Shenzhen! It seems like every day I hear another person tell me they are going or planning on visiting. Having just returned, here are 26 things to know before you go:
You don’t have to speak Mandarin
Before my trip, the most daunting thing to me was the language barrier. I don’t speak Mandarin, and fortunately you don’t have to. At restaurants, many of the menus (but definitely not all) will have photos so you can just point. Many of the people in the markets will speak enough English to barter and sell. Basically in the city center, you can survive with English. Most signs are in English & Mandarin.
If you plan on going to factories or outside the city center, you will need a translator
One tip I was told, “factory managers have been working with westerners for 30 years, you won’t need a translator.” Well that turned out to be totally false. I went to 3 factories, and out of the hundreds of people I saw, as far as I can tell, only 1 person spoke English. My driver didn’t speak English either so it was an interesting adventure.
The city is built on manufacturing
As real estate prices go up, the factories have moved further and further from the center of town.
The city is incredibly modern
Outside of the city is much less modern
A contrast of new wealth and traditional Chinese culture
The subway is incredible
The subway is one of the best in the world – if not the best- I’ve ever been on. Clean, no crime, and not a sign of graffiti in sight. Note: you will have to put your bag though an X-ray each time you go through for security. However, for the safety, its amazing.
It is safe
Yes, you can buy knock-offs
The electronics markets at Huaqiangbei are MUCH bigger than you think
However that isn’t the full story – there is original hardware being produced by Chinese companies
There are startups in apartments just like in Silicon Valley
There are also companies that have raised millions of USD from venture capitalists
And then there are the huge tech companies, such as DJI’s 11 story office
The food is amazing and cheap
Even the Western food is better (but the same price you pay in the US)
Your dishes at restaurants may come wrapped in plastic
Western toilets are in the malls
Everyone chats on WeChat
Hong Kong is a ~1hr train ride away
Yes you can get tailored clothes for cheap at Luohu (much cheaper than Hong Kong)
With access to cheap clothes, people truly express themselves
There is a vibrant art scene at OCT
Traffic laws seem to be a suggestion, so make sure to be on the lookout for motorbikes on the sidewalk
If you get a China Unicom SIM card, this is only a welcome message – your phone hasn’t been hacked (phew!)
Google, Facebook, and Twitter are blocked, so you will need a VPN to access them
Next in the series will be the things to do before your trip. Issues we will cover –
- How to fill out your Visa form
- How to set up your cell phone situation before you leave
- and VPNs!