Beijing Uncategorized

Coronavirus Q&A with My Chinese and Expat Friends in China

Since the coronavirus outbreak, cities in China have been taking precautions to prevent the spreading of the virus. Every city has different regulations, and even certain areas in the same city might have various rules.

I have many Chinese friends and expat foreign friends living in cities all over China and wanted to check in with them to see what their city is like and how it’s affected their life in China.

Expat and Chinese Friends:

  1. Xiao Wei: Tour Guide in Beijing
  2. Caleb Leal: Teacher/Photographer in Shanghai
  3. Young Ge: Translator in Hengyang
  4. Nicola: TV Anchor in Beijing
  5. Pete: Teacher in Zhuhai
  6. Mervin Lee: Translator in Shaoyang

*Many of these personal accounts were written several weeks ago. Circumstances may have changed since then.

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Xiao Wei: Tour Guide in Beijing, China

Xiao Wei is originally from the Guizhou province of China and has lived in Beijing since 1999. We became Instagram friends a year ago and recently did a photoshoot on the Great Wall together last December.

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1. Did the coronavirus affect your Spring Festival travel plans?

I went back [to my hometown] Guizhou for the Spring Festival on January 20th. Everything went smoothly until the 23rd, when news of the Coronavirus spread everywhere. So people started talking about it, but didn’t take it too seriously. I started to buy masks. Soon all the masks were sold out, even in the small town my friends had few masks.

I decided to come back Beijing earlier on January 31st , because I feel more comfortable and can get more information in Beijing. It was a 2 days drive, with few cars on the road and with check points to test our temperatures at the entrance of each province. Two things were very difficult for us on the road: finding a place to stay and a place to eat. Pretty much all the hotels and restaurants were closed.


2. Do you know anyone who has/had the coronavirus?

So far none of my family or friends have the virus.

3. How has the situation affected your job?

I run a Great Wall Experience business called @greatwallmylove, and all the bookings and orders have been cancelled until May, so it’s a really harmful for me.  Since all the tours and experiences been cancelled or postponed, I started to sell Iced Norway Salmon online to make some money to help my family . I believe it will take a long time for the tour business to recover, even after the virus been controlled. So I need find another way to making a living for my family.

4. What does your daily life look like right now? How do you keep safe?

The city of Beijing is still very empty. It seems like it’s been paused. Yes, people are concerned a lot, but you can feel the calmness as well. We can still get fresh vegetables and groceries in the market, but everyone wears masks to go around. I stay inside my home pretty all the time, except to get groceries once a week. I wear a mask, avoid the people, wash hands often to protect myself.

Caleb: Teacher/Photographer in Shanghai

Caleb is a teacher/photographer currently living in Shanghai. He and I are both from Texas (nihaody) and became Instagram friends awhile ago. Caleb takes incredible photos of Shanghai and his travels around Asia – you can check his Instagram out here: @chasingunique.

1. Where are you from? How long have you been in China?

Hey I’m Caleb, I’m originally from a small town in south central Texas, but you probably wouldn’t know it, so we’ll just say San Antonio. I’ve been living in Shanghai for the last three years, and I’m working on reaching year four right now.

2. Did the coronavirus affect your Spring Festival travel plans? How?

The coronavirus definitely had a big effect on my travel plans. Usually whenever I get a holiday here in China I will leave the country and go explore some other parts of Asia. In doing that though, I have now seen what I feel is a lot of Asia, and very little of China. I decided that this year I would try to spend a lot more time exploring some of China and spring festival was meant to be the start of that.

I had two big plans, one was to visit Huangshan Mountain the second week of the holiday, and the other was to go to the Harbin Ice Festival at the end of February. Literally the day I was meant to get on the train to head to Huangshan my friend sent me an article saying that basically all the tourist sites in the country had been shut down, and with a bit more research I found out that the remainder of the ice festival had also been shut down. It was a major disappointment.

3. How has the situation affected your work?

Well I have two different jobs. One of them is teaching from Fri-Sun, and the other is being a freelance tourism photographer. At first no one knew what was going on in terms of teaching. It seemed like everyday the government put out a new regulation and we would get updated on how it would affect us. What seems to have finally stuck though is that children across the county will not be returning to school until the second of March. My school gave use the choice of taking unpaid time off until then or doing admin work at home.

Since I’m in Shanghai right now and usually bored most days, I chose to do the admin work. In relation to my photography job, I normally would take photos of westerners visiting Shanghai in popular tourist locations like The Bund, and Yuyuan Gardens. Since the outbreak of the virus though, far less people are taking vacations in China, and as I said tourist sites are mostly shut down, so that side job for me is currently on hold.

4. What does your daily life look like right now? How is Shanghai?

I don’t know that my daily life was ever particularly interesting before the virus, but it has definitely gotten much more boring. Really, I just try to look for any reason to leave the house and not be a couch potato like I was for pretty much the whole first week. I’ll try to meet up with the few friends I have in the city now, I do my admin work, and I try to work on photo and video projects, really just trying to be productive and not wasting days.

Before the virus, I would describe Shanghai on a normal day as the NYC of China –  there is always such a hustle and so many things to do. It is nowhere near that state currently, and though its not a ghost town, it feels more like a small city right now than anything like NYC. Most of the city is shut down, and restaurants, bars, gyms, parks, and so on have all been closed. The few places that are still open require you to have your temperature checked before entering. Some places have even gone to the extremes of making your write your name, address, phone, and passport down on a paper before entering.

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5. Which resources  have proved the most useful to you during this time?

There have been a few things that I use. Western media is great for receiving facts on numbers, but they also have a tendency to blow things out of proportion. I use the online site Smartshanghai to find out what’s going on in Shanghai specifically. I also will keep up with Wechat articles to see what’s going on, and then finally my favorite source of news is memes – Flora was gold.

6. What are your plans for the next few weeks?

It’s honestly hard to make plans right now as anything can literally change tomorrow, even the one café that I had been going to for the past month to work in just told me today that they can now only do take away orders. The only real thing I have planned right now for the short term is to try to live my daily life, get work done, and be productive in some way.

7. What are you looking forward to once the virus has blown over?

Honestly everything. China is already a very secure place compared to the rest of the world, and so all of this extra security has felt almost smothering to me. It will just be nice to be able to go in to a mall without getting my temperature check, or go to a bar without having to wonder if it will be open or not because of the virus, be able to sneeze without people looking in dread at you before sprinting away in the opposite direction haha, it will just be great to get back to normal life.

Young Ge from Nantong, Jiangsu

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1. Did the coronavirus affect your Spring Festival travel plans? How are you now?

Yes.  I was planning a family trip to Yangzhou right after the CNY. I am back in Hengyang from my hometown already. The city of Hengyang is not as dynamic as it was.  There aren’t many cars and people on the street.  We used to hate the traffic and the crowds.  The coronavirus makes us realize the traffic isn’t the worst of things at all. My daily life is pretty boring. Just watching shows.  If I have to get out of the house, I wear a mask to keep safe.

2. Do you know anyone personally who has/had the coronavirus?

No. The number of people infected has surpassed 40 thousand. But the population of China is 1.4 billion.  So the probability of knowing someone infected is still small unless one is from Hubei.

3. How has the situation affected your job?

I work in Hengyang, Hunan. The ongoing outbreak is affecting not only my job, but also the whole economy, all walks of life, everyone.  I imagine that we will lose at least an economy/GDP equivalent of France this year.

4. What are you looking forward to once the virus outbreak has passed?

Oh, parties! A lot of them.

Nicola Armstrong: TV Anchor in Beijing

Nicola is a TV Anchor and Youtuber from the UK living in Beijing. She’s lived in China for almost three years now and creates informative and engaging videos all about living in China and the incredible places you can travel here. Check out her website here.

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1. Did the coronavirus affect your Spring Festival travel plans? How?

No, my work had some extra time off before the break so me and my husband went to Thailand when it was just starting and arrived back in Beijing the day after the Chinese New Year. Our plan was to stay inside that week and work on projects so it didn’t really affect us at all.

2. How has the situation affected your work?

I am a TV anchor for an English Language school. At the moment my work hasn’t been affected too much as we have been working online from home. We weren’t planning on being in the studio for a few weeks anyway so I had some stuff to work on, but in another few weeks it might be a problem as we need to shoot lessons. The rest of my company has been working hard to make a new online product for the offline teachers to teach which is quite impressive.

3. What does your daily life look like right now? How is Beijing?

My daily life is pretty quiet as we’ve been staying at home a lot more and using this time to catch up on our own projects as me and husband have YouTube channel and so we have been trying to make a lot of videos. We’ve had a lot more time to cook and things which has been nice. As we are working from home for a while, we also decided to foster a dog from a local rescue to help out which has certainly kept us busy. To keep safe we have been wearing a mask and washing our hands regularly and not really been around many other people. Trying to go for walks and eat lots of vegetables – there’s not really much else you can do.

Beijing feels like it’s still Spring Festival, some places are open but we haven’t really been anywhere apart from the vegetable shop, but generally it’s a lot quieter. There are still cars on the street, people about, the public transport is working but its just quiet. Everyone is wearing a mask inside and on the streets and there are lots of temperature checks.

4. Where have you been getting information/updates about the situation?

Mainly WeChat groups as people are posting in them a lot with updates and The Beijinger. I’ve tried to avoid Western newspapers and social media as at the beginning I felt like a lot of people were scaremongering and it wasn’t good to panic.

5. What are you looking forward to once the virus has blown over?

I’m looking forward to going out to the pub and for food and to travel around China. I had an accident a few months ago so I haven’t really been able to do much travelling so I’m excited for the weather to improve, my leg to heal, and be able to explore China again.

Pete: Foreign Teacher in Zhuhai, Guangdong

I first met Pete in 2015 when we worked at the same university together. He’s loud, he’s funny, he’s Irish, and he’s been in China more than 6 years. He’s had more severe lockdown situation than other expats I’ve talked to.


1. Did the coronavirus affect your Spring Festival travel plans?

Yeah!! Was planning on traveling and meeting up with some old friends in China…

2. What does your daily life look like right now? How is Zhuhai?

I’m a maths/science teacher. Our school won’t reopen until March but we’ll have classes online. Our town is completely empty, a ghost town. The local supermarket is opened for a few hours each day. and one person from each household is allowed out of our complex every two days – you literally need to sign in and out. There’s been a few confirmed cases around us so everyone is nervous.

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Mervin Lee: Translator in Changsha, Hunan

Mervin Li (Li Maoyuan) is from Shaoyang, Hunan, China and we first met in 2015 when I taught at the University of South China. He graduated in 2019 and now works in Changsha, the capital of the Hunan Province.

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1. Did the coronavirus affect your Spring Festival travel plans?

No,I didn’t have a travel plan. But my plan to spend time with my friends was affected.

2. Where do you work? How has the situation affected your job?

I work in Changsha. Our time to go back to the office has been delayed continuously and my boss decided to reduce the staff. Fortunately,I’m not in the list.

3. Which city are you currently in? How is it?

I’m in Shaoyang now. The city is very quiet and most shops are closed. Most people stay inside. My daily life is quite boring. I reply to work emails sometimes and read books every night. I stay at home to keep safe. and my family sometimes play cards, five-in-a-row, or UNO.

Responses from Other Expats 

I’ve been posting about the coronavirus on my Instagram Stories and received even more responses from people in cities all over China about lockdown restrictions and the current state of their cities. You can check out their responses here.

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Living in China During the Coronavirus

Thanks to all who responded and gave answers about their current situations! Everyone is experiencing different safety measures in their cities, but we all feel united in our support for the people of China.

Please keep China in your thoughts and prayers – there are so many people fighting hard during this coronavirus outbreak and working to provide medical help and supplies and support, especially those in the Hubei Province.

For my own personal experience check out China Coronavirus: What’s It Like For Expats in Beijing?

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