10/18/16

Getting a driver’s license in China

Chinese Driver's License

Chinese Driver’s License

Good news! I finally got my Chinese driver’s license! Actually the process was much easier and faster than I thought, so I wanted to share it with you as well. I know many of my readers who are interested in getting a license and driving in China. My experience is in changing my Finnish license to Chinese, so if you don’t have a license at all, you need to go to driving school first.

Documents needed for changing foreign driver’s license to Chinese:

  • Application form
  • Health check (Super easy and superficial done at the exam center at the same day)
  • Four color photos, ask the photo shop for driver’s license photos, they know what to do
  • Official receipt for the photos with you passport number on it
  • Passport and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Foreign driver’s license and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Registration paper from your local police station, the original with a stamp

Translations and notarizations will take a few weeks, during that time it’s best to get ready for the theory exam!

Websites and apps for studying:

You will want to use these for studying at least for a few days before taking the exam. Also notice that many cities, including Guangzhou has new rules for the traffic violation scoring system, it changed at the beginning of this year. So find the newest regulations concerning the scoring and memorize it.

Taking the exam:

When you got all your paperwork in order and have studied enough for the exam, it’s time to go to the vehicle administration office (车管所) of your city. In Guangzhou it’s called Cen Village Vehicle Administration Office (岑村车管所) and it’s located at Huaguan Street 1732 of Tianhe District (天河区华观路1732号).

Take a waiting number and head to the back of the first floor to get your very quick and simple health check. If you can walk and aren’t blind, you can pass it in five minutes. When your number is up, give them all your paperwork and pay for the exam (80RMB). There are exams being held throughout the day until 3pm. Multiple languages are being offered, English being one of them.

You can take the exam twice in a row, so if you fail the first exam, you can just do it again with the same computer right away. Just tell the staff there you need to take it again. If you pass, you can pick up you new license at 4pm in the first floor lobby. They will call your name and give your license to you right away.

Now just get out there and learn to drive the Chinese way!

09/30/16

Finding a new ayi

So it was only a few months ago when I wrote how to find a nanny and here I am again, writing how to find a new nanny! It turned out that one thing even harder than finding a good nanny, is to keep her. We had such a nice nanny for Anna who lived with us and was slowly becoming a part of our family, but then her own family wanter her back. In China decisions are often made as a family unit, so when they wanted her to move back to her hometown, there was little to be done.

It was before our Summer holiday in Finland, so the timing wasn’t too bad, but still I wasn’t looking forward of going on the hun again and have our daughter to get used yet another caretaker. Luckily this time I had my old connections from previous search and we quickly set up meeting with two possible ayis or nannies.

We first decided on a nanny that had experience working for foreigners, but after working for two days cleaning our house, she made up a family situation excuse to leave for a week. Then she came back, washed the dishes and told me she isn’t coming back to work. She could have done that over the phone, but guess she was too embarrassed to play us like that. Probably she wasn’t planning on coming back at all.

So we went with the option number two, which in the end really should have been our first option! She has quite a lot of experience and she is a nice person. For our daughter who is going to be 1-year-old in a month, it was a big adjustment, but we took our time and let them get used to each other slowly. Now I can go out and work without having to worry how she is doing at home.

For me as a Finn it’s a little bit awkward having someone at home taking care of my child, cooking, cleaning and washing my clothes. I’m shy at telling her what to do, but little by little learning how to help her do her job well. How would I assume her to know the way of the house, if I didn’t tell her?

My husband pointed out that with ayis and nannies it’s best to give clear instructions. For example mopping the floor, it’s best that I show her how I like it done, so she knows what our expectations are. We have actually created a family WeChat group where we can send messages during the work hours and stay connected.

The Chinese word ayi doesn’t only mean a housekeeper, but an auntie. She is living with us five days per week and for our daughter she is the third adult in the house and an important person in our lives. I hope that this good start will continue and we can live and work together for years to come.

Things to remember when hiring an ayi or nanny:

  • Use your existing connections and find someone through recommendations, here international WeChat groups are a big help, someone always knows someone
  • Communicate your wants and needs clearly in order to find the right match to your family
  • After starting to work, give clear instructions to your ayi so she can clean or babysit the way that you want, don’t expect her to read your mind or guess what you want from her
  • Be fair and allow her public holidays, but be strict to follow working days and times. If you give too much leeway, she might start using that and want more and more free time from work

What’s your experience in hiring help in China? What should I pay attention to in order to keep her?

08/29/16

Moving with family to Guangzhou


Moving to China can be an adventure, especially if you are moving with kids. But luckily there are a few things that will make your family’s transition to new life a bit easier.

Join GWIC

First of all, the women in your family can join Guangzhou Women International Club which offers variety of events, but most importantly a web of connections and friends. Need to find a good doctor or where to buy a certain item? GWIC ladies know for sure!

WeChat is a must

If you only have one application in your phone in China, it must be WeChat. Keep in touch with friends, make new friends, join useful groups, pay at stores and restaurants, top up your phone and so much more. We have groups for parents in Guangzhou and parents of kids of different ages. Want to join a play date or find out the best playgrounds around city? Ask in WeChat and you’ll get an answer in seconds.

WeChat also has a few local second hand groups if you want to make affordable and environmentally friendly purchases.

What to bring

You can find most international items from Guangzhou, but imported products are often more expensive than back home. If you need, bring infant formula, medicine and comfort food with you. Also if you wear big size shoes, those are hard to find in Guangzhou. 

This Summer I’m taking back second hand clothes for my daughter, medicine, Finnish food and chocolate, a few books. Most of our day to day items are easily available in Guangzhou or through Taobao online store.

Friends make a home

Through my expat friends I’ve seen that when all family members get new friends, it’s easy to immerse into a new place. Luckily the international crowd is super friendly here and there are sport groups, lunch dates, play dates, short trips and much more for you to experience.

Learning a bit of Chinese

For me personally learning Chinese has shaped my whole life here, but for all expats it’s definitely beneficial to learn some Chinese. It will help you to get a taxi or show respect in business meetings.

If you are interested in private Chinese classes, send me a message through my contact form.

08/2/16

5 reasons to love China

For some reason my old blog post, 5 reasons to hate China, has been widely read and misunderstood through the years. I thought it’s time to give my five reasons why I still love living in China.

Yummy oysters with garlic

1. Chinese food

I thought I liked Chinese food before but only until I moved to China in 2010 I realized how delicious the food can be. And every province has their specialities so you can use a lifetime trying them all! With Chinese food I’ve also started to eat more vegetables which has made my diet healthier, no one can do eggplant as tasty as the Chinese!

Chinese menu on the wall

2. Chinese language

It’s no secret that I came to China to learn Mandarin and I used my first 6 years going from non-degree student to undergrad and finally to Master’s degree in Teaching Chinese. China is unarguably the best place in the world to master this fascinating language. It’s my passion towards Mandarin that led me to a completely new life and I love it!

My teachers and classmates

3. Chinese people

Even though cultural differences create problems, there are many characteristics that I admire in Chinese. One is their care for their family, they will go out of their way to help you out if you are a family member. Now that we have a baby, I’ve realized how Chinese adore kids. No matter where we go, lots of people are always willing to help out and play with our baby girl.

At GWIC morning coffee

4. Guangzhou’s international crowd

Maybe I could get this somewhere else too, but by living abroad I’m getting a chance to jump in new circles and make new friends. I think it’s important for our daughter to have international and mixed kids, just like she is. Guangzhou isn’t as international as Shanghai or Hong Kong so you can decide your self which side of the city, local or international, you want to explore today.

A treat in a park while baby sleeps

5. I can be my self

When living in China as a foreigner, who looks like a foreigner too, I stand out and my customs are seen a bit strange at times. That gives me a freedom to be my self. I don’t need to fit into a box or compare my self with neighbors. I’m the strange foreigner living in the village anyway so why not enjoy it to the fullest!

+ I just have to add this final point: job opportunities. Sure I could perhaps find job as a Chinese teacher back in Finland, but right now China is offering me more interesting opportunities. I can be here developing the scene of teaching Chinese the foreigner way, build my business by helping others to fall in love with Mandarin as well. 

So here is the new top 5! What’s your reasons to love China?

07/26/16

Staying in China while others leave


Most foreigners leave China at some point. Maybe their job contract comes to an end or they move back home for their kids education. Often China is just a temporary home for expats, a place that will only be in memories. I also often get asked how long I’ll stay in China.


My situation is slightly different as I’m married to a local and we have a family here, a baby and two cats. We need to consider what’s best for all of us and right now it’s to stay in Guangzhou.

During the years I’ve said goodbye to many friends. The downside of being a foreign student in China is to see classmates come and go almost every semester. I’ve lost many friends after graduating from university and after finishing my masters. Most exchange students pursue careers in their own countries.


Luckily now through Guanghou Women’s International Club (GWIC) I’ve met many new friends.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet amazing women from all over the world with unique life stories. But at the same time I know, that it’s always a possibility they leave, or we end up leaving. It’s a bittersweet deal you make when living abroad.