The new Lunar Year just started on January 25, and this is usually a very happy and joyous time in China. The Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday here, with everyone traveling back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. Due to the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, however, the Chinese New Year has looked quite different.
Here are some of my personal experiences and observations as an expat in Beijing during this time. I’m also sharing/resharing lots of updates about the virus on my Instagram stories everyday. You can follow my Instagram @rachelmeetschina to see more.
*Note: I’m not an official reporter or medical expert on the coronavirus. I’m just sharing my personal experiences and thoughts as an expat living in Beijing.
China Coronavirus: What’s it Like As an Expat in Beijing?
I sat down with two of my other expat friends Eleanor and Nathan to talk about the recent coronavirus outbreak in China and how it’s affecting us in Beijing.
I’ve received lots of questions on social media about what it’s like living in Beijing during this time, so we just wanted to share our thoughts and personal experiences on questions like: How is daily life in Beijing during this time? Do you have masks and food? What kind of mask should you wear? Are you planning to go home?
We answer these questions and chat more about our lives right now in the video below.
Traveling At the Start of the Coronavirus
To start from the beginning, I want to share about the Spring Festival. Usually during Spring Festival I’m also traveling – either in China or out of China. This is my 5th Spring Festival as an expat in China. During my other Spring Festivals I’ve traveled to places in China, like Beijing and Chengdu, but more often than not I went outside of China to Cambodia, Australia, Vietnam, Bali, and the Philippines.
This year I decided to travel in China and started my trip off in Chongqing, a massive city in Southwestern China. This was at near the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, but at the time it was mostly centered in Wuhan city. It didn’t seem quite serious enough to cancel my travel plans – I decided to go ahead with it and just keep an eye on things.
A few days into my trip in Chongqing, however, things became even more serious. Wuhan city was put on lockdown, with all trains and buses to and from the city shut down. Later the entire Hubei Province was put on quarantine. The virus had spread to every province in China except Tibet, and also was found outside China in the US, France, and other countries. Temperature checks at airports and on metros and buses started becoming common in cities even outside Hubei. It was then I decided to cancel the rest of my travel plans to go back to Beijing.
My plane back to Beijing from Chongqing was quite empty, but this was on January 25 which was Chinese New Year’s Day so not many people travel then usually.
Life in Beijing During the Coronavirus
I can’t share for everyone, just my personal experience in Beijing right now. It’s quiet in Beijing and not many people are outside, but that’s usual for Spring Festival time anyways as many people are in their hometowns or staying inside visiting family. There are still lots of restaurants, shops and malls open, just not many people inside. Everyone is taking precautions – wearing face masks, stocking up on food, and avoiding crowded public places. It will be interesting to see what happens after the Spring Festival holiday ends.
Food/Shops: So far the grocery stores are still well-stocked. I’ve been checking many stores near me, including some local Chinese places as well as foreign import shops like Jenny Lou’s, Carrefour, and April Gourmet. Many people are stocking up lots of groceries and avoiding ordering take-out, but there are still lots of delivery drivers on the road. There are also some restaurants that are still open, as well as coffee shops and bars.
Work: Many schools and businesses have extended their holidays to protect students and workers. Many schools have been delayed until February 17th, and some are delayed even further. According to my company right now, I will resume work on February 3rd from home, and return to the office February 10. It depends on your employer.
Transportation: Subways and buses are still running in the Beijing. There are temperature checks being done at metro stations before you enter though, as well as at the airport.
Social Media During the Coronavirus
Social Media has blown up with the coronavirus as we all are seeking out resources and offocial updates. It can be a bit hard to know what’s factual and what is just media hype. Here are some resources, videos, and memes going around.
An interesting article: The Chinese Coronavirus Is Not the Zombie Apocalypse
WeChat Accounts: The Beijinger and Hangzhou Expat Wechat accounts have virus updates sent out frequently. The Beijinger is also sending out updates on hospitals and clinics where you can get help and sharing what grocery stores and restaurants are open.
Instagram: I’m sharing/resharing lots of updates about the virus on my Instagram stories everyday. You can follow my Instagram @rachelmeetschina to see more.
In serious and difficult situations like this, a little bit of humor helps. There are lots of memes being shared around Wechat groups about the coronavirus and I’ve shared more here: China Coronavirus Memes and Photos
Coronavirus in China
This is just an update from my perspective right now – things could change in the next coming days, weeks, and months. We are all just staying updated on the latest news reports and taking precautions!
Check out some of my other posts about living and traveling in China:
- Where To Travel In China: China Travel Quiz and Best Destinations To See
- Living in Beijing vs. Guangzhou
- Camping on the Great Wall of China: Mr. Chen’s Wild Wall Section