Life in Chengdu

10 Must have apps for life in China

1.       Wechat


Wechat started life as a chat app (hence the name) but soon evolved into something much bigger. Most of the population from your students to their Grandparents have a wechat account and it’s the best way to stay in touch with people. It also has a wallet function, which you can use to buy almost anything and to send money to your friends. Alongside all of this, you can use it to book tickets, play games with your friends, follow the news and almost anything you can imagine.

Alternative e-wallet: Alipay

2.       Didi


Didi is the ride sharing company that acquired Uber in China and is a must for getting around especially after the buses and subways stop for the night. With Didi you can book official city taxis, uber-style drivers and also ride sharing in cars heading the same direction as you. They also offer generous vouchers for new users and super users offering money off rides.


3.       Mobike / Ofo

Sticking to the transport theme, Mobike and Ofo are China’s 2 biggest bike sharing apps. Chinese sidewalks are filled with Mobike and Ofo bikes and these are often the fastest way to get around short distances. Just download the app, sign up for an account (with your passport), link your wechat or alipay, pay a small deposit and you’re ready to go. At the time of writing, a 3 month pass on Mobike cost 5RMB.


4.       大众点评 (Da zhong dian ping)

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This app requires you to know some basic chinese but once you can navigate it, it’s invaluable. This is the Chinese Yelp. You can find reviews with pictures of everything to do in your city. If you want to find out where to get the best noodles in your area just type in 面条 to see a list of noodle restaurants ranked by popularity. They also offer the occasional free meal to users who rate 4 or more places a month.




5.       饿了吗  (e le ma?) or 美团 (Mei tuan)

These are the most popular take out apps in China and they deliver meals to your door in about 45 minutes. You’ll see 饿了吗 delivery people out on their electric bikes at all hours of the day in all-weather dodging in and out of traffic to get your food to you warm. Modern-day heroes.



6.       微博 (Weibo)


Weibo is one of the most popular Chinese social media sites and is where you’ll get all the latest gossip, news you don’t see on the central TV stations and all the Chinese memes. You’ll get more out of it once you can read a little Chinese but ask your Chinese friends and colleagues to follow you on Weibo and send you all their funny panda videos.


7.       Pleco and Memrise

Pleco is the go to Chinese dictionary and one most favoured among the Chinese learning community. The free 'lite' version works perfectly for everyday use but they also offer a ton of add-ons for the serious Chinese learner.

Memrise is, from my perspective, the best app for learning Chinese characters. Built by memory experts, they offer a unique learn, grow and review model forcing you to stay on top of your characters. They also make good use of score boards so you and your friends can compete to see who are ‘growing’ the most words.

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8.       QQ Music

This is China’s biggest music app – comparable to Spotify. It has almost everything bar some really obscure bands. You can ‘like’ songs and albums; ‘follow’ artists and create your own playlists. You can also link it to your Nike running app.



9.       京东 (Jing Dong) or 淘宝 (Tao Bao)

Don’t blame me but say goodbye to your salary. Jingdong and taobao are China’s biggest shopping apps and you can find almost anything in their marketplaces from cute panda hats all the way through to private jets. Once you’ve linked your wechat/alipay to these apps you can order things at the click of a button. I even order my daily groceries on JingDong.


10.   高德地图 (Gao De Di Tu)

This is a map app optimized to work in China. It’ll show you where to get the bus and where to get off, help you navigate the subway system and even show you when to take a mobike or when to just walk it.


Think we've missed any? Add a comment below!

Surviving Day 1 - Shannon Naude

Day 1: You’re here. It’s real. You just moved to China!

That’s a scary thought, but it’s so exciting! Your first day will be wild. You have no idea where you are, where you’re going and most importantly you have no clue what anyone is saying.  Don’t fret, it’s all going to be okay:

Your first day in China is a whirlwind of a day. Here are a few tips to survive day one in Chengdu:

1.     Your welfare officer has got your back. Trust them.

Your welfare officer is your “Go-to guy” in China.

 ‘I lost my bank card; help!’

‘I’m locked out of my apartment; help!’

‘Please tell this person that I don’t want spicy noodles (hands phone to cashier)


I kid you not, these are all things I’ve said to my welfare officer in the past three months.


They will get someone to change your locks (it happens more often than you’d think;) they will send you a message to show the people at the bank/the shop or personally escort you there. However, your noodles will probably still be spicy; let’s face it, this is Chengdu.

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1.     You will be on your feet the entire day. Choose your shoes wisely.


2.     You will feel like you are signing your life away; it’s a SIM card how many signatures do they need? The answer is all of them. Just go with it; you’ll have your SIM, bank and transport cards soon enough.


3.     You will get frustrated about the fact you have no idea what is being said on your behalf. A 20 minute conversation will probably be relayed back to you in 2 sentences; ‘it’s strictly need to know’ but don’t worry, that’s all the information you need’ the end result of the 20 minute deliberation.


4.     You will probably find an apartment on day one. Look at all of your options first; then decide. If none of them are to your liking – say so. There will be more options. Once again, there will be a whole lot of incomprehensible conversations followed by ‘sign here.’ And again; just go with it. Your welfare officer has got your back and now you have a place to stay!


5.     You’ll probably pop in to your school, briefly, but it’s nice to see where you’ll be working. This is when you should take notes on what train or bus to take. If you can get yourself to school, you can do almost anything.


There’s a lot of names to remember so don’t worry that you will not remember them all.

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You will be popping in in the middle of the work day so if everyone is busy and just says hi and runs off; don’t take it personally.

There will be loads of advice coming your way; everyone just wants to help. It will feel like they’re just saying it, they don’t remember what it was like, they’ve been here so long they’ve forgotten. Give it a month and you’ll be telling the new guy that it’s going to be okay; and he’ll be silently rolling his eyes at you too. That’s a great feeling – no longer feeling like the new guy.

1.     A translator ‘A-P-P’ will save your life.

I use Microsoft translator – search it on your App Store (Apple, Windows or Android)

2.     You have probably been told about Chengdu and their spicy food; and possibly laughed it off but it’s no joke.

A useful phrase if you don’t like spicy food: ‘bu la’ means no spice. Give it a month; you’ll be wondering why your food is so bland and you won’t need that phrase anymore.

At the end of the day, you’ll have a SIM card, probably a place to stay, you’ll know how to get to school. You can order food by pointing at pictures and use your calculator to ask for a cost. There’s still a few things left to do; the medical and a bank card; but your welfare officer will get you sorted.

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