It’s impossible to overstate the impact WeChat has on everyday life in China. It’s hard to imagine going an entire day without using it. You can’t avoid it, even if you want to. In a just few years, WeChat has grown from one of several similar messaging apps into the most dominant mobile app in China. I use it to coordinate with coworkers, keep up with friends, find out what’s going on in my city and, of course, to pay for everything. One of the most important features of WeChat is the numerous and varied groups and accounts offering a wealth of information about life in China. Below is a short list of WeChat accounts that I think will be most useful to expats in China.
Source: Marco Verch Professional
First and foremost, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the WeChat accounts local to you. Often expats come to China with only the promise of employment. Finding a network of friends and a place in the local community takes time, so be sure to take advantage of the WeChat accounts in your city.
A good franchise to familiarize yourself with is “Time Out.” This expat-focused magazine is active in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Macau and throughout Taiwan. It specializes in event listings, local news and general city guides. Many bigger cities also have resources organized by district. I, for one, follow one city-wide account and one exclusive to the district where I live.
Meet Ups and Networking
Some accounts are geared specifically towards helping expats network with each other and the local community. “InterNations”, which organizes events in nearly every big city in China, is a really great resource. Another is “MoreFun” which is currently active in Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou. These organizations hold several events per year and are a great way to expand both your professional and social networks.
As well as following official accounts, you can also join local WeChat groups, connecting with people in your area in the same industry or with similar interests. Rather than just pushing out content like official accounts, these groups tend to be designed around meet ups, networking the the free sharing of information between members. Whether you’re a new parent, a tech worker or an ultra runner, you’re bound to find a group of likeminded people in your area. Ask when you meet someone In Real Life as you’ll need to be added by an existing member.
News and Expat Life
With the Great Fire Wall working its magic, finding out what’s going on in China can be a little tricky if you don’t want to have to fire up your VPN and navigate the artificially slow foreign media websites. Foreign media also tends to cover the bigger China stories of international consequence, when often some of the most interesting, fun and revealing stories are reported on a more local level.
The following accounts, when taken together, offer a well-rounded media diet of the fun and important happenings in China: “Panda Guides”, “China Daily”, “The Waijiao”, “GICexpat”, “ExpatHub” and “Expat Focus”. You should also follow the account of your country’s embassy for up-to-date visa requirements and policy changes, and, of course, “eChinacities” for jobs, career advice and general expat life resources.
It’s safe to say that most expats in China are teachers. Whether you are an ESL teacher or a subject teacher, and whether you work in a training center, a kindergarten, a primary school, a high school or a university, there are WeChat accounts for you. Some are geared towards recruitment, while others are specific to cities and school types. Some general accounts to consider following are “The Teachers Abroad”, “LocoTeachers” and “TopTutor.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously had a massive effect on travel, both internationally and within China. I know many expats who followed government advice and stayed home during Chinese New Year this year, and I’m sure very few of us have been back to our native countries recently.
As China cracks on with its vaccination program and restrictions start to ease off again, however, domestic travel at least looks to be back on the cards. WeChat accounts to follow for inspiration include “TravelAsst” and “OKDealTravel.” These accounts are regularly updated and offer a wide range of info on different destinations around China.
As pretty much everyone has a high-definition camera in their pocket these days, photography has become a fun and accessible hobby for all. So much of the China expat experience is about taking in and recording the everyday uniqueness of living in a different culture, and if and when you leave, you’ll no doubt treasure the photos you took here.
Some WeChat accounts dedicated to photographing China and teaching novice/weekend photographers to sharpen their skills include “Luna Photography”, “Scenery Photography”, “Brownie Art Photo” and “Weird Wild World.” Go get’em, shutterbug.
If you want to learn Chinese, nothing beats getting out and speaking to locals. We’re in China after all! But for more structured individual learning, there are numerous WeChat accounts expats in China can follow. Some of my favorites include, “Only Chinese”, “Learn Chinese Proverbs” and “Free Learn Chinese.” These short, mobile-oriented lessons also often offer some insight into Chinese culture.
Perhaps more so than any other language, learning Chinese takes time. It’s a cliche, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out. The advantage of following these WeChat accounts is that you’ll have an easily accessible, continuously updated resource at your fingertips that will encourage you to dip into your studies whenever you have a spare moment.
Using WeChat wisely will have a huge impact on your experience as an expat in China. Obviously the above is only a tiny fraction of the available accounts and groups. It’s easy to get lost in the many hundreds of resources available to expats — I know I nearly did — but I hope this humble list gives you an idea of what’s out there and encourages you to seek out the accounts and groups that speak directly to you.
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Keywords: Expats in China
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