before a move to China: part 2

Before moving anywhere, even to the next neighborhood, it’s always a hassle and headache, let alone across the globe! I previously had a few things to say about some common issues and encounters at the beginning like internet access beyond the GFW and personal care products. Here are a few more points to consider, thanks to your comments :)

  • Cellphone: What types of cellphones work in China? GSM phones, CDMA phones? What’s a typical rate for an internet cellphone plan with some minutes?

China uses GSM service. The easiest is to bring your own (unlcoked GSM phone) and purchase the pre-paid sim card upon arrival, but for extended use this can be more expensive, a friend was paying RMB500/month for voice and text messages only. And having just gotten my iPhone unlocked this time around, my new phone plan for local use is RMB21 for 120 outgoing SMSs and 50MB of data with China Mobile’s M-Zone plan in Beijing (pricing broken down as: RMB16 for 120 outgoing SMS messages, 20MB data + RMB5 for an additional 30MB of data) . The additional data packages go up in RMB5 increments. The great thing about this plan is that all incoming calls and texts are free. Each additional SMS message sent over your particular plan, the lowest is RMB11 for 60SMS, is RMB .1, you can’t really complain if you’re converting this to USD. There are discounted rates for calling overseas, by dialing a code that the staff should give you if you ask.
Although, my plan would also be considered a pre-paid plan; China Mobile deducts the monthly charges from the money balance added to my account each month accordingly. There are no bills that come to your house. There are also roaming charges if you go beyond your specified ‘home’ city; though, prices aren’t that high. If you have major questions, and have a Chinese language barrier, it’s probably best to call China Mobile on the phone and talk to their English speaking customer service staff, who in my experience has been super helpful! But do be prepared to be patient in explaining your question/ problem, depending on the agent’s English ability. Not to worry, they will get you the answer in the end.

  • Banks: How do you get cash? Smuggle a brick of loot and hide it in your mattress? Did you open an account there? Credit, or is cash king and carry a wad of money everywhere?

Some large banks have associations with banks overseas for reduced rates on ATM usage, etc. I’m personally using Bank of America and easily have access to my cash in the US through China Construction Bank with no fees! Since few places accept international credit cards and you probably don’t want to pay for exchange rate fees, a local bank account is great. I’ve also set up a local bank account with China Construction Bank, which only required a passport and Beijing address (where they don’t send anything to). Just a reminder that American Express doesn’t charge commission and exchange fees for purchases, which has been great, minus the fact that few businesses accept AMEX! Sooooo, getting a local account is a good idea if you’re staying longer than a couple months; with the account you get a bank card (their version of a debit card) and can use it at many stores.

  • Education Schedule: What sort of semester or quarter system is the higher education system there in? Sept-Dec for Fall, Jan-April for Winter, and May-Aug for Summer?

If you’re coming to China for school or to learn Chinese, as far as I’ve experienced and interacted with other (local) students, it’s a semester school schedule here in China: Fall (Sept-Jan) and Spring (February-June), with the summer schedule as July-August. There are National holidays that do not include Thanksgiving or Christmas. Holidays include a few days for the New Calendar Year, 2-4 weeks for the Lunar New Year (which is between semesters), a few days Qingming holiday (sweeping of the tombs) in the Spring, Dragon Boat Festival in the summer, Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) in the Fall and a week for National Day in the Fall.

Feel free to read Part 1 and leave more questions or suggestions!


阴阳呢?Bank of America 和中国建设银行有关系能在中国建设银行没有费拿钱。也可以在中国的银行开账户。如果你在中国比较长的时间开账户比较好也对你方便。


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