Over the last couple of years, we have noticed an interesting trend – there are more and more websites being set up to cater for the information, business and entertainment needs of expats living in China. And not just in the big cities of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen – Dalian, Jinan, Wuxi, Dongguan and Kunming are amongst the “second tier cities” that now have flourishing and well produced expat websites. Overall, we have identified around 160 websites providing services of this kind, the length and breadth of China. Two years ago, there were a couple of dozen at most.
In this unique survey, we have selected 50 of the best of these sites. Some are long established, some are new. Some are created and run by enthusiastic expats in their spare time, others are commercial. Some are travel focused, some are business focused, some are forum-based. Some are national, some are regional, some focus on just one city or one aspect of expat life in China.
What is quite striking is the amount of work, paid and unpaid, that is going into providing information both for expats and for local people who are keen to learn foreign languages and make foreign friends. Some of these sites are large, with pages and pages of content and in many cases, very active forums. They are not simply standing still – they are organically growing communities of people, providing a wide variety of informed, “front-line”, and often very entertaining insights into life in modern China.
A number of things have struck our team of reviewers as they have explored these sites :
-active community forums – many of the sites have large and busy forums where new users can ask questions, find friends, find jobs and generally improve their life in China. These are well worth exploring for nuggets of wisdom and specific city-based information that you wouldn’t find anywhere else – this as useful for business people wanting to look at new potential markets as it is for individuals looking for job opportunities or travel ideas.
-some excellent photography – a picture is worth a 1,000 words, as they say, and sites like The Beijing Guide, Tianjin Expats, Jinan Live, Wuxi Life, Go Kunming, and Hainan World, as well as many others, include lots of photos that can give you a good idea of what the cities are like, even before you come – this is especially useful for expats preparing their trip.
-innovative presentation – good ideas we noticed, that could easily be transferred elsewhere, included :
-a downloadable satellite picture of Tianjin with bars and other venues marked
-the beginnings of a “wikipedia” in Dalian allowing a community to build up its own knowledge base
-guidance on prices for day-to-day living in Ningbo one site, China Start, that will allow users to moderate pages on their own special areas of interest
-and a new concept at Shanghai Networking News with reviews of networking events.
If you are thinking about running your own site, or already do so, it’s well worth exploring existing sites to look for new ideas.
-specialist sites – we are beginning to see some good specialist websites, on sports, business functions like networking, and cultural sites
-humour – although life in China is usually great fun and fulfilling, it can also sometimes be demanding and stressful, and as we all know, a good laugh is an excellent antidote to stress ! And some expats tend to take life too seriously
sometimes! No surprise then, to find a lot of funny posts in the forums, quirky photos and amusing content. You will enjoy rummaging about !
All in all, this survey demonstrates that there is a vibrant and creative expat community in China. Here at China Expat, we are glad to be part of it, and we will continue to support our partners and the wider community in the months and years to come.
Enjoy China Surfing
North East Network (based Shenyang but covers Liaoning)
Local news and photos, local food and shopping info, basic info on Liaoning, travel and living advice, some basic info on investing, Yellow Pages on local businesses. Simple and fairly clean, colourful, menu at left – some of the info takes some finding. Monthly email newsletter and small message board. The section introducing Liaoning Province is particularly well designed, with some interesting ideas for holiday destinations (see the page for Huludao, through the introduction section, for a good example)
Beijingixpat (part of national site)
New “interactive platform for expatriate related classifieds”. Clearly fairly new series of sites, it will be interesting to see how they develop and compete with other similar concepts. Forum (about 100 members so far) and some classifieds for jobs, apartments etc – some classifieds (but not forum) are shared with other iexpat sites. The jobs classified section has quite a lot of recent listings covering various industries, and the email of the company doing the recruiting can be contacted directly – meaning no agency fees.
My Beijing China (CITS site)
This is a conventional travel site focusing exclusively on Beijing. It is a simple and attractive site with lots of photos and information. It is part of the online service platform of China Highlights Travel, and leverages their rich experience in the domestic tourist market to provide a wide range of useful pages and links. There are some good maps of various areas of Beijing accessible directly from the home page.
The Beijing Guide
Run by photographer Peter Danford – and it shows – some stunning photos ! Also has Chinese music downloadable as MP3 and other rmultimedia functions. Covers the usual tourist sites as well as some unusual sights and sounds, and practical information. Design is simple and classy – very black ! – all in Chinese, English, French, German. You can subscribe to a monthly newsletter. The multimedia blog has a very cool panoramic picture (scrolling) of Olympic Games construction area shot from the 33rd floor of a nearby apartment.
City info, classifieds section for jobs, apartments etc. Very good Tianjin FAQ section written by users – much of the advice could be applied in other sities, too. Has handy downloadable map of the city using Google Earth featuring bars and other key spots – now there’s a good idea ! Forum for chat, personals, jobs, events etc. The homepage lists all of the social events going on in Tianjin on a daily basis – very helpful for a first-time visitor to Tianjin to immediately get involved in the expat community.
My Red Star (Qingdao and Shandong)
Long established site (they also run the magazine Red Star)- business, jobs (lots !), networking events, daily events, very extensive listings, sailing emphasis ahead of 2008 Olympics. In English, Chinese and Korean. Extensive forums (lifestyle, business, sailing) and classifieds – cover many other Shandong cities not just Qingdao. The site managers are also able to provide a range of other services such as translation, web hosting, orientation tours of Qingdao, market research and design. This may be a great starting point for businesspeople looking to initiate operations in Qingdao.
Introduction to Dalian, some reviews of restaurants and bars, some photos, beginnings of a “wikipedia”. Very extensive forums (including business, jobs etc), ranging across Liaoning. The content is almost exclusively user driven, and the users seem to be mainly expats living or studying in Dalian. Therefore most of the information is “straight from the horse’s mouth”, although searching for exactly what you are looking for can be a little time-consuming.
Panda Passport (Dalian based)
This is another contributor-based site focusing on life in Dalian. The layout is colourful and simple and the content is basically lifestyle and study related. As the forums fill up, this should become a great source of independent information on what to do and where to go in Dalian.
Extensive information on the city and the rest of Shandong, general business information, travel, photos etc. Fairly extensive forums, some classifieds, claims 19,000 members. Professional presentation and easy to navigate toolbars make it a very impressive site, and it contains a lot of up to date information about social activities in the town. Ideal for anyone planning to go to Jinan.
Various “gossip column” type reports on bar openings etc, photos of “beautiful people” at parties etc, bar and restaurant listings with some reviews, classifieds (some of which are rather dubious, frankly). Fairly extensive forum with about 1,700 members.
Shanghaiixpat (part of national site)
New “interactive platform for expatriate related classifieds” – most developed of this new group of sites ? Forum (about 100 members so far), some of it in Dutch, and some classifieds for jobs, apartments etc – some classifieds (but not forum) are shared with other iexpat sites
Describes itself as “urban webzine”, front page has blog-like reports on events, arts, etc. Sections on nightlife and dining (listings, promos and events, useful Chinese addresses for venues, and honest and helpful user reviews), culture (listings and events), property listings, dating classifieds etc. Handy interactive street map of Shanghai (only English !). Weekly email newsletter, forum with Shanghai, Beijing (“back soon”) and Hangzhou (“coming soon”) sections.
Shanghai Highlights (CITS site)
Conventional travel site – offers tours, hotels, flights and travel information, including major cities around Shanghai. Includes handy railway timetable for trains to and from Shanghai.
Suzhouixpat (part of national site)
New “interactive platform for expatriate related classifieds”. Forum (about 100 members so far) and some classifieds jobs, apartments etc – some classifieds (but not forum) are shared with other iexpat sites.
Hangzhouixpat (part of national site)
New “interactive platform for expatriate related classifieds”. Forum (about 100 members so far) and some classifieds for jobs, apartments etc – some classifieds (but not forum) are shared with other iexpat sites.
Large, well laid-out and informative site – bar and restaurants reviews, shopping, general info, transport info, maps, links to many relevant local websites. Useful guidance on prices for day-to-day living, and other survival tips. Active local forum – general chat, classifieds, travel. One of best expat sites we have seen so far.
Wuxi Ladies Group
Fairly new site, also supporting a local orphanage. For ladies and families in Wuxi, regular events, trips out, and other support.
Dongguan FAQs, classifieds, some restaurant and bar reviews – some pages still under construction. Forum, about 400 users – interesting “rumours and scoops” channel. The site also has a number of games you can play which will pass a quiet couple of hours on a Friday afternoon.
This new site will be launched in October 2006, and will be the online counterpart to HERE! Dongguan magazine. Among its features you will find local content, forums, directory, events and classifieds. The website owners expect it to attract a lot of users, both expats and locals, as it will be an interactive communication platform with a lot of useful local information.
Good information and travel site by local expat couple – history, culture, food, photos etc. – mainly links to other relevant material. Photos are excellent, behind the scenes and not the usual tourist shots. Some interesting and sensitive coverage of environmental and social problems. Content is provided by the site administrators instead of users so the site is organized and easy to navigate.
Macau Zhuhai Guide
Travel and general information about Macau and Zhuhai, local news, events listing, restaurant reviews, some jobs, several blogs by members. Active forum on life and business in these cities. There is a surprisingly large amount of information on Zhuhai, which even many long-term expats in China may not have heard about !
“Keeping the community of Shenzhen, expat and Chinese informed of events and other happenings around the city” – entertainment focused site with bar and restaurant listings, listings on jobs, personals, housing etc, local information. Weekly email newsletter. The site lists a whole range of places to party and special events almost every night of the week. Judging from this site alone, Shenzhen looks like one of the best places to party in China !
The site looks well organized and is poised to add a lot more content in the coming months. In contrast to Shenzhen Party above Shenzhen Fever contains more business and general information to assist foreign visitors or residents with their daily life. There is also some travel information about hotel prices in the town etc.
What’s On Xiamen
Xiamen’s only regularly-updated English language blog, since 2004. Includes some job and apartment adverts, maps, local what’s on information etc. Navigation is a bit complex. If you have a request for assistance or a service in Xiamen, or even find a job in the region, posting on this site would be a good place to start.
I Hot Pot (Chengdu)
A combined Chengdu information site, online English training portal for New Times International, and forum on Chinese comics.
Official site of Guilin Municipal Tourism Bureau, providing detailed Guilin travel information: maps, photos, hotels, attractions, transportations, and complete & customized tour options.
Tibet Travel Dot
Commercial travel site offering very extensive first-hand and up-to-date Tibet travel information – tours, maps, climate, transportation, accommodation, travel tips, photos, background on Tibetan Buddhism, people and culture.
Not only covering China but Asia Pacific and Middle East. Some basic living tips on major Chinese cities – visas, laws etc. Forums covering Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and email newsletter.
Asia Expats Forum
Large Asia-wide forum site. Includes forum on China – usual jobs, apartments, general living advice and question
Fairly new site run by a Canadian teacher called Ryan, formerly in Dalian and now in Suzhou – it’s a work in progress, but looks encouraging from what he’s done so far – we look forward to seeing the content in pages like “horror stories” and “how to use a Chinese toilet”…Forums and wikis are under construction.
Tree House City Guide
“..a community of travellers and travel enthusiasts, ranging from those just interested in travelling, to travellers planning their first trip, to travel-worn veterans that have been all around the world….” Focused on China, especially south-west, but will cover other countries later. Contains reviews of hotels and attractions, photos by users.
Young Professional Social Networking
New site and new group in Shanghai, some details of events and photos from old ones.
Well-established networking group in Beijing and Shanghai. Their events start again this month. The site includes events info, galleries of past events, a few classifieds, and links to their partners including travel companies.
Shanghai Network News
A new site for summer 2006 and a new and unique concept – not simply a listing of networking events in Shanghai, but honest and fair reviews of many different events and types of events, and tips on how to network effectively. Amazing no one has done this before ! Email newsletter once a fortnight.
Chinese Culture Club
Chinese Culture Club organizes cultural tours – in town and out of town (from Beijing and Shanghai) – also cultural events such as talks, lectures, debates and book discussions but also classes and workshops – painting, calligraphy, massages. They do trips for businesses, too, not just tourists.
Lijiang Studio provides living space, working space, and facilitation for international, Chinese, and local artists in rural Lashihai and Kunming. Artists from all over the world can meet, live and study there.
China Highlights (CITS site)
Commercial travel site providing tours, hotel and flight bookings, Yangtze river cruises, specializing in “tailor-made” individual, family and group tours throughout China. Has forum with travel related posts.
Destination guide, with brief description and history of different places across China from Guiyang to Shenyang…where to go, hotel, restaurants, nightclub, shopping. Some classifieds, too. Some forums but not many users yet.
Offers specialist tours throughout by bicycle (obviously). Some good general info about touring in China even for non-cyclists, including a handy list of areas open to foreigners. The travelogues are worth reading, too.
My Red Sail
Operated by the same people who do My Red Star, this is focused on sailing in China, with introduction to the country’s sailing cities, some good basic advice on how to sail (and not fall in…), details of the preparations for Olympic sailing, a directory of marine suppliers and organisations, general articles, show reports, and some excellent photos. This is how to do specialist sites !
Excellent site for eating, and drinking, in Shanghai with very fair reviews by site staff and users. Even some info our bar-hopping Shanghai-based reviewer didn’t know…and handy little taxi cards to print off so you can get there !