Tag Archive for (co)Working in China

Survival Kit in China: Useful Apps to Download Now

This list is brought to you by ShenzhenParty: http://www.shenzhenparty.com/news/shenzhen/570222-40-helpful-apps-would-make-your-life-shenzhen-much-easier


WeChat provides multimedia communication with text messaging, hold-to-talk voice messaging, broadcast (one-to-many) messaging, photo/video sharing, location sharing, and contact information exchange. WeChat supports social networking via shared streaming content feeds where you can share photos, texts and photos, and location-based social plug-ins (“Shake”, “Look Around”, and “Drift Bottle”) to chat with and connect with local and international WeChat users. Wechat is one of the most widely used social network app in China, it is free, and you can also sign up for WeChat using your phone number or QQ ID and password. (QQ is another social network App developed by Tencent) In Hong Kong, What’s app is more popular than WeChat.

Download: iOSAndroid


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Instagram is fast and fun way to share your life with friends and family. Take a picture or video, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram. You can also share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and more. It’s a free app.

Download: iOS | Android Market


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With one billion registered users in 80 countries, QQ is one of the most popular communication apps in China. Most people use WeChat on their phones and QQ on the web. It is free and it supports video calls, voice chats, and rich texting. With the built-in translator you can translate chats. You can also share photos and videos with friends.

Download: iOS | Android Market


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Sina Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website. It’s a free app and it is one of the most popular sites in China, in use by well over 30% of Internet users, with a market penetration similar to the United States’ Twitter. Sina Weibo implements many features from Twitter. Users may post with a 140-characters limit, mention or talk to other people using “@UserName” format, add hashtags with “#HashName#” format, follow other people to make his/her posts appear in users’ own timeline, re-post with “//@UserName” similar to Twitter’s retweet function “RT @UserName”, put a post into the favourite list, verify the account if the user is a celebrity. It comes in both English and simplified Chinese, although most posts are in Chinese.

Download: iOS | Android Market


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Language learning/Dictionary


Chinese-English and English-Chinese dictionary with Chinese handwriting recognition, pinyin translation, audio pronunciation, personalized vocab lists, and conversation banks. You can also enhance your language skills with the memorization test feature. The Nciku Hi! feature allows you to make friends with other users and potentially native Chinese speakers.

Download: iOS | Android

Google Translate

With more 80 languages, Google Translate allows you to: Listen to your translations spoken aloud; Directly translate speech and handwriting; Star your favorite translations for quick access even when you’re offline; View dictionary results for single words or phrases. Of course the app is free!

Download: iOS | Android


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“Pleco is probably the best tool you can get to work on your chinese. Download the Flashcard Add-on to create your own vocabulary list and test yourself. They also have a paying optical-reader add-on where you can use your phone camera and scan on-the-go chinese text and get instant translation. It’s perhaps a bit geeky as you need to learn a bit how to set it up to your needs but you can do pretty much everything with this app.”–Yann Le Berre, Pleco user

Software offers world-class Chinese dictionary, flashcard, and document reader software for smartphones and tablets. Pleco supports OCR, which means that you can take a photo of a chinese word and the system will recognize the image and look it up for you. That way you can learn Chinese on the go. Pleco also supports handwriting, audio, and document reading. Moreover, the app is Mainland/Hong Kong/Taiwan friendly, meaning it supports both simplified and traditional chinese; it also recognizes cantonese. The app is free but in-App features such as full-screen handwriting and flashcards system charge extra.

Download: iOS | Androind


Photographs from: http://www.pleco.com/

Mental Case

Mental Case is basically a digital flashcard set that helps you learn and keep track of simple tasks. It’s designed for iPhone and iPads. You can enter what you want to study on the flashcard in the forms of texts, audio, even a short video. It can be very helpful when it comes to learning a language because you can learn the words as well as their pronunciations. The app supports two-way translation, in the case of learning Chinese, it means that you can use English as a prompt to study Chinese words, or Chinese as a prompt to see if you remember the English translation. You can use your mental case sets between devices by syncing them to iCloud. Mental Case also has free access to Flashcardexchange.com and Quizlet.com, where you can download whole sets of flashcard. The App charges $4.99 on iTunes Store.

iOS download

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Didi Dache

With this app you can call a taxi in more than 300 major cities in China. Just type in or record your location, and the taxi drivers close to you will come and pick you up. You can choose to pay a fee of 5rmb, 10rmb or 20rmb so that you get a better chance of getting a cab. Sometimes you might have trouble getting a cab if you don’t pay that fee. Because taxi drivers get paid an extra fee, it’s generally easier for you to get cab if you use this app. If you pay through wechat payment, you’ll get a 3rmb return every time you take a taxi. This app also allows you to reserve rides in another city. The app only has Chinese version, but it’s not hard for non-Chinese speakers to learn how to use it.

Download: iOS | Android


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Uber offers on-demand private ride services you can order on your smartphone. Type in your name and a private car will come pick you up and take you to your destination, a fee will be charged to your credit card account. It’s a more luxurious and privatized experience compared to other types of transportation. Uber was launched in Shenzhen earlier this year and recently in Hong Kong, so the rides might not be very widespread in these two cities yet.

Downloads: iOS | Android

Explore Metro

This is a metro map that’s straightforward and accessible offline. It also shows street maps near every exit. You can use the route planning features to find the most efficient route of your trip. The app is free and it’s in English.

Download: iOS | Android

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TripAdvisor is a site where users all over the world review on their travel-related experiences including flights, hotels and attractions. In Shenzhen TripAdvisor is good for getting detailed information about top hotels and few of the major attractions like Window of the World. But when it comes to minor attractions and resorts there are few comments in English. For new attractions and hotels the reviews are updated relatively slower. You can still get basic information from the introduction section though. TripAdvisor is helpful for people living in Shenzhen who are planning visits to southeast Asian countries. Download: iOS | Android


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Agoda is Asia’s global hotel booking app with access to more than 357,000 hotels worldwide. You can get comprehensive information about hotels in Shenzhen including customer reviews, and filter through hotels by hotel types and your estimated check-in dates. People in Shenzhen also use this app to book hotels in other Asian countries especially those in Southeast Asia.

Download: iOS | Android


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Asia Miles App

If you become a member of Asia Miles, you can earn “miles”–flight related credits every step of the way of your trip. Asia Miles is partner with 25 airline companies, 300 restaurant and numerous other industries covering many different categories including transportation, retails and finance. Simply open the app and locate Asia Miles’ partners near you, if you fly with airlines, dine at restaurants and shop at stores that partner with Asia Miles, credits will be added to your account and once you have enough miles you can exchange your accumulated miles with gifts like an mp3 player, or a round-trip flight from Hong Kong to Vegas, depending on the amount of miles you earned. With Asia Miles you can also find out about special offers of partner businesses. Some of Asia Miles’ partners that apply to Shenzhen are: Cathay Pacific Airlines, Intercontinental hotel, Hilton hotel, HSBC Bank, China Merchant Bank, Langham Hotel, 360° Bar, Restaurant & Lounge and Café Zen.

Download: iOS | Android


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Flight Status

This is a worldwide flight tracking app which covers 4300+ Airports and 1200+ Airlines including Hong Kong international Airport. You can track flights with your flight number, the airport or the route. The app provides comprehensive information every step of your journey: the estimated departure/landing time, airport information (car rentals, hotels nearby, and restaurants and coffee shops inside airports), and notifications about delays and cancellations. You can even check the schedule a year ahead with the flight numbers. This app costs 4.99USD and it’s for iPhones and iPads only.

Downloads: iOS


Baidu Map

Baidu Map is the free all-in-one map app you can’t live without in China. It has all the basic functions of any map app: locating your place, showing you the destination with your distance to it and the route with three transportation options, walking, public transportation and driving. The advantages it has over Google map is that it workers faster and more accurate in China. Although it only comes in simplified Chinese, pinyin generally works fine with this app for those of you who don’t know Chinese. The new version records the location of your home and work, and tells you how busy the traffic is around the area of these locations. Check the bus schedules in your area, find out the traffic situation along each route, and pick the most efficient route for yourself. One of the best features of Baidu Map is the turn-by-turn directions for walking and driving. As you walk or drive the map simultaneously updates the traffic around your area. Baidu Map also have databases for popular tourist attractions in China in which you can check out the ticket prices, routes, and recommended specialties in these attractions. You can find information about hotels, restaurants and even check the weather on this app.

Download: iOS | Android

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Financial Management


This app provides the most up-to-date currency exchange rates for over 180 countries. Simply select the currency type you have and type in the amount you want to exchange and you’ll get the result of the equivalent amount in another currency. It costs $0.99.

Download: iOS | Android

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HSBC China Apple App

HSBC is a helpful free app for banking on-the-go. Available for iPhone and iPads, it allows you to make deposits, view recent transactions and check your account balances. To use the app, you have to register to be a Personal Internet Banking customer on the HSBC website. HSBC China Apple App features currency exchange information, you can check the most up-dated RMB against other currencies exchange rate, as well as Chinese deposit rates. With the iPhone app you can locate the closest ATM machines to you, including their operating hours and services availability. For people who have multiple international accounts, it’s simple to switch between them with this app.

Download: iOS


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Alipay Wallet

Alipay is the Chinese equivalent to Paypal. The transaction process of Alipay is the same as Paypal: the vendors don’t get the payment until customers received their goods and shoppers can pay with just one click. Most users use it when online shopping online on sites like Taobao, Tmall or Dangdang. With the phone app they can track their orders and purchase history. Chinese online shopping sites usually don’t support Paypal so setting up Alipay will really make online shopping in China a breeze. Users can use Alipay Wallet to pay for all kids of services such as water bills, phone minutes, credit card bills and even plane tickets. Alipay doesn’t have an English version yet, but you can easily learn how to set up an Alipay account.

Download: iOS | Android

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Do yourself a favor and download this app to survive the questionable air quality in China. The app shows you the color-coded Air Index Quality as well as daily advices on whether it’s reasonable to go out under the current weather condition. You not only get the weather forecast for three days, but also the “feels like” temperature. You can also change between Fahrenheit and Celsius. The app is only for iPhone and iPads and it’s free.

Downloads: iOS

Time and Calendar Management


A multi-functional reminder and calendar app designed for iPhone that has time alert and geo-fence features, reminding you the time and location of your input event. The app recognises natural languages–as you input your event, for example, “Julia’s Birthday Party at Westin Hotel on Sunday 7:30 pm”, the app will automatically set “Westin Hotel” as the location and 7:30 as the time. It also recognises days of the week, holidays and repeating events. The app also supports app control. If you invited more people to an event, you can email, call or message the invitees with one tap. Fantastical will also remind you of your friends’ birthdays, and you can choose which social network to send them a birthday wish with. The app costs $5.99.

Download: iOS


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An iPhone app that saves you the hassle of having to deal with time differences when you’re trying to schedule an international conference. Initially the app displays your current city and shows you whether the current time is a good time to hold a conference or not, as you add more international locations, the app will suggest a time that’s best for all the locations chosen. Once the time is chosen, you can tap save and the app will remind you when your scheduled time comes. The app costs $1.99.

Download: iOS


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Check what’s in theatre, buy movie tickets and choose seats with this app. Although it’s only in Chinese, it’s pretty straight-forward and convenient. You can pay with Alipay or your online banking account. Based on your location, the app will suggest the theatre with the best deal. The app also has a database of movie top lists, movie information and actor profiles. You can read movie reviews from other users to decide whether you want to watch a movie or not.

Download: iOS | Android


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Douban FM

Douban FM is your second music resort since Spotify and Pandora are not accessible in China. It’s known for recommending the music based on the user’s listening behaviours–the radios they choose to listen to, the songs they “liked” and the songs they skipped. If you hit “heart” on a song, the app saves that to your “hearted” Herz and you can listen to them offline. Douban is known for its originality and intellectual hipster vibe, so not only are their categorical radios differentiated based on regions and genres, you will also find radios named “Green Tea with a touch of bitter” and “Easy”. Douban is extremely original music-friendly, expect to hear a lot of fresh new music, in case you’re wondering whether you will be listening to the same pop song you’ve already listened to on the radio for nine million times.

Download: iOS | Android

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The Chinese equivalent of Youku, except perhaps better. You can find whole seasons of shows for free here. You will be able to find cooking and fitness tutorial in English too. Sometimes you have pay to watch certain movies or shows, and you cannot skip apps before videos unless you pay for a membership. In general, Youku should be your go-to video website if you can’t access Youtube in China. The iPad app has an HD version. Besides Youku, Tudou is another massive video website popular in China.

Downloads: iOS | Android

Downloads for TudouiOS | Android

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The Chinese equivalent to Yelp!, Dianping is like a hodgepodge of entertainment information provided by your fellow restaurant diners, hotel customers and retail store customers. You can find anything from rankings of local restaurants based on customer reviews, to qualities of nearby karaoke boxes. This app is not just a review dictionary, because you can also find all kinds of deals and coupons on this site for restaurants and hotels. Dianping also offers groupon for you and your fellow diners/customers everyday. The app is only in Chinese but you can still use it by narrowing the distance and the cuisine type you like. The app is free.

Download: iOS | Android

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Taobao is essentially the Chinese Ebay. The perks of online shopping especially in China is the extremely low price. It has all the features that your typical online shopping sites would have, scrolling through items, saving items in shopping carts, making transactions with Alipay (Chinese version of Paypal), tracking and returning items. If you have immediate questions about the products, you can talk to the vendors online. The mobile app doesn’t have English version, but it should be easy to navigate. Sometimes the app can be a little slow. It’s a free app.

Download: iOS | Android

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The online grocery shopping app that enables you to buy groceries without leaving the house. The app displays virtual stores with items on the shelves and users can locate the stores closest to them, shop for items, make payments and arrange delivery methods. One problem with the app is that it asks to access a lot of information on your phone. The app also doesn’t have an English version but it should be easy to navigate.

Download: iOS | Android


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This online shopping site was initially popular for selling electronic devices. Now it sells groceries too. It also recently launched ebook. The site is known for its fast delivery. The mobile app is not as convenient as the website.

Downloads: iOS | Android

Amazon China

Amazon China is about as effective as other shopping sites in China. The delivery is fast too. You can scan the barcodes of items to check their price and availability.

Downloads: iOS



South China Morning Post is a Hong Kong based English newspaper. The mobile version is designed for iPhones and iPads and has features of breaking news alert notification, filter by most read articles and photo/article sharing on social media. The news focuses on Hong Kong, China and Asia so you can always be updated about what’s going on near you. The mobile version requires subscriptions of choices of one month or one year. Payment will be charged to your iTunes Store credit card.

Download: iOS

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Douban Tong Cheng

The mobile app tells you about all the theatrical plays, movie showings, concerts and exhibitions that’s going on in your city. If you’re an artistic soul like myself, you definitely don’t want to miss out on this app, even if it’s only in Chinese. Once you see an event that you’re interested in, you can click “interested” and the app will remind you when the event date gets near. With this app you can also manage your tickets to this event, the app supports Passbook too.

Download: iOS | Android


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CNN keeps you connect with global news wherever you are. With breaking news alert and video streaming features, you’ll sure be on top of what’s going on around the globe. You can contribute your stories using CNN iReport by uploading videos, photos or articles. The app is free.

Downloads: iOS | Android

Coworking in Shenzhen

I’ve now been in Shenzhen for over a month and I feel like I’ve explored what’s out there in regards to coworking spaces. I live in Shekou, which means traveling to Luohu or Futien for a day of work is a bit of a waste of my precious time. Nevertheless, I’ll try to review the coworking situation throughout the city.

As you may have noticed, I couldn’t quite populate this blog by reviewing strictly legit coworking spaces across Asia. Sometimes I end up at Starbucks or other cafes and it’s almost just as good.

Shenzhen being heavily hardware kind of place, hacker and maker spaces (e.g. http://www.chaihuo.org/) are more common than plain old spots for digital nomads like me. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t kick me out of the hardware focused hacker space, so I should suck it up an go explore.

For now I’ve been working from:

1. Starbucks. Who can blame me? It’s the only place with affordable good coffee and OK internet. Although sometimes vpn is being blocked.

2. Emily’s at @ecool (Haichang street) and Emily’s at Nanhai Rose Garden on Wanghai & Gongyan South road.

The internet always delivers (whopping 14mbps download and disappointing 0.39mbps upload speed). There are plenty of power plugs, they even provide you an extension chord if needed.

Coffee is ok and sets you back no more than RMB22-30. There is also a myriad of options for lunch and dinner.

3. Beta cafe in Futien (Lianhuacun, blue line). I went there for the StartupGrind event and found out it’s a good place to work from and throw events at. Despite a bit of a trek to find it (it’s located in a flower market), it seems to be the closest thing to a coworking space.

Next, I’ll be checking out 3w Coffee Startup Cafe at the High Tech park.


Coworking in Hong Kong: The Hive

Made it to Hong Kong! In case some of you coworkers happen to be on a visa run or any other adventure in Hong Kong, don’t miss out on The Hive.

Although a day hot desking will set you back HKD300 ($40) and a month- HKD 4500 ($580), it’s worth it. Free wifi is so hard to find in HK, and even the one you find, it’s not that great.

I was welcomed by a super nice receptionist from Poland, who showed me around. They have 2 floors of hot desks and 1 floor of private offices, a sun terrace, meeting rooms, free coffee and tea, 24h access, storage locker and post boxes, which can serve as your “address” for setting up a HK company. Not a bad deal!

So, why else did I like it, despite the fact that they didn’t kick me out like the GOOD lab, where they told me to apply online to be able to hot desk! After going all the way to Kowloon, I had to go back and look for a coffee place to save the day…

Ok so back to the Hive. They also have networking events, where you can socialize with your “coworkers” and new people. The people working there seem nice and up to something- I would love to attend one of their events and hear what they’re actually up to!

It’s quiet, comfortable, good internet, nice view, easily accessible from Wan Chai MRT. A few nice places to eat at around, and bars to finish off the day.

You will find more places, perhaps suited to your location in this post on Quora:



Terrace the Hive

Terrace at the Hive

Hot desks at the Hive Hong Kong coworking


21F The Phoenix Building,

23 Luard Road Hong Kong Hong Kong




Coworking in Beijing: Coffee around Gulou St

On my first day of working in Beijing I owe thanks to Pugongying coffee place.  We were intending to go to work at Zarah coffee place, but because it was full, we tried right next door and found this cosy quiet little place. Strangely barely anyone there. French music playing. Good coffee (RMB 28). Got to point out the authentic to the hutongs squat toilet by the way, and FYI, only pipi!

Good wifi, good coffee, easy to get to- I’ll be back!

2013-05-31 12.38.10 2013-05-31 12.38.33-1 2013-05-31 13.04.40 2013-05-31 12.37.55

40 Gulou Dongdajie (near Jiaodaokou)



The second spot- Corner coffee
+10 points for the hammock,
+10 points for the rooftop terrace
+10 points for a large cup of coffee (RMB 25)

-5 points for the noise

2013-05-31 15.08.12 2013-05-31 15.08.28

3 Nanxiawazi Hutong


[Update, January 2014 Zarah is closed, for renovation perhaps?]

On the third day, I made it to cafe Zarah. It’s a great place to work at, seems like it from the number of westerners staring at their laptops and sipping coffees. I particularly like this place for the atmosphere and a bar/ standing desk where you can work standing up. I know living in Beijing there are many things killing you, but sitting is killing you too and I like a chance to stand working once in a while. I like it also because it is quiet enough for calls and the internet speed did not cause troubles either.

Other pros of cafe Zarah are the menu- affordable coffee (RMB 18) and German bread sandwiches, for those craving a good western lunch.

It’s a bit hot inside but you can also sit outside to get some “fresh air”.

Zarah 2013-06-03 17.46.57


42 Gulou Dongdajie (near Jiaodaokou)



On the 4th day on Gulou street I find myself in Alba cafe. It’s nice, popular among other western digital nomads and good for working. Delicious coffee that will cost you RMB 20-30, pasta, salads, sandwiches and cocktails on the menu. Major pros- rooftop terrace and long working hours (8am-2am), so good for both early and late birds.

2013-06-04 18.16.36-1


70 Gulou Dongdajie (east of Nanluogu Xiang), Dongcheng District