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Beginner’s Guide | Starting Your Journey in China

by | Feb 29, 2024

Guide for China | That's Mandarin

Navigating a new country can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to everyday tasks like ordering food, paying for things, or calling a taxi.

But fear not! We’ve gathered the top questions in this beginner China guide to help you handle your first days in China with ease. Whether you’re here for work or study, these tips will help you settle into your new life smoothly.

Moving to China Guide | That's Mandarin


🧳 Moving to China Must-have Checklist
📱 Top-3 Essential Chinese Apps
🚖 Learn How to Get Around
🛍 Buy Things Like a Local
🇨🇳 Must-Know Phrases for the First Week in China

Before You Come to China

If it’s going to be your first time in China, you’re probably wondering what to pack.
Luggage | That's Mandarin


🤓 Don’t worry, because we’ve prepared a list of the most important (and not so important) things for you to put in your suitcase. Save it and there’ll be nothing to worry about:

Everything is packed!
Now, get ready for your trip to China by gathering more useful information.

Top-3 Essential Chinese Apps

01. WeChat

Often described as China’s “app for everything”, WeChat is a messaging, social media, and mobile payment app rolled into one. It’s used for chatting with friends, making voice and video calls, and even paying for goods and services both online and offline.

WeChat | 6 Ways to Make Friends with Chinese People

Here are a few WeChat functions that you can use:

  • 发送消息 (fāsòng xiāoxi) – Send Message

On WeChat, you can send text, audio, video, and picture messages, and also share documents and files with your friends and colleagues.

  • 朋友圈 (péngyǒuquān) – Moments

WeChat Moments is a feature where users can share updates, photos, and videos with friends, similar to Facebook or Instagram media feed.

  • 扫一扫 (sǎo yī sǎo) – Scan QR Code

This function on WeChat lets you scan QR codes. It’s useful for quickly adding contacts, making payments, and accessing information from posters or websites.

  • 服务 (fúwù) – Services

Service function on WeChat is a hub for various services and mini-programs. Here, users can access features like food delivery, ride-hailing, movie ticket booking, and more, all within the WeChat app.

and more…everything in one app!📱

02. Alipay

Alipay is the online payment platform, offering a wide range of services including mobile payments, bill payments, and even wealth management services. It’s used for everything from buying groceries to paying utility bills.

Alipay | That's Mandarin


💡 If you’re wondering how to link your international bank account to Alipay, you’re not alone. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you connect your foreign card to Alipay.

💡 Alipay is a lifestyle platforms that people can use (and never leave) to conduct all their day-to-day activities. So, what are Alipay’s most popular features?

03. Food Delivery Apps

Meituan (美团) and (饿了么) are the top food delivery apps in China. They offer a vast selection of restaurants and cuisines, delivering food to your doorstep within minutes.

Meituan | That's Mandarin


Eleme • 7 Most Popular Features on Alipay | That's Mandarin Blog


💡 Arriving in China and experiencing Chinese cuisine for the first time can be a delightful surprise, with its incredible variety of tastes and flavors. Here’s a brief guide to help you navigate Chinese cuisine.

Learn How to Get Around

From taxi to train, here’s how you can explore the streets of China’s vibrant cities.

Chinese Guide Transport | That's Mandarin

01. Ride Hailing

In China, there are several ways to hail a taxi, whether you’re in a bustling city like Beijing, Shanghai or a smaller town. Here’s how to call a taxi and get one on the street.

1. Hailing a Taxi with Taxi Apps

Didi Chuxing (滴滴出行 Dīdī Chūxíng) and Meituan Taxi (美团打车Měituán Dǎchē) are the China’s answer to Uber. The apps or mini-programs allow you to book taxis directly from your smartphone. Enter your location and destination, and a nearby taxi will be dispatched to you.

2. Hailing a Taxi on the Street:

You can also catch a taxi on the street. In China, the common way to hail a taxi is by extending your arm, palm down, and making a slight waving motion. This gesture is widely understood by taxi drivers.

💡 If the roof light is green, and the light inside the cab is on, too, the cab is free. However, if the roof light is red, it means that the taxi is reserved by someone else.

02. Shared Bikes

From the convenience of navigating crowded streets to the affordability it offers, biking in China became one of the most popular transportation modes for locals and tourists alike.

Shared Bikes | That's Mandarin

gòngxiǎng dānchē

💡 In China, you’ll find a diverse range of shared bikes, from traditional pedal-powered bicycles to electric bikes. To start your ride, all you need is your smartphone with the corresponding app or mini-program installed. Here’s a simple guide to get you started.

03. Metro

Using the metro is a great way to explore the city. With its comprehensive network and affordable fares, the metro system offers a convenient and cost-effective way to get around China’s cities.

Metro | That's Mandarin


If you’re in Shanghai, you can download the Shanghai Metro 大都会 app, or just access the Shanghai Metro mini-program on Alipay. With this option, you can easily take the metro and transfer lines by simply scanning the QR code.

Buy Things Like a Local

When you arrive in China, you’ll discover the convenience of online shopping. Here are a few platforms you can consider using:

01. 淘宝 (Táobǎo), also known as Taobao, is an online marketplace where you can shop for a wide variety of items, including clothing, electronics, and more.

Taobao | That's Mandarin Chinese School

02. is another major e-commerce platform in China, known for its fast and reliable delivery service. It sells a wide range of products, including electronics, appliances, and groceries. | That's Mandarin

03. Pinduoduo is a social e-commerce platform that offers discounts for buying in bulk. It is popular for its group-buying model, where users can team up to get lower prices.

Pinduoduo | That's Mandarin

Must-Know Phrases for the First Week in China

Learning a few basic phrases can go a long way in helping you feel more comfortable and confident during your first days in China.

If you didn’t understand what someone said to you, you can politely ask:

Qǐng nǐ shuō màn yīdiǎnr.
Can you, please, speak slower.

Use this when you need assistance:

Néng bāng wǒ ma?
Can you help me?

Use this when you need to ask for a direction:

Qǐng wèn, ……zài nǎ lǐ?
Excuse me, where is……?

And you can always just say:

不好意思, 我的中文不好。
Bù hǎoyìsi, wǒ de Zhōngwén bù hǎo.
Sorry, my Chinese is not good.

Take It Further

That’s Mandarin has has been providing quality Chinese classes to 100,000+ students from around the globe since 2005.

Our first online app was launched in 2010, and has since grown to become a powerful, all-in-one Chinese learning platform NihaoCafe. NihaoCafe makes learning Chinese more fun and engaging and takes learning experience to the next level!

Embark on your Chinese learning adventure with us 🌍


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