Ultimate Guide for Changzhou Expats
Changzhou is a slow paced, family friendly city that is often underestimated in terms of what it has to offer. Previously known as Yanling, Lanling and Jinling, the city has now earned itself the nickname "Dragon Town." With several amusement parks, museums, and the world's tallest pagoda, one can easily entertain themselves. If you want a list of the top places to see in Changzhou, keep an eye out for an upcoming blog post. This post will specifically help you navigate around Changzhou during your first days.
WHERE TO BUY GROCERIES
METRO is a favorite for expats in Changzhou. It offers flavors from home that you won't find anywhere else in Changzhou such as sausages with cheese, rye bread with dried fruits, as well as imported chocolates from Europe, assorted fancy cheeses. Keep in mind that METRO is on the more expensive side. I've walked out of there with ten items and a 400 rmb bill, but it's worth it if it means having foods from back home.
RT MART is China's version of Walmart, except better quality. You will find everything from home appliances to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as great quality meat and seafood. The price is pretty decent, you can get a large bag of rice for 5 rmb and a jug of milk for around 19 rmb.
AUCHAN is another supermarket favorite for expats in Changzhou, except with a French twist. One can find everything from flower pots to bread
TESCO is a multinational British grocery store located in Changzhou.
Local markets are probably the best option because the food is fresher, prices are lower, and the store is less crowded. You will most likely come across several local markets simply by taking a walk around your neighborhood.
HOW TO GET AROUND
BY BUS //
Unfortunately Changzhou does not have a metro system yet. It is forecast to be built by the end of 2019 (yay!) In the mean time, there is a very convenient bus system that will take you around Changzhou called MRT. The cost is a mere 1 RMB.
BY DiDi OR TAXI //
DiDi's are fairly cheap in China and very convenient in Changzhou. DiDi, by the way, is China's equivalent to an Uber or Lyft. If you turn on the app you are bound to get a DiDi within minutes. If you are living in Changzhou, I recommend saving the address to the app for your home and/or work location, that way you won't have to type it in every time. It will also be convenient to connect either your WeChat or Alipay account to your DiDi account, that way whenever you go for a ride the money can be directly withdrawn from your bank account.
Share bikes such as Youon are quite popular and can be rented for a few hours for a small price.
There are two main railway stations in Changzhou:
Changzhou North Station (常州北站, Chángzhōu běi zhàn)
Changzhou Station (常州站, Chángzhōu zhàn)
If you are planning to fly to Changzhou, then Changzhou Benniu Airport would be the nearest airport. There are quite a few airlines connecting Changzhou with other Chinese (and a few international cities).
WeChat is a must-have, especially if your time in Changzhou isn't short-term. The app works like WhatsApp, whereby you can send audio, text and video messages free of charge. Users can also join group chats, post comments whilst living and working in different parts of Changzhou and China by extension. WeChat is also for paying for items. Contrary to what you are used to, the Chinese are far advanced and use their phones to scan QR codes to pay for food, clothes, you name it.
TaoBao is an excellent app to have for shopping lovers. Even if you aren't a fan of shopping, then it may still be worth having since clothes, shoes, purses, and everyday items can be bought for a low price. You will have to enter your address in which you want the items delivered (consult a Chinese speaking friend for help on this) but once your ordered is placed you can count on receiving your items within days. There have been times when I've ordered something from TaoBao and received it the next day!
DiDi is China's version of a Uber and Lyft, except much cheaper. After downloading the app, you may have to go into the settings and change the language to English. Remember to save your home, work and favorite addresses so that you won't have to enter them every time.
Pleco is a great app to download if you want to learn or improve your Chinese. It features HSK levels 1-6 catering to those who are at different levels.
Learn Chinese: Pleco or Duolingo are both fantastic apps for learning Chinese. Currently, Changzhou has a Chinese teacher named Penny that is notorious for helping expats learn English. For Penny's rates, you will have to ask her directly. There is also a newer Chinese class that is organized by a Chinese man named Mark that is free of charge to students wanting to learn. I will not give out these teacher's contact information, but if you ask other Changzhou expats you will surely find their information quickly.
Get an apartment: The best way to find an apartment is to ask around. Most often the company you work for will have a few names of realtors that can help you find an apartment. Keep in mind that once you find an apartment, you may have to pay 3, 4, or even 6 months rent in advance, plus the first month's deposit. This may sound daunting; however, it also can be nice because you won't have to worry about paying rent again for several months. If you found an apartment through an agent, you will also have to pay the agent's fee. Your work company may be able to provide you housing. If this is the case, then you may not have to worry about paying for rent at all since it covered by the company. Ask your company about this.
Setup a bank account: The process of setting up an account can be tricky. If you are able to get a Chinese friend or co-worker to help you with the setup process, it will make your life a lot simpler. First of all, you will need your passport, work permit, and work contract to set up your Chinese banking.
Below is a list of a few common banks that expats use:
Bank of Communications
China Bank of Construction
Bank of China