Category Archives: Expat in Hangzhou

5 tips for bicycling safe in China


Getting a bike/e-bike when living in Hangzhou/China is one of the best investments you can do. You can get a new bicycle for as little as 300 CNY/350 NOK and an e-bike for around 2000 CNY/2500 NOK. I’m not sure if the smallest e-bike goes faster than a bicycle, but it’s for sure easier. In the morning- and afternoontime, both e-bike and bicycle are much faster than a car! Because of the traffic congestion it’s not always safe to bike. Here are my 5 tips for bicycling safe in China:


  1. Be aware of both cars and people walking in the cycle-path.
  2. Yes, cars and other “cyclers” do “beep” with the horn. They don’t always do it to tell you you are in the wrong place, but to warn you that they are coming behind you. E-bikes are very quite and because of that they may warn others that they are coming.
  3. Remember that a green light in China is not always only green for you!
  4. Don’t be stubborn, but give way to others.
  5. Take it easy and don’t rush. Although you don’t have control over what’s happening around you, you will have a better overview if you are slow yourself.

Happy cycling!



Electric bike in China

From the first time I was in China, two years ago, I have wanted an electric bike. I love to bicycle around, and I used to do that when we were in Sevilla and Valencia some years ago, but at that time my knees and general health was better. Today I don’t trust my body to hold up on a longer bike-ride, so an electric bike is ideal.

Now when I am going to stay here in Hangzhou, at least part-time, both me and Mr. No-Backpacker thought it was an excellent idea to buy me an electric bike. The problem was: How and where? Our Chinese friend said we could buy it online (it seems like the Chinese buy everything online), but because I wanted some more information I wanted to buy it in a real shop so we decided to do some research ourself.

The answer was Walmart. They have everything at Walmart! We brought our Chinese friend to Walmart and, after some waiting, bought an electric bike. I don’t know much about this, but here is what I know: The weight of the battery is 18 kilo (less then my suitcase, so I take it I will manage to carry it into the elevator if Mr. No-Backpacker is not at home) and it will last for around 30 km. I’m sure there are more information in the booklet we got, but that’s in Chinese….

And the price? 2059 CNY/2500 NOK.

There are of course some disanvantages with an electric bike and the worst is that accidents with electric bikes have increased dramatically in China the last years. However when I see how some of the Chinese ride, I can understand why there are many accidents. Some are just crazy! My plan is to be careful and never rush, never take any chances. Of course I know this isn’t always enough, but at least it’s all I can do to prevent. After all I think having an electric bike is easier than getting around in a taxi everytime I want to go out.


THE apartment

After a small week we have started to settle here in Hangzhou. We had seen some pictures of the apartment, but as most of you know, seeing pictures is not the same as real life. However I had the apartment in Chongqing in my memory, so didn’t expect that much. Chinese standard of living is NOT the same as Norwegian…. I knew there were a kitchen, two bedrooms, a big livingroom, bathroom, aircondition, gastop (no oven, only the top), microwave-oven (all Chinese have that) and a refridgerator with fridge.

When we arrived we were NOT expected to have some extra tenants: COCKROACHES! I’m not squemish, but to be honest, I wasn’t very happy. We went straight to walmart and bought all we could carry in washingclothes, liquids, sprays etc… and started to clean. I thought we had gotten rid of the cockroaches, but this morning I saw two newcomers… Maybe because it’s raining outside?

The building we live in is very old and we were told this is why there are cockroaches even at the fifth floor! If I was going to stay here for a long time, I would have found another place to live, but as I am going to comute between Norway and China, it’s ok’ish. As I said, I’m not afraid of small creatures!

IMG_4958.JPGThis is one of the bedrooms, the smallest one. It takes forever to upload pictures, so I don’t have a picture of the biggest bedroom. However it looks quite much the same, with a bigger bed and more space! The bed… The matress is made of wood, I think. At least it feel like that! If you knock on the bed, you can hear it like you knock on a door. Well… For our bed we bought the thickest bedcover we could find, still it’s not enough. It looks like we will have to take a taxi to IKEA when it opens the 25th. of June to buy something softer….    The sofa…. everything in China is rock-hard!




As you can see, the sofa is the same standard as the bed – rock-hard! We were thinkning of byung something for the sofa, but we don’t use it that much and never watch the antique television, so we’ll see…



The kitchen is small, and I don’t have a picture, but I can tell about it… No warm water in the kitchen so we’ll need to go to the bathroom to get warm water. Not very effective, but we have a neighbour, Dima (from Russia), who told us we can buy an electric heater for the kitchen. Where we can buy it? Online, of course…. There is no oven in the kitchen, but yesterday I saw a small one at Walmart (our new friend, they have everything!) for 350 CNY/400 NOK. I will have somebody order it online for me because we will then get it on the door.

The bathroom… It’s not the best I have seen…. BUT I will manage! At least we have a washingmachine – no warmwater, but I know how to fill it with warm water, so that is not a problem.

After we spoke with Dima we understood we should be happy with this apartment. He had been in another one before he got this, and said that this is luxury compared! Compared with the apartment we had in Chongquing this is bigger and in a way brighter, but the one in Chongqing was better, cleaner and more new. Well, I think I will adapt. After all this is an adventure only a few people is lucky to experience, so I don’t complain. One have to do the best out of the situation and I am planning of doing that.

How to get a work VISA in China

Because Mr. No-Backpacker is a so-called “foreign specialist” we’ll both (hopefully) get a work VISA. I’m not going to work in China, but because I’m going to commute between China and Norway (!) it’ll make my life so much easier to have a multi-entry VISA so I don’t need to apply for a new VISA every time I want to visit my husband.

To get a work VISA is not that difficult if you know all the steps, but it’s really time-consuming, at least if you forget one step in the middle… I’m sure it’s doable on your own, but I take it it’s easier if you have a Chinese-speaking friend to follow you. Let’s take it from start.

First you will have to have 9 pictures with a 2 inch white background. If we knew this we would have taken them from home, but we didn’t and needed to find a photographer to take the pictures. There was one at the Zhejiang campus, but to be honest, I can’t explain where…

After we got the photoes we took a taxi to a special medical office  to get a medical test. THAT was an experience!

IMG_4973.JPGThere is one queue to get a number and then one to registere.

IMG_4971.JPGYou then get a scheme to follow. You don’t need to follow the scheme one after one, but you have to go through all the test before you are finnished. Outside each office there are queues of people waiting. Stand in line in the shortest queue and wait for your turn! Looking at the scheme it seems like a very complicated examination, but in reality every step is finnished within 1 minute. My biggest problem was that I went to the toilet when we arrived and didn’t know they wanted a urine-sample!

I think the whole seanse took around an hour. Becasue we needed the results for the medical tests for the next step, we had to wait until afternnon the next day.



After picking up the medical test results (yey, I passed, but for a strange reason got a new diagnoses from the x-ray: Scolioses… I might need to check that out when I get back to Norway…) we headed for the “Zhejiang provincial administration of foreign experts affairs”. We thought we had all the right papers, but unfortunately we didn’t have the right insurance, at least not in English… We had to come back the day after… At this time I got a feeling I was doing “The big race”!

Third day: We got up early, got a taxi and back to the office. Unfortunately the woman who could help us was out for an hour and we had to take a walk. Luckily the West Lake, one of the most beautiful attractions in Hangzhou, was very close and we had a coffee by the lake. (Hangzhou is one of the “greenest cities” in China, morea bout that later….)

IMG_5016.JPGAfter an hour or so we got a call from the right woman and headed back. Luckily we had the right papers (we used the Norwegian travel-insurance where the insurance-company had a statement written in English) and Mr. No-Backpacker got the blue book telling he is a foreign expert (and I am the wife… for this we knew we needed an official paper, written in English, telling we are married).

New taxi… To the Visa-office. While waiting there we suddnely understood we needed a statement from the local police-office that we actually were living in an appartment… Oh well… new taxi… When we arrived to the police-office it had closed for lunch, 2 hours… A quick call to the administration-office where we live told us we were anyway at the wrong police-district!

IMG_5024.JPGWe decided to have lunch before a new taxi-ride took us to the right police-office. We got the papers and after yet another taxi-trip we ended up at the VISA-office again. “Hello, been here before!”

The people working at the VISA-office spoke English, but our Chinese friend helped us and everything went smooth until we realized that the VISA would not be finnished before 2 days after I was gong to leave! Fortunately I had the printout of my e-ticket and they made a note on my VISA to do it faster! At this office you have to hand in your passport, but you get a note you can use for travelling within China if you need that. (You will need it not only for airfares, but also to take the train.)

Fingers crossed I will get my VISA (and passport) before I’m returning back home, if not… well… I don’t want to think about it!

In summary, the list is like this (please be aware that this is for people who seek work VISA as a foreign expert):

1. Take 9 pictures, white background, 2 inches.

2. Go to the special medical office to get all your test done. I THINK there are people there who speak English. At least I saw lots of people there who didn’t have a Chinese translator!

3. Pick up the test the day after.

4. Go to the “administration of foreign experts affairs” to get the blue book. They speak English at this office.

5. Find the local police-office and get a statement that proves you live where you live (to be honest, I don’t know how you do this as we had our Chinese friend to help us). They don’t speakEnglish here.

6. Go to the VISA office and fill in the papers there. They speak English here.