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Taking a train in China is always great fun. You meet all kinds of people, get to eat 方便面instant noodles without feeling bad about it and see a lot of the country. In my personal opinion, it is superior to any other kind of longer distance travel: planes are so impersonal and you don’t get to see much, coaches are very crowded and lack toilets, cars are like coaches with even more confined space.

Beijing features two pre-dominant foreigner markets; they are so called because they are mostly frequented by foreigners hunting for that almost perfect copy of a Gucci bag. This is not to say that Chinese do not go there, too – and I mean not as translators or haggling assistants to their foreign bosses. But, funnily enough, Chinese prefer the real thing if they can afford it so, actually, it is mostly the 老外.

You will inevitably pay some learning money when it comes to your life in China. If your Chinese is not up to speed and people realize it they will oftentimes try to get the better of you. This is not because all Chinese are out to get the better of outsiders. It is because as a foreigner you are likely to frequent certain places (e.g. the foreigner markets) where it is part of the business model to try to squeeze every penny out of unassuming 老外.

I have lived in Beijing for almost two years and many people have asked me the question: Why? What about the pollution (污染)? Aren't there a lot of people?

In the last few weeks, the ice bucket challenge has taken over social media. What is the ice bucket challenge?

If you are planning to stay in Beijing long term, you are probably considering renting your own place. Your first and most straight forward choice is to find a real estate agent and go from there – as you will literally go to a lot of places to have a look. Your other option is browsing housing websites offering such services, most however are in Chinese and the few in English offer nicer places but at heftier price tags.

For some a relic of the past, the neighborhood markets today are still a thriving place of business where people get their fresh produce daily. Your ordinary market setup is about 70% fruit and vegetables, 20% fish, meats and other ingredients and, finally, 10% daily use items ranging from batteries to plastic tubs. Given the advent of the supermarket chains, both domestic and international, it seems like a small miracle that people still flock to the markets in droves.

Although your goal may be to master the Chinese language (and reading a lot of Chinese language material will definitely help in your endeavor) you will inevitably have the crave for some reading materials in your own language. And despite the rise of the internet and ebooks there are some who simply like the feel of a bound book in their hands. Now, be it in English, French, German or Korean, there are some well stacked book stores in Beijing that cater to just these needs.

Chinese are crazy about cars. And as a result of the economic developments most people are now able to afford a car or two. Due to this violent increase in car ownership demand especially in urban areas, the Chinese government had to devise ways to control it. Today, the issue of new license plates is an effective lever when it comes to curbing private car ownership.

Asian business people have a tendency to cluster their shops together with others of the same kind. There seems to be some logic to it, as you increase the probability that a customer will buy something if he is given an overwhelming choice. Guitar shops have been until now in the hands of small entrepreneurs opening one shop and trying to make ends meet for their family.

Since eating out is somewhat of a national sport in China, you will find yourself doing the same most of the time. Therefore, here is a list of my Beijing top picks.

Where it used to be just one or two random McDonald’s on the touristy main streets, there is now almost as much choice of fast food in Beijing as in some mid-sized US American city. For burgers and chicken you have Burger King, KFC and McDonald’s, for pizza you have Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Domino’s, for all else you have Dairy Queen, Sizzler, Subway and Dunkin Donuts.