Reader Question: Website & Technology

Asking questions of those who have “been there” is a great way to prepare yourself for the crazy adventure that is moving to China. Even though you can never be completely prepared for such a drastic change, knowing what to expect goes a long way to making the transition much smoother. I was so thankful to have a fellow expat friend who generously fielded numerous questions before our move. It was such a huge help to us, and one of the main reasons I decided to start this blog. I recently received a question from a reader, and I thought I’d share the questions and response in case it helps someone else in a similar situation.

Reader Question:
My family has LOVED all the information we have learned from reading all of your posts. I’m sure we haven’t gotten through everything yet, but we are learning from it. If all goes according to plan we (my husband and I, as well as our 3 kids) will be moving to Shenyang the beginning of 2012. I was hoping that ya’ll could help me with a few questions. For one, I wondered what host site you use for your blog? The one you guys have set up is exactly what we would like to have in place.

Second, how hard has it been to stay connected technology wise? Like I said, we have 3 kids. I have read that there are ways around the government blocks online, but I have read so many positive and negative things now that I’m just confused. It is very important to us to try to keep our technology connections so that our kids don’t feel completely cut off. At this point we don’t even know whether to purchase computers from the US before we leave or China once we get there. We really want to be able to contact family and share all the adventures they are having.

Again, we have really enjoyed reading about all of your experiences (although I gotta say I literally gagged last night reading about the taxi driver chewing on his hack!!! I already know that the first time I hear that sound and realize what it is….I will most likely puke! Oh well, that will just be another story to share, lol) We look forward to any future posts and any information you guys can share with us.

Happy day,
H and family

Website: I use Dreamhost*. I’ve had a website for several years now and have tried several hosts, but I really like Dreamhost. Their interface is pretty simple and they are optimized for WordPress. I use WordPress for my blog (and my business sites, as well.) and it is DEFINITELY the way to go. You can set up a free blog account, but it’s really better to set up a self hosted one because the other is blocked by the China firewall and you’ll have to post through a VPN. The other will run less than $10 a month so it’s pretty cheap anyway.

I’m not sure how much you know about setting up websites, but here’s a quick crash course. Feel free to ask away if you have any questions…

You can use the Shared server option with Dreamhost for $8.95 per month and it includes your domain name registration (your blog “address”, i.e. It will also include email addresses that end in your domain name (like @[] ).

They have a one click WordPress installer and when you get it set up, you’re ready to go. It really is that simple. The WordPress interface is robust, but pretty easy to figure out I think. Your new blog will actually look just like mine straight out of the gate because i just have the default WordPress template installed right now. But it’s super easy to change if you want a different look too!

If you have any trouble getting it set up, let me know. I can even walk you through it if you need.

Question #2:Technology Technology is my total lifesaver here! I still feel totally connected to everyone back home. Actually I talk to a lot of them more often that I did when I lived in Greenville. Skype and Facebook are both awesome. The only issue is really the time difference, but you find times that work and it ends up not being so bad.

Computer: I would suggest buying one in the States before you come. You can find plenty of them, but they are the same price or a little more expensive and wouldn’t come with any kind of warranty. I would also suggest getting some kind of laptop. I was always a desktop fan before this move, but with all the traveling we do, it’s nice to be able to bring it with. Especially when trying to keep up with a blog. Plus we watch all of our tv via Netflix or Hulu through our laptop connected to the TV. Don’t know if you are “Apple” fans or not, but definitely get any of those products before you come. They run anywhere from a quarter to double the price here! (Actually you could make some money if you brought a few extras!) I got the 13″ Macbook Pro just before we left and LOVE it!

Smartphone: I have the iPhone 4 and I would DEFINITELY suggest getting some kind of smartphone. Some expats wouldn’t necessarily agree that you “need” one, but that little gadget has saved my hiney more than once when I’m out and need directions or need a quick translator. You could even get an older version, just make sure it takes a SIM card. It doesn’t even have to be jailbroken or unlocked… a quick trip to the “Apple” (picture me doing hand quotes when I say Apple here) store here will fix it up. (Except maybe the newest one they just came out with. May have problems unlocking that one.) I think it’s totally worth it considering my bill is less than $15 US per month for more data than I use, texting and voice. Especially if you get a used one on Ebay for cheap. If you aren’t an Apple junkie like me, a couple of my friends also have the htc droid and love it. Just buy one before you come though because phones are expensive here. Even a crap phone that you’d get free in the States will cost you nearly $100 here.

Virtual Private Network (VPN): The only thing you’ll need to stay connected through the China firewall is a VPN. There are several options, both free and paid if you do a little searching. We use a paid service that runs $69.99 a year. It includes a connection for both your computer and also a PPTP connection you can use on your phone, iPad, or whatever. Totally worth every penny. Email me if you’d like recommendations.

E-Reader: If you’re a big reader, I’d highly suggest getting a Kindle. You won’t find English books here for the most part, and they are great for traveling too. A lot of expats also swear by their iPads and they are seriously sweet but for purely reading I’ll swear by the Kindle.

If you can’t tell, I’m a total gadget junkie! But they definitely make my life here much easier!

Here’s an extended list of things I think you should pack when you move.

If you have a question about moving to China, just send me an email or leave a comment below. I can’t promise I know the answer, but I’ll do my best to offer advice when I can.

*I am a Dreamhost affiliate. I do use their service for my site and am very happy with it. I’d recommend them even if I didn’t get a dime. I appreciate you using this link to set up your account, or listing me as the referrer [kjziska(a)gmail(dot)com] if you decide to use them.*

**The product links here are Amazon affiliate links. If Country Fried Egg Roll has been useful to you, you can pay it back by purchasing through these links. Totally not necessary, but I appreciate it. Thanks in advance!**


7 thoughts on “Reader Question: Website & Technology

    • Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions you can’t find here… I’m always looking for new things to cover!

  1. First thank you for doing this blog! I may be accepting an assignment in China and you have been extremely helpful for me and my wife. I am an apple junkie myself could you provide a little more detail as to being able to use the iPhone (I have the 4S) in china also your data plan I.e. with whom and does include voice plan. I also have an iPad will it work there and I guess since you recommend buying a laptop before coming the Mac’s purchased in the states will work there. Will apple tv work there? Sorry for rattling off so many questions. Thanks again

    • You can definitely use all your apple products here. Your iPhone will need to be an AT&T version or one that takes a SIM card and is unlocked. You’ll just replace your US SIM with a China provider when you get here. I use Unicom and my “plan” is around $15USD per month. You can also buy a SIM to use in your iPad if you have the 3G version. I think it’s best to purchase your Apple products in the States because not only are they cheaper there, it is often difficult to tell if you are getting a genuine Apple product here or a fake, even if you pay a high price for it.

  2. I am LOVING your blog! Immensely more helpful than any site or blog I’ve looked into. My husband and I are moving to Yantai, China this August to teach at an International School. We are both from Georgia & I am already feeling a bit overwhelmed! Technology wise we have been getting the run-around from service providers here. I’ve been told there is no way to access facebook and that our cell phone will be useless because it will be crazy expensive. After reading your blog I see that with Dreamhost I will be able to log on to facebook (thank the Lord!). Is there any advice or recommendations you can give me for cell phone usage? Is it really, really expensive to call home? Thank you SO much!!

  3. Hi there,

    I love your blog, thanks for sharing it!

    I had a question that you touched on with your technology post, but hoped you could dig a bit deeper on the subject of VPNs.

    - Do you find that the paid ones are always available? Or can access be spotty?
    - Are you able to stream video from Hulu, or Netflix etc. smoothly?
    - You mentioned being from Clemson, can you get to US News articles to follow the Tigers?
    - Are there problems with VPN’s like are the a hassle to use, or you can’t use them with skype or VOIP calls, or for local info, or other issues?
    - Lastly, are there higher qualities of VPN’s that cost more but would work better?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Also, any particular sites you recommend for expat forums? I see a bunch but they seem poorly run or attended?

    Thanks again so much!


    • Hi, thanks for stopping by. Hope you find something useful!

      Occasionally, you’ll run in to issues with speed, but we’ve had very few problems with witopia. And their customer service is so great that if you do have problems, they’ll have you back up again in no time. I would definitely say it is worth it to get a paid service and I prefer the software versions above the PPTP connections (although pptp is what you’ll use for your phone and iPad). They have bundles that come with both options and they are definitely worth it. the $5 per month plus your Internet service here is less than you were paying back home for service only, I am sure!

      I use the software version of a VPN on my computer and keep it connected pretty much anytime I’m online. You can access any site when it is connected. Skype works for me either way although I usually have VPN on so thats how I normally chat. We are able to stream Hulu and Netflix, but that depends on your Internet service provider’s speed. We have friends here in a different complex who are unable to stream. It also depends on the time of day when you are trying to use it also. 7pm on weekdays… It can get very slow.

      I know that expatacular has some forums, but I’ve never really followed them. I’m sure some of the bigger cities have their own forums but I don’t really know of any. Sorry I can’t help more with that one!