It has now been about a week and a half since my arrival in Beijing. I spent my first full day here (Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015) running errands — bank account, cell phone SIM card, Internet connection, etc. I’m tremendously fortunate that my dad came on the trip with me to help me get settled in. Who am I kidding about “me” running errands — basically, my dad did all of these things for me, and I stood next to him trying to follow the conversation between him and the clerk/worker/fuwuyuan. Without my dad, each of these things would probably have taken me a whole day, if it even got done at all.
My time outside work since has been occupied mostly by getting settled in. I’ve spent a lot time with my dad, probably the most time with him than at any other time in the past 10 years. It’s amazing to think that when he first moved to America 47+ years ago, he had essentially no help from anyone (same goes for my mom). The same is true, of course, for many of my former colleagues in grad school. Prior to coming here, I was completely unaware of how difficult basic life skills can be when in a foreign setting.
Several mundane things stand out to me so far:
- Water and electricity utility bills are paid using cards that you fill up at an ATM at the bank
- There are three kinds of water utility that are each paid separately: toilet flush water, hot water, and normal tap water (not drinkable)
- Personal checks do not exist — large bills are paid either in cash, or by electronic transfer
- Few people who live in Beijing are from Beijing because lots of people come here from other parts of China. In this way, Beijing is not so different from Washington, DC