process begins with getting over the administrative hurdles. Do not put this off. In fact, it is the only part of the moving process you cannot put off, as China is strict about its bureaucratic procedures and you don’t want your transition to be interrupted by a preventable hiccup. Here are the key administrative matters to consider before you leave for China.

Visas and documents

A Check the following websites for updated procedures and regulations: British citizens www.chinese-embassy.org.uk American citizens www.china-embassy. org Canadian citizens www.chinaembassycanada.org Australian citizens www.au.chinaembassy.org

ll visitors, including tourists, require a visa. These are obtained through a Chinese embassy or consulate. Most tourists are issued with a single or double entry visa valid for 90 days, with the possibility to extend. Processing times may vary by consulate, so allow at least a week, although many consulates can expedite the process for an additional fee. The cost of a visa depends on the applicant’s nationality. Americans tend to have to pay a great deal more than citizens of other countries. Costs and waiting times are subject to change, so consult the Chinese consulate website as the time draws near. Business and student visas are usually multiple entry and valid for three to six months, and allow the visitor to stay for the full specified period. They require a letter from the business or university. Long-term residency requires a ‘green card’ or residence permit. The formidable amount of paperwork that is needed for a green card requires at least ten passport photos – one for each of the ten forms necessary for application. It’s a five-step process that begins with a tourist visa. Employers will need to help you with the process, and they should be familiar with the procedures. If you’re moving to Beijing as a family, you will need to bring medical records, as schools and universities require them. You must also be prepared to provide your child’s previous school records and birth certificate. Contact your child’s current and previous schools as soon as possible to get the process moving. Even if you’re not going to enroll in school, bringing at least a copy of your birth certificate is a good idea. This document is especially helpful at a consular office in the event of something happening to your passport. Here is a list of documents to bring for a long-term stay in Beijing: • • • • • • • • •

Passport and visa Extra passport-size photos Children’s birth certificates (copy for adults) Marriage certificate Children’s school records Diploma and CV (for applying for work permit) Driving licence (serves as back-up ID and allows you to obtain a Chinese licence) Inventory of everything shipped Medical records

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ADMINISTRATIVE PREPARATIONS Shipping

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hip any necessary items through a private company such as DHL or Fed Ex. But remember, pretty much everything (apart from good cheese and, for some reason, deodorant) can be purchased in Beijing. However, expats who are moving to Beijing for an extended time often prefer to bring pieces of home along with them. This will not do much to alleviate homesickness, but it can help make your new villa or apartment feel more like your own. If you decide to ship items to China, make a detailed inventory of all shipped and stored items. Shipping large items can take up to three months, so plan ahead if you can.

i Be aware that business hours my be completely different in your home country so taking care of business by phone may be very inconvenient.

Address and phone

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end change of address notices to banks and credit card companies. Even if you don’t yet have a new permanent address in Beijing, you should let your bank know that you are in China. Many banks block use of debit or credit cards in foreign countries if they have not been officially notified of the user’s travel plans. Check to see if your phone will work in China. However, if you plan to stay long term, it is a better idea to drop or suspend your phone plan and get a new one in China with a Chinese phone number. This process is easy and inexpensive once you arrive in Beijing.

Foundation Stage

Finance

I

t’s always more complicated to organise and maintain your home finances from abroad. For any monthly payments, such as to credit card companies, arrange for online payments and banking. It’s easy to forget monthly tasks from a new home. Check the status of your taxes and pension plans, and make the necessary arrangements for these to be processed while you are away. Contact your bank to get details on procedures for transferring money back home.

Health preparations

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nsure that all preexisting medical or dental problems are attended to prior to arrival. Bring copies of medical and immunisation records. If taking routine medication, bring an adequate supply, as many Western medications are not available locally. If applicable, bring an extra pair of glasses or contact lenses and a copy of the prescription. The law requires import certificates with any medication that you send into the country (by shipping, for example), although local health professionals say that it is rare for a customs officer to ask for them. Medication that you carry with you does not fall into this category, but you should carry a copy of the prescription to be safe. Bring several months worth of any prescription drugs if you can. It is possible to get most drugs in China, but you may need to go

42

Sanlitun Campus

No.5 Xiliujie, Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China Tel: +8610-8532-3088 Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Shunyi Campus

South Side, No 9, An Hua Street, Tianzhu Development Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing 101318, China

Primary School

Secondary School

The Early Years Foundation stage provides a well planned and resourced curriculum which takes each child’s learning forward. Learning for young children should be rewarded and an enjoyable experience in which they explore, investigate, discover, create, practice and consolidate their developing knowledge, skills, understanding and attitudes. During the Foundation Stage at the British School of Beijing, these aspects of learning are brought together through carefully structured activities that are fun, relevant and motivating for each child.

Tel: +8610-8047-3588

THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE BEIJING

Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Sixth Form

www.britishschool.org.cn admissions@britishschool.org.cn


PREPARING TO GO

PREPARING TO GO

ADMINISTRATIVE PREPARATIONS to a hospital pharmacy for them and the prices are often much higher than at home, depending on where you come from. Study health insurance plans carefully. Ensure that your insurance covers overseas travel. Medicare, for example, does not cover health costs for US citizens travelling or living outside the US. It’s important to know who will cover the expenses if an emergency medical evacuation from China becomes necessary. It’s not uncommon for an emergency medical evacuation to Europe or the United States to cost a private citizen as much as $40,000$80,000 if a special plane has to be used.

i Preparing well for your relocation will ensure that your acclimation to your new home will not be needlessly stressful.

All visitors should get all recommended immunisations prior to coming to Beijing. There is a very limited supply of imported vaccines available at the healthcare facilities that cater to expatriates, and availability is inconsistent. Before travel, contact a family doctor or one of the Travel Medicine centres in most major cities and inquire about the vaccines needed. Do this at least four weeks prior to travel so that the vaccinations have time to take effect. Recommended vaccinations • Routine updates of measles / mumps / rubella (MMR) vaccine, • Diphtheria / pertussis / tetanus (DPT) vaccine, poliovirus vaccine • Typhoid • Hepatatis A, B, C • Rabies • If you are arriving from Africa or South America, you must be able to show proof of vaccination for yellow fever

Health insurance

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here are choices, and it’s best to do some research and make arrangements before you arrive in Beijing. On one end, you can plan on seeking treatment at local hospitals. These can be very inexpensive, and will be paid out of your pocket. In fact, it may be a good idea to visit local hospitals for regular or routine treatment in order to avoid using your insurance. Most insurance plans can adjust rates annually, so it will save you money in the long run to pay out of pocket for minor treatment. Expat doctors say that while local hospital care is adequate for certain health issues, it might not provide the standard of care you would expect in a Western medical establishment. Conditions vary, as does the level of English spoken by doctors and administrators. Additionally, being treated in a foreign environment can be stressful and confusing.

ADMINISTRATIVE PREPARATIONS at expat hospitals for Western-style medical coverage, and can provide maternity, dental and outpatient services for you and your family. This is the most desirable option for most expats. When you relocate here as part of a corporate package, you should get a clear statement of what is included in your medical coverage. Follow up by consulting your doctor, particularly if you need specialised care, and research supplementary options. Rates vary dramatically, based on your personal situation and the type of insurance you need. Overall, be sure to buy insurance that covers all emergencies, including evacuation. For free quotes, you can go through an insurance broker such as International Medical Group. Bupa: www.bupa.com International Medical Group: www.imglobal.com Expatriate Insurance Services: www.expatriateinsurance.com International SOS: www.internationalsos.com MedEx: www.medexassist.com Medibroker: www.medibroker.com Dental insurance policies are also available, often as an add-on to medical insurance policies, but they can be very expensive. It is probably worth it if you plan to have any dental work done, since good Western dentists charge high rates for anything beyond check-ups. Check carefully what the policy covers, particularly with regard to routine work such as examinations, x-rays and dental hygiene services.

Pets

Y

ou can bring your cat or dog with you to Beijing. Pet owners with an employment visa (Z-visa) are allowed one pet per passport. Birds and other exotic pets are now permitted. However, the process is certain to be stressful for the animal. Upon arrival, the pet must spend a minimum of 30 days in quarantine to be observed and tested in order to ensure it is free of disease. The deposit is RMB1,000, which normally ends up being the final bill. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to accompany or even visit your pet during this process.

i A good alternative to bringing your pet is adopting one after arriving. There are a significant number of animals that need good homes.

Check early with your pet mover that the quarantine station is available for your pet at the expected time of arrival, as indoor facilities have limited capacity. An official should greet you at the airport and take your pet to be quarantined. The telephone number for the Beijing animal inspection and quarantine centre is (010) 6459 6302.

On the other end, there is deluxe expat worldwide insurance coverage for you and your family at private clinics. They pay the high rates charged

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BOOKS, FILMS & MUSIC

PREPARING TO GO

Books, Films and Music

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he more you learn about China and Beijing before arrival, the richer the experience will be when you get there. There are a lot of excellent books and films, either about Beijing or using it as a compelling backdrop, that will inspire you to explore the city and think creatively while doing so. If you have time, pick up a couple of these books or films for different perspectives on your new home.

Books: My Country My People Lin Yutang (1936) Written by the inventor of the Chinese printing press, this book is an exploration of the foundations of Chinese character. Despite being written more than 70 years ago, it continues to be relevant today. My Country My People will help you understand the sometimes immense differences between Eastern and Western character. One Billion Customers: Lessons from the Front Lines of Doing Business in China James McGregor (2007) This is an interesting read for those travelling to do business in China. One Billion Customers explores case studies, personalities and the lessons they offer.

i Not all media about China is avaiable in China due to government regulations. If you want to get informed it’s best to find the relevant media before departure.

Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now Jan Wong (1997) Written by a Chinese Canadian, this memoir recounts the journey of the author to China in 1972. Wong, then an ardent Maoist, tells of her revelations about communism during her journey. Mao: The Unknown Story Jung Chang & Jan Halliday (2005) Controversial biography of Mao Zedong, banned in China. What Does China Think? Mark Leonard (2008) A probing and detail-oriented investigation into the Chinese psyche. Leonard is a rising star in Western foreign policy circles and offers enlightening and surprising insights into intellectual and bureaucratic thinking in China. China: Fragile Superpower Susan Shirk (2008) A study on the emergence of China as a global superpower, reflecting on

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BOOKS, FILMS & MUSIC the “emotional” aspect of the Chinese psyche which affects foreign policy thinking in China. China Candid: The People on the People’s Republic of China Sang Ye (2006) Chinese journalist’s interviews about life in modern-day China.

Film: Chung Kuo Michelangelo Antonioni (1972) A documentary about China that visits factories, a health clinic and parts of Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai. China in the Red Sue Williams (2003) Documentary which shows how ordinary Chinese live. Morning Sun Carma Hinton (2003) Documentary utilising archival footage and interviews with actual participants in the Cultural Revolution. The Blood of Yingzhou District Ruby Yang and Thomas F. Lennon (2006) Oscar-winning short documentary about the affects of AIDS on orphans in China.

i Getting informed before you leave will help you avoid culture shock and will greatly improve your enjoyment of your time in Beijing and China.

Music: Cold Fairyland Their style combines Eastern melodies and rhythms with Western symphonic rock and classical music. The Original Shanghai Divas Collection Ian Widgery (2003) This album takes top Chinese pop stars from the 20s and 30s and remixes them with up-tempo grooves and laid-back beats. Fragrance of Night Li Xianglan (2003) This album combines famous anthems from 1930s Shanghai with 16 other tracks.

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WHEN YOU ARRIVE


WHEN YOU ARRIVE PREPARING TO GO

CONTENTS LANDING

54

GETTING AROUND

58

MONEY & BANKING

64

GETTING CONNECTED

66

HEALTH CARE

70

TEMPORARY ACCOMODATION

74

FINDING HOUSING

84

GETTING SETTLED

88

CULTURE SHOCK

92

EDUCATION

94

EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

104

At first, Beijing can feel overwhelming. Uprooting and travelling over multiple time zones is a strain on the constitution. To then have to navigate a gigantic, crowded and confusing city in a foreign language is altogether exhausting. If you can, take adequate time to adjust and get your bearings. Take the necessary precautions to stay healthy and rested during the first few weeks in Beijing. Besides eating well and becoming accustomed to a new sleeping pattern, make an effort to exercise and socialise with other expats. These measures will accelerate the adjustment to your new environment, alleviate stress and prevent the feeling of isolation that often accompanies the initial period in a new city and country. Keep in mind that as time passes, things will become more familiar, and things that seem impossible now will morph into routine. There are exciting things to do and see in Beijing, but first, it is important to take care of the necessities and learn the ropes. This section is designed to provide resources and orientation for new arrivals, laying the foundation for exploring and getting to know Beijing as a new resident.

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WHEN YOU ARRIVE PREPARING TO GO

LANDING

LANDING First things first

Work permit

here are several bureaucratic hurdles to get by before becoming a legal employee and resident of Beijing. Ideally, your employer will facilitate most of this paperwork and processing. If not, you need to follow the steps below soon after you arrive.

ith your Z visa Entry and Health check out of the way, you have 30 days to complete the paperwork required to obtain a work permit. Your employer should facilitate this process. To do this, go to the Exit and Entry Administration Beijing Office (Municipal Public Security Bureau, 2 Andingmen Dongdajie, Dongchang District (8402 0101, www.bjgaj.gov.cn)).

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Register with the police

E It is a good idea to take your mobile phone with you. Make sure your plan will allow you to use it in China and keep an Englishspeaking Chinese contact who is willing to help in your address book. Most initial difficulties are due to communication issues so having a translator on hand will solve a lot of problems and make your transition smoother.

very foreigner arriving in China must immediately register with the local police. If you are staying in a hotel, they will take care of this for you. Otherwise, simply go to the nearest police station in your neighbourhood, present your passport along with a photocopy of both your identification and visa pages and report where you are staying and for how long. Once registered, you receive a form, which is your temporary residence permit. Hold on to this, as you will need it when applying for a longer-term residence permit. If you move into a housing compound, ask if your landlord will take care of this for foreign tenants. Always re-register whenever you change residence in Beijing. Late registration results in a nominal fine. Failure to register at all could lead to major bureaucratic hassles.

Prepare an emergency plan

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W

The required documents are: • Passport with valid Z visa • 2 copies of the Work Permit Application, including company seal • Work Licence • A copy of your Health Certificate • A copy of your labour contract (this contract only needs to be a simple form listing title (must match original Work Licence application) and terms of employment) • A copy of the company business licence • A copy of the organisation code certificate • A copy of the Permit for Foreign Investment Enterprise (if your company is a WOFE) • 3 passport photos

efore an emergency occurs, work out a plan of action with your family. This includes mapping out the location of the nearest 24-hour medical facility and registering your family there (you don’t want to have to worry about paperwork in the event of an emergency). Prepare an emergency folder listing all of your family’s medical conditions, allergies, medications and surgical histories. Make cards for your children to carry with them that list your home address and the address of your preferred hospital in both English and Chinese.

If you suddenly realise that you have forgotten to register with the police, don’t delay - go to the appropriate police station, act deferential, and plead for mercy - you may be surprised at the result.

Health certificate

I

n order to get working (Z) and residence (D) permits, all foreigners must apply for a health certificate. This can only be done at the Beijing International Healthcare Centre (20 Heping Li Beijie, Dongcheng District (6427 4239)). It includes a blood test for HIV, a general check-up, an ECG and a blood pressure check. The clinic is open Monday to Friday 8-10:30am, and you must refrain from eating 12 hours before testing. The exams and certificate cost RMB700, but your company will usually cover the costs. Documents required for the application are: • Your passport and 4 recent passport photos • Health certificate application form (available there) • A copy of your company’s Business Registration Certificate

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GETTING AROUND

GETTING AROUND

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i It is possible to get lost in Beijing when you first arrive. The British School of Beijing produces the best bilingual maps in Beijing. Ask your relocation agent.

or Beijingers, part of living in a rapidly growing city of 15 million is being crammed into a subway car, festering in rush hour traffic and dodging cars, bikes, rickshaws and buses at intersections. However, there are systems in place to get around efficiently, and the government is working hard to tackle the ongoing challenges posed by a growing car-buying population and a culture of perceiving traffic signals as mere suggestions. Infrastructure continues to improve, and there are new subway lines and stops opening every month. There are also new laws in place requiring drivers to leave their cars at home one day per week and allowing only 30 percent of government and military vehicles downtown on weekdays.

Arrival

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ost international flights arrive at Terminal 3 (T3) of Beijing Capital International Airport. Advertised as the world’s most advanced airport building when it opened in 2008, T3 nearly doubled the airport’s processing capacity, to 60 million passengers. A light rail links the airport and the Dongzimen transportation hub, which connects to subway lines 2 and 13. The journey takes around 20 minutes and costs RMB25. There’s also an airport bus that leaves from the arrivals level of each of the terminals. It’s a bit cheaper but takes anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic. The buses have more luggage room. Taxis line up in well-marked ranks outside each of the terminals. A taxi into the city should cost RMB70120, including RMB10 for the toll. Do not accept a ride from an unmarked

taxi, and insist that the driver use the metre.

Orientation

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or the first few weeks – even months – it’s a good idea to carry a street and subway map around. Beijing is one of the world’s largest urban areas, and it can take over 90 minutes to get from one end of the city to the other. Morning and evening rush-hour traffic is characterised by dense, aggressive traffic and frequent gridlock. This used to be the city of bicycles, but cars are now the favoured mode of transportation, which is taking its toll on the streets and thoroughfares. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City lie at the geographic centre of Beijing, with Xi Chang’an Jie to the west and Dong Chang’an Jie to the east. As you travel out from the centre, you pass five Ring Roads. The two innermost are the Second and Third Ring Roads (the counting starts at two), inside which you will find what is considered downtown Beijing and most of the city’s major attractions and entertainment. During daily rush hours, traffic on these roads is at a standstill. The Fourth Ring road is also usually in a state of gridlock from 7 to 9:30am, and 4:30 to 7pm. The Fifth Ring Road, 10 km from the city centre, is usually less congested. It has been nicknamed Olympic Avenue because it passes by most of the 2008 Olympic venues. The Sixth Ring Road, which belts around the city almost 20 km from Tiananmen Square, is useful if you live in Shunyi or are travelling to or from the airport.

i Beijing has a reltively easy layout to understand but be sure to have your address in Chinese to show taxi drivers.

Taxis

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axis are generally a cheap and efficient way to get around Beijing, traffic permitting. There are approximately 60,000 taxis operating in the city, belonging to at least 20 privately owned companies. It’s easy to flag one down on most busy streets, unless it’s raining, in which case be prepared to wait for the weather to clear, or head to the nearest subway stop. Most

Beijing Capital International Airport is big, modern and efficient.

Taxis in Beijing are usually more reliable and safer than in Shanghai.

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GETTING AROUND

GETTING AROUND of the drivers are friendly and know the city well, although being as specific as possible with directions will speed up your journey and make it cheaper. Taxi fares start at RMB10 for the first three kilometres, and RMB2 for each additional kilometre. An additional RMB1 is added for taxi fares over RMB10 due to the increasing price of petrol. Fares increase slightly after 11pm. Tipping is not expected. Most drivers speak limited or no English, so you should be able to show them your destination in Chinese or point to a map. The driver will supply you with a receipt (fapiao), which shows the taxi number and the company telephone number – very useful information if you leave something in the cab.

i Know your route and when possible tell the taxi driver which way you would like to go.

There are drawbacks to using taxis. They are not as safe as they could be, since seatbelts are almost never available in the back, and some drivers are unnecessarily aggressive in dangerous traffic. At times, drivers can seem harsh and rude; but you should avoid conflict. These people aren’t paid very well and have to stomach Beijing traffic day in and day out. Disagreements can quickly escalate. It’s not worth having a dispute with a taxi driver for the sake of a few RMB.

Subway

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his is the fastest way to travel across the city. Trains are almost always on time, and at busy stations in the central areas they come by every three to five minutes. This is generally a nice way to travel. The trains are clean, quiet and safe. Tickets cost only RMB2 to go anywhere in the city. If you buy a single journey ticket at one of the automated machines or from a uniformed vendor, keep it. You need it to pass through the exit gate. Unlike on buses, signs and maps are clear and in English, making the train

Beijing traffic is relatively orderly for China.

system easy to navigate. Alternatively, buy an IC card, commonly referred to locally as an yikatong (‘one card pass’). Cards can be purchased and refilled at most central subway stations, at Beijing Municipal Administration and Communications Card centres, China CITIC and Agricultural Bank branches and post offices. Using the card will save you plenty of time and 60 percent of the regular fare. The cards can also be used to pay for taxis, so they can become invaluable whilst travelling around Beijing. The one drawback to subway travel is congestion – crowds are almost unbearable during the daily rush hours. Trains run from 6am to 10:30pm.

Know the cross street nearest your destination, as taxi drivers will not necessarily know the location by the street address alone.

There are currently subway lines snaking across and around the city. Expansion has been very rapid: four new lines have been opened since 2007, and new lines are planned to extend out to the Summer Palace and pass through Beijing Railway Station, horizontally across the city along Ping’an Dajie, and out to Xiangshan and the Ming Tombs scenic area. All these new lines are scheduled to open by 2015, and are expected to gradually reduce highway congestion and overcrowding on existing subway lines.

Buses

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here are nearly 800 bus routes, taking you to every corner of Beijing. The rides are cheap: standard fare is RMB1, though some air-conditioned buses will bust your budget at RMB2 (less with an IC card). However, prepare to hit a major language and navigation barrier. Unlike on the subway, maps are not easy to read and do not provide an English translation. The buses are often crowded and struggle through traffic during rush hour. For information on bus routes, go to www.bjbus.com. On the whole, this is not a recommended mode of transportation for a newcomer, but you may discover a convenient

The Beijing subway is modern and safe.

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GETTING AROUND

GETTING AROUND route as you become more familiar with the city and learn some Chinese.

Walking

B

i Locals will appear to risk their lives when crossing the street. It is not recommended that foreigners emulate their actions.

eijing is not pedestrian-friendly. Besides the harsh weather in summer and winter, the inner-city roads are very wide and contain dividing barriers. Distances within the city are enormous, rendering foot travel as a means of getting from point A to point B unrealistic. Take great care when crossing the streets, as turning vehicles rarely respect stoplights when they make right turns, and Chinese drivers almost never respect the rights of pedestrians. During rush hour, cyclists and scooters will use sidewalks to bypass gridlocked intersections. Use underpasses and crosswalks, being sure to watch out for traffic marshals, as they occasionally ticket jaywalkers. If you are going from one address to another in the city centre, walking through hutongs or along one of the parks is a very pleasant experience.

Driving in Beijing: getting a driving licence

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f you have a valid driving licence in your home country, you can apply for a licence in China. Before doing so, experience riding in a car for a few weeks. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with directions and major roads, as well as get your bearings and a feel for the flow of traffic. The mix of bicycles, motor scooters and pedestrians makes the driving experience considerably more complicated than in most Western countries. Nonetheless,

many expats are getting behind the wheel of their own car and finding it more convenient than continuously hailing taxis. To get a driving licence, you will need to prepare the following documents: • Passport • Health certificate • Beijing residence card • Original residence permit in China, plus one copy • Foreign driving licence or international licence – the licence must be translated by an official translation bureau Foreign applicants must then pass an eye test and a computerised road test (90 out of 100 is required to pass), and pay a nominal fee. Visit the FESCO (Beijing Foreign Enterprise Human Resources Service) website (www. fescochina.com) for more detailed information.

Hiring a Driver

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his is popular with expats who would (perhaps wisely) rather not risk Beijing traffic themselves. Drivers charge between RMB2,500 and RMB4,000 per month. This will make getting around less stressful, although you will become dependent on the driver. Ask neighbours or colleagues for personal recommendations. Expats report that it is risky to go through an agency.

i

If you do not want to employ a driver full time, it is often handy to use them for one-off occasions. For example, a trip to the Great Wall costs about RMB400 for a family of 4.

Beijing traffic at night

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MONEY & BANKING

MONEY & BANKING Currency

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i The RMB100 note is the most common note in circulation. Large sums of money are bundled in stacks of 100. Plan to take a bag if withdrawing a lot of cash. Though crime is low in Beijing by most standards, street crime does exist. The equivalent of a few hundred USD will not fit into your wallet or pocket.

he Chinese currency is the renminbi, or ‘people’s currency’. A unit of renminbi (RMB) is known as a yuan (kuai in the spoken form). One yuan is made up of 10 jiao (mao in the spoken form), which is subsequently broken down into 10 fen. Paper notes are available only for yuan and come in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Until 2005, the yuan was pegged to the US dollar; however, protests from the US and other G7 finance ministers persuaded the Chinese government to peg the yuan to several world currencies. The yuan is a relatively stable currency, and the exchange rate has hovered around RMB7 to the US dollar for the past few years.

Counterfeits

E

xpect to have your money inspected by vendors using various types of UV lights which in some cases have been installed in the light fixtures of taxi cabs. When the UV light is not available, most vendors will visually inspect RMB100 and 50 notes and will refuse to accept them if they feel they are not legitimate tender. While it is uncertain what percent of the currency in Beijing is counterfeit, the scale of the efforts by the retail and service suggest that it does exist.

Banks

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here are several branches of each of the Chinese domestic banks in almost every district of Beijing, all of which allow foreigners to open either yuan or US dollar accounts. All you need to open an account is a passport and a Chinese address. Some banks, such as China Merchants Bank, are so efficient that you can walk out of the bank with a new debit card. The most common banks in Beijing are Bank of China, ICBC, China Merchant’s Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and China Construction Bank. They all offer debit cards, Internet banking and currency exchange services. Many expats choose banks with an international focus, such as Bank of China and ICBC, which both accept the transfer of money to and from abroad. For credit card services and access to funds back home, it is best to keep an international bank account. Banks are generally open from 9-5 Monday to Saturday, as well as on Sunday mornings.

terminal to collect your number.

ATMs

D

omestic banks’ ATMs can be found in most of their local branches as well as in many shopping malls in the city centre. Conveniently, ICBC and China Construction Bank ATMs accept debit and credit cards within the Cirrus / MasterCard and VISA / Plus systems. For your card to work in Beijing, be sure to notify your bank at home that you are in China. Expect empty cash machines near the end of the weekend. With the seemingly endless supply of ATMs however, you will never be far away from your money.

Exchanging money

A

s long as you can show a copy of your passport, cash and travellers’ cheques can be exchanged at most hotels, major banks, Beijing Capital International Airport and the post office. Do not exchange money at independent money exchanges, as there are a lot of counterfeit notes in circulation. Rates are generally consistent, but hotels occasionally charge a commission. To get the best rate, simply take money out of ATMs compatible with your credit or debit card and pay a small commission to your bank for the transaction.

Using your credit card

M

asterCard, Visa, American Express, Diner’s Club and JCB cards are accepted in most of Beijing’s hotels, high-end restaurants, bars and big retailers. However, Beijing is still primarily a cash society and you will need cash to get around the city, eat at most restaurants and shop at local supermarkets. Smaller shops, markets and restaurants rarely accept anything but cash.

i It is believed that China was one of three areas of the ancient world which concurrently invented the coin. Though historical accounts vary, experts place the year at somewhere between 600 and 900 BC.

Tipping

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he growing number of tourists and expats in Beijing over the past few years has led to a greater acceptance of the practice of tipping, but it is by no means expected. Telling a friendly cab driver to keep the change or offering your hairdresser a 10 percent tip is perfectly normal. If you think your waiter has done an exceptional job and deserves a bit extra, discreetly slip him or her an RMB10 or 20 note. Otherwise, they may be obliged to hand it over to the boss.

Expect long lines at banks. If you want to spend less than 30 minutes for any visit, take a spot near the door before it opens and make a run for the ticket

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GETTING CONNECTED

GETTING CONNECTED

O

ver the past decade, Beijing has developed a relatively fast and reliable telecommunications infrastructure. Telephone lines are reliable, and international dialing is simple to arrange. There are only two fixed-line providers in town: China Netcom (10060) and China Telecom, which you can contact through Beijing Telecommunications (10000). If you are renting a previously inhabited apartment, chances are that the telephone service is already active and you simply have to take over the monthly payments. To pay the bill, go to almost any Chinese bank and show the teller your phone number. Many foreigners use prepaid IP (Internet phone) or calling cards to save money calling internationally. Long distance rates vary depending on the destination country, but are typically RMB2-4 per minute. Using an Internet service such as Skype is the cheapest way to make international calls to most countries. To call internationally using China Telecom, dial 00 + country code + city code + number.

Mobile phones

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he mobile phone market in Beijing is thriving, and phones have become an indispensable tool of daily life. It seems almost everybody in Beijing, aged 8 to 80, has a mobile phone. They buzz, sing and ring constantly wherever you are in the city – a testament to a functioning network and affordable pay-as-you-go calling. Most mobile phones that are supported by GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) work throughout China, and you might find that Chinese SIM cards will work in your phone. American / European Blackberries work fine in China. However, if you’re moving to Beijing, it’s far more affordable to pick up a local SIM card as soon as you move here. China Mobile, the nation’s biggest telecommunications service provider, usually recognises two dual frequencies – 900 and 1,800 Hz. Network coverage across China is excellent. If you don’t have a compatible phone, a pay-as-you-go mobile phone can be purchased for RMB600-700 plus the cost of a SIM card. Calling and text-messaging other mobile phones is cheap. You can find RMB100 stored value cards for mobile phones in most convenience stores. Instructions for loading the stored value onto your phone are available in English.

Internet

R

outers are readily available for about RMB200-300 for a basic home model. The most popular is the TP-Link brand. Call China Telecom (10000) and arrange for them to set up a wireless connection in your home. In the meantime, the number of places throughout the city that offer free Wi-Fi is growing exponentially. There are wireless hotspots in many coffee shops, restaurants, hostels and hotels. At home, the most common is ADSL. Installation costs RMB300 and it takes at least a week to be activated. Ask your landlord about arranging this service in your home when you move in. Two other options are cable Internet, offered through Beijing Gehua, and broadband through your building or complex. Rates for these options

are similar to ADSL; however, the connection is generally a bit slower. The Chinese government blocks certain sites that are deemed inappropriate, including Facebook and YouTube. As you surf the net, you will find sections of other sites blocked as well, such as parts of the BBC that deal with China and expat blogs that come up on Google searches. Major newspapers and email servers are left alone.

Post and courier services

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hina Post post offices are located throughout Beijing and are typically open 9-5 on weekdays and Saturday mornings. Services and availability of English assistance vary depending on the size and location of the branch. Do not count on there being an Englishspeaker to help you. Smaller centres only handle mailing letters, selling stamps and paying bills, while larger branches change money and handle international express mail and Western Union. Airmail letters and postcards normally take two to three days to domestic cities, about ten days to Europe and two weeks to North America. If you need to send a package overseas, bring the contents unwrapped to the post office. Postal officers will want to assess the value of contents, which cannot exceed RMB1,500. The growing number of private mail carriers providing a more reliable (albeit more expensive) service in Beijing includes UPS (800 820 8388, www.ups.com), DHL (800 810 8000, www.cn.dhl.com), TNT (800 820 9868, www.tnt.com) and FedEx (800 988 1888, www.fedex.com/cn_english).

Media

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amiliarising yourself with local print media is a good way to get a feel for Beijing. There are a few Chinese papers published in English, and several major international papers are available at big hotels, bookstores and some cafés. There are several very helpful weekly and monthly magazines published that specifically cater to the expat community.

i Importing new goods into China can be a headache, as dealing with customs involves jumping through a number of hoops.

i Locally produced print media in China is censored by the government. Information on current local news events can therefore be incomplete or slanted toward a specific opinion.

Newspapers

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hina Daily (www.chinadaily.com.cn) is the main English-language paper in Beijing. The Chinese-language People’s Daily can be read in English at http://english.peopledaily.com.cn. Take into account that newspaper editorial is scrutinised by the government, thereby necessitating selfcensorship.

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GETTING CONNECTED Magazines

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or a light-hearted look at Beijing’s culture and entertainment and event listings pick up one of the several high-quality expat magazines. The most popular are City Weekend (www.cityweekend.com.cn), The Beijinger, Time Out Beijing and Beijing Talk. In addition to those, Beijingkids and City Weekend Parents & Kids are both geared towards expat family issues, news and events.

Useful websites

REALITY CHECK The ‘Great Firewall Of China’ limits many types of online media, including Facebook, Twitter and occasionally Google, Hotmail and Wikipedia. If these types of sites are important to you, consider investing in a subscription to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or proxy server. These services will guarantee unfettered and fast access to all the sites you want.

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here are dozens of websites that offer tips on living in Beijing, restaurant and hotel reviews, social forums, up-to-date event listings and much more. It’s fun and interesting to surf these websites, and they’re a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of Beijing life and meet other expats with similar problems or interests. New blogs pop up every day for expats seeking local and international news, opinionated reviews and interesting articles. These come and go quickly, but a casual search will provide you with a variety of interesting websites. Some Beijing websites appear at first to be helpful, but turn out to be real-estate company advertising. These are easy to identify after a brief glance and not worth reading (unless you want to purchase property). Listed below are some useful websites. This list is by no means exhaustive, nor can it be, as new blogs and websites pop up all the time.

Primary

City Information english.visitbeijing.com.cn - English-language government tourism site with facts, figures, help-lines and administrative data www.ebeijing.gov.cn - Official website for the municipality of Beijing Business and Industry www.caijing.com.cn/english - English-language version of a leading financial magazine www.chinahospitalitynews.com - Info on China’s hospitality sector www.cinaretailnews.com - Info on China’s retail industry Living and Working beijing.asiaexpat.com - Information, classifieds and forums www.moveandstay.com.cn - Help with practical relocation issues www.thebeijinger.com - Jobs, real estate and other classifieds Culture and Entertainment www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing - Lifestyle articles, blogs, events and restaurant reviews www.timeout.com/cn/en - Lifestyle articles, events and restaurant reviews www.zagat.com - Restaurant and nightlife reviews and events

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Sanlitun Campus

No.5 Xiliujie, Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China Tel: +8610-8532-3088 Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Shunyi Campus

South Side, No 9, An Hua Street, Tianzhu Development Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing 101318, China

Foundation Stage

Secondary School

The British School of Beijing Primary School is warm, welcoming and supportive of new children and their families. We ensure our curriculum reflects needs, culture and history of our schools multinational community. Our enthusiastic and motivated staff deliver quality teaching by creating an atmosphere which is relaxed yet purposeful to allow our students to reach their full potential.

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Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Sixth Form

www.britishschool.org.cn admissions@britishschool.org.cn


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HEALTH CARE

HEALTH CARE Getting over jet lag

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f you travel to Beijing over several time zones from a Western country, you’re almost certain to experience jet lag. Jet lag is a condition where the body clock is out of sync with the destination time, as it experiences daylight and darkness contrary to its normal routines. To the degree that the body cannot immediately adjust to the new rhythms, it is jet lagged. Everyone’s adjustment period is different, and time will inevitably cure it. However, it can be uncomfortable and a serious annoyance, considering that you are busy getting settled and trying to adjust to a completely new environment. Symptoms can include digestive problems, headaches, fatigue, irregular sleep patterns, temporary insomnia and irritability.

Emergency Ambulance 120 SOS Alarm Centre 6462 9100 Beijing United Family Hospital (emergency) 5927 7120

The speed at which the body adjusts to the new schedule depends on the individual. Some people may require several days to adjust to a new time zone, while others experience little disruption. Global Doctors International does not recommend pharmaceutical remedies such as melatonin, which have not been proven to work. Instead, they advise, force yourself into the new sleeping rhythm right away by fighting through the urge to nap in the afternoon, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Exercise in the morning and evening will induce relaxing sleep and kick your body clock into gear faster.

Drinking water

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nly drink bottled water in Beijing. According to government sources, water testing has registered bacteria and high metal content. Infrastructure projects are underway to purify tap water and render it drinkable, but be safe by sticking to bottled water, which is available everywhere and inexpensive. Restaurants and bars normally use purified ice cubes in drinks, but don’t hesitate to ask anyway. Many expats brush their teeth in tap water, but to be on the safe side, you may want to use bottled water for this when you first arrive.

Food

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n a vast country with varying standards of sanitation and enforcement, Beijing is known throughout China for having some of the strictest standards, since more rigorous enforcement mechanisms were put in place in the leadup to the 2008 Olympics. Many expats hear horror stories about food sanitation in China, the most recent being the tainted milk scandal. Most restaurants and supermarkets – especially those that cater to expats – take food safety seriously, knowing that their business and reputation are at stake.

Stick to Western supermarkets for fresh goods, thoroughly wash all produce before you eat it and, as a general rule, patronise popular restaurants. The Chinese are equally wary of food-borne illnesses and if a restaurant is consistently popular, it is very unlikely the food will cause you any problems. The longer you are in Beijing, the more adventurous you can be with eating out. However, regardless of how clean the food is, you may have minor digestion problems during your first few weeks in Beijing. This is normally not cause for alarm, as the body has to adjust to foreign bacteria. Any diarrhea is usually mild and resolves spontaneously. Symptoms can usually be controlled with over-the-counter medications. With moderate symptoms, taking Pepto-Bismol alone may suffice. Alternatively, anti-diarrheal agents such as diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil) or loperamide (Imodium) can be administered. Avoid taking antibiotics unless the problem is severe and persistent.

Health care

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enerally health care in Beijing is up to international standards, and facilities continue to improve. As an expat you should have no trouble finding quality care in one of the many Western-oriented facilities. Even some of the local hospitals have English-speaking staff. Consult with your doctor at home and your insurance company, as well as friends and colleagues, in order to determine which facility best serves your family’s needs. Each expatriate community has its own services available locally. The range of these services is generally proportionate to the size of the community. Private versus public care he public health care system isn’t free, but costs are kept low and it effectively serves enormous numbers of people. There are public hospitals all over the city, but they can be intimidating. They are usually very large, noisy, chaotic and crowded. However, many expats leave fully satisfied with the care they receive and even more satisfied with the prices, which start as low as RMB8 for basic services and RMB50-250 for expedited or Englishspeaking VIP services. If you have a minor problem, such as a stomach ailment or sprained ankle, public doctors can provide you with quality care at a fraction of the private clinic price. If your Chinese is substandard, bring a translator and the experience will be a lot less stressful. On the next page are a couple of public hospitals frequently used by expats.

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REALITY CHECK Surgeons in China see a lot of patients. Due to the sheer number of people in China, they are exposed to a wide variety of conditions and have the opportunity to hone their skills in an environment unavailable to most Western doctors.

Recommended public options China-Japan Friendship Hospital 中日友好医院 Yinghua Dongjie Heping Jie, Chaoyang District (6422 2952) 北京市和平街北口樱花东路

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HEALTH CARE

HEALTH CARE This hospital is highly regarded in Beijing and offers a wide variety of services combining Eastern and Western medicine. It was the primary facility for athletes during the 2008 Olympics.

birth in China.

Peking Union Medical College Hospital 北京协和医院 1 Shuaifuyuan, Wanfujing, Dongcheng District (www. pumch.ac.cn)

朝阳区亮马桥路50号燕莎中心写字楼1层S106

北京市东城区王府井帅府园1号

This is an excellent public hospital known for its maternity services. The doctors can speak English.

i Pollution in Beijing can aggravate respiratory problems. If you or your family members have pre-exisiting respiratory problems, consider purchasing an indoor air filter. High quality models are available from a number of providers which focus on the foreigner market.

Private health care If you have good insurance that covers care at international facilities, these are normally your best option, particularly for serious medical problems. It’s comforting to be in a familiar setting if you must undergo a medical procedure or get tested for an unknown ailment. Private facilities are smaller and more comfortable, and offer faster, friendlier service. Comprehensive providers like Beijing United Family and International SOS offer 24-hour emergency service and always have English-speakers on hand. But the prices are much higher and could lead to higher insurance premiums. If possible, call first to check if the hospital or clinic you plan to visit accepts your insurance. Main private hospitals Amcare Women’s and Children’s Hospital 北京美中宜和妇儿医院 9 Fangyuan Xilu, Chaoyang District (6434 2399, www.amcare.com.cn) 朝阳区芳园西路9号

This hospital specialises in pediatrics, gynecology, childhood development, ultrasound and radiology. Offers outcall. Beijing International SOS (Clinic) 国际SOS北京诊所 5 Sanlitun Xiwujie, BITIC Building C, Chaoyang District (6462 9112) 朝阳区三里屯西五街5号北信京谊大厦C座

At this internationally respected hospital the staff speak several European languages. There’s a well-stocked pharmacy and 24-hour emergency service. They can train your ayi in first aid as well. Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics 北京和睦家医院 2 Jiangtai Lu, Lido area, Chaoyang District 朝阳区蒋台路2号 Appointment: 5927 7000; Emergency: 5927 7120 预约电话:59277000, 紧急电话:59277120 This hospital focuses on providing comprehensive and integrated medical services for expats and locals. It is staffed by 60 internationally trained and certified physicians and assisted by a team that speaks over a dozen foreign languages. This hospital is the first choice for many expats giving

International Medical Center (IMC) 北京国际医疗中心 S106, 1/F Lufthansa Center, 50 Liangmaquiao Lu, Chaoyang District (6465 1561/2/3, www.imcclinics.com) IMC has foreign doctors on-site 24 hours and offers a wide range of services, mostly in English. It has top-notch facilities and a well-stocked pharmacy.

In the event of a medical emergency…

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f it’s safe to move the injured or sick person, it’s usually best to find the fastest way to the hospital on your own, by private car or taxi. For this reason, carry a card with the name and address of your hospital of choice in both English and Chinese. Ambulance times are slow because gridlocked Beijing traffic does not yield to emergency vehicles. Note that you will be taken to the nearest hospital, not to the hospital of your choice. To call an ambulance, dial 120 or 999 on any phone. Don’t count on the operator speaking English. It’s advisable to learn a few key phrases, particularly your own address and the name of your hospital. Another option is to call International SOS, which maintains a team of Western and Western-trained doctors. The US and Australian Consulates also have nurses on staff, and they can assist in suggesting an appropriate course of action. International SOS and Beijing United Family Hospital have the best emergency services for expats. Register with one or both of these hospitals before an emergency to save precious moments in the event you need to call either of these phone numbers. If you call their emergency numbers, they will liaise with an ambulance for you if need be. International SOS is a member-based service, but they will assist you in an emergency.

i If you are worried about not being prepared for an emergency in Beijing, why not brush up on your first aid skills? Most international hospitals provide courses for you to attend.

Pharmacies

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isiting a Chinese pharmacy can be a frustrating experience. Most of the brands you are familiar with will not be available, and few products are labelled in English. The pharmacist is unlikely to speak good English and may even try to pressure you to buy drugs you have never heard of. Items such as cold medications, allergy medications and Pepto-Bismol are hard to find. However, if you know the medicine’s chemical name, they may be able to help find a close equivalent. Chinese pharmacists may suggest Chinese medicine for your ailment. This is certainly worth a try and will not hurt you, particularly if the medication is herbal. If you need an antibiotic or anything more serious, you will have to visit a clinic or hospital pharmacy. At these, always ask if there is a generic version of your medication – hospitals tend to push more expensive brand medication. At least during your first few months in Beijing, it’s best to stick with the pharmacy associated with your preferred clinic or hospital.

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TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION

TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION

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i The main areas to look for a hotel vary according to your need. Business men or women should head to the financial district. whereas those here for a holiday should try Chaoyang District or the city centre, Guomao

eijing has a vast range of temporary accommodation options. There’s no shortage of hotels, hotel apartments, guesthouses and motels to choose from if you need somewhere to rest your head while waiting to move into more permanent living quarters. It’s advisable to spend some time in Beijing before committing to a lease. Neighbourhoods vary a great deal, and where you decide to live will inevitably dictate your lifestyle. Explore a few residential areas before you decide where to settle down.

i The range of hotels in Beijing is great. Prices range from 50RMB a night to thousands of RMB per night.

Hotels

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eijing has many excellent options, as major global brands are well represented. Most seem to be catering to the business traveller in terms of service and price. Their luxurious hotels offer spacious rooms, broadband Internet access, pools and recreation centres, 24-hour concierge services and club lounges. You can generally trust five-star ratings to match international standards, however check out your hotel on independent websites such as Tripadvisor or Expedia before forking over hundreds of dollars for an opulent night’s sleep. Check out websites such as Travelocity or Expedia to read recent reviews and get a good deal. Bamboo Garden Hotel 北京竹园宾馆 24 Xiaoshiquiao Hutong Jingulou Jie, Xicheng District 北京市西城区旧鼓楼大街小石桥胡同24号

(5852 0088, www.bbgh.com.cn) This popular hotel was once the private residence of an imperial minister. It is on a traditional hutong near Beijing’s Drum Tower, making it a perfect base for exploring Beijing’s cultural attractions from. Rooms are decorated with faux Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture. The Grand Hyatt 北京东方君悦大酒店 1 Dongchangan Jie, Chonwen District 中国北京市东长安街1号

(8518 1234, www.beijing.grand.hyatt.com) The massive Grand Hyatt is only 15 minutes by car from Tiananmen Square, next to the gigantic Oriental Plaza Mall.

The Westin Hotel, Financial Street

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(8403 5308, www.redcapitalclub.com.cn) This courtyard guesthouse is full of character and promises a memorable stay. Filled with rafters and old Communist memorabilia, the suite rooms evoke old Beijing charm. Ritz-Carlton 丽斯卡尔顿酒店 1 Jinchengfang Dongjie, Xicheng District 西城区 金城坊东街1号

(6601 6666, www.ritzcarlton.com) Located in the city’s new Financial Street, the Ritz-Carlton is convenient for business travellers, who will appreciate its chic decor and extensively equipped rooms. The Park Hyatt one of the many lavish dining options in Beijing

St. Regis 瑞吉酒店 21 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District 朝阳区建国门大街21号

Hotel Coté Cour 北京演乐精品酒店 70 Yanyue Hutong, Dongcheng District 东城区演乐胡同70号

i A lot of the larger hotels have fantastic worldclass restaurants with Michelinstarred head chefs.

(6512 8020, www.hotelcotecourbj.com) A true boutique hotel, Hotel Coté Cour’s 14 suites are adorned with Chinese silk, boast polished brick floors and are equipped with flat screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Jianguo 建国饭店 5 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District

(6460 6688, www.stregis.com) The St. Regis is a very classy hotel that boasts a grand marble lobby and personal butler service. The hotel also offers a hot spring spa, a bowling alley and a putting green on the roof. Comfort Inn & Suites 北京凯富酒店 6 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区工体北路6号

(8523 5522, www.choicehotels.com) The Comfort Inn is an excellent budget option, located in the heart of the

朝阳区建国门外大街5号

(6500 2233, www.hoteljianguo.com) Catering to business travellers, the Jianguo is designed to offer a slice of greenery in the heart of the business district – as well as a large swimming pool and health club.

i The types of hotel available in Beijing are very diverse. If you fancy experiencing authentic Beijing, you can stay in a very traditional courtyard hutong hotel where you are typically right in the hustle and bustle of local Beijing.

Peninsula 北京王府半岛酒店 8 Jinyu Hutong Wangfujing, Dongcheng District 东城区王府井金鱼胡同8号

(8516 2888, www.beijing-peninsula.com) As a member of the Peninsula Group, this exclusive hotel exudes wealth and exclusivity. The suites are spacious and fully equipped, with TVs in the bathrooms. Red Capital Residence 新红资客栈 9 Dongsiliutiao, Dongcheng District

The Hyatt in the CBD

东城区东四六条9号

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embassy district and within striking distance of the premier central cultural attractions. Holiday Inn Central Plaza 北京中环假日酒店 1 Caiyuanjie, Xuanwuqu, Xuanwu District 宣武区菜园街1号

(8397 0088) This Holiday Inn is a very central and comfortable option, located in the heart of Beijing’s tourist area. It’s a stone’s throw from Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, as well as the subway. The Westin 威斯汀酒店 B9 Financial Street, Xidan/Financial Street

i Living in a serviced aportment for the first few months is a good way to see if you like an area.

i

西单金融大街乙9号

Serviced apartment prices compare favourably to regular rental prices within Beijing.

(6606 8866) The Westin Beijing offers the sanctuary you are looking for in the heart of China. The Westin’s signature heavy beds and rainforest showers are on offer.

Hotel/Serviced Apartments

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his is a good option if you plan to take your time finding suitable housing to rent or buy, as it’s difficult to negotiate a short-term lease in Beijing. Lease agents are encouraged by landlords to sign minimum one-year leases. Expat-oriented short-term apartments are either specialised apartment blocks or form part of a hotel. They normally come fully furnished with kitchens and access to extensive facilities. They are available daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly. The longer the stay in a hotel apartment, the better the rate. For longer-term stays, they’re more comfortable and better value than hotels. The Apartments on Financial Street 北京金融街公寓 1 Jinchengfang Street, Xicheng District 北京西城区金城坊街1号

(010 6402 9001) The Apartments on Financial Street are adjacent to Central View Park, with an area of 30,000 square metres, allowing you to forget you are in the middle of the city. The apartments are also located close to the Central Business District and Xidan Shopping Area. The Sandalwood Marriott Executive Apartments 北京紫檀万豪行政公寓 23 Jianguo Road, Chaoyang District

The Ascott, Raffles, Dongzhimen

北京朝阳区建国路20号

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(010 8557 8888) The Sandalwood Marriott Executive Apartments are situated within Beijing’s Central Business District. Each apartment has been individually designed by world-renowned interior design consultant Karen Wang.

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TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION

TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION Ascott Raffles City Beijing 北京雅诗阁来福士中心服务公寓 1-2 Dongzhimen South Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing 北京东城区东直门南街1-2号

(010 8405 3888) Ascott Raffles City Beijing is ideally located, as it is close to major tourist and leisure spots like Lama Temple, Houhai, Beihai Park and Sanlitun. The designer fittings, furnishings and state of the art amenities complement the overall aesthetics. Each residence offers a multitude of conveniences including a separate living and dining area, a fully-equipped kitchen, Bose DVD Home Entertainment System and broadband Internet access.

i Many serviced apartments are similar to hotels, so it may be difficult to move out when the time comes!

The St.Regis Residence Beijing 21 Jianguomenwai Street

国际俱乐部

建国门外大街21号

(010 6460 6688) The St.regis Residence Beijing is in the First Diplomatic Area, just a few minutes away from the Tiananmen Square. They are known for thier fantastic clubhouse, which features a swimming pool, gym, library and cigar room.

The Ascott 108B Jianguo Road, Chaoyang District (6567 8100) A welcome alternative to a hotel in Beijing, the serviced apartments are located within the Central Business District and retail centres making this an ideal option for corporate housing, project assignment or interim stay. The rich cultural history of Beijing can be experienced and explored while indulging in the luxurious services and elegant private apartments.

i Some serviced apartments offer breakfast in bed.

Somerset Zhongguancun 北京盛捷中关村服务公寓 15 Haidian Zhongjie, Haidian District 海淀区海淀中街15号

(010 5873 0088) Somerset Zhongguancun is a luxurious residence that will provide you with a blend of history and modernity in timeless fashion. Part of Beijing’s Olympic Village, the Zhongguancun area has emerged as a world-class business precinct integrating the latest leisure, shopping, entertainment, technology, education and financial business facilities in the north of Beijing.

Oakwood Residence 奥克伍德华庭 55 North East 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District 北京市朝阳区东直门外斜街8号

(010 5995 2888) Oakwood is the largest global provider of corporate housing, temporary housing and serviced apartments. They have many apartments thoughout the world. Oakwood Residence Beijing bridges the downtown area of Jianguomenwai with the embassy and business districts around the Lufthansa commercial area. Somerset Grand Fortune Garden 北京盛捷福景苑酒店式公寓 46 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District 朝阳区亮马桥路46号

(010 8451 8888) Somerset Grand Fortune Garden is located within Chaoyang District, the biggest commercial, business and embassy district of Beijing. Nestled within this prime district, a seamless blend of comfort and luxury awaits you. Park Hyatt Residences 豪华公寓柏悦居 2 Jianguomenwai Street, Chaoyang District 朝阳区建国门外大街2号

(010 8567 1234) Park Hyatt Beijing combines gracious service with contemporary accommodation to create a warm, welcoming personal residence which

Oakwood Residences, Dongzhimen.

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FINDING HOUSING

FINDING HOUSING Finding housing in Beijing

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hoose your housing carefully. In a city this big, and this sprawling, where you live will dictate your lifestyle. Take the time to check out different areas and living arrangements. The best way to get a feel for Beijing’s varied residential worlds before signing a lease is to thoroughly explore the different neighbourhoods. While you’re at it, give potential daily journeys to work or school a trial run. Collect information and perspectives by speaking to property agents that specialise in expatriate housing and asking colleagues and friends about the advantages and disadvantages of their areas. Investigate the surroundings of your potential apartment or villa. There is much construction going on in Beijing and the noise from these sites can be a real disturbance.

Finding appropriate housing in Beijing can be frustrating, as there are pros and cons to every option. The high-rises in the Central Business District may be close to the action, but it’s also noisy and lacks green space. Conversely, the expansive suburban villa in Shunyi may leave you and your family feeling isolated from city life. Even if it seems inconvenient, spend at least a month searching for housing. If possible, send a family member to Beijing early to search out housing before making the move. Otherwise, rent a serviced apartment for the first month or two before committing to a lease. It’s preferable to suffer through this initial inconvenience rather than have to move house after six months or a year, when you’ll want to be settling in. Many expats with school-age children choose to reside in suburban Shunyi or near Chaoyang Park in order to have green space and be close to the international schools. Younger foreigners tend to prefer vibrant downtown areas near dining and nightlife, such as Dongcheng and the CBD. However, for the price of a one- or two-bedroom apartment in the CBD, you could rent a large villa in Shunyi, where homes are usually in large self-sufficient gated communities. There are costs and benefits to every option, and it’s very important to do the legwork and research to find a home that suits the needs of you and your family. Think everything through – from your work commute to proximity to a nice bakery – before making a decision. Factors to consider carefully include: Space How much space do you and your family need? Some of the expat villas in the outer areas of Beijing are extremely spacious, while living in the city centre could mean adapting to a different lifestyle to that you were accustomed to back home.

Commute How long does it take to get to work and school? The importance of this cannot be overstated. Long commutes in Beijing traffic are time-killers, not to mention mentally and physically exhausting. Do not attempt to estimate commute time by studying a map – there are too many variables to calculate. The real commute depends on traffic at the time of the commute, access to a freeway and ongoing or upcoming construction projects. Living near a subway stop is a surefire time-saver if your job’s also near one. The only way to truly know your commute is to do a few test runs. Children Are you near the school that your children will attend? Are there other families with children of the same age in your neighbourhood? Are there safe play areas and green spaces? Neighbourhood conveniences Does the area have supermarkets selling the kind of food or other household items you will need? It’s also nice to have a few restaurants, agreeable cafés and bars, as well as sports facilities, nearby. Safety Although violent crime is not really an issue anywhere in Beijing, traffic is. If you have children, you may want to consider living away from a busy thoroughfare.

i The recent reduction in toll from RMB10 to RMB5 has increased the traffic on the airport expressway out to Shunyi. If caught at a bad time it can add almost 1 hour to a journey!

Lease agreements

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ease agreements are typically made for a minimum of one year (shorter leases are available for serviced apartments) but longer leases often lower the rent. A security deposit of two months’ rent is generally expected upon signing. Rent is normally paid in cash in RMB, and does not usually include utilities. The lease itself will come in two copies – one in Chinese and one in English. Only the Chinese copy is a legal document so bring a Chinese friend with you for the signing. Alternatively, you could ask your housing agent to make up a bilingual lease. The power of negotiation in Beijing housing cannot be overstated. Do not hesitate to bargain. The recent juxtaposition of a housing boom and economic downturn has made Beijing a buyer’s market for expats seeking housing. Your first quoted price is likely to include what expats refer to tongue-in-cheek as a ‘foreigner tax’. Always try to bring the price down. Even easier, perhaps, get the landlord to throw some amenities into the deal, such as free parking, fitness club membership and additional furnishings. If you do not require a receipt (fapiao) for your rent, the landlord should offer

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FINDING HOUSING an additional discount because he / she won’t have to pay income tax on the transaction.

Types of housing

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eijing has a full range of housing, from local-style apartments to mansion-sized luxurious villa communities. Most expats live in one of the four housing types listed here.

i If you are unhappy with the furniture in an apartment or house/villa you can always ask the landlord to remove it and buy your own. This can often lower the cost of the rent. Alternatively you can ask the landlord to supply you with a budget and go and buy your own furniture, allowing you to personalise your new home.

Apartments One of the most noticeable aspects of Beijing’s booming economy is the surge in new apartment construction. Chinese based overseas, locals and long-term expats have bought them up, subsequently renting them to foreigners with housing allowances. These apartments tend to be in spacious high rises, and look and feel new. They are normally sold ‘raw’ to the buyer, who then designs the interior and adds fixtures according to his or her taste and target renter. Therefore, if you like a particular development or area, view different units within the same building. Some developments offer their own housekeeping, concierge service and fitness facilities.

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FINDING HOUSING arrangement is agreed on before you sign anything or begin accepting their assistance. Dozens of relocation and property agent companies advertise on popular expat websites, newspapers and magazines. If you’re unfamiliar with Beijing, it’s a good idea to employ an agent. Good agents know the market and the players and are patient, taking the time to understand your family’s needs. At the same time, it’s your responsibility to communicate your needs and tastes to the agent. There are plenty of shady agents working in Beijing, so try to get a personal recommendation or use a reputable company. Websites www.thebeijinger.com Listings in English of all types of housing, as well as classifieds for roommates wanted www.wuwoo.com This bilingual website has an interactive map that lists properties by location www.beijing.baixing.com Chinese-language classifieds by location and price range

Houses and villas Typically located northwest of the city near the airport (Shunyi District), villas are normally grouped together in luxury living complexes that appear to be replicas of suburbia in the US or Europe. Fully furnished and equipped with a community centre, children’s facilities, a health club and restaurant, villa compounds are virtually self-sufficient entities. They are normally located in family-oriented locations near large parks and international schools.

i Make sure you look at lots of different housing options. Agents often try to pressurise you to make a decision quickly, but take your time; a good bargain is always there to be found.

Courtyard houses and hutongs

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he destruction of Beijing’s traditional hutongs and courtyard houses has been well documented. However, it’s still possible to find one to rent. Older courtyards tend to be very basic, with just two rooms on a single floor. Some don’t even have their own bathroom. Those that have been renovated tend to be of a much higher standard and have a wonderful traditional feel – although the rent will be about four times higher than normal.

Search tools

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good way to get an idea of current listing prices is to browse the real estate sections of websites with classifieds. However, if you’re moving to Beijing it’s much easier to hire one of the seemingly thousands of real estate agents to do the legwork for you. Typically they do the search for free for you, and then if you decide to rent an apartment they find for you, they will receive one month’s rent (paid by the landlord). Make sure that this

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GETTING SETTLED

GETTING SETTLED Setting up your home

Utilities

his should be a simple process. With the right planning, it can be fun and inexpensive. There are some obstacles, but they can all be overcome by being patient and resourceful. Moving costs are generally low, there are plenty of furniture shops with Western and Chinese pieces and domestic help is cheap and abundant. Most residential areas are self-contained and convenient with local dry cleaners, convenience stores, supermarkets, banks and a variety of restaurants.

ower and water are provided by state-owned monopolies. The Beijing Power Company provides the city with electricity, while the Beijing Tap Water Company supplies your household water. Heating is centralised and turned on for all residents of Beijing on November 15 and turned off again around March 15. It gets cold before and after those dates, so buy a couple of space heaters to survive the chilly nights in early November and late March. Electricity, gas, water, telephone and Internet fees are not normally included in the rent, although heating usually is. These fees are usually paid monthly in cash. Ask your building manager how and where this is paid in order to make a convenient arrangement. This is crucial because in Beijing, they can shut down your utilities immediately if you forget to pay on time!

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Moving

I Having a translator on call will solve many communication problems.

f you’re sending a large shipment, the relocation process takes at least a month, but it’s wise to plan on it taking up to three months – even longer if you’re moving pets or vehicles. Start the process as soon as possible. International relocation companies are strict and professional, but charge about four times the price of Chinese companies. If you’re not too attached to your furniture, leave it behind in storage. It’s quicker and less stressful to furnish your home in Beijing.

Furnishing your home

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ost Beijing rentals come fully furnished with beds, tables, couches, kitchen appliances, TVs and telephones. Most apartments are equipped with washing machines, although dryers and dishwashers are less common. Landlords that rent to expats try to maintain a foreign-friendly, up-to-date style of decor. If the apartment is not furnished, or you find the furnishings distasteful, negotiate with the landlord for a furniture allowance. In a way this is ideal, since you’ll be fully compensated for picking out the furnishings of your choice. Be firm that this be included before you sign the lease. Landlords may be willing to skim off a month or so of rent in exchange for your adding new furnishings to a partially furnished apartment. As in all aspects of the housing process, do not hesitate to negotiate hard. If you do wish to refurnish your apartment or add additional pieces, there are plenty of options. Beijing is home to the second-largest IKEA in the world, which has lower prices than at home and affordable delivery. If you’re searching for Chinese-style furniture, head to Gaobeidian, a large furniture district on the east side of the city. Dozens of stores line one long street, selling everything from canopy beds to coffee table bric-a-brac. Outlets here will also make pieces to order, but bring a translator and negotiate prices down. For upscale Asian and European furniture and interior design, Dara is a popular option (www.dara.com.cn). IQAir (www.theiqairstore.com) has several stores selling air purifiers, a necessity in a Beijing home.

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Laundry

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eijing apartments come with washing machines, but not always dryers. Most appliance stores sell dryers. Small laundry and dry cleaning establishments are sprinkled throughout most neighbourhoods, particularly near expat compounds and apartment buildings.

Domestic help

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t’s common for expats and Beijingers alike to employ full-time or part-time local maids, known as ayis. Ayis (which translates to ‘auntie’) are local women who clean the house, cook, buy groceries, look after children and run other errands. At first, the idea of always having someone in your house can seem strange, but you will quickly adapt to the convenience and appreciate the time you save. However, a downside is that most ayis don’t speak any English. This can be challenging at first, but is a good way to learn some Chinese, and children invariably pick up the language quickly from their ayi. Ayis are generally paid RMB10-18 an hour, with some expatriates paying double that, plus a Chinese New Year bonus. Some expat families living in large villas with several children, or working long hours, hire more than one ayi. There are some guidelines to bear in mind to make this relationship run smoothly. It’s extremely important that you make clear to your ayi exactly what needs to be done in the household, and how you’d like it done. Your ayi will appreciate this, and it will ideally serve as the foundation of a long and successful working relationship. Show her the household basics, such as working the washing machine and how to prepare your children’s favourite meals. It’s helpful to have someone who speaks Chinese translate instructions and scheduling for you. This does not need to be a formal contract, just a way to establish expectations. Learning some Chinese phrases will make the relationship more productive and congenial. Even if she has worked in a foreign household before and is familiar with your appliances, she will not know how your family likes things done.

Word-of-mouth is the best way to find reliable domestic help.

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GETTING SETTLED

i Don’t expect your whites to come out white in China. Try dry cleaning.

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GETTING SETTLED

Finding a good ayi is a key element of a comfortable household in Beijing, so be patient and methodical in your selection process. The best way to find a reliable ayi is through friends, neighbours or colleagues. If someone is leaving Beijing, they will be eager to help out their ayi by finding her new employment. If you’re seeking part-time help, start with your neighbours, as it would be convenient for the ayi to help out at adjacent residences. Announcement boards in Western stores, such as the supermarket Jenny Loos, and community clubhouses advertise ayis. If you take this approach, ask to contact the ayi’s previous employer. If the situation isn’t working out, go through a domestic help service. Domestic help agencies provide household staff that are trained to cook Western food, speak English and care for infants. However, many expats report that agencies tend to exaggerate the skills and experience of some of their ayis. Before signing an employment contract, have the ayi over to your home for a trial run to see how she handles the workload and interacts with your children.

i A good ayi will also be a good Mandarin teacher.

Domestic help agencies Beijing Ayi Housekeeping Service (6434 5647, www.bjayi.com) Beijing Expat Housemaid Service (6438 1634, wwwexpatslife.com) Beijing Merry Home Consulting (8205 0311, www.merryhome.com.cn)

Babysitting and childcare

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ome expat families rely on part-time or live-in ayis (see above) for babysitting and after-school care. Ayis, many with children of their own, can provide safe and low-cost child supervision. If you rely on this, clearly communicate your child’s needs to the ayi, and prepare a detailed emergency plan. Despite its size and hectic, urban nature, Beijing is a kid-friendly place with active parents’ groups, play centres and accessible childcare resources. Many expat housing complexes have playgroups, and people help each other out with babysitting. If need be, contact a professional daycare centre. Daycare Specialists Fundazzle (6500 4193, www.fandoule.com) Kindermusik With Sarah (8772 3419, www.kmwithsarah.com.cn) KindyROO Early Childhood Development Academy (5166 8078, www.kindyroo.com)

‘Auntie’ helping out at home.

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CULTURE SHOCK

CULTURE SHOCK Culture shock

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REALITY CHECK Depending on where you are in Beijing, you will find yourself being observed by the locals to varying degrees. Many Westerners would regard this as staring and thus rude, but in fact it is most likely just honest curiosity.

ulture shock is the inability to understand and react to what is going on around you. For example, the first time you go to the post office or wait in line for a subway ticket, several people may cut in front of you, perhaps rudely nudging you out of the way in the process. At home, you could simply say “Excuse me” and expect the violator of common etiquette to move aside and wait their turn. However, when that happens in China (and it most certainly will) you will feel totally unable to control the situation. This feeling of helplessness is common and to be expected. Helplessness easily turns into frustration and stress. The way people react to stress varies. Some feel depressed and isolated, some become irritable and some react with cultural chauvinism – giving the impression that the way they do things back home is the best way, and the locals are just not clever enough to figure it out. Depending on your own awareness of culture shock, as well as the amount of support you are receiving, it can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Experts say that almost everyone experiences culture shock in stages. STAGE 1: What a wonderful world! In this initial stage, Beijing can do nothing wrong. It’s thrilling to see China up close. Interactions with the locals are seen as small victories, the food is wonderful – even if you can barely identify it – and each excursion is an adventure into a new land to be laboriously retold to friends and family back home. STAGE 2: What in the world am I doing here? After a while, the euphoria of new travel fades. Your brain begins to notice patterns in your routines and the feeling of being an outsider sets in. It gets tiring to walk in crowds, be shoved in lines and dodge taxis who lay on their horn as if it was your fault for being in the crosswalk. Trying to learn basic Chinese is too difficult and seems pointless. During this stage, you may find yourself spending a lot of time on the phone or Internet complaining about Beijing, perhaps daydreaming of being back home. STAGE 3: Beijing is my new home There will be a day when you meet new friends who have been here less time than you have. It is somehow a pleasure to offer them pointers. You know some Chinese – enough to order food, give directions to a taxi driver and greet your neighbours. There are social events to attend and a trip to the post office is no longer so daunting an obstacle. When someone attempts

to nudge you out of the way, you can confidently say “Duibuqi!” In this stage, when you are on the phone with your friends at home, you are telling them to come and visit you.

Get a grip

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o what should you do to keep culture shock under control? There are measures you can take to mitigate the negative aspects.

1) Get to know your immediate neighbourhood well. You may be in a foreign city, but being familiar with a few neighbourhood restaurants, markets and green areas will at least allow you to feel that you have control over your immediate domain. 2) Start a journal. This is an invaluable tool. A journal will force you to reflect on your own feelings and consequently get you thinking about ways to get control of them. It will also be a priceless experience to read it a year later when you’re an old Beijing hand. 3) Sign up for a Chinese class. Knowing even a few phrases right away makes a big difference when speaking with your ayi or the neighbourhood shopkeeper. It’s also a good way to meet other new expats. 4) Have a new perspective. After all, you are in an entirely new place. Try to be an explorer and see things existentially, learning from a way of life that is embraced by over 1 billion people. Keep in mind that when Chinese people visit your country, they experience culture shock as well.

REALITY CHECK Most foreigners report that the more they learn about China, the more comfortable they feel. If you take the time to learn more, you will be rewarded.

Etiquette

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nderstanding some basic norms for etiquette in China is a good way to offset feelings of culture shock and it will also help you understand the people and their culture better. Here is a brief list of table manners : • • • • •

Chopsticks are sacred in China – never point them at anyone, suck them, wave them around, stab them into a bowl of rice and leave them there or play the drums on the table with them The host should always ensure that the guest’s glasses are full Smoking is customary at the table in China so don’t be offended when locals light up at your table or the next Spitting bones on the table next to your plate is also customary Never put your fingers in your mouth

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EDUCATION

EDUCATION

EDUCATION IN BEIJING CHOOSING A SCHOOL

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ne of the biggest concerns of parents when they learn that they will be relocating overseas is how their children will adjust and be educated. “Will they be happy? Will they be safe? Will they be able to reintegrate when they return home?” These are all questions that parents ask themselves before departure. What they learn upon arrival in Beijing is that the city has a wide array of educational choices available, including world class schools like The British School of Beijing. Parents are quickly comforted with the knowledge that their children will be safe, happy and well educated.

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EDUCATION Primary and secondary schooling

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eijing’s primary and secondary school community boasts programmes with increasingly elaborate facilities and varied academic offerings. For expat families that want an education using a standard international curriculum, Beijing offers a diverse range of international schools offering International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes and IGCSEs. In recent years, these IGCSE programmes have gained popularity with secondary schools thanks to their global appeal and recognition from top universities worldwide. Some of the international schools have a waiting list, but space is growing. However, admissions officers recommend applying by early March, as most schools begin finalising their rosters at that time. Contact them

The quality of international schools in Beijing is among the highest in the world. You can rest assured that your child will receive an excellent education.

directly to find out if there is space in the specific years of your children. Most schools require an entrance exam, and typically an assessment is also required for students with less advanced English skills. Otherwise, parents and students simply fill out an application form and provide previous school records, medical records, standardised test scores and sometimes a letter of recommendation.

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EDUCATION

EDUCATION Tips for choosing a school

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arents who have been through the process before say that finding the right school for your child starts with asking the right questions. In Beijing, expat families have a variety of schools to choose from. The choices range from prestigious international schools, to international divisions within local schools, to local schools themselves. And no two schools are the same, including the ones with multiple campuses. Institutions can vary in terms of curriculum, facilities, size, cost, location, activities, philosophy and sometimes even in teacher experience.

feel for the environment. 2) How will this school prepare my child for university? If your child is in secondary school, then knowing which country your child wants to head to after graduation will help determine which curriculum is best suited for them. Of course, American universities are familiar with the British curriculum and vice versa. The A Level and IB programmes are recognised worldwide. Students who plan to study in the UK or Asia (other than mainland China) are best served by preparing for and taking IGCSE exams in Year 11 and following on with A Levels. Likewise, though Canadian and Australian students have a bit more flexibility, most parents prefer to educate their children in the British curriculum. 3) Does this school provide an environment that my child will thrive in? Ultimately, selecting a school comes down to personal taste. It’s tempting to try to generalise, but the fact is a large student body does not automatically mean a school is impersonal. Likewise, a small student body does not automatically mean a school lacks in course or activity options. If you can, visit the school and get a sense of the atmosphere. Read school marketing materials critically to determine their emphasis. Most importantly, talk to other parents. Ask what they like about the school and what they would change. Make the most of your school visit by paying attention to the tone of classrooms as well as general areas, noting interactions between students and teachers and among students themselves.

The British School of Beijing Before you pick up a single brochure, contact an admissions officer or set foot on a campus, prepare to get answers to these three key questions: 1) What is the student to teacher ratio, and what certifications do teachers have? 2) How will this school prepare my child for university? and 3) Does this school provide an environment that my child will thrive in? 1) What is the student to teacher ratio, and what certifications do teachers have? Research throughout the world has consistently indicated that good teachers are the key element of children’s developmental and academic success. Furthermore, quality teachers are able to thrive when the student to teacher ratio is low. Smaller class sizes permit teachers to attend to the needs of each individual student and be innovative in presenting course material and facilitating learning. Be sure to ask admissions officers about teachers’ qualifications and class sizes. Follow up by visiting a few classrooms to get a

i International schools in Beijing are focal points for community life. A strong sense of community will help your child and family adjust better to life in China.

Here are some additional questions that parents report are helpful when gauging a school: • What is the annual turnover rate of teachers? • What percentage of teachers are certified to teach in their home country? • What IGCSE and A Level classes are available? Which are the most popular? • What foreign languages are available, and are students required to study Chinese? • Where do graduates go to university? • What extracurricular activities are available? • What community service opportunities are available?

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EDUCATION

EDUCATION Universities and higher education

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i Be aware that many foreign universities operating in Beijing charge non-resident fees for their programmes, making them more expensive than if you were at home.

eijing is home to dozens of universities offering every imaginable program, and expats increasingly take advantage of the affordable tuition and transferable credits made possible by affiliations with foreign universities in Europe, Australia and North America. Most of the universities are located in Wudaokou, a pleasant student area in Haidan District. Peking and Tsinghua are two of China’s most prestigious and competitive universities. Peking University (www.pku.edu.cn) has excellent facilities and offers a wide range of disciplines. Touting itself as the Harvard of China, it draws the second largest number of expat students in China. Tsinghua is renowned for its engineering programmes (only offered in Chinese at undergraduate level), however its Chinese-language programs are popular with expats and it offers nice facilities. For locals, the university admissions process is extremely stressful and based solely on nationwide examination results. Foreigners, however, are exempt from these exams. All one has to do to enroll in a Chinese university is fill out a simple application form, submit school records and other documentation, have a physical examination and show proof of language proficiency. The majority of expat students choose to leave China to study in the US or Europe, but more and more are choosing to study in a Chinese university for a year or more before transferring. Many international universities have satellite campuses in the Beijing area, particularly with Master of Business Administration (MBA) and Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) programmes. The University of Maryland and Rutgers Business School have top-notch programmes in central Beijing.

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Language courses

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hether your life or work requires you to interact with non-Englishspeaking Chinese people or not, learning some Mandarin can make living in Beijing an easier, more enjoyable experience. Although English is commonly spoken in the city centre and in the proximity of expat communities, exploring many parts of the city, shopping and communicating with taxi drivers requires at least basic knowledge of Mandarin. If you are keen to learn there are two options. One is to enroll at a university, where the larger and cheaper classes generally focus on reading and writing Chinese characters. The other is to take classes at one of the many language schools, which offer full-time and part-time courses. Classes tend to be smaller and most schools also offer private tutors. Though they are more expensive, language schools tend to be more flexible when it comes to students’ language levels and schedules. Another difference is that language schools often avoid Chinese characters in the introductory levels, choosing instead to teach oral Mandarin using the Pinyin system (Chinese written in the Roman alphabet). Oral learning is easier and faster. Therefore, for those in need of some survival Chinese, this is probably the best option.

It is important to note that learning Chinese is difficult if you are only attending class a few hours each week. If you are serious about learning the language then attend class at least three times a week and seize the opportunity to practise with your colleagues or ayi whenever possible.

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EDUCATION The British School of Beijing South Side, 9 Anhua Street, Shunyi District 5 Xiliujie, Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District

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he British School of Beijing offers the British National Curriculum and the A Level Programme in years 12 and 13. It is the only school in which teacher recruitment (90% of the teaching staff is brought from the UK), curriculum planning, program development and parent relations are all managed by veteran British administrators. This difference is immediately obvious to parents. The British School of Beijing allows students to follow the same academic programme as their counterparts in the UK, and newer students report a smooth transition. This is an easy choice for British parents. Canadian and Australian parents are attracted to the parity in curricula, while many Asian parents appreciate the system of academic accountability and overall rigour of the British system, evidenced by the school’s excellent IGCSE results. For the 2007-2008 academic year, approximately 45% of Year 10 and 11 students were awarded A grades. This is exceptional considering that English is the second language of many students. All students in Years 12 and 13 participate in the A Level programme. Besides The British School of Beijing’s commitment to academic excellence, the school is remarkably student-centred. State-of-the-art facilities on each of The British School of Beijing’s campuses offer competitive sports, fine arts and a variety of extracurricular activities, which are designed according to the demands of the student body. Admission to either of the two British Schools in Shunyi or Saniltun is non-selective for native English speakers and despite maintaining a low student-to-teacher ratio, waiting lists are not a problem. For more information, visit www.britishschool.org.cn.

i The British School of Beijing is part of Nord Anglia Education - a world leader in delivering education excellence.

Other international schools in Beijing International School Beijing 10 Anhua Jie (near Yosemite), Shunyi District Western Academy Beijing 10 Laiguangying Dong Lu, Shunyi District Harrow International School No. 5, 4th Block, Anzhenxili, Chaoyang District Yew Chung International School Honglingjin Park, 5 Houbalizhuang, Chaoyang District Canadian International School 38 Liangmaqiao Road, Chaoyang District

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Secondary Sanlitun Campus

No.5 Xiliujie, Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China Tel: +8610-8532-3088 Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Shunyi Campus

South Side, No 9, An Hua Street, Tianzhu Development Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing 101318, China

Foundation Stage

Primary School

The British School of Beijings Secondary School is a thriving community. We provide pupils with a wide range of academic and extracurricular activities. Our highly qualified staff foster the spirit of enquiry and self discipline necessary to succeed in higher education, jobs and the wider world. As the longest established school in Beijing offering a full British curriculum, The British School of Beijing provides a traditional high value education and prepares pupils for GCSE and A Levels.

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Tel: +8610-8047-3588

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Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Sixth Form

www.britishschool.org.cn admissions@britishschool.org.cn


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Perfect in F

EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

Primary

irst day of school today, Mum! I’m scared, I don’t want you to leave me, I don’t want to stay in the classroom, will you come in with me, will you hold my hand, can you stay there, can you stay where I can see you… Sound familiar? Much of the focus of parents on choosing the right school for their child is on the future. Secondary school, university entrance, career choice and even beyond. These are of course vital. By Mike Embley, Executive Principal The British School of Beijing

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EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

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o a young child taking their first steps into the world outside the home, though, these concerns are perhaps somewhat less important than how friendly, welcoming and caring their teacher is. In terms of building a solid foundation for later life, both in terms of academic success and social confidence, the curriculum and practice in primary school is absolutely critical. The Early Years and Foundation stage of the British National Curriculum has at its heart a set of principles enshrined in the statement “Every Child Matters”. To a parent this is selfevident; however, not every school takes this to heart. The aims of Every Child Matters are simple to enunciate. Give every child the support they need to be healthy and safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing.

“Different curricula place a slightly different emphasis on various areas of a child’s developmental pathway” It is very easy to suggest that endless homework for under 7s will help them to achieve, or that absolutely no structure and constant free play for under 9s will allow them to enjoy school. Conversely, it is easy to suggest that a playground environment should be completely calm and that children should be discouraged from running and jumping, or testing themselves in a safe and supervised fashion on the climbing frame. The British Curriculum gives balance to the sometimes conflicting needs of a developing mind: freedom and structure, academic progress and free play, risk taking and safety, living in the moment and planning for the future. While these goals are easy to write in a list, their actual implementation in a school requires a careful focus and a dedicated and reflective team. The fact that a school has a gentle approach to its children does not mean it is any less academic. In fact, supporting young minds as they reach for new learning is key to their development. Different curricula place a slightly different emphasis on various areas of a child’s developmental pathway. Some emphasise more free expression and play and place less emphasis on structure. In fact, some go as far as to suggest that any structure is harmful

for children. Others, on the other hand, place a high, or indeed one might say heavy, focus on academic subjects. At one extreme of the spectrum this might include a great deal of rote learning. And some schools suggest that they offer a balance of the two approaches. The fundamental issue is, do they? The British Curriculum guarantees that this balance is built in and is rigorously held to, through an inspection regime and a thorough set of standards and documentation. This inbuilt balance, combined with dedicated, passionate and compassionate teachers, is the foundation of a child’s future. Every child does indeed matter. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Michael Embley graduated first in his class from The University of Leeds. He has led some of the most prestigious and successful international schools across the globe. He has worked in the UK, Taiwan, Venezuela, Norway and China. In addition he has also worked with governments, assisting them in curriculum design and implementation. A clear focus on the whole pupil, from academic achievement to sporting and musical success and, vitally, the health and social well being of every student have been hallmarks of the schools he has led. As a father of four he is always aware that student really means “someone’s child” and it is perhaps this fact, above all, that informs his approach to school leadership. He has a keen interest in music and is a world class swordsman....but rarely finds the need to use this talent with his students!

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EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

Making an educated choice

The British or American Curriculum By Mike Embley, Executive Principal THE BRITISH SCHOOL OF BEIJING

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ny comparison of the two systems must start with the statement that one is not comparing like with like. The US doesn’t have a single educational system in the sense that England does. American schools do, however, have a number of accreditation bodies, who ensure that they have certain standards and fundamentals in common. US schools are also much more free to respond to the requirements, or indeed demands, of the local population. This means that special interest groups can have at times a significant effect on teaching requirements and the curriculum in those schools. This might lead to certain subjects, such as Biology, having additional strictures on what can and cannot be taught in schools. Schools in England, on the other hand, follow a single standard National Curriculum.

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EDUCATION SUPPLEMENT

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eachers in both systems have some degree of personal freedom to develop their own teaching style within the structure of the particular curriculum that they follow. The English National Curriculum specifies in some considerable detail the educational milestones that children should reach on a year-by-year basis as they progress through their school life. Children are regularly assessed in detail by teachers, who use a standardised set of criteria to assign levels to their progress. Nationally, standardised tests are also employed, which give a very strong indication of how well a child is doing compared to national standards. In the US the relatively recent introduction of the No Child Left Behind act has also introduced compulsory standardised testing in the majority of schools. The act was brought in to address America’s relatively poor performance compared to

“It is arguably the case that the British system is slightly more advanced in terms of maths and literacy, but in truth the variation between students is higher than that between the two systems” other developed countries in terms of the academic standards of its students. International schools which follow the English National Curriculum use the same standardised testing regime and criteria as schools in England. This allows, for example, a British international school to compare and benchmark itself with the very best schools in the UK and to ensure that its standards are set at that level. Each child is assessed and set targets that are achievable for them. It’s important to note that schools are tasked with not only ensuring the progress of the very able, but also of those whose abilities are not at the top of the range. A student may not excel in national terms in all areas of the curriculum but it is important that the schools ensure that each student does as well as they can and is challenged to progress at a rate over and above that they might achieve at an ‘average’ school. These targets are sometimes referred to as Golden Targets and are often used as criteria for parents

to judge the ‘value added’ by their school. ‘Value added’ refers to the progress that students in each school make over and above the average progress that a child would be expected to make and is an important element in school evaluation in the UK. In the US, students are compared using a variety of different standards throughout elementary school and high school. These vary from essentially IQ-based tests to tests which track progress through the curriculum based on tests of recall or understanding. The political landscape of the US is, of course, more varied than that of the UK, and this has inarguably had an effect on the way in which testing is viewed. International schools following a broadly US-based curriculum will generally choose one of the larger school accreditation bodies. These are based in different regions of the US and have also broadened their responsibilities to include some overseas US schools. These bodies include WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges), NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) and SACS (Southern Association of Schools and Colleges), but there are others. They try to ensure that schools meet the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) targets specified in the NCLB act.

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Schooling in the US generally begins at the age of around 5 or 6 years old. The initial focus in kindergarten is on play-based activities, with a transition to more formal structured learning occurring gradually as the child progresses through school. In many ways this is mirrored in the British system. Unlike in many areas of the US, however, a full system is in place for early years education. The Early Years/Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum is centred on developing all aspects of a very young child, both social and academic. It monitors and assesses key developmental milestones. Parental communication is heavily emphasised in the EYFS. Play is, of course, emphasised in the play-based learning sections of the curriculum, as are areas of continuous provision such as outdoor play, arts activities and books. Even before children can read it’s important to have books around so that they begin to develop habits which will lead to a lifelong love of learning.

Moving into primary school, the key difference might be seen to be one of approach. The core areas of teaching in fact vary little. It is arguably the case that the British system is slightly more advanced in terms of maths and literacy, but in truth the variation between students is higher than that between the two systems. There is also a somewhat wider focus in the British system, contrasted with a more ‘national’ focus in the US. However, again the variation between teachers is wider than that laid down in the curriculum, with some US teachers considering it their duty to promote a wider world view where they are allowed to do so. One key area, though, is that of ‘tradition’. Many British schools still have uniforms and an explicit emphasis on teaching good manners and social skills. Both systems, of course, aim to combat bullying and other obvious social ills, but in general it would be fair to say that many US schools from primary upwards are a little more free or informal than their British counterparts. Of course this is neither good nor bad. Many parents may consider the teaching of good manners rather old-fashioned, or school uniforms a restriction of children’s freedom of expression. The British headmaster would reply that uniforms make for a family atmosphere and feeling of community and reduce fashion pressure on both children and parents. There is no right answer to this issue, of course, and neither system can be said to be superior.

British child is indeed one year more advanced in mathematics and language than their US counterpart (based on national average statistics). The differences in approach become even more pronounced, as schools across the US have a very different and more liberal approach than that of schools in the UK. General standards in any good school in either the US or the UK will not vary hugely. The UK primary and early years system has proven to be highly successful in nurturing young minds, but aspects of the US middle school system are also being developed strongly. Both systems feature a strong emphasis on ICT skills, but the UK system is perhaps a little more outward looking. The key difference will always be one of approach. A modern forward-looking system aiming to maintain some traditional values, or a highly varied state-by-state system looking to satisfy the needs of a very varied community while maintaining a liberal tradition; in the end, it’s up to parents and students to choose the one best suited to them.

In secondary school (high school) the differences become more pronounced. Here by most standards the average

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A-level or

IB Diploma? T

he first and most important thing to state in any comparison of these two programmes aimed at 16- to 17-year-olds seeking to enter university is to emphasise that they are both very good. Very different in many regards‌ but both very good. The second point to emphasise is that both are accepted equally widely. The IB Diploma is essentially a qualification run and managed by the Swiss-based International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) and the A Level, administered by the University of Cambridge in the UK, is the qualification taken in thousands of British schools both in the UK and beyond. It would be unjust to claim that either offers either a better education or a better passport to universities around the world than the other. Indeed good grades in EITHER can result in up to one year’s credit at universities in the USA and of course entry to university in the UK is a given. Canada, Australia and many other countries recognise both officially and both provide an excellent route into the course of choice for the hardworking student. So why is it correct to say that they are different?

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he IB Diploma takes a more generalist approach in many regards, with students having to complete 6 subject areas in addition to a general epistemological course called Theory of Knowledge(TOK). In addition they must complete an extended essay over the two years of the course and at least 3 hours a week of Creativity, Action, Service(CAS) activities over the course of the two years adding up to around 150 hours as a minimum. Academic subjects are chosen at higher level or standard level and students must choose three of each from varying option blocks. The requirement to choose from blocks of options as laid down by the IBO means students must study at least two languages, generally their first language and one other. Students must also continue to study some area of mathematics, arts, humanities and sciences. Some small amount of

flexibility is allowed in that students can opt to study additional sciences or languages by sacrificing the arts option. So the IB Diploma is a course that encourages and requires students to continue a wide range of courses and also a great commitment to non-subject-specific requirements such as CAS, TOK and the extended essay. On the other hand, A Levels (the A stands for Advanced) offer a much more focussed approach to university entrance studies. Most students will choose to take three subjects at A Level and will focus their subject choice on areas of interest and in which they will succeed. So for example, a budding young doctor would study Mathematics, Chemistry and one other subject (often a second science) whereas a budding linguist would study English, Chinese and French. Some students find the flexibility and freedom a liberating experience. A budding classical scholar may be relieved to no longer have to study Mathematics! Indeed, in some cases A Levels offer a more secure route to University entry, as students are able to focus on subjects they like and are therefore likely to do well in. Many of us recall the horror of sitting in a class we found dull or frustrating and the fact that this often led to a poor grade in that area.

Each A Level subject is studied in a great deal more depth than the equivalent on the IB Diploma course. Thus success at A Level in 3 (or sometimes 4) subjects is equal in the eyes of universities to the 9 Subjects (6 + CAS, TOK and the essay) of the IB Diploma. Students and parents need to make this most critical of decisions with all the information at hand and carefully weigh it up. Both curricula offer rigour, interest and international acceptance in equal measure. A Levels are regarded by some universities as slightly preferable but equally some regard the IB Diploma in the same light. The important point is that a student with good grades in either will be accepted everywhere. Nonetheless each is very different from the other and a thorough investigation is always worthwhile. For more information about A Levels, visit: www.cie.org.uk/qualifications/academic/uppersec/alevel/overview For more information about the IB Diploma, visit: www.ibo.org/diploma/curriculum/group4/index.cfm

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The importance of play for young children By Faye Smart, Foundation Stage coordinator THE BRITISH SCHOOL OF BEIJING

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hen children enter through our school doors at the tender age of 2+, they are inquisitive little creatures, asking lots of questions and not frightened to take risks. As educators we are privileged in being given this opportunity to work with these children and to impart upon them knowledge and skills which will support them through their early childhood lives. Very young children are like little sponges soaking up everything we say and do, and more often than not are willing to give everything a go after time spent observing those around them. Key to the way in which a successful Early Years education is planned is through well-structured play activities which enable these new skills and knowledge to be developed in a secure, inspiring learning environment. Many of the children who enter the Foundation Stage at The British School of Beijing arrive with little or no English, but what they all have in common is a desire to experience new opportunities, make friends and learn.

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What are they learning through play?

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any parents, when arriving in China and Beijing for the first time, are faced with the problem of choosing from a wealth of Early Years providers. BSB delivers the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) from the UK, which has play-based learning at its core. It acknowledges that all children are unique, and that they learn and develop at different rates and in different ways. By play we mean well planned learning opportunities where learning is fun, challenging and often spontaneous. It helps children to bring together and build upon all their life experiences in 6 areas of learning. The EYFS is planned through 6 areas, which are: Communication, Language and Literacy (this encompasses Speaking and Listening, Reading and Writing); Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy (this includes all Mathematics skills); Creative Development (Art, Music and all things creative); Knowledge and Understanding of the World (History, Geography and Science); Physical Development (gross and fine motor skills); and most importantly Personal, Social and Emotional Development. We acknowledge that a happy child who feels safe and secure in their environment is a willing learner who learns through their play. Through play the children are learning a range of new skills, knowledge and vocabulary. They grow in confidence and independence by making choices for

themselves, develop social skills and begin to understand the consequences of their actions. Within the first few weeks of their Early Years education the children often come home telling their parents about the lovely fun play things they have been doing in school. When questioned by parents about what they have done that day in school they may say, ‘I painted all day’ or ‘I played in the house’. Their learning is planned so that some of their time will be spent with an adult working on specific play-based activities, with lots of questioning and talk, and some will be spent working independently, making choices for themselves and being encouraged to try lots of new things. But what they do not realise is that they have spent all day learning and that the learning was done through play. It is just as important to educate our parents in the way in which our children learn and are educated. Very early on in the school term all new parents are invited in to listen to a presentation about the EYFS curriculum and the day to day routines of school life. This is a great opportunity for parents to ask any questions and learn more about the ways in which children are supported in their learning and can support them at home.

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experiences. Children learn in many ways and play is an important way of encouraging new skills and knowledge to be developed. In modern society, where technology is everywhere we look, it is sometimes hard to compete with the pull of flashing lights and computer games which keep our children quietly entertained for hours at a time. However, these are often solitary acts, where children are not given the opportunity to develop their language and social skills. As much as it is important to give children the opportunity to try and develop their ICT skills, we need to develop and nurture well rounded individuals who will have the skills to complete all the challenges facing them in life. When asked to describe the classroom as an Early Years teacher, one of the areas that often inspires us is the role play corner. This area changes regularly and may be set up as a house, a garage or even a jungle. This is a wonderful area within any Early Years classroom where children can act out different roles, develop their vocabulary through child-initiated play and collaborate on activities. The children are encouraged to take an active role in adding to this area by creating props, signs and labels. For children with limited English it is an area where new vocabulary of a topic is informally developed. It is a wonderful sight to see the child in your class who arrived with no English serving tea to one of their peers using appropriate vocabulary. Play is not limited to the indoor classroom environment; there are plentiful opportunities to take the learning outside. Some children who feel confined within the limits of the four walls of a classroom will thrive in the outdoors and may use imaginative vocabulary beyond their years. Numeracy lessons can be taken outside, and counting can be done by jumping along a number line; letter formation may involve using the paint brushes to paint the playground. Children are given the opportunity to try things in as many ways as humanly imaginable and learn in a much more exciting way than I am sure many of our children’s parents were exposed to. During holidays, many parents may panic about how they will keep their children entertained all day without propping them up in front of the television or computer. After a long term spent playing and practising letters and numbers, the children will be sent home to their parents ready for a rest and to recharge their batteries after a lively, eventful term. For those busy parents who work full time there are super ways of keeping children busy and socialised, in a fun and exciting way. Beijing is full of parks and historical sites which are just waiting to be seen through the eyes of a child.

We are very fortunate at BSB to have Interactive Whiteboards (IWB) and personal computers in every classroom to support our teaching, but these need to be supported by practical real life

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CONTENTS

HEALTH & WELLNESS

126

PRACTICING RELIGION

132

EATING & DRINKING

136

SHOPPING

142

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

150

FAMILY ACTIVITES

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GETTING INVOLVED

162

BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS

172

Once you have found your new home, settled in and enrolled your kids in a good school, life in Beijing begins. Those elements that comprise the quality of life that you are used to are for the most part available in Beijing. In many ways your quality of life may increase. In Beijing you will have access to a new world of possibilities including sumptuous and affordable massages, world- class shopping and fun and interesting activities to enjoy with your loved ones. This section will help guide you through the basics of living and enjoying your life in Beijing. The information and advice offered here is only the beginning, however. Beyond the borders of this book, you will find many hidden treasures that will surprise and amaze you while at the same time broadening your understanding of one of the oldest civilisations on earth.

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HEALTH & WELLNESS

HEALTH & WELLNESS

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i Health and wellness is a very important part of Chinese society. Keep your eyes and ears open during your stay in Beijing, you will find an amazing and diverse world found few other places.

iving in Beijing, while fun and dynamic, can be physically and mentally taxing. Beijing is not an inherently healthy place. Air quality is bad, work and travel are stressful and alcohol consumption is rampant. It’s easy to neglect maintaining a healthy mind and body. Many expats that move to Beijing suddenly find that they have an incredibly busy schedule, mixing work, long commutes and social events. Given the poor air quality and lack of open green spaces, it’s important to organise time and space for your health. At first, Beijing appears to restrict your ability to exercise and find mental peace. However, the city is surprisingly accommodating, with many conventional Western-style gyms and fitness facilities, but you have to make time for it. Living in Beijing is also an opportunity to experience traditionally Eastern approaches to mental and physical wellbeing, such as yoga and acupuncture, at a fraction of the price you would pay at home. And, given the number of expats from around the globe living in Beijing, there’s bound to be a group or league for your sport or exercise.

Health clubs

A

common way for expats to relieve stress and maintain a healthy constitution is to join a gym. Increasing interest in health and fitness in Beijing, combined with rising incomes and international influences, have caused new upscale health clubs to pop up throughout the city. All offer fitness facilities including cardio machines, free weights and fitness classes such as aerobics, yoga and body pump. More elaborate facilities also provide access to swimming pools, tennis courts and spas. As with many luxuries in Beijing, they might not be cheap, but you still pay considerably less than you would for comparable facilities back home. Most clubs require membership, with a pricing system that encourages you to sign up for a year. Some of the local clubs that target Chinese patrons are much cheaper, but also much less well-equipped, perhaps offering table tennis and badminton rather than swimming and squash. Most new apartment buildings and villas have modern, spacious facilities for residents. If you’re moving into a building with a fitness club, be sure to check that gym membership is included in the lease. The key to maintaining an exercise routine over time is not finding the best fitness club, but finding a suitable facility that is conveniently located near your place of work or home. Therefore, start your search close to home.

Health clubs Alexander Health Club 亚历山大会馆 Bldg 8, Central Park, 6 Chaowai Dajie, Chaoyang District 朝阳区朝外大街6号,新城国际8号

(6597 0088) Upmarket club with first-class facilities, classes and a spa. Amrita Fitness 港澳中心健身房 Swissotel Beijing, 2 Chaoyanment Beidajie, Dongcheng District 东城区朝阳门北大街2号瑞士酒店

(6553 2288) Classes and one of Beijing’s nicest indoor swimming pools. Beijing YMCA Fitness Center 北京幸福家园YMCA生活会所 Bldg 13, Nolita Center, Guangqumennei Dajie, Chongwen District 崇文区广渠门内大街幸福家园13号楼 (6719 5151, www.ymcabj.org) A very nice child-friendly YMCA in a three-floor complex with swimming pools, weights, a dance studio offering classes for the whole family, yoga and karate CSI Bally Total Fitness 中体倍力健身俱乐部 Locations all over the city 连锁店遍布北京

(www.csibally.com) Bally is very popular with expats for the sheer range of equipment and group classes offered.

i If health and wellness is important to you then consider the facilities that your apartment or compound has. Some residences are very well equipped.

Fitness and wellness centres Mani’s Body Combing 马妮形体修理 Several locations 许多连锁店

(www.mani.com.cn) Not exactly a gym, but a wellness centre. Mani’s offers a new age mix of ballet, gymnastics, Chinese dance and acupuncture. Pacific Century Club 盈科会所 2A Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区工体北路2A

(6539 3434)

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HEALTH & WELLNESS

HEALTH & WELLNESS Pacific Century Club is a family-friendly facility focusing on all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. It has everything. There are pools, tennis courts, basketball, yoga, pilates, weights and cardio.

Guang’anmen Hospital 广安门医院 5 Beixian’ge Road, Xuanwu District

Chinese health

(8800 1123, www.gamhospital.ac.cn)

R i Yin and Yang are two fundamental principles of Chinese philosophy. Yin represents feminine, dark, passive, cold and negative. Yang represents masculine, bright, active, dry, hot and positive. It is the balance of these forces that underlies Chinese wellness.

ather than concentrating on building cardiovascular stamina and body strength, the Chinese concept of fitness focuses on general health in a holistic sense. Living in Beijing is a great opportunity to explore holistic health. Places offering massages, acupuncture, martial arts and meditation are relatively inexpensive and located throughout the city. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on a pre-scientific paradigm of medicine that developed over several thousand years and involves concepts that have no counterpart within contemporary scientific methodology. In TCM, the body is treated as a whole that is comprised of several systems of function.

Acupuncture and acupressure

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eports from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the American Medical Association (AMA) and various government reports have studied and commented on the efficacy of acupuncture. There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by welltrained practitioners using sterile needles. It’s useful to do some research and go to an English-speaking practitioner the first time, so that you gain an understanding of the process. If you do decide to go to a local practitioner, make sure they are recommended. While acupressure is basically safe, there are health concerns with acupuncture including hygiene, sterilisation of needles (even packaged needles may have been recycled) and herbal medications.

北京市宣武区北线阁5号

Beijing TCM Hospital 北京中医医院 23 Meishuguan Back Road, Dongcheng District 北京市东城区美术馆后街23号

(5217 6852, www.bjzhongyi.com) Dongzhimen Hospital 东直门医院 5 Haiyuncang, Dongcheng District 北京市东城区海运仓5号

(8401 3161, www.dzmhospital.com)

Yoga

O

ne of the best ways to relieve stress while finding inner harmony is through the practice of yoga. While you can find Beijing’s elderly population practicing tai chi in city parks, the younger generation are stretching and sweating in one of the many yoga centres across the city. There are several yoga styles to choose from. Hatha yoga focuses on holding postures and enhanced breathing, while Vinyasa emphasises building strength by moving from one posture to the next. If you need to sweat out stress and toxins, give Bikram (hot) yoga a go. For beginners, try three to four classes per week. It will be painful at first, but long-term practitioners swear by its short and long-term benefits. Try www.yogafinder. com for a comprehensive list of yoga centres popular with expats.

i For sore back mucles you may want to try cupping. This technique involves suction and negative pressure and is said to release drain toxins and release rigid soft tissue.

Bikram Hot Yoga 高温瑜伽体系 Pacific Century Club, 2A Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区工体北路甲2号盈科中心

(6539 3434) Mainland China’s first authorised hot yoga studio features Bikram-certified teachers Huiping Mo and John Williams. Classes are 90 minutes long and

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HEALTH & WELLNESS drop-ins are welcome. Yoga Yard 瑜珈苑 17 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区工体北路17号

(5413 0774, www.yogayard.com) Yoga Yard is a Hatha Vinyasa centre with yoga classes offered for all levels. It also offers pre and post-natal yoga.

Massage

O i If you have a Chinese superior at work, you can make a good impression by serving him or her tea in the traditional fashion.

ne of the luxuries of living in Beijing is getting a quality, affordable massage. There are countless massage parlours throughout the city, with prices ranging from RMB60 to RMB400 for a session. The most common form is the Chinese massage, which involves digging, prodding and pressure of the main pressure points to facilitate the positive flow of qi throughout the body. This is excellent treatment for sore or knotty muscles. Oriental foot massages feel very therapeutic (unless you’re ticklish) if you’ve been on your feet all day. Aromatherapy massages are another popular form, offering a gentle touch by relying more on the power of essential oils that work wonders as they are absorbed into your skin. Avoid massage parlours adorned with red lights or twirling barbershop poles.

Chinese tea

T

he practice of drinking tea is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. It is believed that the practice originated here in 2737 BC. Legends say that while Emperor Shennong was boiling water, a leaf from a camellia sinensis tree fell into his pot and the tradition was born. In addition to rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar and firewood, tea is considered one of the necessities of life. All Chinese teas come from the camellia sinensis plant and can be categorised into four main categories ­– white, green, oolong and black. Initially, Chinese teas were used primarily for medicinal purposes such as purging the digestive tract of toxins, and while most continue to believe in the curative powers of Chinese tea, it has also developed into a flavour loved by most Chinese. You will see green tea-flavoured ice cream and cakes as well as many local dishes. The Chinese tea drinking ceremony is used for various cultural purposes in China. It can be employed as a sign of respect, to apologise, in wedding ceremonies and as a means to express thanks.

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PRACTISING RELIGION

PRACTISING RELIGION

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ontrary to some rumours, it is perfectly acceptable to practise most popular religions in China. There are five official religions in China, and all are represented in Beijing: Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam. Although Judaism is not officially recognised, Beijing hosts a small but active Jewish community.

Jewish Chabad Lubavitch of Beijing 庞坦北京 (www.chadabadbeijing.com) The Rohr Family Chabad Community Centre hosts classes and activities. Additionally, it is home to a Hebrew school and a kosher store. Catholic Xuanwumen Church (South Church – Nantang) 宣武门教堂(南堂) 141 Qianmen Xidajie, Xicheng District 西城区前门西大街141号

i It is perfectly acceptable to practise your religion in China.

There are controls, however: the China-based Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA), rather than the Pope, is the ultimate authority over Beijing’s Chinese Catholics, while local Protestants look to the Three Self-Patriotic Movement. There are now about 800 Jews in the city, and weekly services are held at the Capital Club Athletic Centre in Chaoyang District (www.sinogogue.org). Practising religion in licenced churches and in the privacy of your home is fine, but avoid prosyletising in public – the government disapproves of this behaviour and it could be interpreted as disturbing the peaceful order. In some churches with English services, only foreign passport holders are allowed to attend. Also, avoid spending too much time professing your religion to Chinese colleagues, as it might make them uncomfortable. Definitely steer clear of controversial topics such as religious freedom in Tibet or the Falun Gong.

(6602 6538) Also known as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, this is the oldest Catholic Church in Beijing. Mass is celebrated in English at 10:30am and 4pm on Sundays.

Places of Worship Muslim Niujie Mosque 牛街礼拜寺 88 Niuji, Xuanwu District 宣武区牛街88号

(6353 2564) This is the oldest and largest mosque in Beijing, and also the most popular. Protestant Chongwenmen Church (Ashbury Methodist) 崇文门教堂(亚斯立堂) 2D Hougou Hutong, 4 Chongwenmennei Dajie, Dongcheng District 东城区崇文门内大街4号后钩胡同丁2号

(6513 3549) This is the largest existing Protestant Church in Beijing and holds services in English at 8am, 10:30am and 7pm on Sundays. Beijing International Christian Fellowship (BICF) 北京基督教联合会 (www.bicf.org) BCIF hosts multicultural, Bible-centred, interdenominational gatherings.

St. Peters Church In Beijing

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EATING & DRINKING

EATING & DRINKING

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i In addition to cuisine from all over China, Beijing has firstclass food from all corners of the globe.

here’s nothing more Chinese than socialising over food, and China has one of the richest and most diverse culinary traditions on earth. Beijing, as the capital for centuries, offers the best of Chinese food, served every way imaginable. In imperial times cooks from all corners of China went to Beijing to work in the ‘Imperial Kitchen’ bringing with them all the flavours of China. Traditionally, rice is less common as a dish due to the dry climate around Beijing. Noodles have taken their place as the city’s staple. An increasing expat population has led to an abundance of international cuisines – from German brauhauses to Indian buffets – at all price levels. Eating out in Beijing is much cheaper than in other international cities such as Tokyo or London, but if you prefer to cook at home, there are plenty of shopping options. The French chain Carrefour has stores in most neighbourhoods, but it’s worth learning the ropes at local wet markets, where

fresh cuts and locally grown fruit and vegetables are a bargain by any measure.

Eating out

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eijing dining can be divided into two peacefully coexisting camps: Chinese and foreign. If you’re moving here long-term, you’ll have the opportunity to experience professionally prepared cuisine from all over China, and the world. Though it may be easy to fall into a routine with your favorite restaurants or food from home (Beijing is sure to have it), try to branch out whenever possible. In the end, you probably won’t have a choice, as Chinese business and social events take place over meals. Remember not to offer to pay if a local invites you out, just be sure to return the favour at a later date. It’s also customary to leave a bit of food at the end of the meal – finishing everything is a sign that the host didn’t order enough food. Tipping is not expected at low- and mid-range restaurants. Service varies tremendously. Don’t expect to be checked on frequently, especially when you’re ready to pay. Smoking is allowed almost everywhere. If cigarette smoke bothers you, ask for an isolated table or avoid dining out at busy restaurants between 6pm and 8pm. Street-side eateries certainly do not comply with Chinese government standards of hygiene. On the other hand, you’re generally safe at any mid-range or high-end restaurant here.

i Guidebooks offer a good place to start exploring Beijing’s cuisine; however, untold treasures await those with a sense of adventure.

Local food

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eijing cuisine is heavily influenced by the food of Shandong Province and, generally speaking, dishes that are considered Beijingese are usually snacks rather than full dishes. Common ingredients are dark soy paste, sesame paste, scallions and sesame oil. Historically, government officials travelling to live in the capital from all over China often brought chefs with them, who usually remained behind when the official returned home. This cullinary heritage has bestowed upon Beijing one of the most varied and delicious sets of restaurants in the world. Jiaozi - Chinese dumplings are important to Beijingers, who eat them on special occasions such as Chinese New Year. Typically ground pork and vegetable filled, the dumplings are found all over Asia but with less cultural significance than in Beijing. They are delicious.

Sanyuanli Food Market - Tasty eats from all parts of China

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EATING & DRINKING

EATING & DRINKING Vegetarian food

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Trying a more Westernfriendly Chinese establishment first will open doors to more local restaurants with a more diverse and interesting menu.

Beijing Duck - This delectable dish from the imperial era has come to be considered one of China’s national dishes. The dish is famous for its crispy skin and is often served with little or even no meat. Ducks used for this dish are bred specifically for this purpose and slaughtered after 65 days then roasted. The dish is often served with hoisin sauce, thin pancakes and spring onions.

i Many local restaurants have pictures in the menu, which makes choosing items a lot less difficult than it may seem at first.

Traditional Beijing snack known as Tang Hu Lu

International Cuisine

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t would take an entire volume in itself to do any justice to the international dining options in Beijing. There are outstanding restaurants serving topnotch dishes from all corners of the globe. As Beijing becomes more and more trendy, elite chefs are moving in from places like Paris, New York and Tokyo. For up-to-date reviews and locations, browse one of the popular expat websites that specialise in posting reviews and comments on international restaurants. www.cityweekend.com.cn www.thebeijinger.com www.beijingpage.com

ome Chinese cuisine might look vegetarian, but the tofu and string beans have likely been enriched with pork fat. Meat is often the stock of sauces. If you’re at a Chinese restaurant, clearly explain to the staff “wo chi shu” (I’m a vegetarian). If you are then served a dish with meat, politely send it back immediately without paying. Beijing has a growing number of vegetarian restaurants that use tofu to imitate meat. There are plenty of Western restaurants that serve traditional vegetarian standbys such as pizza, pasta and salad. Food shopping is not a problem for vegetarians. Local and international supermarkets are usually wellstocked with a variety of vegetables, and cooks will be more than happy with the variety of soy products.

Delivery

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aving food delivered is not as common in Beijing as it is in many Western countries, but it is still available and convenient. Get to know the staff at your favourite local noodle and dumpling joints, ask them, “keyi wai mai ma?” (do you deliver?) and chances are they’ll be happy to bring a meal to your door for no extra charge, or at most a nominal fee. Most pizza places deliver until late in the evening. For restaurant delivery, Sherpa’s (www.sherpa.com.cn) is a bilingual city-wide delivery service and is popular among expats.

Drinking

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ll types of alcohol are widely consumed in Beijing. The bar and nightclub scene has taken off in recent years, from a few quiet restaurants and seedy karaoke bars to dozens of dive bars, live-music venues, British sports pubs and trendy nightclubs. The highest concentration of stylish establishments is in the former CBD and Embassy districts.

Culinary adventures of all kinds can be found in Beijing. Be sure to visit the Wangfujing Night Market, if you are very daring and fancy an adventurous snack.

Traditional candy blowing on the street in Beijing

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EATING & DRINKING

EATING & DRINKING

i Coffee is relatively expensive in China. Often the purchase price will include an expected stay in the restaurant.

Chinese red wines such as Great Wall and Grace Vineyard, which used to be unpalatable, have come a long way. Imported wines from Australia, the US and Europe are available at international supermarkets. Chinese beers such as Tsingtao are sold cheaply at local supermarkets alongside imported Japanese beer, and occasionally Heineken, that cost a few RMB more per bottle. Most bars serve a few draught beers, but don’t expect anything like the selection at a pub back home. For something different, try baijiu, a grain-based spirit brewed differently in each region in China. Take the first drink slowly, as some varieties reach 50% alcohol! Coffee and tea The Chinese love their tea, and the local favourite is green tea (lucha). There are elegant teashops throughout the city just waiting for you to try one of the hundreds of varieties. Coffee has become intensely popular in China’s major cities and international companies like Starbucks and Coffee Bean are well represented. There are several local chains as well, with prices that are just as shocking as Starbucks.

Food shopping

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eijing is bursting with a ridiculous number of food vendors, and it’s not difficult to find the right foods to stock your pantry. They come in all forms – from street stalls selling roasted sweet potatoes to Carrefour superstores. Due to the density of Beijing urban architecture, many shops and even at times larger establishments are tucked away or easily missed in some of the stimulating neighbourhoods. For bulk food shopping, the French megamarket Carrefour is probably your best bet. It carries a huge variety of local and imported goods, all at reasonable prices. The Market Place is a high-end supermarket specialising in imported novelties. If you really crave pancake mix or an Australian cut, this is the place to find it. City Shop has one of the best selections of imported wine, beer and spirits and it carries a huge variety of local and imported goods. Jenny Lous are found all around the expat areas, and will most likely become your local corner shop, as they supply the majority of imported goods, most with a big mark-up. For daily shopping, get to know your local supermarket, as well as fruit and vegetable vendors. The local supermarket is the most convenient stop for toiletries, eggs, milk and all kinds of weird snacks. Local fruit stands offer fresh produce cultivated in the region. Getting to know your local vendors is a great way to eat fresh, healthy food, save money and practise your Chinese.

i Expect to pay high prices on imported groceries that have relatively large volume (breakfast cereal) or that are perishable.

Supermarkets in China can be very busy and stressful for the newly arrived.

A local vegetable stall in Beijing

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SHOPPING

SHOPPING Shopping in Beijing

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i If you want to avoid the long lines and huge crowds, the same rules as home apply - shop on weekdays, in the mornings or when it’s cold or rainy. Try a combination to ensure that your shopping experience is more relaxed.

n a good day, shopping in Beijing is a delightful and engaging experience, where one can revel in all of the city’s sensations, discover hidden gems and feel fully immersed in the flow of China’s blossoming consumer culture. On a bad day, however, lines and crowds are spirit-crushing, bargains are fleeting and it takes far too long to find something simple. Either way, it’s an adventure. And as Beijing consumer infrastructure matures, the good days are becoming more frequent for expat shoppers. The burgeoning upper and middle class has led to a boom in shopping mall buildings. If you want Christian Dior or Jimmy Choo, you’ll have no problem finding them. On the other hand, the real bargains are to be found in Beijing’s markets, where savvy shoppers accessorise and stock their wardrobes for the upcoming season.

Where to shop

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he city’s most famous shopping area is Wangfujing. This pedestrian street is always charmingly busy. Most of the goods are authentic (not knock-offs) but pricey. Completing the city centre (Dongcheng) trio are Dongsi Beidajie shopping street and Xidan. Dongsi Beidajie has a European boutique feel, while Xidan is a mishmash of trendy and dingy. The Xidan Shopping Centre,

in the middle of the street, is worth a visit for the experience alone. If you can tolerate the crowds, there are serious bargains to be had on all types of nice clothing. One of the most popular shopping areas with expats is the Village in Sanlitun, which covers all of your needs. The main building contains shops such as Uniqlo, Mango, Nike and Adidas, to name a few. Behind the main area is a street where you can find an English book stand and many DVD stores. Tianze Lu, in Chaoyang, is a bit more inconspicuous. Behind the massive Flower Market and down a set of stairs, the Women’s Market is incredibly popular with Chinese shoppers (this means that larger sizes are hard to find). The basement is a treasure trove of Chinese furniture, home wares and decorations. Western-style department stores have been popping up almost as fast as the shopping malls, and have been received just as enthusiastically. Landao Department Store (8 Chaoyanmenwai, Chaoyang) is a fabulous place to get a bargain on high-quality items. Cosmetics, home wares, perfumes, jewelry and clothes for every season are spread out across the busy but not suffocating floors. The Lufthansa Shopping Centre (50 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang) is very popular with expats because it’s home to a wide selection of top quality products, including children’s clothing and a huge toy selection. Solana (6, Chaoyang Park Road, Chaoyang Park) is a new shopping centre which is slowly filling up with shops. Here you can find a complete range of stores, from clothing shops such as Zara to home furnishings (Muji) and cosmetic shops (Sephora).

Nanluoguxiang Hutong has boutiques and bars and is popular with foreigners.

i Keep in mind that genuine imported luxury items will most often be more expensive in China. All the luxury brands are in Beijing, but they come at a price.

Ya Show Market in Sanlitun

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SHOPPING

SHOPPING

annoyances, Zoo Market is where the best deals on all kinds of clothes are found. If you’re in an aggressive and adventurous shopping mood, you’ll come out smiling from the deals you score. Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market) 珍珠市场(虹桥市场) Tiantan Dong Lu (next to Temple of Heaven), Chongwen District 崇文区天坛东路(天坛公园旁)

As the name suggests, this is the best place in Beijing to buy precious stones and jewelry. Ogling the precious stones on the third and fourth floors pleasures the senses. However, you’re more likely to actually buy something on the second floor, which is home to a large selection of bags, suitcases, silk items and shoes. The basement houses an interesting collection of foods. Be sure to bargain for everything. Beijing Hongqiao Pearl Market

Recommended Markets Yashow 雅秀 58 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区工体北路58号

This market is a favourite with tourists. Located next to Sanlitun Village, it stocks everything you will need. Be wary, however, as it is known to have overthe-top prices, so bargain hard to get a good deal. Beijing Zoo Clothing Market 北京动物园服装批发市场 Xizhimenqai Dajie, Xicheng District 西城区西直门外大街

After visiting this market, you’ll probably agree that ‘zoo’ is the appropriate term for it, with stampedes of shoppers looking for bargains on women’s clothing. Price tags are rare, so come prepared to bargain. Despite these

Bargaining

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Bargaining is part of shopping on the streets and in the markets of Beijing. Merchants expect it, and it’s usually carried out in good humour. Market vendors are very aware of the money that expats spend in Beijing and will usually begin with an outrageous price. Start very low from your end until you reach an agreement. Aim for about one-third of the original quote. They are professionals and have seen all the tricks, including the walk-away, the ‘I’m not that interested’ and the plea of poverty. The best way to get the price you want is to first consider what the item is actually worth to you. Be firm and honest with the merchant, and keep your sense of humour. Knowing some Chinese will help you get a better price; carrying around large shopping bags from nearby stalls or stores will not. THE ESSENTIALS GUIDE BEIJING

Silk Market (Xiushui) 秀水市场 8 Xuishui Dongjie (www.xuishui.com.cn/english) 秀水东街8号

This is the most popular market in Beijing for tourists, and is a good place to purchase gifts. The indoor market has six floors of cheap, fake goods of varying degrees of quality. There are tailoring services and children’s clothes on the second floor.

Books

Beijing Silk Market

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uality English-language bookstores are few and far between, but there are a few that have a decent selection. The Foreign Language Bookstore on Wangfujing has six floors and probably the best travel section in Beijing. International magazines and newspapers are available at most five-star hotels, as well as at Beijing Bookworm and Chaterhouse Booktrader. The Bookworm 老书虫 Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road, Chao Yang District 朝阳区三里屯南路4号楼

This is a great book store with lots of English books. It regularly gets the latest books from top authors. It also has its own library where you are able to loan books, although membership for this is needed. Wangfujing Foreign Languages bookstore 235 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District

i The Bookworm is also a great place to relax in the afternoon, they have a good supply of magazines free for you to browse through.

东城区王府井大街235号

This is a huge store, over 5 floors. It has a range of books, from the latest novels, language books, textbooks and just about any other book you can think of.

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SHOPPING

SHOPPING cameras, mp3 players and related software. Chaterhouse Booktrader 外文书店 B107 The Place, 9A Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District (www.charterhouse.com. cn) 朝阳区光华路9号世贸天阶中心地库B107

Home to the largest selection of English-language books and imported magazines in Beijing, this is your best bet for novels or non-fiction, business guides or children’s books. Chaterhouse also sells cards and other stationery. Xidan Books Building 西单图书大厦 C17 Xichangan Jie, Xicheng 西城区西长安街丙17号

i Be wary of buying ‘brand name’ electronic goods, they are often fake versions of their counterparts, but with similar prices!

This is a gigantic Chinese bookstore, although it has an English-language section in the basement that sells classics, travel guides, maps, cookbooks and new releases. If you’re learning Chinese, there are CDs and instructional books, as well as interactive learning software.

Electronics and home appliances

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eijingers are enthusiastic consumers of all kinds of electronic goods, and therefore quality products are available all over the city. Carrefour sells a good range of electronics and home appliances. The largest retailers are Dazhong, Gome (www.gome.com.cn) and Suning (www.suningshop.com). Prices at these large retailers are marked, but this is still Beijing, and you should bargain larger items down or try to get accessories thrown into the mix for free. For computers and related gadgets, try the electronic markets in the north of town around Zhongguancun, or just south of the Worker’s Stadium in Dongdaqiao. Both of these areas are home to dozens of specialty stores and shops. Bring your negotiating skills with you to these stores as well: the sticker price will always be too high. The Hailong Digital Market (www.hailon.com.cn) is the busiest in town, with several floors of computers,

DVDs and music

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on’t even try to find a Virgin or HMV in Beijing: they don’t exist. Why? There are pirate DVD shops all over Beijing. If you have no moral qualms about it (and few do), you can pick up almost any popular Chinese or foreign film, TV series or music CD for about RMB8 per disc. Most established vendors also sell box sets of popular series and music CDs. Quality varies, and there are usually no returns. It’s best to try a few shops and stick with one that consistently sells quality discs. To find a decent outlet, just stroll around your neighbourhood – these places are nearly as common as dry cleaners.

Sporting goods

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here are sporting stores in every mall. Adidas, Nike, Puma and Reebok are usually represented, as are the Chinese chains Anta (www.anta.com. cn) and Sports 100 (www.sports100.com.cn). However, since locals are more into dressing sporty than actually being sporty, you may be disappointed with the selection. For golf clubs, go to Beijing Honma Golf Service Store. For ice hockey gear, go to The Ice Zone (2nd Floor, River Garden Club, 7 Yujing Lu, Shunyi (www.icezonechina.com)). For most other sports equipment, go to the Sports Equipment Street in Tiyuguan Xi Lu in Chongwen District. It’s packed with small shops selling everything from basketballs to swords.

i Drop by Decathlon (found around the city) to find cheap sporting goods. They have a huge range of not only clothing, but also equipment such as gym bikes, running machines and even canoes!

Pirate DVDs at a shop in Beijing

Toys and Baby items

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he one-child policy has led to a culture of child indulgence, so there’s a plethora of toy stores and stores specialising in children’s accessories. In Pinnacle Plaza, you can find Kids Plus and Jack Toys, which both sell creative gifts and costumes. T.O.T.S (The Original Toy Store), located along with many other toy stores in the China World Mall, sells Plan Toys (www. plantoys.com) that are supposed to help development. Playism (The Place

Next page - The Village, Sanltiun

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TOURIST ATTRACTIONS Beijing attractions

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t’s easy to assume when you move to a new city that you’ll visit all of its famous tourist sights before leaving. But as anyone who has ever lived in New York or London knows, it’s all too simple to get into a routine early on and either take the city’s offerings for granted or forget completely that they are there at all. Beijing is one of the greatest heritage cities in the world, boasting 38 sights recognised by UNESCO. Of course you won’t be able to visit all of them during the first few months, but take the time to check out a few while you’re still new. It will spark your interest in the city and provide a nice distraction from the stress of looking for an apartment and getting lost on the subway.

i There are a number of expat groups that organise events on the Great Wall - there is even a marathon.

The Great Wall of China

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he Great Wall is one of the wonders of the world, and the mother of all tourist sights in China. The Great Wall is a series of stone and earthen

WHEN IN YOU ARRIVE PREPARING TO GO LIVING BEIJING

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS fortifications in northern China built, rebuilt and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century AD to protect the northern borders of China. Since the 5th century BC, several walls have been built that were referred to as the Great Wall. One of the most famous is the wall built between 220-206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains; the majority of the existing wall was built during the Ming Dynasty. Besides being a fantastic sight and an educational experience, seeing the Great Wall makes for a wonderful day trip. It takes between one and three hours to reach the Great Wall, depending on which part you prefer to visit. This is an opportunity to get a feel for the countryside and mountains that surround Beijing. If you’re up for a rugged and beautiful hike, the best way of experiencing the Great Wall is to hike the section between Simaitai and Jinshanling. The 10 kilometres take about four hours at a comfortable pace, including the necessary photo stops, and reveal some of the grandest views in all of China. To get to the Simaitai end, take bus 980 from Dongzhimen to Miyun, then switch to a Simaitaibound bus.

i The Chinese say you haven’t lived until you walk the road up to the Great Wall - of course there are easier ways to make the journey.

The Great Wall of China

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TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS The Forbidden City

The Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan)

grand, enclosed palace, the Forbidden City was the residence of the last 24 emperors of China over a period of almost 500 years. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century, when the capital was moved to Beijing, the emperor Yongle decided to create the ultimate home for the Son of Heaven. Considered the centre of the universe, mortals were not allowed to enter its walls. It took a million workers 14 years to construct the ultimate luxury fortress. A truly expansive complex, the Forbidden City runs 960 m north to south and 750 m east to west.

he Old Summer Palace was said to rival Versailles in scope and opulence. However, its glorious past came to an abrupt end 150 years ago when it was destroyed and pillaged by French and British armies during the Second Opium War in 1860. The ruins were preserved by the Chinese as a symbol of the suffering caused to China by foreign aggressors. It is still a beautiful and interesting sight. A full day can be spent walking around the park and maze. This site is also worth visiting as a historical lesson. China is very open to foreigners and is becoming a major player on the global stage. However, as you will see in the Old Summer Palace ruins, relations were not always so rosy. The Chinese today are guarded about their national sovereignty, and it could be argued that their humiliation at the hands of foreign powers in the past is related to their attempts today to build the world’s biggest, well, everything. Bring a picnic lunch and soak up the beauty and history.

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i There are many English-speaking freelance tour guides at the Forbidden City. If you choose one that is older you will find they have many interesting stories.

It takes several hours to thoroughly visit the temples, gardens and halls of the Forbidden City, many of which display beautiful and exotic artifacts of Chinese antiquity. Be sure to get off the main tourist drag that cuts through the centre in order to find a bit of solace to appreciate one of the world’s great spectacles of grandeur. Living in modern Beijing, it is easy to forget that this city was home to some of the most tumultuous events and greatest splendour in the history of humanity. A few hours in the Forbidden City is a reminder.

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i Construction of the Forbidden City lasted 15 years and involved more than a million workers.

The Forbidden City

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TOURIST ATTRACTIONS Beihai Park and the hutongs

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efore Beijing was a modern megalopolis with hundreds of glass towers and apartment blocks, people lived in hutong communities. Most of them have been levelled in the past 50 years, but several authentic neighbourhoods still exist around Beihai Park. Beijing’s hutongs are a sprawl of narrow alleys and courtyards, small shops and family homes. The city’s residents regard them as one of Beijing’s defining, essential characteristics, the heart and soul of the city for centuries. Some hutongs have been standing since their construction during the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1341). Strolling through the hutongs is a pleasant and culturally engaging experience. It’s an excellent way to get a glimpse of traditional Chinese life and a feel for what Beijing used to be.

i China’s top leaders live in the area of Beihai Park .

Beihai Park, just behind the Forbidden City, is a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. An exclusive imperial garden until 1925, Beihai Park was originally designed under the rule of Kublai Khan. Towering over the central islet is the White Dagoba, which was built in honour of the visit of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1651. Local residents can be seen using the space for tai chi, singing, dancing and water calligraphy, using large brushes and water on the stone cobbles. Hire a boat and float across the lake for the perfect view.

Sixth Form Sanlitun Campus

No.5 Xiliujie, Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China Tel: +8610-8532-3088 Fax: +8610-8532-3089

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South Side, No 9, An Hua Street, Tianzhu Development Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing 101318, China

Beihai Park

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Foundation Stage

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The British School of Beijing Sixth Form College is in many ways a stepping stone. It provides a broad, relevant curriculum and general education for its students, providing stretch and challenge in a context of high expectations. Our Sixth Form College follows the A-level programme offering a wide range of course choices, together with options from a large choice of additional and complementary studies, clubs, societies and other extra-curricular activities, enable our students to devise personalised programmes which suit their individual needs and aspirations.

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FAMILY ACTIVITIES

FAMILY ACTIVITIES Family activities

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i Look out for the older generation Beijingers doing their daily exercises in the parks.

or most expats, raising a family in Beijing is a wonderful experience. There is virtually no crime anywhere in the city; women travel freely day and night and children play independently in parks and in the alleys of hutongs. Chinese culture places a high value on children and learning, and consequently there are many outdoor and indoor options for family outings, including elaborate play centres, science exhibits, waterslides and Asia’s largest aquarium. Beijing has a vibrant middle class that is eager to please – some say spoil – their only children. To accommodate this, the government and businesses often go to great lengths to attract families. Most parks (and some malls) have playgrounds and amusement rides. Some of the museums have childexploration exhibits, and seemingly adult activities such as visiting a market are in fact circuses of excitement for a youngster, with the mix of colours, people, sideshows and commerce. Beijing is one of the most culturally rich cities in the world, and exploring the city and getting to know the locals will invariably prove to be a valuable experience for your children.

Parks in Beijing

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eijingers practically live their lives out in the open. For family outings, Beijing offers both indoor and outdoor activities, as well as public spaces. The season will indeed dictate which you prefer to explore with your family. Beijing’s parks are generally clean and well kept, with walking paths, lotus ponds and manicured gardens. Beijing residents make full use of these spaces, using them almost as open community centres. What they frequently lack, however, is a wide green space for sprawling out or kicking a ball around. The lawns, gardens and ponds are beautiful to look at, but trampling about is often prohibited. Besides providing your children space to run and play, family-friendly parks are also great places to meet other families. Having kids is a great icebreaker and many expats say they have been able to organise playgroups and make lasting friends from spending time with their families at parks. Listed below are parks that are popular with expat families for their picnic areas and green space. Chaoyang Park 朝阳公园 1 Nongzhan Nan Lu, Chaoyang District (www.sun-park.com) 朝阳区农展南路1号

This is Beijing’s largest park and a favourite for expat families, not

coincidentally because it is located along the highest concentration of expat housing in the city. Chaoyang Park features a multitude of recreational facilities and is suitable for all ages. The large lawns are suitable for picnics, the pleasant pathways are ideal for peaceful strolls, a popular recreational area offers amusement rides and you can rent boats for use in the park’s lake. Chaoyang Park’s sports area includes volleyball, basketball, table tennis, football and tennis. Ritan Park 日坛公园 6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区日坛北路6号

Ritan Park is the largest green space in the concrete Central Business District (CBD) and packs a lot of child-friendly activities into a relatively small area. Sitting in the ruins of the ancient Altar of the Sun, it has a fishing pond, large trampolines and mini-golf. Tiantan Park 天坛公园 Yongdingmen Dajie, Chongwen District 朝阳区永定门大街

(www.tiantanpark.com) Gloriously free of amusement rides, Tiantan Park is away from the crowds and offers plenty of space for kids to run around. Combine a stroll and a picnic in Tiantan Park with a visit to the nearby Natural History Museum. Yuyuantan Park 玉渊潭公园 Xisanhuan Lu (across from the CCTV Tower) or south entrance with parking behind the China Millennium Monument, Haidan District 海淀区西三环路(与中央电视塔隔路相望)南 门在中华世纪坛后面

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FAMILY ACTIVITIES This park is enormous and attracts families on full-day outings. Enjoy a picnic while the kids enjoy the open lawns and the aquatic park. From the south gate, you can catch a boat to the Summer Palace. Old Summer Palace 颐和园(旧址) Qinghua Xilu, Haidan District 海淀区清华西路

The Old Summer Palace makes for an excellent family day trip. Once called the Versailles of the East, its grounds blend typical Chinese landscaping and Western architecture. It contains the Immense Ocean Observatory and a labyrinth. Enjoy a picnic in the ruins. Shentangyu Natural Scenic Area

神堂峪自

Family-friendly activities

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eijing is a gigantic city with millions of parents eager to entertain their children. Incredibly, it seems to be able to please all of them. You could take your children to a different amusement park, playground, museum or sports activity every day of the year. Of course, quality and convenience vary, but given the plethora of options you should have no problem finding several fun and interesting spots near your home. Listed below are a few options popular with expats to get you started exploring kid-friendly Beijing. Recommended family-friendly activities

然风景区

Take bus 916 or 936 from Dongzhimen to Huairou No. 3, then take a mini bus to Shentangyu or take the tourist bus from Xuanwumen 东直门乘916路或936lu怀柔,然后换乘小巴到神堂 峪或从宣武门乘旅游巴士前往。

This beautiful spot along the Great Wall is located in Huairou County, 65 km northeast of Beijing. Adults and teenagers will find this an ideal spot for hiking. There are hills, streams and the ruins of the Great Wall to explore. Olympic Green and Olympic Forest Park 奥林匹克绿色和森林公园

Beichen Lu, Chaoyang District 朝阳区北辰路

The Olympic Green is a vast plaza that links several of the most important venues, including the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube. You can also enjoy the landscaped grounds, fountains and the Science and Technology Museum (see p 160). To the north, the Forest Park is a scenic expanse of lakes, hills, islands, woods and meadows. It’s a great place for a walk and a picnic.

Beijing Amusement Park 北京游乐园 19 Zuo’anmennei Dajie, Chongwen District (www.bap.com.cn) 崇文门左安门大街19号

It’s no Disney World, but this is the granddaddy of Beijing’s amusement parks. It contains more than 100 different activities and should keep your children occupied until they drop from exhaustion. Ferris wheels, roller coasters, go-carts and a waterslide highlight this concrete and steel expanse of thrills. Crab Island 蟹岛度假村 Xiedao Lu (Weigou exit off airport expressway), Chaoyang District (www. xeidao.com) 朝阳区蟹岛路(机场高速苇沟出口)

Developers spared no expense in recreating the Crab Island tropical beach, which contains real sand and is delicately caressed by fake waves. There’s also a relaxing lazy river and waterslides. In the winter months, try out the vast pool and indoor recreation centre at Splash Recreation Club at

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FAMILY ACTIVITIES

FAMILY ACTIVITIES the Sino-Swiss Hotel in Shunyi (www.sino-swisshotel.com). Beijing Planetarium 北京天文馆 138 Xizhimenwai Dajie, Xicheng District 西城区西直门外大街138号

Like all planetariums worldwide, the Beijing Planetarium is a bit corny. However, your kids will love the state-of-the-art SGI Digital Universe Theatre, which takes kids on an intergalactic tour with six laser projectors simulating the movement of the stars and planets. There’s also a 4-D theatre, where visitors strap on goggles and watch a visually stimulating film about the creation of the solar system and the Earth. Beijing Blue Zoo 北京富国海底世界 Gongti Nanmen, Workers’ Stadium South Gate (www.blue-zoo.com)

i There are lots of activities in both the downtown area and Shunyi, so there will always be something to do!

multitude of play equipment, including a maze and a fake supermarket. It even hires entertainers if your kids get bored with the toy wonderland.

Skating Winters in Beijing are cold and dry, effectively taking outdoor play options off the table. However, there’s at least one increasingly popular pastime that will get you and your family off the couch and invariably cure winter claustrophobia: skating. So lace ‘em up, and if you haven’t ever tried to skate, wear padding! All Star Ice Rink 全明星滑冰俱乐部 Bottom floor of Solana International Shopping Park, Chaoyang Gongyuan Lu (5905 6328) 朝阳区朝阳公园路6号蓝色港湾国际商区首层

Beijing Blue Zoo has a 3.5 million-litre tank that maintains a complete ecosystem with sharks, rays, eels, reef fish, lobsters, sea horses and starfish. It’s the longest underwater tunnel in Asia. If you make a reservation, there’s the possibility of scuba diving with the fish.

Founded by former figure skating champion Li Ning, All Star Ice Rink covers over 800 sqm and meets both recreational and professional standards. Classes are available for beginners, and if you’re willing to pay RMB300 per hour, your young athlete can request training from a coach from the Chinese national skating team.

China Science and Technology Museum 中国科技馆 1 Beisanhuan Zhonglu, Xicheng District (wwwcstm.org.cn)

Champion Rink 冠军溜冰场 Golden Resources Mall, 1 Yuanda Lu, Haidan District (8887 4899)

西城区北三环中路1号

海淀区远大路1号,金源商场

北京工人体育馆南门

The Science and Technology Museum offers a myriad of interactive experiences for kids of all ages, running the gamut from ancient Chinese inventions to future technology. It’s a wonderful place to let the kids run wild for an afternoon. Fundazzle 翻斗乐 Gongti Nanlu, Chaoyang District (6593 6193, www.fundazzle-nc.com) 朝阳区工体南路

Fundazzle is legendary among expat parents and a great place to meet people if you’re new to Beijing. If you want to spare your furniture an afternoon of abuse, this is the place to go. The indoor playground has a two-storey jungle gym, trampolines and a toddler area with miniature swings and toy houses. On weekends, counsellors put on shows, lead kids in song and dance and teach arts and crafts. A-Z Kids Play Centre A-Z Kids国际家庭娱乐中心 Building 3, Pinnacle Avenue, Linyin Lu, Shunyi District (135 5293 8869, www.a-zkids.cn)

This is one of the least crowded rinks and great for beginners. Champion Rink offers private lessons for RMB120 and up; cheaper for groups. Le Cool Le Cool滑冰场 China World Shopping Mall, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District (6505 5776, www.lecoolicerink.com)

i Ice skating is very popular in Beijing. In the winter months, head down to Houhai and go skating on the frozen lake. If ice skating is not your thing, you can always be pushed around on the chairs with skates on.

朝阳区建国门外大街1号国贸商城

Not quite the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, but this is still the trendiest place to skate in Beijing. It’s a beautiful rink with an observation balcony, but it can get crowded on weekends. The Ice Zone 冰点地带 River Garden Clubhouse, 7 Yuyang Lu, Houshayu, Shunyi District (8046 6092, www.icezonechina.com) 顺义区后沙峪榆阳路7 号,裕京花园会所

This small ice rink in the centre of Shunyi offers classes for beginners and intermediates, as well as ice hockey programmes.

北京市顺义区天竺镇丽苑街荣和商业中心3号楼

A-Z is a more polished and pricier version of Fundazzle. It features a

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GETTING INVOLVED

GETTING INVOLVED

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t’s never too early or late to get involved with expat volunteer or social groups. Everybody was new in Beijing once, and a spirit of inclusion and support suffuses most organisations and clubs. The Beijing expat community is very active in organising events for compatriots, mothers and anyone interested in meeting new people while lending a helping hand. There are several benefits to contacting these organisations and attending events. Besides meeting new people with similar interests, getting involved provides an opportunity to explore and get to know your new home. Listed below are some organisations that welcome volunteering and other involvement. For updated event listings, go to www.cityweekend. com/beijing/listings/community.

i There is no shortage of need for volunteers for charity groups in Beijing. If you get involved you will be greatly appreciated.

International Newcomers Network Beijing (www.innbeijing.org)Check the INN Beijing website for events that help new expats connect in Beijing. They often host coffee meet-ups and happy hours. These events are generally well-attended and are a great source of information. Volunteering Beijing Human and Animal Environmental Education Centre (BHAEEC) (www.animalschina.org) This animal shelter is 40 minutes outside Shunyi and occasionally needs help caring for animals.

Blue Sky Healing Home provides in-house care for orphans with medical needs in a homelike setting, as well as rehabilitation training sessions for disabled orphans and their caregivers. Children’s Art Initiative Chaoyang District (www.cai-china.org, email Judy Shen at info@cai-china.org) CAI’s mission is to teach the 4 C’s (Confidence, Courage, Commitment and Care) through arts and sports programmes. CAI is a volunteer organisation that works with children of migrant workers. CAI is looking for talented people to get involved with teaching, marketing, fundraising, curriculum development, HR and IT. Compassion for Migrant Children Chaoyang District (www.cmc-china.org, Email Stacy Wu at stacywu@cmc-china.org) Compassion for Migrant Children (CMC) is a non-profit organisation founded in early 2006 to help China’s urban migrant children, primarily through offering social and educational programs. It also seeks to be a think tank for all things related to migrants and migrant issues in China. Many teaching opportunities are currently available.

i Getting involved is an excellent way to learn more about China and Beijing. The British School of Beijing and its Parents Association work with local schools in impoverished parts of China, helping others thrive.

Golden Bridges (www.goldenbridges.org) Golden Bridges is a grassroots supportive non-profit working to support 100 NGOs in Beijing through capacity building, events, volunteers and relationship building. Golden Bridges will help match your skills and experience to a local NGO that needs support.

Bethel Fangshan District (www.bethelchina.org) Bethel is a training centre specifically for visually impaired Chinese orphans. It is a self-sustainable, environmentally friendly centre. Their mission is to provide foster care, education and professional training to foster independent living skills. One of the future students of the Nord Anglia Spring Bud School

Blue Sky Healing Home Chaoyang District (www.blueskyhealinghome.org)

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GETTING INVOLVED

i The British School of Beijing’s Charity Fairs support many of the local Beijing charities.

New Life Centre Quanfa Villas, Shunyi District (www.asianservicesandprojects.org, newlife.centre@yahoo.com) Provides a home, welfare and literacy programmes to very poor children and teenagers to enable them to complete their middle school education. Operation Blessing Chaoyang District (www.obochina.org) Operation Blessing aims to “help alleviate suffering, restore human dignity and give hope for the future”. To realise these goals, Operation Blessing conducts a wide array of internationally recognised projects, including free medical clinics for people without health care access, free life-saving or life-impacting surgeries, water cisterns for people without access to clean drinking water and disaster relief for people who have lost everything. It also provides educational grants for orphans or poor children unable to pay their public school tuition fees, as well as volunteer assistance, medical services and nutritional aid for orphans.   Our Chinese Daughters Foundation (www.ocdf.org, email Mable Meng at mable@ocdf.org) Non-profit charity organisation that helps Chinese orphans with school sponsorship, material support and medical care, as well as providing nongovernment orphanages with coal in winter and school sponsorship. Sun He Xiang Kang Ying Jingcai Xuexiao (Email Cheryl Bluth at bluthchery@aol.com, Jill Weiss at karlw11@aol.com or Vicky Cordani at vlcordani@aol.com) This is a local migrant middle school that provides education to 170+ children. The school will tailor volunteer opportunities to your area of interest and level of time commitment.

Right: Bethel students enjoying Hangzhou.

United Foundation for Children’s Health (www.unitedfoundation.org, email Maggie Fu at foundation@ufh.com.cn) This is the charity arm of United Family Hospitals & Clinics. They are often looking for volunteers with writing, sales and advocacy skills.

Opposite: Spring Bud students at the opening of their school

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Helping others be the best they can Sanlitun Campus

No.5 Xiliujie, Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100027, China Tel: +8610-8532-3088 Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Shunyi Campus

South Side, No 9, An Hua Street, Tianzhu Development Zone, Shunyi District, Beijing 101318, China Tel: +8610-8047-3588 Fax: +8610-8532-3089

Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions that you will ever make. The British School of Beijing will provide your child with the highest quality education, based on the National Curriculum of England, in an international setting. As the longest established school in Beijing offering a full British curriculum, The British School of Beijing admissions@britishschool.org.cn www.britishschool.org.cn

provides a traditional high value education and prepares pupils for GCSE and A Levels. As a result, students develop and mature into young adults equipped with the qualifications and skills to enter universities worldwide.


PREPARING TO GO WHEN LIVINGYOU IN BEIJING ARRIVE

WHEN IN YOU ARRIVE PREPARING TO GO LIVING BEIJING

BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS

BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS Central Business District (CBD)

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i Although the CBD is very busy, everything you will need is very close by.

he CBD is the modern, bustling financial centre of Beijing. It is characterised by glass buildings, towering apartment blocks and shopping – lots and lots of shopping. The CBD forms the southern end of Chaoyang District; however, it’s a far cry from the leafy neighbourhoods around spacious Chaoyang Park. The area is sliced in half by the Third Ring Road. Subway Line 1 stops at each of the major points of interest. Investment has been pouring into the CBD since it was demarcated in 2000, and rapid development continues. The CBD is home to some of the largest malls in Beijing and is also full of high-end bars and restaurants. This area is popular with single professionals who like the activity and being close to work.

want to be near the action, the CBD is ideal. Negatives Other than charming Ritan Park, CBD lacks quality green space. The area is almost purely concrete and you have to make a concerted effort to find a quiet refuge. Space is tight in the CBD, making it difficult to find large apartments to support a growing family. If traffic and noise really bother you, consider living further north in Chaoyang.

i Unfortunately the pollution levels in the CBD tend to be higher than out in Shunyi.

Housing Almost all the real estate in the CBD is quite valuable, and rents are generally higher than anywhere else in Beijing, and perhaps anywhere else in China. Almost all housing comes in the form of high-rise flats, and the rents tend to reflect the luxury of the accommodation. A two-bedroom flat in the Fortune Plaza development can set you back RMB12,000 per month, while a similar apartment in Central Park or Blue Castle will cost half as much. Health care The Beijing Vista Clinic in the Kerry Centre is a reputable private hospital that offers 24-hour emergency care, general medical services and a pharmacy stocked with Western medicine. You can find full dental services at SDM Dental in the China World Shopping Mall. Education Kids in the CBD usually make the reasonably short commute up to the international schools in Sanlitun. Positives This is Beijing’s designer label district and home to most of the high-end malls. However, there is shopping of all sorts in the CBD, including a Russian Market and many Chinese outlets. There’s even a Wal-Mart in Wanda Plaza. The area is also cram-packed with nice bars and restaurants. If you

Shunyi

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huny is north of Beijing, 30 km from downtown Beijing. It has a very suburban feel that is a far cry from the noise and bustle of Beijing. Referred to as an expat village, Shunyi is primarily populated by expat families drawn to the open space, tree-lined streets, nice villa housing, expansive international school campuses and milder traffic. Housing Most families live in gated, spacious villa communities. These compounds generally range from luxurious to very luxurious, coming furnished with European imports, fitted kitchens and walled gardens. The larger compounds have spas, fitness clubs and swimming pools. Rents at the high-end villas start at nearly RMB30,000 per month. At the other end of the spectrum, town houses in developments such as Capital Paradise begin at about RMB10,000 per month.

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PREPARING TO GO WHEN LIVINGYOU IN BEIJING ARRIVE

WHEN IN YOU ARRIVE PREPARING TO GO LIVING BEIJING

BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS

BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS Health care The comprehensive and very popular Beijing United Family Clinic in the Pinnacle Plaza is linked with Beijing United Hospital in nearby Lido. Beijing United Family Hospital’s Shunyi Clinic provides outpatient medical care including family medicine, family counselling and pediatrics in the heart of Shunyi District. Education All of the popular international school brands are represented here, including Eton International, the British School of Beijing, the International School of Beijing and the Children’s House Montessori Kindergarten.

i Although Shunyi is out of the ‘real action’ of central Beijing, it is a fantastic choice for families, with lots of big houses and the opportunity to have a garden.

Positives Shunyi is virtually a re-creation of Western suburbia, with all the same shops and restaurants. It also has plenty of green space and family-friendly amenities. For many expats, it feels like home. The air is a bit cleaner and the traffic and noise are much less of a nuisance than in Beijing proper. There are also lots of school options, and your child’s commute time will be short. Negatives Shunyi feels like Western suburbia; it does not feel like China. Living in Shunyi will deprive you of the experience of integrating into Beijing and Chinese society. It is at least one hour’s drive from downtown Beijing. Due to all of the working professionals and company packages, rents are high in Shunyi.

i Lido

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n the north-east corner of Chaoyang is the small but dynamic international area of Lido. Prior to the development of villas in suburban Shunyi, this was Beijing’s main expat residential area. Lido is packed with international hotels, shops and restaurants. Local expats regularly organise social events. Lido’s convenient location near parks, entertainment, art galleries and international schools assures that Lido remains popular with expat families.

Lido is a great alternative to the CBD; there is not as much traffic, the noise level is lower and there are lots of parks and green space.

Housing Developments are newer than in other areas of Chaoyang Park, but rents are still reasonable because Lido is relatively far from the city centre. Most expats live in large apartments with nice amenities and 24-hour security. Rents range from as little as RMB3,000 per month at Lido Place to RMB20,000 in the Richmond Park or Upper East Side complexes. The Hairun International Condominiums are inside a complex that is home to a Starbucks, a Jenny Lou’s and a popular bakery. Health care Beijing United Family, the largest international hospital in Beijing and the most popular among expats, is in Lido. You also have the option of going to the Amcare Women’s and Children’s Hospital. This is a public medical centre with private rooms and delivery suites. Doctors speak English in both of these facilities. Education Eton International School and the International Academy of Beijing both have campuses in Lido. Shunyi, a short commute to the north, has several international schools with great facilities. It is also close to the airport.

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BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS There are several playgroups and nurseries organised by the expat family community. Positives Lido offers a variety of cafés, restaurants and shops that cater to Westerners. There is a Jenny Lou’s, several spas and beauty shops and Tom’s DVDs. For culture, explore the world-class art galleries in the 798 Art District, a group of abandoned weapons factories that are home to some of China’s most innovative artists. Though Lido is far from the city centre, it is closer than popular Shunyi, yet close enough to Shunyi for your children to attend the excellent international schools there. The expats in Lido describe the sense of community as being strong.

i Lido has a fantastic bowling ally in the Holiday Inn. This activity is always a firm family favourite.

Negatives Lido is far from central Beijing. Expats complain that it lacks quality evening entertainment. It is also lacks a subway stop, forcing residents to depend on cars and taxis.

WHEN IN YOU ARRIVE PREPARING TO GO LIVING BEIJING

BEIJING NEIGHBOURHOODS Chaoyang Park Chaoyang Park has a similar modern, bustling feel to Lido, but it’s more spread out. It’s a popular place for expats to live, work and play. Located in the east of Chaoyang District, it is located between the Third and Fourth Ring Roads. Many expats live here for the international schools, corporate offices, nightlife and open green spaces and activities that the park provides. In many ways, this is the ideal residential area for expats. It is part of Beijing, making it convenient for enjoying the city’s highlights, while at the same time offering a spacious and quiet residential life. Housing The housing around Chaoyang Park tends to be quiet, modern and spacious, with fitness clubs and 24-hour security. Despite Chaoyang Park’s convenience and popularity, housing prices are reasonable. Look for two-bedroom apartments to start at around RMB10,000 per month. Living right along the park itself is ideal, and therefore rents in places like Palm Springs or Park Avenue, which overlook the park, start at RMB15,000. Health care Beijing International SOS Clinic on Sanlitun Xiwujie provides all kinds of health services and has a good emergency ward. The International Medical Centre in the Lufthansa Centre on Liangmaqiao Lu is a comprehensive private hospital with English-speaking doctors.

i Watch out in the summer months in the Chaoyang area as the sky above Chaoyang Park will be filled with kites.

Education Several international schools have campuses in Chaoyang Park or in nearby Sanlitun, including The British School of Beijing and the Canadian International school. To accommodate the large number of expat families, Chaoyang Park is home to several nurseries and playgroups, including Children’s House Montessori Kindergarten and Sanlitun Kindergarten. Positives The positives of living in Chaoyang Park are many. First and foremost is the park itself. To most expats, Chaoyang Park is the nicest green space in the city. Subway Line 10 has stops just west of the park, and it’s never difficult to get a taxi for a trip on the Third Ring Road for a ride into the city centre or out to the airport expressway. To eat, shop and go out, you never have to leave Chaoyang Park. There is a vast array of good restaurants, bars and shops along the park and in nearby Sanlitun. Negatives There aren’t any specific negatives, other than it is still cold in the wintertime and hot in the summer.

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W

e hope you have enjoyed our Essentials Guide Beijing and found it useful. Our goal is to provide relocating families with a primer to life in Beijing, containing practical information to demystify the process and ease the trasition to our city. As well, we hope that the images we selected convey the complex – and at times strikingly beautiful – character of the city and its people.

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t The British School Beijing we endeavour to provide for our students and families an environment in which they can thrive during their time in Beijing. We take our role seriously and encourage you to visit us to find out more.


http://www.bisshanghai.com/00Beijing%20Marketing/Guidebook/April-28-BJ-guide  

http://www.bisshanghai.com/00Beijing%20Marketing/Guidebook/April-28-BJ-guide.pdf

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