Beijing at a Glance
Living in BeijingiStockphoto
The Forbidden City, former home of Chinese emperors, consists of 980 buildings.
The extreme weather conditions can render Beijing unpleasant on occasion, especially if you are not used to that particular climate. It means coping with cold and windy winters, hot and humid summers, and dust or sand storms from the Mongolian steppe in spring.
However, most expats living in Beijing feel comparatively safe in this huge metropolis with its vast urban sprawl, including six inner and eight metropolitan districts. Violent crime against foreigners does occasionally happen, even in relatively busy, tourist-friendly places and more frequently in popular nightlife districts. Nonetheless, it is rarer in Beijing than in other global cities of a comparable size.
Furthermore, particularly in autumn, when temperatures are moderate and the air is relatively clear (tiāngāo qìshuăng – ‘the sky is high, the air is fresh’, as the Chinese say), life in Beijing invites you to explore this fascinating city.
While the traditional hútòng – Beijing’s narrow alleyways with their courtyard houses – are often giving way to contemporary construction projects, the city still offers a wealth of China’s cultural riches. When living in Beijing, make sure that you have a little time for sight-seeing, beyond the obligatory trips to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.
Highlights from imperial Beijing, like the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace with its landscape gardens, stand in stark contrast to recent edifices from Communist China, such as the “Great Hall of the People” and the Mausoleum of Chairman Mao. Various sites of worship are reminders of the city’s erstwhile religious diversity. While living in Beijing, you will come across countless temples (mostly Buddhist, some Taoist, and one dedicated to Confucianism). You can also visit the oldest Catholic church in Beijing and the largest mosque in the city.
On the Road
Of course, to go sightseeing or to commute to the office, you need to get around in Beijing. Due to the high accident rate and often chaotic traffic conditions in Beijing, driving yourself isn’t particularly recommended.
Some companies even prohibit their expat employees to take the wheel during their stay in Beijing. They fear the likelihood of an accident and the resulting claims for damages. Moreover, most foreign driving licenses (including the International Driving Permit) are not recognized in Beijing.
So, living in Beijing, you may prefer using your company car (provided you have your own driver), your compound’s shuttle bus service, or hailing a cab. Foreign nationals can easily recognize licensed taxis by their number plate: It starts with a “B”.
Taxis in Beijing are comparatively cheap (ten yuan for the first three kilometers, then two yuan for every additional kilometer). Just make sure that you have a note with your destination written in Chinese characters, that the meter is running properly, and that you ask the driver for a receipt (fāpiào).
Most expats prefer going by taxi for the above-mentioned reasons. However, if living in Beijing should have made you more adventurous, you could try taking the bus or the underground as another way of exploring the city.