Ten Fun Facts About Teaching in China {What It Is Actually Not}


This my 17th Spring Festival in China, and after teaching here for as many years I thought it would be fun to share some facts with you. This post is about Ten Fun Facts about Teaching in China, however, it is actually how teaching in China is not what you thought it would be!

Fact #1:

Teaching in China is NOT boring! It can actually be quite fun: children truly adore foreign teachers, and if you get to experience lots of new thing.

Fact #2:

Your bachelor’s degree is NOT enough. You need to get a TEFL certificate which is a requirement for a work permit application.

Fact #3:

Your schedule is NOT stable. You can definitely some last minute changes. Oh, it can be frustrating but if you set your mind on flexibility – you will adapt fast!

Fact #4:

You CAN’T expect that everyone will be doing things like it is “back home”. Get ready to the unexpected: yes, sometimes it is like being in the outer space, exploring new planets.

Fact #5:

NOT all your students are interested in foreign teacher classes. Many of them are too preoccupied with scoring high scores in Math and Chinese, hence you will see a lot of snoozing in your lesson, or someone quickly doing their homework. Go easy on them! Just make your lessons fun enough for them to follow.

Fact #6:

Your contract is NOT written in stone. In fact, you will definitely be asked to perform some demo classes and participate in activities that are not listed in your contract. Make sure to clarify all little details, and discuss possible and impossible scenarios. Better yet – you should have it all in writing. Refer to Fact #4.

Facts #7:

Teaching in China is NOT the same as teaching back home. For instance, unless you are a lead subject teacher, or work in an international school, you will not be expected to attend parent-teacher conferences, nor really grade your students. Big relief, huh? I know! It was a huge change for me: coming to short lessons plans from pages of lesson plans and feedback for each student I had to write at home!

Fact #8:

People DON’T always mean what they say. Oh no, I don’t mean they are liars! Quite the opposite: I see Chinese overall as quite pure-hearted people who will do what they promise to do. Of course, it doesn’t always work for employer-employee relationship. But this fact is not about that. It is about … a bargain. Yes, Chinese love bargain, you will see it from students, parents, and your co-workers. So if someone says “let me do it”, they may not necessarily know how to do it, and they will definitely be relieved if you finally take charge as you originally suggested. They are really just being polite! But if you do agree with them taking charge of that task, they will do it at their best capacity.

Fact #9:

Your students are NOT spoiled brats. They really are not. You set the rules from the first time you enter the classroom, and since it is in their nature to follow rules, with your consistency they will absolutely follow them.

Fan #10:

Your perception of whole life in China is about to be changed! I knew so many Chinese friends and lived near Chinese border for years. Yet, from the moment I stepped my foot on China soil, I had such change of heart. I had a huge culture shock (keep in mind, that was 17 years ago, China changed SO much since then). But within a year and a half I couldn’t wait to come back here. So 17 years and counting, I love what I do!

I wish you a happy and a prosperous Spring Festival! May the year of Dog bring you lots of joy and good beginnings. If you set your heart on moving to China to teach here in the year of Dog – good for you. And I wish you Good Luck!


Chinese New Year | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fourth annual Chinese New Year blog hop! Lunar New Year, more commonly known as Chinese New Year, starts on February 16. It is the beginning of the Year of the Dog, and we have lots of great ideas for celebrating it with kids! Don’t miss our series from last year, 2016 and 2015, and you can find even more on our Chinese New Year Pinterest board:


Participating Blogs

Creative World of Varya on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Earth Dog Year Fun Facts
Bicultural Mama: Chinese Soup Dumplings (Xiǎo Lóng Bāo): What They Are and How to Eat
Crafty Moms Share: The Year of the Dog
Miss Panda Chinese
Creative World of Varya: Ten Fun Facts about Teachin in China {What It Is Actually Not}
the gingerbread house: Simple Chinese New Year Lantern Craft for Kids to Make
ChrissyJee.com: Healthy Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Expat’s Emergency Checklist

I wish I was writing under better circumstances but unfortunately it is a sudden passing of a fellow expat that made me think of  an Expat’s Emergency Checklist, and share with it with my readers.

I won’t go into the details but since the person didn’t leave behind any information on how to contact his family, I asked my self a question: “Who has the information about our families in case something happens to us?” 

I mean, we all have good friends who would take care of our possessions and funeral in case we pass away; who will donate and raise the money if we are ever in need. But what information should I have available in case something to happen to me abroad?

So here is the checklist for you (and especially if you are an expat in China, since my list is based on the circumstances here):

1. Make sure you are registered with your consulate/Embassy. They should have your up-to-date information. It is probably the easiest. 

2. Make a list of emergency contacts back home and keep it somewhere visible.

3. Make a list of emergency contacts where you currently reside and keep it somewhere visible.

For the #2 and #3: a lot of phones now allow adding emergency contacts to the locked screen. So in case something happens one doesn’t need to break into your phone. 

4. Know your exact blood type and Rhesus. 

5. Always have a list of allergies and your ailments available.

For #4 and #5: you can keep that information in your wallet. Most hospitals can tell you your blood type and Rhesus when they draw blood from a vein. You can just request it as a separate blood tests, too. 

6. Have a copy of your apartment key with a trusted friend. This is optional but it is a great option. 

7. Carry a copy of your passport and police registration (if applicable) with you.
If you can add more points, please do comment. 

And last, but not the least:

While we all have right for privacy, it is important to let on some people. There will always be at least one person you can trust with your life. Don’t close up from them. Share the good and the bad. We never know how our life turns out to be. We just have to trust that there are enough people who will be there for you, no matter how close you are. 

40 Things I wish I knew Before Moving to China

It has been a while since I spoiled you with interesting posts. I had problems with my blog, then I was busy with summer vacation. 
Now that we are settled back to school I hope to bring you more of interesting read, craft, and other stuff.

Today a bunch of Multicultural bloggers are gathered together to bring you lists of 40 things to celebrate Leanna’s – our founder – birthday.

Naturally, I would like to share with you 40 things I wish I knew before moving to China. I had few friends chip in with their things!

1. I would move to China. In my list of countries I wanted to visit, or live in, China was not a priority.

2. I would marry in China. My husband is actually from Tanzania.

2. I would give birth 3 times in China. 

3.  I would stay here for over a year. It’s been 15 years, and still counting.

4. I would marry in China. 

5. Chinese laugh when they are nervous or uncomfortable. It would save me a lot of energy getting upset over people laughing in stressduk situations!

6. If you ever try to be polite and say you liked something, you stall be given that something and your Chinese friends will remember it and go out of their way to get it!

7. Public spitting is a norm. And with the time you simply stop noticing it. And then you laugh at the reaction of those who witness it for the first time.

8. Everything is met with “mei wen ti” (no problem), even when it is a huge problem.

9. You will not easily find your usual items of hygiene around here. May be some imported shops. Stock up on yours!

10. Things can be fake. Even if you bought them in a reputable store. I once bought a fake perfume from a very big store in Beijing. Oh well!

11. Bring tissues whenever you go.

10. Carry tissues or a roll of toilet paper wherever you go.

12. You can’t, apparently, publicly blow your knows in a tissue, let alone stick that tissue back in your purse. 

13. But you can clear your nose and throat into a nearby trash can. Or into the ground. (Gross for you – not gross here).

14. Learn to squat. It will be a great skill for time pass at the train station; and in the loo. 

15. Learn to use wechat ( a very popular messenger/mobile social network).

16. Don’t trust wechat translation. You will definitely stumble upon sentences that are nowhere close to the original.

17. Pedestrians yield to buses trucks cars bikes and motorcycles. So watch your steps!

18. Zebra crossing is no guarantee for an accident free passage. Learn to manoeuvre.

18. Sometimes red light means green light. And green light doesn’t mean all cars stop moving – you really need a crash course in understanding local road system.

20. You can sometimes find the biggest counterfeit market right under the immigration boarder control.

21. Chewing with mouth open shows you enjoy the food. The more you enjoy – the loud your chewing should be. I got over my pet peev of people chewing with mouth open here. 

22.  Mooncakes are mostly a tradition. They are given away in large quantities. They are rarely eaten.

23. “Guangxi” (useful relationships) are an important part of the culture. You have no idea how many times this wonderful cultural trait has helped us. 

24. It is a big sign of respect to be called “brother” or “sister” here. 

25. The term “ayi” (auntie) which may be offensive in another culture when addressed to a young female, in fact a respectful term here when addressed to a stranger.

26. Calling a woman “mei nü”(beauty) will warm up her heart to you. It is also used to call a waisteass or a sales woman, which is a very very polite term. 

27. Chinese are very curious people. They can ask you about your salary and cost of rent without any malicious or envious thoughts. 

28. Be prepared to carry a map around showing everyone exactly where you are from. 
29. Be prepared to answer various questions on leaders of your country. 

30. Avoid talking politics. It is really not a very comfortable topic.

31. People may tough your skin or hair. They can even attempt to touch your eyelashes. See #27.

32. People will be watching you and make a very direct eye contact. See #27.

33. People may march through your apartment and open your fridge to see what you eat. See #27. 

34. People usually talk very loud here. 

35. 10pm seems to be the time when everything quiets down here. If you make noise after 10 pm your neighbours can call the police on you.

36. Between 12 pm and 2.30 pm everyone takes a nap. However, shops and hospital emergencies work.

37. When people see that you can’t understand them speaking, they start writing for you. Because in China even if you don’t speak, you can usually still read. 

38. Chinese are very pure-hearted. I think the whole concept of “face saving” was created because of that.

39. Body language doesn’t work here. 

40. TAOBAO is the place find everything you need and more!

Bloggers share their lists of 40 favorite things

To celebrate her 40th birthday, Leanna from All Done Monkey has organized a virtual party, where each blogger shares her list of 40 favorite things, plus we are giving away a big cash prize to a lucky winner! Don’t miss these creative Top 40 lists, and be sure to enter the giveaway, which is open internationally. (Thanks to the Piri-Piri Lexicon for designing this beautiful series button!)
All Done Monkey: 40 Ways to Celebrate Turning 40

The Piri-Piri Lexicon: 40 Tips for Parents of Bilingual Children

Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: 40 Things to Do with Kids in Puerto Rico

Play Dough & Popsicles: 40 Paper Plate Crafts for Kids

Hispanic Mama: 40 Books for Hispanic Heritage Month

Pura Vida Moms: 40 Best Cupcake Recipes

Globe Trottin’ Kids: 40 Ways to Go Global in the Elementary Classroom

Spanglish Monkey: 40 Dishes from Around the World You Should Try

Peakle Pie: 40 Free Family Fun Things to Make and Do

Witty Hoots: 40 Amazing Books to Read Before You Get Old

MommyMaestra: 40 Ways to Have a Multicultural Homeschool

MarocMama: 40 Things to Do in Morocco You Haven’t Thought Of!

Multilingual Parenting: 40 Ways to Motivate Bilingual Children to Speak the Minority Language

Creative World of Varya: 40 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to China

Pack-n-Go Girls: 40 Fabulous Travel Tips

Enter below for your chance to win!

PayPal cash giveaway is open internationally! Giveaway closes at midnight Pacific Time on September 19, 2016.

Five Things to Do With Kids in Zhuhai {Around the World in 30 Days}

zhuhai things to doSince I live in China, I take every opportunity to share things about our life here. This month I am participating in a series called Around the World in 30 Days hosted by Cutting Tiny Bites – a series intended for younger children (but suitable for kindy children!)
I have previously wrote about living in Zhuhai – a city in Guangdong province that is in the South of China. Today I’d like to share with you Five Things you can do with your children in our city!
1. Visit all the marvelous parks and enjoy running around, getting on the rides and having a picnic in the shade of the trees. Most popular parks are Haibin Gongyuan (Waterfront park), Bailiangdong Gongyuan (White Lotus park) and Yuan Ming Xin Yuan (New Yuan Ming Palace). There are many more out there but these 3 are the most central and familiar. In Yuan Ming Xin Yuan there is also a swimming pool with various water rides. And in Bailiangdong Gongyuan one can take a hike up the mountain till a small Buddhist temple and ring a bell for luck there.
2. Take a stroll on Lover’s Road, all the way to the Yeli Dao (Fox Island) and take a ride on the family bikes. Lover’s Road stretches for hundreds of kilometers along the seaside and every now and then you can hire these bikes.


3. Visit various indoor playgrounds. The ones we and our friends frequent are in Jida malls, in a shop called Baby Love Island; one in Jusco (known as Yang Ming Guang Cheng or Aeon); Yuyuto in Huafa Shandu (Huafa Mall); Lego Land in Huafa Century City; Tong Yi playground in Huafa Century city. There are MANY more. And they are not free! However, you can opt to buy a membership card – there are many schemes that give you offers with reduced price.
4. Visit Chimelong Ocean Kingdom (Chang Long). It is a big amusement park that has dozens of sea creatures living in a huge aquarium. There are also various rides, restaurants and shows that you can attend at certain hours. It is quite far away and it is a whole day trip, but really worth seeing especially if you don’t have an easy access to such places.


5. In hot season – hit the pools! A lot of compounds offer free pools to those who live there. Plus, there are various pools all over the city with various charges per person per time. 
In colder season  – try various outdoor playgrounds. There is a big one at the Haibin Yong Cheng (Haibin beach) and there is a coffee shop right next to it. Another one is located close to a community called Jida Hao Yuan – it is a playground with exercise machines intended for senior citizens.
And in the evenings – go out around 8 pm and follow people to a big open area near where you are staying – you can see them dancing in lines and in pairs. So much fun!
Join us and follow the series in June 2015 – travel to a new country every day and learn about it, make a craft, a dish or simply see what fun things you can do there!

My China Story {Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series}






Asian-Pacific 2015

This year several bloggers from Multicultural Kid Blogs Community have again gathered to commemorate Asia-Pacific American Heritage Month. While some of us don’t live in the US or not from there, we either have an Asian-Pacific background or reside in the region. 

Last year I shared with you a bit of my family’s background. And you do know I have been living in China for the past 14 years. Today I would like to honour Asian-Pacific heritage by sharing you a story – my China story.

Some time in 2001 I had a dear friend moving to China and telling me what an exciting place it was. She kept calling me and convincing that I should try and come here for at least a year. So I applied to various schools and long story short – I received an invitation to work for an educational company that published books (Little Dragon American English –  the program that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore), and sent teachers to kindergartens to teach. 

I remember how I felt going to the Chinese Embassy, getting my visa, getting my flight ticket and getting help from a bunch of supportive friends.

I remember landing in Chengdu, the first city I lived in. It was a little cold (end of November), but not the cold I was used to: it was humid and the cold would reach down to the depth of my bones and joints. Friends used to take us sometimes to local restaurants where I couldn’t eat the food: it was so full of chilli pepper that my mouth burnt for days if I ate at least something. Just as generous they were and treated us, they also soon understood my misery and would always order extra dishes for me that had no spices in them. They also took great interest in how everything was for me and one family used to invite me often to dinners at their house. They treated me with love and respect and made sure I was as comfortable as possible. This is how I first learned about big hearts Chinese have. 

I spent 3 months in Chengdu and then I moved onto Shenzhen – a big city in the South of China. It was the first time I tried sweet & sour sauce they made lots of food with. I really enjoyed living in Shenzhen- I made lovely friends and I worked in 2 beautiful kindergartens.

Harbin – a city in Heilongjiang. I lived there for a year teaching in kindergartens and learning the basics of Chinese language. Harbin belonged to Russia for a short period of time and since it is very close to Russian border in Far East, there are lots of Russians there working and studying and you can find Russian food and many older people still speak Russian pretty well!!!

My next city for a year and a half was Qingdao. I will always hold dear the time I spent in this coastal city. It is by far my most favorite city in China! The climate is not too humid, not too dry. The winter is also not too cold. But there is some mild snow. The city used to belong to Germany for a very short time and there is an older part of the city where you can find buildings built in Gothic style and the streets paved with stones. Beautiful!

After Qingdao I moved to Beijing. It was a city with a special character (which is not there much anymore – the city is still beautiful but the older structures have been replaced with new, modern and shiny ones). Beijing will always be special to me as that’s where my husband and I got married!

So, once I was done with my contract, I moved to Zhuhai, where I am residing now and where we are bringing up our 3 children. I have written about Zhuhai when participated in Neighbourhoods around the World Series.

So that’s just a summary. 

What have I learned so far about Chinese people? I believe Chinese people have very open hearts. They will treat you with love and respect as long as you are true and honest with them. I can’t say I have never encountered anyone here who is completely the opposite of what I said above. But overall and vast majority of people I met were kind and helpful. Even our best friends, people whom we can trust with all our lives, are Chinese.

This doesn’t really change when Chinese move abroad: they still follow their cultural trends, they try their best to bring children up with dignity and patience. Most of Chinese I know are hard-working people and very persistent in achieving their goals. 

I am grateful for China has brought me lots of experience, both professional and personal, and since this is where my family was born, it will always hold dear in my heart.



Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Multicultural Kid Blogs is excited to announce our second annual Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series and Giveaway! See our main page for a full schedule, and be sure to enter the amazing giveaway below!

The giveaway starts Monday, May 4 and goes through Monday, June 1. Enter for a chance to win one of these amazing prizes!

Please note that there are shipping restrictions on some prizes. In the event that the winner lives outside of the shipping area, that portion of the prize will be added to the following prize package.

Grand Prize Package

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series & Giveaway 2015 | Multicultural Kid BlogsThe Grand Prize Package includes:

Personal Tea Ceremony Gift Set from Gift a Feast
Includes everything you need to prepare and enjoy matcha, the tea served in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. Enjoy being part of the journey of matcha tea from the temples of 12th century Buddhist monks to today! US shipping only

Calin Yang Doll from Pattycake Doll Company
For the parents of Multicultural, Biracial, Black or Asian children, finding that perfect doll used to be a challenge. But today all that has changed. Pattycake Doll Company is the recognized source for Black, Asian, Hispanic, Biracial, and Multicultural Dolls as well as Dolls for Boys, and donate 10% of profits to children’s charities. This month’s contest winner will receive the most popular Asian Baby Doll in the world – Calin Yang by Corolle.

Asian Kites from Tuttle Publishing
Kids will learn how to make colorful kites while exploring Asian culture and history with this easy-to-follow crafts for kids book.

All About Japan from Tuttle Publishing
2012 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award Winner! A cultural adventure for kids, All About Japan offers a journey to a new place—and ways to bring it to life! Dive into stories, play some games from Japan, learn some Japanese songs.

Hello, Bali from Kids Yoga Stories
Say good day to the magical island of Bali through these energizing yoga poses for kids. Join one of the Yoga Kids, Anamika, as you surf like a surfer, dance like a Balinese dancer, and sit like a monkey. Included is a list of Kids Yoga Poses, Basic Indonesian phrases, and a Parent-Teacher Guide with tips on creating a successful yoga experience.

1st Prize Package

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series & Giveaway 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

The 1st Prize Package includes:

Udon Noodle Bowls from Uncommon Goods
Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or lounging on the couch, this creation is ideal for udon, soup or stir-fry. A blend of a mug and a bowl, the handmade piece is contoured to fit snugly in the palm of your hand. Black lacquer bamboo chopsticks included. US Shipping only

Japanese House Architectural Blocks Set from HABA
One of the oldest cultures in the world also has one of the most beautiful forms of architecture. Complicated multi-tier roofs and ornate pagodas allow the builder to create temples, palaces or calming formal gardens. With this set your child can take their imagination on a trip to Japan in the safety of their own living room. US/Canada Shipping Only

All About Indonesia from Tuttle Publishing
A book for children that takes them on an adventure through one of the world’s largest and most culturally diverse countries. Along the way, kids are introduced to Indonesian culture and history, the food, the language, and the natural beauty of this fascinating country!

Fun with Asian Food from Tuttle Publishing
This Asian cookbook for kids contains fun and easy recipes that children will love to cook and dishes that even the pickiest eaters will savor!

Indian Children’s Favorite Stories from Tuttle Publishing
This colorfully illustrated multicultural children’s book presents Indian fairy tales and other folk stories—providing insight into a rich literary culture.

2nd Prize Package

second prize Collage

The 2nd Prize Package includes:

Sushi Slicing Play Set from Melissa & Doug
This elegant 24-piece wooden sushi play-food set is packed in a beautiful storage box and includes sliceable sushi rolls, shrimp, tuna, easy-use chopsticks, a cleaver and more. Sushi rolls make realistic chopping sounds when sliced! US/Canada Shipping Only

Countryside from Kevin So
An album filled with “heartfelt great songs, great singing and great playing…simply something you’ll love if you’re a fan of originality, melody, surprising lyrics and beautiful instrumentation, beautifully played.” Learn more about this artist and listen to samples of his work here.

Book from the Maui New Zealand series from Global Kids Oz
Enjoy a book of from this collection of New Zealand Maori Myths and Legends that every New Zealand child is brought up with in school!

Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella from Lee & Low
In the first English retelling of this ancient Cambodian tale, our heroine goes further, survives more, and has to conquer her own mortality to regain her rightful place. Angkat—child of ashes—endures great wrongs as she seeks to rise above the distresses caused by her own family. US Shipping only

Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments from Lee & Low
Including both flights of fancy and practical considerations, lively poems capture each child’s musical experience with a different Chinese instrument, while sidebars provide more information about each one. US Shipping only

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story from Lee & Low
The incredible true story of the first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award. US Shipping only

Juna’s Jar from Lee & Low
When her best friend moves away, Juna sets out to search for him with the help of a special jar. What Juna finds is that adventure—and new friends—can be found in the most unexpected places. US Shipping only

A Place Where Sunflowers Grow from Lee & Low
A powerful story of hope, recounting the little known tale of the art schools that offered moments of solace and self-expression to Japanese Americans in the US internment camps of World War II. US Shipping only

Enter for a Chance to Win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

China 101: Giving Birth in Zhuhai Part 3 {Things to Take to the Hospital}


If you read my ABOUT page,  you will learn that I am not just an expat and a stay-home mom: I am a qualified professional and I try my best to form my opinions as neutrally as possible in order not to sugar-coat the life here nor to make it sound like China is a horrible place. It is really neither and like everywhere it is a special place with its own tradition, rules, regulations and culture.

When I first got pregnant I came across a lovely lady who was about to leave Beijing and who gave me several books on pregnancy, including Best Friends’ Guide to Pregnancy which I loved. She had also shared with me a list of things I would need to take with me to the hospital which I later modified and elaborated to suit hospitals in Zhuhai.

This list I shared with a few friends and they all agreed that it was quite helpful especially for first time moms and expat moms planning on having a baby in Zhuhai. I guess some of it would be appropriate for local moms, but as I said above – the cultural trends on whole childbearing are at times quite different. So if you are a local mom you will benefit from this post by learning what hospitals here have to offer. If you are an expat mom, besides the former,  you will also learn what will be useful to you in the hospital and what you shouldn’t bother preparing.

Note: make sure you have your passport with you and your hospital file!

Before I share the list with you, here’s what local hospitals don’t offer to new moms:

1. There is no well-estahlished breastfeeding support. You will find that while everyone is for breastfeeding,  formula industry is intertwined and pushed to hospitals here.  So if you plan on breastfeeding,  your best shot is BTDT moms, family members and YouTube. You are also welcome to engage my professional services as I am a breastfeeding consultant and a baby massage instructor;  and I can teach  you the basics of newborn care. For more information please contact me via my email address or via my other website – Zhuhai Family Connections

2. As I mentioned in Part 1 – you will not be allowed into the NICU ward for as long as the baby is there. There are some visitation hours but you are not allowed to hold your baby or feed him.

3. There is no food service at the hospitals. There are some canteens and restaurants around but usually the food is brought by family. I personally think it has to do with the fact that every family has traditions on what women should eat postpartum. But may be hospitals just don’t want to bother with it.

4. No one will teach you how to swaddle the baby. So you have to ask someone to show you or watch some videos online and practice on a doll.

5. No one will teach you how to bathe or massage your baby.  Well, they might show you how to bathe the baby but they won’t let you try under their supervision.

6. No one will bother with the car seat. So get your own if you feel like having one.

As I get more feedback from fellow expats I’ll be adding and editing.

Now, here’s that list you’ve been waiting to read.

Things for Mommy:

1. Hospital clothes. If you are of a small or medium size, you don’t need to bother with special clothes for hospital as they have pajamas they give you to wear. If you are of a large size and above, you might want to bring your own clothes to wear. Don’t bring anything fancy as it will get stained in all possible ways.

2. Hospitals provide with maternity sanitary pads and while some of them are super comfortable especially for women after c-section,  some are not and are incredibly hard to change or wear. So do your homework and bring your own. Plus you’ll save some money on that!

3. Hospital doesn’t offer any soap or other personal hygiene items.  Tooth paste,  tooth brush,  soap, body wash, sponges, shampoo,  towels – all should be yours. Note: it is not customary here to shower after having a baby for some days (just sponge baths), so you might be told you can’t do it. I personally wouldn’t recommend making your c-section scar wet for about a week so it has time to close over better.  But go with what is usually done back home!

4. Cooling/heating pad. You won’t get ice to put on your scars or sore areas.

5. Important: phone charger! You do want to be in touch with the rest of the world.

6. Painkillers. You are given a gelatinous IV that slowly melts for pain.  But it is not enough for some. So you can consult with a pharmacist back home and bring your own painkiller with you. Just to get something as simple as paracetamol requires doctor’s prescription there and you might end up waiting for a while as there are just too many people and few doctors!

7. Lanolin cream if you plan on breastfeeding. I found Medela has the best type and it can be purchased in Macau or Hong Kong in baby shops.

8. Nursing pillow is good but not a must. However it does help a lot if you had a surgery and plan on breastfeeding.

9. Slippers. Because you won’t get any at the hospital.

10. Cups and cutlery.

11. Toilet paper. Yes, don’t be surprised – they often run out or don’t even have any!

12. Nursing bras or comfortable cotton bras if you won’t breastfeed + nursing pads. Whether you breastfeed or not , milk will come in and it might start leaking, more for some than for others.

13. Comfortable old underwear that you can throw away or disposable underwear. I don’t need to tell you why. The type we call “grannie’s panties” will be your best friends for at least a month.

14. Load your phone/mp3 player/ iPad with  favorite music. It will help you relax when they baby is sleeping and you can’t no matter what everyone says about sleeping when the baby sleeps.

Things for  baby:

1. Unless you want to take fancy pictures of your baby there is no need to bring clothes to wear at the hospital – they will give clothes and blankets for the baby which you give back when discharged.

2. If you want to use your own clothes for the baby don’t bother with too many:  onsies and swaddling blankets will be enough. Plus baby hats and socks. You will probably need onsies 2-3 per day.

3. Going home outfit.

4. Diapers and wipes. They will give them to you at the hospital but they will also charge. Plus if you want to cloth diaper, you will definitely need your own. Here’s a little secret: babies “go” quite often. Some babies don’t. But majority do. So your big expense will be diapers – choose your brands and deals wisely!

5. Pacifier/binky if you plan on using one. Hospital will not give you one nor introduce it.

6. Burping towels/cloth. Bring many! I had at least 10. Regular small towels would do.

7. Diaper cream or just plain Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly). Plain Vaseline worked the best for us as it is truly hypo-allergenic and it prevents moisture and newborn’s poop from irritating very sensitive baby’s skin.

8. If you plan on formula feeding, I suggest bringing your own formula and gear. While hospital formula is fine, you will later give another type to your baby and he may not accept it. Plus, formula at the hospital is expensive and distributed by their own schedule. You can wash the bottles right there and have your own electric steriliser handy.

Few words for dads: bring yourself a pillow and a blanket, and changes of clothes plus whatever else you need. Even in Super VIP room there is only 1 pillow and 1 blanket for moms!

Well, that’s about it. If you have more suggestions based on your experiences – let me know!

China 101: Giving Birth In Zhuhai Part 2 {Birth Registration, Certificate and Visa}

After getting so many responses on Part 1, I decided not to wait and write about a very important part of having a baby in Zhuhai and China in general: obtaining birth certificate, registering the birth with local authorities and obtaining visa.
When our first daughter was born in 2008, I was one of 2 foreign women that year who gave birth in Zhuhai. So at that time we took time to get the birth certificate, we never heard of nor did we register the birth, and we got the passport when we got it and then got the visa. I think it took us nearly 3 months for everything. No one minded. No one said anything.
In 2012 when I was just having my 2nd child, a friend who had given birth 6 months before, was trying to exit the country with her baby and was subjected to a big fine. Reason? No birth registration, no visa obtained at a proper time. As I found out later, this was the second family that had suffered the consequences of that mysterious birth registration.
I was on a mission: I went to the exit-entry bureau and I said I had a baby. They nodded and said OK. I asked whether I needed to register it. They told me when she’d get her passport. So, off I went.  We tried to register the baby at the police station with a birth certificate but were told there was absolutely no need.  And off I went again.
When we came to apply for her visa over a month later, we were told that we … didn’t register the birth! I was so shocked and I started crying because I ran a scenario that my friend just recently went through: big fine and the child HAS to leave the country to get a visa to re-enter China. To be “fair” (but really not because my friends were never told anywhere they HAD to do it within certain time!), my friends applied for everything when their baby was 6 months. So, perhaps just because we were late by a couple of weeks, or may be seeing my “crocodile” size tears, all puffed with one baby in a sling and another one in a stroller, we were sent to a “back door” where a female officer came in, interviewed me, wrote down something in some kind of a form and we were let off with a warning.
This made me gather all possible information on how birth registration is done and the 3rd time around I made sure we had all documents ready (even though it cost me some running around 10 days postpartum after a c-section!).


Note: this process applies when both parents are not Chinese. If at least one parent is Chinese and you wish your child to be a non-Chinese citizen, the process might be somewhat different.
Birth certificate:
 I gave birth at Women and Children’s hospital, so please use this just as a general reference. The process might be longer in other hospitals and/or slightly different. The procedure at MCH is quite simple: 7 days after being discharged from the hospital (or any time later), you need to gather the following documents:
1. Pink paper slip you are given at the hospital when you are getting discharged and after you have cleared all your bills. They WILL tell you that this is needed for applying for the birth certificate.
2. Receipt stating you have paid all the hospital bills.
3. A copy of yours and your spouse’s/partner’s passport page where your name is written and your picture is located.
Once you have gathered it all, you go to a designated at the hospital place on certain days (e.g. at MCH it is Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2.30 pm to 5.30 pm ONLY). You take a number and then when you are called you will give your documents, fill the form (if needed – with the 3rd baby I filled it all when I was getting admitted to the hospital and only had to fill in the baby’s name) and wait for about 15-20 minutes. There is no charge for the certificate – it comes as a package with your birth.
Note: I wouldn’t recommend laminating the certificate since sometimes the authenticity may need to be proved (e.g. when we were applying for the passport and had to translate and legalize it at the Notary’s).
And don’t forget to ask all the questions from the staff on birth certificate – often the information is not volunteered!
Birth registration:
Every Embassy takes different amount of time to issue the passport and has different procedures for that. So, first of all, here’s what the law states on foreigners having babies in China: all foreigners must register birth within 1 month from the time the baby was born. They must also obtain a passport and a Chinese visa for their baby within 3 months from the time the baby was born.
Here is how you register the birth:
1. First and foremost, you MUST be registered at the place of your residence despite the type of visa you have (tourist, business, employment or family).
2. Take your police registration, yours and your spouse’s passport, your baby’s birth certificate to your local PSB and ask your baby to be given the same registration at the place of residence as yours.
NOTE: They may have NO clue how to do it. So instruct them: there is no need for a photo, there is no need to fill anything except baby’s name as in the birth certificate, date of birth, birth certificate number and address. THAT’S IT. Expect them to call their bosses – INSIST on them calling their bosses for clarification.
3. Next step is the registration of birth at the exit-entry bureau (also known as the immigration bureau – a place where you apply for your visa).
Address in Chinese: 珠海市公安局出入境管理处珠海市香洲区香洲香华路493号
咨询电话:0756-8640525 0756-8640526
You will need the following documents:
– both parents’ passports + copies of the visa pages and information pages;
– baby’s birth certificate + a copy of it
– baby’s police registration + a copy of it
– both parents’ police registrations + copies of them
Take all these documents to the office Monday through Friday 8.30 am to 12 pm and 2.30 pm to 5pm. Check all the documents on the 1st floor, on your left as you enter at the tables. You will be given a number and you will be directed to the 2nd floor. Once the officer on the 2nd floor accepts all you documents, you will be given a kind of receipt with a bar code on it and your child’s name. THERE IS NO FEE TO BE PAID. You must keep this receipt and once you are back to apply for the visa, you must present this receipt along with other documents.
There. After jumping a few hoops, your child’s birth is now registered and you can go on with the passport and visa application. Once your received the passport, you need to repeat the police registration process. This time only the visa space and the date of entry to China will remain empty. This registration sheet will be needed for visa application.
NOTE: If your Embassy/Consulate is able to issue a passport before your child is 30 days old, it means you can apply for visa right away and you can skip registering birth with the entry exit bureau. You will just need to register at the police station with the passport (not birth certificate).
Visa Application:
The final step after which you can sit back and relax!
You will need the following documents:
1. Both parents passports and baby’s passport + copies of visa pages and photo pages.
2. Both parents and baby’s police registrations + copies
3. Bar code pictures for the baby. What is it? You go to any Photo shop, take a regular passport size photo + ask for the bar code picture – each photographer has an access to a special website where this bar code picture is registered.  This is possible to arrange right at the exit entry bureau on the 1st floor. But it will cost some 10 yuan or so more. As well as you can take copies of all your required documents right there.
4. Filled application form – you will get it when you give your documents for a check on the first floor at the tables.
4. If at least one of the parents is legally employed in Zhuhai and has a valid work permit, you will need the original work permit, copies of all filled in pages. PLUS, you need the following letter to be filled with your information and your baby’s information and stamped by your company of employment. Remove English text before printing this out.
Disclaimer: the original source of the letter sample is located at VisaChina.Com However, it has been modified for a particular city and a particular situation.
姓名(Full Name):
护照号码(Passport Number):

姓名(Full Name):
护照号码(Passport Number):

公司盖章(Company stamp here)
     年  月
In case if you are here on a business or tourist visa, you may be asked what your purposed of stay in China is. But that’s quite rare!
So, here. If I missed anything, please let me know! If you have any questions – please contact me via comments or email me!
Stay tuned for the next post!

China 101: Giving Birth in Zhuhai Part 1 {How to and hospitals}

Having a baby in China for an expat is a unique experience. In general hospital experience here is very different from the one in the “West”: long lines, impatient patients, sometimes rude nurses, sometimes incompetent doctors… But overall, I must say the experience of having 3 babies in Zhuhai, prenatal, post-partum and general medical care so far has been mostly a positive experience.
In this series of posts I will summarize certain experience of that and those of my friends, plus share some important information on what to do birth registration and obtaining visa. One of the posts I will write exclusively in Russian as I wanted to summarize the experience and procedure of getting a Russian passport for my children in all details – I had such a hard time collecting all the information and it was given to me in bits and pieces. But… that’s for later.
So… you took a test. You found out you are pregnant. You are in Zhuhai. What’s next?
Step 1. You go to the hospital and take a test to confirm the pregnancy. If you are over 6 weeks, you will be offered an ultrasound to check for the heartbeat. Once it is established that you are indeed pregnant with a viable fetus… you’ll be sent home and asked to come back at 12 weeks. Before 12 weeks the pregnancy is not observed, unless there are complications, such as bleeding, in which case you will be given a course of treatment accordingly. There is no blood test offered to check for beta/HCG levels, however, you can insist  on getting one.
Note: you can always request more tests based on your previous pregnancies or family history. E.g. I had to get progesterone treatment with my first, so with my 2nd I insisted on checking my beta and progesterone levels and after discovering they were on the lower side, I took a short course of treatment.
Step 2. Once you have reached 12 weeks in pregnancy, you will see your obstetrician and given a bunch of blood work papers and other tests. Your SO will need to come in as well to check his blood type (they are just looking at your and his Rh). Then you just see your doctor once a month until week 27, then every 2 weeks until week 36 and every week until birth.
Estimated cost of prenatal care is close to 3-4 thousand Chinese yuan. That includes several B&W ultrasounds, 2 growth ultrasounds (3D).  However, you will not be told the gender of the baby. It is strictly prohibited in China and punishable by law if a doctor or a technician tells you the baby’s gender. So many people go to Hong Kong or Macau if they want to find out the gender and the gender ultrasound costs anywhere between 400 and 800 Chinese yuan.
Step 3. Birth. If you are having natural birth, there is no way to book a room. You will have to suffice with what is available at the moment. Good thing is that you can see a doctor anywhere, even back home, and then just show up at the hospital for birth (either natural or a c-section).
If you are having a c-section, you need to book the surgery. However, you can’t book it more than 1 weeks in advance. If you want a particular doctor to perform a surgery on a day he/she is not on duty, prepare to give a “red envelop” to said doctor – a monetary gift for him/her to take “trouble” to change his/her schedule. Or you can inquire when said doctor is on duty and have the hospital book for you accordingly.
You will also need to book the post-partum room. That can only be done 2-3 days before the surgery. Unless you have a friend who has strong ties with the hospital and can guarantee you earlier booking, usually even with regular connections it is not possible to predict when and how many rooms, and which rooms will be free.
Estimated birth and post-partum care cost:
Natural birth – 3-6 thousand Chinese yuan
C-section – 7-15 thousand Chinese yuan
The cost depends on a doctor who performs birth/surgery, type of the room you get (common room where you share with 2-3 other women; regular VIP room; or Super-VIP room which some hospitals offer; number of days you stay; procedures and medicine you get during the stay).
Normal duration of stay:
Natural birth – 3-4 days
C-section – 4-5 days
You can, however, insist on being discharged earlier. For example, with the 3rd baby I was only given antibiotic drip plus other stuff for 2 full days. On 3rd day there was absolutely no treatment. So I insisted on being discharged a day earlier as I didn’t see a point of paying for an extra day where no procedures were offered to me or the baby.
Step 4. Once you are discharged, for the first 3 weeks, once a week you should have a nurse/doctor visit you at home to check on how you are healing, check on your baby’s weight gain, growth and umbilical cord stamp. It is also a good opportunity to get some practical advice if you are a first time parent and register anything abnormal. These visits are free of charge. However, the doctor may not speak any English (though mine did a bit plus u can speak some Chinese.)
You will also be given some papers from the hospital that you present at yours and your baby’s 42 days check up. Note: it should be preferably be done at the hospital you have birth at as they have your record. But another hospital would do.
Here is a list of 3 hospitals which have had foreigners give birth in before and are considered the best in Zhuhai:
Maternity and child healthcare hospital (MCH) – also known as Women and Children’s hospital
Address: 541 Ningxi Rd, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
Tel: +86 7562313088
Short review: by far considered the best for maternal and child care. To see the doctor one needs to wait in line. It is possible to prebook your visit, however you will still need to get a number in the queue.
Offers 3 types of post-partum rooms:
– common room (2 to 4 people share, offers a bed for a mom and a baby, shared TV set, bathroom & shower shared; you can pay a small fee extra to get a folding bed for daddy or a family member to stay overnight);
– VIP room (2 beds and a baby bed and a simple sofa, own bathroom & shower);
– Super-VIP room (own little kitchen or/and living room, microwave, own bathroom & shower).
No food is serve at the hospital. There is a new renovated wing with better rooms. Excellent NICU, however parents aren’t allowed inside (general policy in China).
There is no English speaking service but some doctors and nurses can speak some English and guide you through the process.
#1 People’s hospital – also known as Ren Min hospital
Address: 79 Kangning Rd, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, Guangdong, China
Tel: +86 7562222569
Short review: decent care. To see the doctor one needs to wait in line. It is possible to prebook your visit, however you will still need to get a number in the queue.
Offers 2 types of post-partum rooms:
– common;
– VIP.
No food is served at the hospital. However it’s location is close proximity to many good restaurants and Aeon shopping mall (with Jusco supermarket inside – a franchise of Japanese chain of supermarkets).
The English speaking service aka VIP department is in a process of being established. There are quite a few English speaking staff who can help guide you through the process.
#5 Zhong Shan University Affiliated hospital – also known as #5 hospital or Zhong da hospital
Address: Zhong Da Wu Yuan, Xiangzhou, Zhuhai, China
Tel: +86 756 252 8181
Short review: it is located quite far away from downtown. The main positive thing about this hospital is the foreigner- oriented VIP department: a nurse will assist you through the whole process and there is no need to wait in long lines to see the doctor nor to do tests. However, the rooms are quite old (though more or less clean), so may not deem attractive to everyone.
KEEP IN MIND: you can’t really expect “Western” standards in Chinese hospitals. The system is far from perfect but it works. At some point or another you WILL get frustrated with the system. But this is the best you can get at the moment and there are quite a few foreigners who managed to have quite successful birth here, myself included.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I will write in more details on how to obtain your baby’s birth certificate and what to do next.
If you have more questions – leave a comment and I will get in touch with you!

China 101: Moon Festival


I am sure you have heard it all about Chinese Moon Festival: it is celebrated anywhere in August, September or October. Traditional food is mooncakes – stuffed cakes, that often contain preserved eggs or two (significant to Chinese tradition and the history of the Festival).
However,  you may not know that Moon Festival is the time these mooncakes are heavily… traded. Yes, I didn’t make a mistake. We have ourselves have “recycled” the mooncakes since the number of boxes we have received in the past was simply overwhelming. I remember few years ago we had about 10 boxes plus several coupons to receive more boxes. So we gave many of them away,  shared with friends who came to visit and ate them ourselves.
In 13 years in China I only tasted 2 types of mooncakes which I could honestly eat and eat and eat: one was given to my husband by his school. Each teacher only got 1 mooncake as apparently it was from some very expensive bakery (we were never told the name!). And no wonder – it was so tasty, it was literally melting in my mouth!
And the other one  – Häagen Dazs ice cream mooncakes. Now, those were absolutely delicious!
If you are eager to try the mooncakes, there is one tip from me to you: don’t ask detailed list of ingredients unless you are allergic to something and don’t want it to be there. Some ingredients might kill your desire to eat a mooncake (e.g. pig fat, also known as lard).
Other than that, enjoy the holiday if you are celebrating and be careful in crowded places and lock your bikes extra well – holidays are always the time when pickpocketing and bike stealing are on the rise.
Happy Moon Festival to you all!

China 101: Tips And Experience Sharing {Intro}


I have been getting an increasing number of inquiries from expat families  planning to move to China, in particular to Zhuhai,  where we currently reside. I have also been told I should write a bit more about our hands – on experiences here with schooling,  birth, medical care and whatever else would be beneficial to families and/or single expats planning to come here.
So I have decided to start China 101 series in order to share this useful information.
Meanwhile if you have questions about life in China and Zhuhai in particular – welcome to contact me and I will do my best to share the necessary information!