**This article was originally written for the Qingdao Redstar Magazine. I’ve added a couple more items and this is a more detailed, fuller length version of the original article.
New to Qingdao and can’t figure out where to start? I’ve asked other expats their advice so here are
33 36 tips (and counting) that can help newbie expats in Qingdao acclimate to their new life in China. Please comment below if you have more tips! And thanks to you all that have contributed!
1. Bring tissues, wet wipes, and disinfectant everywhere. Soap is rarely available in public toilets.
2. Practice your squats to prepare yourself for the “squat” toilet.
3. Always have a quick snack in your bag.
4. Ditch your old Nokia phone and get a smart phone.
5. Make sure to have a good data plan on your phone.
6. In Qingdao, the Wechat app is an absolute must for communicating. Instead of people asking, “What’s your digits, baby?” they’ll ask, “What’s your Wechat, honey?”
7. Download Chinese translation apps like Pleco and iTranslate onto your smart phone.
8. Learn how to say your address and the intersecting streets in Chinese, and practice until memorized!
9. Take a picture of the Chinese addresses to your favorite places so you can show it to taxis when they don’t understand.
10. Download UBER or DIDI to get around. Here’ s a How-To for Uber.
11. Know the bus system by your home. It’s the cheapest and best way to get to know the city.
12. Carry small change for buses or cabs. Buses only accept 1rmb.
13. Take a picture of the bus routes where you live and then compare it to the bus routes wherever you want to go.
14. Many Chinese restaurants don’t have menus translated in English. When you find Chinese dishes you like, take pictures of it. It’ll make it easier to order in the future!
15. Understand the Chinese currency – Renminbi, RMB, Yuan, CNY, Kuai, Maos, Jiaos, the bills vs. the coins– it confuses us all! Get familiar with the denominations so you don’t confuse with the 1 yuan bill with the 1 jiao bill!
HELPFUL EXPAT WEBSITES:
16. Qingdao Mamas Yahoo Group – Started by Natasha Tapley, this group is not just for Mamas but for all foreigners living in Qingdao. Known as the “Craiglist” of Qingdao, you can post questions, offer tips, sell/buy items, post events, and so much more.
17. QingdaoExpatSurvivalGuide.com – Obviously, this blog! By yours truly, Jacqueline F, a blog on Living, Discovering and Surviving Expat Life in Qingdao, China…one day at a time.
18. TravelingwithJC.com – Read about Catherine and Justin’s life, loves, and wonderful adventures abroad.
19. TheCultureBlend.com – Cross cultural trainer and coach, Jerry Jones writes about expatting, repatting, transition and life.
20. WoShoudeBuhao.wordpress.com – Rachel chronicles four years of expat life in rural China outside of Qingdao, from being newly married to having a baby in China.
There’s tons of places to shop for new items, but here’s some options for gently used items:
21. Dongxi & More is a second hand charity shop located on the 4th Floor of the ISQ Bright Start ECC. Come in to shop or donate as all money goes to charity. Store hours vary, so please call Ashley 18562867982 for more info. Located in Bright Start ECC 4th Floor, Yamai Shancheng Building #15, Qingdao San Road, Laoshan District 山东青岛崂山区青大三路亚麦山城15号一楼
22. Trash to Treasure – Started by Cat Kung, this monthly meet-up group is a great way to swap and trade clothes and household goods with fellow expats. Search ‘QD Trash-to-Treasure Swap’ on Wechat.
23. Junk In My Trunk – A virtual garage sale on steroids, messages can top over 100 in a matter of seconds, but items go fast! Search this name on Wechat.
MEET UP GROUPS
24. Qingdao Mamas Lunch – Every month Natasha at Qingdao Mamas group organizes a fabulous ladies lunch for all the Mamas in town. A great way to meet other Qingdao expat wives and exchange info. Join the Qingdao Mamas Yahoo Group for more info.
25. Wednesday Coffee at Maan – An informal meet up group for expats on Wednesdays around 10:30am at Maan Café on Aomen lu. Search ‘Expat coffee group’ on Wechat.
26. Qingdao International Christian Fellowship (QICF) meet every Sunday from 10am-11:30am on Sundays at the Crowne Plaza in the basement 2. Must present a foreign passport to attend. www.qicf.org
GYMS / EXERCISE OPTIONS
27. InSoul Yoga – Near Polar Ocean World, InSoul Yoga offers different yoga classes all day in a beautiful, serene setting overlooking the ocean. Contact 18560627667 for more info. 山东省青岛市崂山区东海东路58号(极地金岸)
28-29-30. Qingdao Swimming Pool Options – After doing so much thorough research, I’m including Qingdao Expat Christa Carr’s full post on Qingdao pool options from October 2015:
My son swam competitively back in the US, so I was looking for something a little more specific. I looked at the swimming pool in the 1) marina area near the circle of flags, 2) XiXing Athletic facility, and 3) GuoXin Stadium. As a disclaimer, I swam competitively as well. Some of the pools and locker rooms in the US I have been in were pretty gross. My tolerance levels may differ from the average person! I apologize for length in advance …
The place in the marina area near the flag circle is convenient (for marina area people), but really pretty cold. My 2 year old was happy enough for 30ish minutes, but my 5 year old swimmer was very resistant. The pool is 25 meters (I think) and has a few lanes for lap swimming. One of the lanes is raised with a false bottom. Swim lessons are held here and this is the area best suited for kids. I think the swim lessons are exclusively in Chinese. The pool seemed clean and has monthly maintenance. The locker room was reasonably clean, though it did have hair in the corners. The cost is 3500 RMB for 100 times. Each person (young and old) is charged for a swim.
XiXing is near the Wanda Mall. My driver said it’s about a 20 minute drive from the marina area, but could be much longer in traffic. There is a 25 meter pool with six lanes and a separate pool with an open swim area. They have lessons in Chinese as well as a swim team. The swim team practices twice a week (Friday and Saturday I think) and has 30-40 kids 7 and older swimming 2000 meters in 90 minutes. The pool has 24 hour filtration, is treated with chlorine, and is tested regularly. The temperature here was the warmest of the three. The locker rooms were again reasonably clean, but not spectacular. The cost was 2000 RMB for 47 visits, though this includes the health club areas. Young children would swim for “free” with an adult on each of these visits. You can also purchase a pass for 150ish visits to the pool only for 3600 RMB. This is also the way you pay for the swim team. I *think* the children would pay separately in this case, but I’m not certain.
GuoXin Stadium is at 3 Yin Chuan Dong Road in Qingdao. It’s the backside of FuShan Mt from the marina. My driver said it would be about 30 minutes to get there unless traffic is really heavy. It has four swimming areas: a kids wading/play area, a five lane 25 meter swim lesson pool, a six lane recreational lap swim pool, and an 8+ lane 50 meter competition pool. There is also an area for exercise classes on paddle boards. The diving area is closed. The pool has 24 hour filtration, is treated with chlorine, and is tested regularly. The temperature was moderate. (Please see update below) My five year old swam happily for over an hour, but an active hour. The main public locker room was pretty busy and about the same level of cleanliness as the other two. The bathrooms were a little gross, but not a deal breaker. The Western toilet was not working though, which highlighted my next mission of getting my boys to successfully use the squat toilets. There is also a nicer locker room next to the competition pool for people with the upgraded membership. This locker room was cleaner. The cost was 1180 RMB for 30 visits in the standard membership (kids pool and recreational lap swim pool). You cannot use the competition pool or locker room with this card. The 30 visit card including the competition pool was 2000 RMB. An unlimited visit annual membership was 2000 RMB for the standard pools and 2700 RMB for the membership with the competition pool. Children under 130cm swim for free with an adult, but you need one adult for each child under 130cm for safety reasons. Outside of the kids swim area, I don’t think there’s really an area for kids to play around and swim. It’s for less casual swimming. There is a swim team for kids 6 and older, but it’s MWF 6:30p-8:00p. The kids swim 2000 meters at each practice. The cost is 3600 RMB per kid for a year on the team. They offer children’s lessons in Chinese in groups as well as private. Private lessons are 2000 RMB for ten 60 minute lessons.
We chose GuoXin. For me, I chose the competition pool unlimited membership because I plan to swim there myself, with my two year old during the day, and with my five year old at other times to supplement lessons in the short term. We chose the pass option for my husband. My five year old is not quite ready for 2000 meters in 90 minutes in a 50 meter pool, even having been on a swim team before. Most of the kids seem to be closer to 10 years old. I opted for private lessons with a Chinese instructor and then a group lesson preparing the kids for the formal team. He had his first private lesson with his Chinese swim coach, Miss Dong. She actually spoke quite a bit of English. Between me knowing what she wanted him to do (even if my kid won’t listen to me) and her English skills, it actually went really well. The Chinese learning method was different than what I’m used to, but she actually made huge progress on a problem we’ve been working on with him since he started to swim. We are also trying to learn as much of the Chinese swimming terminology as we can before sending him out with the large group.
UPDATE AS OF 8/7/2016: After almost a year, she has found the pool less child friendly. The downstairs pool area has mosquitoes (even in January) and has not been very well maintained. Also when her son hits 100cm, they will not permit him to go into the women’s restroom with her. He’s 3 years old. (Uh…Seriously?@#@!#@!#) She will continue to swim there, but will consider another option for her young kids. Basically she is now only recommending it for experienced adult swimmers or children able (and willing) to swim laps.
31. Yinhai swimming pool – Even though it’s a little small, it’s a nice, closer option to downtown. There is a 3 lane lap pool, a toddler pool, those water-pressure massage pools, a sauna, and jacuzzis. In May 2016, they offered a decent deal, 5000rmb card for /50 visits, and my 2 kids (7&9 years old) equal 1 visit. So basically, for my 2 kids and I, the cost will be 200 rmb each time.
32. Yoga studio in Yijing Yuan Apartment Complex (closest gate is haining Lu) – Recommended by Qingdao Expat Ashely Stern, this Yoga studio is located between Haining lu and Haikou lu. Residents in search of a good yoga class can enjoy morning and evening classes every day including yoga flow, hot yoga, flying yoga, beginners yoga and even belly dance. Daily and annual rates available. See location here:
Around 3-4 of us foreigners have gone and really enjoy the atmosphere and coaching. The facility is very clean and they provide mats. Here is an example of the schedule: The green is beginners/foundations, orange is yoga flow, coral is hot yoga, aqua is for weight loss, pink is detox, blue is flying yoga, magenta is belly dancing:)…
33. Yinhai walk – Not in the mood for a gym? A great morning walk is at the Yinhai waterfront boardwalk. On Donghai lu, just west of Haikou lu, expect a relaxing, seaside walk. Challenge yourself to the 4 sets of stairs on this walk, totaling 200 steps. It makes a pretty good work out, especially if you do it both ways! Check out my Qingdao Yinhai Waterfront post for more info.
LEARNING THE LINGO
The Chinese language is certainly challenging but knowing your numbers from 1-10 is extremely helpful. Looking for even more intensive lessons, here are some options:
34. Kelvin Laoshi – Many expats have had private lessons with Kelvin because of his patience and professionalism. Kelvin speaks English and arranges private lessons at your home. Check out this post for more info Wechat ID Kelvin929 ; Phone 186 7895 3909
35. Cathy Laoshi- Another private Chinese teacher, Cathy has also been highly recommended by other expats. Cathy will assess your requirements and level in Chinese. She focuses on developing techniques in improving your language skills. Phone – 151 9207 5020; Email email@example.com
36. XMandarin – Aussie Expat Jo Chan recommends XMandarin Chinese Language Center. She started with the Experience Chinese Oral Courses, focusing on listening and speaking skills, as well as grammar. She felt her teacher was personal, patient and helpful in understanding the Chinese language and history. XMandarin Website at http://www.0532study.com/ or call 053288078385 for more info.
I wrote this for the Qingdao Redstar. Here was a previous, shorter version of the Qingdao Resources Guide.