Technology and China Living

Technology and China Living

I wrote an article a while ago about apps you’ll need for college life, such as Venmo and GroupMe. Well, you need a whole host of other ones to really do well in China. And, pro tip, but don’t come here with a Google phone. One of my friends has hers with and it’s a huge pain!

First and most important:

WeChat, or WeiXin as they say in Chinese. It’s ubiquitous, powerful, and doesn’t just change the game – it makes its own. On the surface (and in the USA) it’s just a messenger app, like GroupMe, Viber, or WhatsApp, but it can also be used to ‘follow’ news companies with an RSS feed, and you can post ‘Moments’ just like Facebook updates. But wait, there’s more. Through WeChat, you can pay for your meals at almost every single restaurant, because you’re infinitely more likely to forget your wallet than your phone – and you don’t have to pay those pesky international cash withdrawal fees because it connects right to your card. You can pay your phone bill or order a taxi. You can rent a bike (more on that later), buy your train or movie tickets, and play games like it has a whole entire App Store (but free) inside of it. Right now, the game sweeping TBC is called ‘Tiao Yi Tiao’, or Jumpy Jump. It’s hot competition to see who can keep their jumping streak furthest without falling. It’s magic and it runs the world. Of course, it’s only so big because the Chinese government keeps a good eye on it, so you shouldn’t be spreading anti-governmental messages through it (if you’re the type of person inclined to that, which I wouldn’t advise while in China, but that’s your choice) but all in all it’s one you absolutely need while in China.

Second, ofo. Well, actually, there are a variety of apps just like ofo, and you can have one or them all, but I prefer ofo.

Why? Well, ofo is a bike-sharing app. It’s sort of like… the exact opposite of Uber. There’s probably millions of the bikes in just Beijing alone, and all you need is the app to take one. You simply scan a QR code on the bike, type in the passcode your app tells you too, and the bike unlocks – and off you go. Sometimes the bikes are not all that good, but there’s certainly another one you can take. And it’s dirt cheap – as in, I haven’t yet paid a single kuai (six-ish kuai is one USD) for all my rides, whether they’re five minutes or fifty. Plus, at the end of every ride you get a two-kuai coupon, so even if you do generate a bill of a kuai or two, you still won’t pay. They’re ridiculously convenient. I often walk to breakfast and then bike across campus to class, just because I can, or bike down to the nearest mall. It’s something that probably wouldn’t go down too well in the United States, because a huge team of people are in charge of finding wayward bikes (you can just leave them wherever you want, they require no charging stations or anything) and setting them up along streetsides so you can get to them easier. At least, I feel like people would complain in Chicago. They do take up a lot of room. Another bonus about the app is that it will tell you where the nearest ones are, so you don’t even have to look hard! Also, all ofo bikes are bright yellow. They sure stand out!


And third, Mei Tuan Wai Mai. If you thought WeChat and ofo sounded useful, well…

Mei Tuan combines literally every other useful American app into one. And by that I mean it will deliver literally anything you can dream of. Gone is the need to compare GrubHub, UberEats, Postmates, and the other food apps to see who has the restaurant – and the price – you want. No joke, today in class as part of our lesson, our teacher had me order cookies from Subway to be delivered. Just cookies. (They were amazing.) From places like DQ, Subway, Pizza Hut, and McDonald’s to the local tiny restaurants that only recently moved to take WeChat pay, Mei Tuan will bring you anything you want, ever. And… Not just food.

My homework tonight is to make a list of summer clothing I’ll need for my spring break trip to Thailand, so my teacher can help me order it during class tomorrow (there’s only two students in the class, including me.) From an iPhone X to a rice cooker to just a roll of tape, Mei Tuan can bring it to you the same day. You can get larger things (like a box of water bottles or a Ferrari car) on a similar app called Taobao that doesn’t do fresh food, but if you hate Amazon’s two-day delivery …. Mei Tuan has you covered. My friend once ordered an iron and got it within the hour. Possibly the best thing? It connects to your WeChat, which connects to your card, so you don’t need to input your card over and over again.


Of course, you’ll probably want a variety of other apps, from Baidu Maps (Google Maps doesn’t work here) to Elk (a currency converter) to Didi (like Uber, but also uses the taxi fleet) but I think WeChat, ofo, and Mei Tuan are the top three. Come study abroad here and you’ll see for yourself!



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