I saw a headline today about a part-human, part-monkey combo created by scientists in China. Normally, this sort of thing would draw my interest. I’m really curious about the future of genetic engineering. But, I just got mad because I spent hours trying to set up my stupid WeChat app so I can pay for stuff like bananas, a favorite snack of humans and monkeys alike. There’s a relatively new policy for WeChat users that essentially prevents foreigners from using the wallet function. For those of you that aren’t familiar with today’s China, not being able to pay for things with your phone basically means you’re going to starve and die while everyone points and laughs at you.
All the typical social media platforms are blocked in China, so everyone residing within the confines of the “Great Firewall” use WeChat. It does all the stuff that Facebook and Instagram do, and it has a neat wallet function. You simply link your Chinese bank card and “top up” your WeChat Wallet. It’s like PayPal but there’s no waiting for the money to appear in your wallet. If you’re cool, you just whip out your phone to pay for your bananas. Bananas are the main thing I buy in China. Anyway, the key to making the wallet work is to have a Chinese bank account. I do not have one because I’m not working and don’t have my residence permit yet. This makes things incredibly difficult. The traditional taxi has almost been eradicated by the Chinese version of Uber called DiDi. You pay for a DiDi by linking your DiDi to your WeChat Wallet. Thus, taxis are not an option for me. The other day, I ordered about a $1.50 worth of dumplings from a stand and the lady didn’t have cash on hand for change. I tried to order in McDonalds and ran into a similar problem. Can you imagine how stupid I felt being an American in McDonalds and being totally clueless about how it even works?
Luckily, I figured out how to get money into my WeChat without having a Chinese bank account. If I open the desktop version of the app, my husband can transfer some yuan to me. This is annoying, but it works. I rode in a DiDi and ordered enough dumplings (through Kangaroo) to feed 12 people today!
Kangaroo Food Delivery
Holy hell this is the dumpling jackpot. You can have anything, I mean anything, delivered to you by a dude on a scooter in under 30 minutes. You just have to figure out how to navigate the Chinese app Kangaroo. It is worth the trouble! Once you have your location entered and your WeChat linked, you can just sit on your butt and watch the dumplings roll in.
Of course, it’s not as easy as “just figuring it out.” When we first downloaded the app, the Chinese was overwhelming. My husband resorted to putting a taco emoji into the search bar hoping that someone would just magically bring him tacos. It didn’t work. 🌮 You will have to use a translation app or find a Chinese person to get you set up. This could take hours, days, or even months.
Kangaroo also allows you to order groceries, coffee, and other items found in local stores. It’s super cheap by American standards, and I freaking love it.
TaoBao (Chinese Amazon)
We have been in China for nearly two weeks now and are getting ready to move into our apartment tomorrow. The apartment is completely unfurnished (which is not typical here) so we are in need of a bed or at least a mattress to sleep on while we get the place set up. I’m part of a group WeChat led by some veterans of Kunshan living for foreigners new to this particular part of Kunshan. I thought this would be a reasonable place to ask if anyone knew of a furniture store where I could buy a bed. The answer I got was just “TaoBao.” Let me show you what TaoBao looks like so you can understand the rage I felt at this one-word response.
Thanks for your help, buttwipe. It’s one thing to mess around with Kangaroo because you risk losing 10-20 yuan and if your stuff doesn’t show, you can just go get food like a regular human. Working on a tight timeline of trying to move into an apartment with a baby while your husband works all day in a country where you aren’t even adjusted to the time difference is not the situation you want to be in when you try and tackle this TaoBao mess. Nonetheless, there are no real furniture stores here. Just labs full of Chinese scientists trying to bring Planet of the Apes to life. So, I tried to order a bed for our apartment using TaoBao. Because my WeChat Wallet was not working at the time, I tried to link my US Visa credit card. My bank blocked this and sent me a notice about suspected fraud. After I cleared that up, I tried again the next day. I got the address of my apartment in Chinese from our real estate agent and copied it into TaoBao. I actually can read some Chinese, so that paired with Google Translate allowed me to navigate the app with some degree of certainty. I did manage to find a bed, choose the size, color, mattress, and end table options, then order it! But then a chat window opened and the merchant wanted to confirm all these details that took me about two hours to figure out. It’s one thing to click buttons with options, but it’s a whole different monster to type out those options and my address in characters. I did it while my baby tugged at my pants and cried the whole time. The merchant said the package would not be delivered to our door but rather to the bottom of the building. Uh, the apartment complex is huge. This means the package will be placed somewhere within a 1km radius of where we live and we get to go on a super fun scavenger hunt in 100 degree heat with a baby! Additionally, the bed was supposed to be delivered within 48 hours of ordering. That would’ve been 10am today. I have not received anything yet. I made my landlord drag me and my baby to all the places where huge packages could be dropped and there was nothing. We will be spending a few extra nights in this hotel now. When I got back to the hotel after my package delivery center hunt, I asked one of the wonderfully sweet girls that works the front desk to confirm that I actually had completed the order on TaoBao. She told me (through a translation app) that it is still in transit.
So, no, TaoBao is not easy, you stinking durian. I’m sure I will enjoy it once we are settled here, but it would just be nice if I could go to a store, see what I want to buy, then pay for it with cash.
What You Need to Know About Chinese Apps
They are easy if you’re Chinese or have lived here for a long time already. They are completely necessary to get what you need, and everyone around you will assume that you either already know how to use them or that you are a lost cause idiot. Be prepared!