How to get a China visa if you’ve changed your name

China is famous for its bureaucracy. And when we were looking to move, this highlighted a huge feminist issue with western society. I found that most countries were happy to accept the name on my passport, but China was different. If you’re a woman having issues getting a China visa, maybe my story will help you.

Flash back to 2017. Rainy northeastern England. No skilled job opportunities for people with Polish last names (I had a lot of phone conversations with agencies that went like this: Thanks, but my husband with a PhD actually doesn’t want to work in a warehouse, he’d like to work in his in-demand field, also stop being so surprised I speak English, I was born in South London).

My husband had been offered a job in China, and I’d decided to go along with him. This wasn’t an easy decision because I was finishing my master’s degree and my own career as a writer was taking off exponentially at the time. This was something I didn’t know if I could do in China, because I wouldn’t have a tax identifier (required to earn money from any US company), which was a whole separate saga and which took me to San Francisco the following year to sort it all out.

We went across to the other side of the country to the Chinese Embassy’s visa office in Manchester, which was a day’s expensive travel from where we lived. We had taken all the documents we had been told we would need. Passports, our marriage certificates, and my husband’s qualifications. I was travelling on a spouse visa so wouldn’t need proof of qualification, but I know many women who had the same problem I did with their degree certificates rather than marriage certificate.

We went to the office and took a ticket to wait in the queue. We first were denied our visas because we hadn’t photocopied our visa application forms and they wanted two copies. Then we were sent away. We photocopied our application forms. We took a ticket and queued again.

I was denied my visa this time because our marriage certificate had my maiden name on it and my passport had my married name on it. My husband, because this was a joint application, either had to apply again separately and leave me behind, or we had to find some way of proving I had legally changed my name.

I tried to explain that the marriage certificate should be enough and I pointed to where my old name was and where my new name had come from but they weren’t having any of it.

I actually had done a deed poll when I changed to my married name, because I had double barrelled (put my name then my husband’s name, which is common in Spain and other Latin countries, but not in the UK, so I’d been prepared for all sorts of nonsense), but I didn’t have a copy of the deed poll because no one had ever asked for it before; all the banks, even the passport office, had always accepted my marriage certificate because double-barrelling is actually an acceptable (if unusual) thing to do in the UK after you get married. As long as you take your husband’s name somehow, they don’t care. If you want to really confuse people in the UK, phone the bank and tell them you’ve changed to “Mrs” or “Ms” but that your name is the same as before. Heaven forbid you get used to your identity as a woman.

We didn’t have the time or money to go back across the country to try and dig out this deed poll then return before the office closed, our home was too far away, so we thought we would have to abandon this attempt to get the Chinese visas. We talked about how bad would it be if we separated for the two years and I stayed behind, because I didn’t want to stop him going.

Then, inspiration hit. I found a local newsagent down the road which, despite this being 2017, still had internet access and printing/photocopying for customers to use, and I went online, found an online deed poll, filled in my name and the date we got married, and printed it.

We hurried back to the visa office while the ink was drying. We took a ticket. Waited another 45 minutes to speak to someone. Got to the front of the queue. FINALLY handed over the last document and waited to find out what they would deny the visa for this time.

They approved it.

Relieved, we stepped out into the sun with our Chinese entry visas now glued into our passports. And in that moment, we both looked at each other and with dead certainty said the same thing: This was only the beginning.

As it happened, this was the only time we had a problem like this and this was the hardest piece of bureaucracy the whole time we lived in China. Once we were actually in the country, the visa process worked efficiently.

I did hear of other women having problems where their degree certificates were in their maiden names and their passports were in their married names. Again, I would encourage deed polls to show what went before and what your name is now.

It’s completely rubbish that the situation is like this because only women get stripped of our names, and identities, in western society, for the sake of having a permanent relationship with someone, and we are paying the price here for the patriarchy.

China doesn’t understand this as well as other countries because in China, you don’t change your name when you marry. Your family name as a woman stays the same. You have permanence. You exist as an entity separate from your husband. Whereas in the UK people wonder what’s wrong with you if you don’t take your husband’s name at all. I didn’t especially want to because his name isn’t good and mine was amazing but I felt I had to.

So if you need a visa for China and have changed your name, or if you’re looking to move to China and you’ve changed your name due to marriage, especially if you’ve then divorced and have some documents in both names, I’d suggest making a paper trail to prove it. Get deed polls if you need to, like I did. They are accepted.

Infographic about expats in China: Where they’re from will surprise you.

This infographic shows the number of expats in China, where they are from, what job they do and where they live in China.

This infographic shows the number of expats in China. Even after living in China for two years, I was amazed to find out the majority of expats in China are from South Korea (closely followed by the USA; less surprising).

Why did that surprise me? The two cultures of Chinese and Korean are kept very separate. Almost no Chinese people speak South Korean, and if you mention K-pop, K-beauty or Korean TV shows to young people in China, they scoff and tell you that China is better at all those things (and maybe there’s some chicken-and-egg going on here because the two styles are very, very similar). By contrast, if you don’t look Chinese, most people in China assume you speak English, even if you don’t. I was also surprised about the low percentage of South Americans and South Africans, since I know quite a few of both who live in China.

I was also surprised to find out that most expats in China live along the coastal region (loosely coastal, you still have to travel a couple of hundred miles from the main cities in most of these provinces, but the provinces themselves are the coastal ones). I was surprised that Shaanxi (where Xi’an is) and Sichuan (Chengdu) provinces were not teeming with expats, because these are great places to live and work, and I do know quite a few people who work in these areas.

While I made this infographic, it was less surprising to discover a third of expats living in China work in education, research and translation. China needs highly skilled, degree-educated workers to keep their economy forever growing and moving forward.

Click the infographic to enlarge. Keep scrolling for the graph of countries of origin for expatriates in China.

If you’re thinking of a move to China, follow my blog (right hand menu) to stay updated as I tell you everything I’ve learned about this mysterious and fascinating country in my two years of living there.

And here’s the graph with more of a breakdown of where those expats are all from although this one uses the 2010 data from the Chinese census so new data should be available for 2020 very soon:

pie chart showing country of origin for Chinese expats number of South Koreans in China number of Americans in China number of Indians in China Mama Adventure guide to China infographic

10 things to do in Xi’an, China (and 7 more I wish I’d done)

Xi’an in Shaanxi Province is one of China’s most interesting cities, and a mixing bowl of old-fashioned and modern city life. I’ve been there twice, now, and these are my top 10 things to do in Xi’an! These can be divided into “touristy” things and “local” things, to give you a flavor of some of the more authentic things you can do here.

Some of these are things you can do in other cities in China, too, but if you’re in Xi’an there are excellent versions of some things they have in other parts of China, as well as the big tourist staples such as the walls and drum and bell towers which is probably what you came to the city to see, along with the Terracotta Army.

1. The drum and bell towers

These are a really spectacular sight right in the centre of Xi’an, so really easy to get to. You probably heard all about them already but if not, here’s what you need to know:
Almost 40m high, the bell tower was built in 1384 in the Ming Dynasty and is one of Xi’an’s most recognizable landmarks. It was originally in a different location, but in 1582, the Shaanxi local government ordered it to be taken apart, piece by piece, and rebuilt exactly as it was but in the place where you can find it today. The bell tower contains several Tang dynasty bells as well as the Jingyun bell.

2. The underground walkways

Beneath the bell tower is the biggest underpass I ever saw. It goes between the metro system, the towers, the shopping malls and the roads. During the Boat Festival, it was so busy, they had police officers doing crowd control! It was literally like being carried along in a tide of people.
You can get to them by taking the Xi’an Metro to the bell tower then following the subterranean passageways to your heart’s content.

3. The Terracotta Army Museum

This is not technically in Xi’an, it’s about a 60 minute taxi ride. It made me feel all cultured and historical. The place is absolutely crammed with Chinese tourists who will elbow, shove and barge through you. It’s glorious! Respect the one way system inside the big buildings full of warriors, and don’t get mad at middle-aged Chinese grandmas when they elbow you in the ribs; they do it to everyone.
You can get here by taking a taxi (use the Didi app if you’re living in China or the Uber app if you’re a tourist, or get your hotel to book you a taxi). There is no train here. When you leave, there are a ton of Chinese taxi drivers waiting to give you a ride home, just have your hotel’s address card handy in Mandarin so they know where to drive you.

4. Walk the historic city walls.

I did this walk on my first trip to China and it was excellent and made me feel all historical and cultured.
This is a fun thing to do if you are not pregnant. You will get fantastic views of the city. Give it a miss if you are 6 or more months pregnant because there are serious steps to get onto the walls and breathlessness, loose joints and swollen ankles in 35 degree July heat is not funny.
There is at least one shop selling drinks up there and you can hire bikes to cycle around if walking isn’t your thing. Just be aware there are a LOT of reckless American tourists going around on their bikes shouting and having no consideration for other people. Don’t be that guy.

xi'an walls mama adventure

5. Go past a hospital.

You will see a fascinating slice of local life as you walk past any of the traditional Chinese medicine hospitals. On the footpaths between the hospital and the city walls, elderly people walk around following rituals. I saw some people walking backwards, while others were thumping themselves or clapping. I’m not entirely sure what they were doing but it was an experience. I didn’t take any photos as it seemed inappropriate. This is a pregnancy-friendly activity.

6. See the light show and artistic features at Starry Street mall.

The malls in China are stunning, and Xi’an has some really beautiful ones.
This one has two parts, a long thin section (which is the official Starry Street mall) and across the way, a ginormous mall, much of which is underground. It has this water mist that gets dropped down from the top of the covered walkway and they project patterns onto it with lights. It’s amazing. And there’s a reading corner, some modern art sculptures, and some really good eateries. Well worth a trip if you’re nearby. There’s also a Godiva if you’re peckish for expensive chocolates and there’s a Bread Talk if you want to enjoy authentic Chinese baked goods from a clean, reputable chain store; I recommend the Hello Kitty cake for utter creamy decadence or the donuts for a taste of really good sugary fluffy deliciousness. Pregnancy-friendly especially for those eating for two!

7. Visit the little amusement park for kids

If you have kids, there’s also a mini amusement park outside that mall, in a pedestrianized area. I’m not sure if that was permanent or whether it was only there when we visited the first time, as there’s so much to see and do in Xi’an, we went to a different part of the city for our second visit.

children's play area xi'an china mama adventure

8. Go to one of the many parks.

I especially liked Xi’an Huancheng Park which is a long thin one running north to south alongside the western walls, the Children’s Park, which is near the Xi’an Children’s hospital complex. The Revolution Park, near West 5th Road, one of the main roads in the city centre. The Daming Palace National Heritage Park is also ginormous and well worth a visit.

9. See the terrarium shop at Ocean Towers mall on FengCheng Second Road.

This is really hard to find because it’s not marked properly on Google but in real life it’s the shopping mall next to the Marriott Xi’an North (which is not where it claims to be on Google maps, but is exactly where it claims on Apple maps, another reason to use Apple maps in Xi’an). Oh, my, goodness, if you can find it, you absolutely have to see the terrarium shop, it sells terraria like nothing you have ever seen before. Basically, some artistic masters have created miniature ecosystems complete with rockeries, waterfalls, bonsai trees, plant life and ponds with tiny living fish in them. If I hadn’t been moving away from China four weeks after my last trip to Xi’an, I would have bought one and had it shipped to our apartment in Changzhou for sure! The children’s bookshop on the top floor of this mall is fabulous, too. Pregnancy-friendly activity.

giant fish terrarium xi'an china mama adventure

10. Grab some street food on Muslim Street… maybe.

This is last on my list for very good reason as I have a controversial opinion on it compared to other westerners. Lately, this has become so touristy, and the food hygiene is not good.

Everyone I know who ate there in the past year was stuck on the loo for days, and you cannot readily get Imodium (loperamide) in Xi’An (although they will sell you creosote tablets at most of the traditional Chinese pharmacies… they were sort of effective, but not as good as Imodium).

Avoid eating anything here if you are pregnant or otherwise delicate of digestion. Severe diarrhea can cause miscarriage.

But do go there to soak up the atmosphere and buy cheap non-food souvenirs in the side streets; even if you’re eighty, this area will make you feel like a twenty-year-old backpacker when you walk down the street.

For excellent and authentic modern Chinese dining, choose one of the fantastic restaurants in a shopping mall instead (I 10/10 recommend the eateries in Starry Street mall), which is how all the locals eat. Don’t make the mistake of thinking because the customers at the stalls in Muslim Street are all Chinese, that they are locals. China is a huge, beautiful country with a lot to see, the Chinese year offers a lot of time off for holidays and hardworking Chinese residents love nothing better than a good staycation.

And a few things I wish I’d had time to see:

  1. The Giant Wild Goose Pagoda
  2. Little Goose Pagoda and Gardens
  3. Tang West Market Museum in Datang Xishi (on Xishi Bei Luo, which on Google maps is half-translated to Xishi North Street).
  4. Shaanxi TV tower, because it looks a lot like the Shanghai pearl tower.
  5. Shaanxi History museum beside the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
  6. Tang Paradise Gardens around the corner from the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda.
  7. Qu Jiang Chi Yi Zhi Gong Yuan (aka Quijiang Chi Relic Park), just below Tang Paradise Gardens (see a potential entire travel day you could spend in this area? I got quite bad asthma during my last 3 months in China as I was heavily pregnant and the pollution disagreed with me so I was not up to walking very far and had to miss out on this amazing part of Xi’an on our second visit).

We spent a total of 10 days in Xi’an across two visits, and it wasn’t enough time to even scratch the surface of what this fab city has to offer, and yet we saw very few westerners beyond the main sites, whisked between the big tourist attractions by buses! This is one city that’s crying out for off-the-beaten-track independent exploration adventure travel and like all of China, it’s a very safe city, although some people are very surprised to see westerners walking around because most just go on coach tours and never see the real China! Go there and walk around, taking in the surroundings and seeing what modern Chinese city life is really like.

Have you been to Xi’an? Did you see any of the things on my wish list? Let me know in the comments!

Postcards to my Baby: Shanghai’s Old Town

Dear A.

One day, you’ll see China for yourself and understand why I can’t describe it very well in one postcard. It is a land of opposites, complications, and yet… simplicity.

On one hand, the bureaucracy to do anything at all is intense, and often requires an app which only mostly works in English, until you’re trying to do anything complicated. On the other, in rural areas, life has never been burdened with problems like technology, literacy, money or germ theory. Truly.

The nuances across this vast land are stark. This postcard is of the old quarter of Shanghai. It might not be a quarter. Vendors sell whole fried squid on a stick and tourists line up down the street to buy them. In the narrowest alleys, people hang their washing on the electrical wires and they look like a canopy of multicoloured trees above a rusty rainforest of decay, but no birds venture here. The sky is white with pollution.

What no photo can ever convey is the smell. This area stinks of fermented pig urine. In the distance, skyscrapers loom. The clean, sleek future, eclipsing the murky past. Even during the Mid-Autumn lunar festival, few tourists venture down these side streets, funneled away by mapping apps and official, approved guides.

When you get here, this urban wilderness might be gone; replaced by more skyscrapers filled with things China wants to be known for, instead of what it is. A land leaving its winter, its identity is as changeable as the tide. I hope you will see it in Spring, once the sakura blossoms.

Maybe, if I’m lucky, you will see me in my Springtime, too.

Lots of love,

Mama Adventure

This is part one in a series of postcards I have written to my baby while I was still pregnant, telling them about what we did before they were born.

Part 2 is here.

Everything’s out

So we moved to Northern Ireland where we have been for the past 9 months since leaving China. I’ve been trying to start blogging again since I got back but honestly I didn’t know what to write. I had so many ideas for articles but every time I came to write them I didn’t know where to start. I guess that’s writer’s block.

I have one extra tiny mouth to feed now – a side effect of moving to China was their healthcare was completely different to the UK and we finally got the pregnancy support and monitoring to make having a baby possible, after I was told we could never have a baby by doctors in England.

Today I don’t know why I’ve come back to my blog but finally it feels like the drought is over, the clouds have burst and the words are raining onto the page. I have no idea if anyone is still reading this but that’s okay. I just need to get started with the words again.

Here in Northern Ireland, the shops have entire empty aisles because of panic buying. We have two additional problems here, which are that our heating system is oil-fired, and only works when you fill up a tank with oil. Panic buyers are buying it all and we can’t get a delivery anytime soon and ran out earlier today. And we don’t have mains sewerage, so our waste goes into a septic tank, which… you guessed it, has to be emptied by a man in a lorry. So if civilization stays at home we will literally be swimming in it.

I asked a lady at the supermarket when they were getting more toilet roll delivered and she said she didn’t know. We aren’t getting as many deliveries as usual, here. I suspect they’re being diverted to England because they can charge more money for things over there. I guess I picked a bad week to not buy more last week when we could get it still. I’m sick of seeing stuffed shirts on the TV telling people not to panic buy because “the supply chain is fine”. How stupid are these people to not understand that if you tell people to self isolate with the slightest cough/cold, those people then cannot get to the shops so everyone is buying in advance of having to stay home.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty upbeat in general and I will try and get some proper articles out in the near future. Over the past 3 years, I’ve changed, and so the focus of my blog is changing. I’m no longer really going to write much about beauty products, although I’ll still do that if the mood takes me. There will be articles on travel coming. In my absence I visited most of the countries in Asia. Overall, though, I’m going to focus more on lifestyle stuff. I think the world needs to live first, then make itself up later.

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The K-beauty regime: Is it for you?

The K-beauty regime is such a big deal in East Asia. It’s also popular to a lesser extent in China (you can buy the products but people don’t necessarily use them all, and there’s fewer brands to choose from in China, but there are still a LOT of brands; it’s just a testament to how much of a big deal K-beauty is in Korea that they have the biggest selection of beauty products that I’ve ever seen in my life). One thing to note, though, is that China has its own beauty brands (usually with European-sounding names) and they don’t like to think of themselves as aficionados of K-beauty. In China, the exact same things are pretty much classed as Chinese beauty. 😉

IMG_7213b

There’s been a lot of online articles from western magazines and whatnot which are all like, “Korean women spend two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening on their beauty regime!!!” Honestly? While they sure spend time on it, with VISIBLE results, they also generally work very long hours (much longer than people do in the west) and so I’d say twenty minutes to half an hour, morning and evening, is probably more realistic, certainly on the days when I’ve done a full K-beauty regime. Sheet masks, of course, take 15-20 mins all by themselves, but you don’t do those daily; two to four times a week is more reasonable.

Why do they do it? Well, unlike in the west, K-beauty tends to focus on skincare. Get a good canvas, THEN correct flaws with makeup. It’s a much more natural look, and I really like the whole idea, I mean, depending how long you’ve been reading my blog, even before I came to Asia you may remember that most of my beauty articles were skincare related. Makeup? Eh. When I hit twenty-five, I started to feel like taking care of my skin was WAY more important. #realtalk #confessionsofabeautyblogger some days, I don’t even wear any makeup. Most days, I wear the bare minimum. But I never forget my skincare.

So, the FULL K-beauty routine goes like this (usually… there are some variations depending who you ask and what brands they use), starting from a completely cleansed face (you would use cleanser and whatnot first, if your face was dirty):

Essence goes on first. This is usually the most watery or thinnest consistency of product. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you’re using K-beauty properly, usually it goes from thinnest to thickest consistency of product. 😉 And at the end of the day, it’s no biggie if you get one or two steps back to front. I use this Soybean Firming Essence [light] from Innisfree; it’s about the same price in China as in the US, and I plan to review it at some point.

Serum goes on after essence. I use the Innisfree Soybean Energy Serum which TRAGICALLY you don’t seem to be able to get in America. It’s like my favorite thing so that’s very sad. I do also like the Innisfree Jeju Pomegranate Serum which you ALSO can’t get in the US. Sometimes around now I’ll use a moisture spray, too.

Then, you put on something called “skin” if you want, but I’ve never found one I especially loved and the consistency seems to vary between different ones, too, which makes me feel like I’m just washing off my serum and essence. Some K-beauty people call “skin” “toner” but where the west calls toner something you remove makeup with/clean your face with, K-beauty “toner” seems to mean something that improves the tone of your skin. I’m not sure if they mean color or firmness, but I’ve tried a few and none of them did either for me. I skip this step.

Next comes moisturizer or lotion. Some brands call it one, some call it the other. I would usually use one with an SPF, but if it’s a day when I’m not going outside, I’ll use one with other properties instead. My favorite non-SPF is the Innisfree Green Tea balancing cream. My favorite SPF is the Clio Kill Cover SPF 50 but you can’t get that in the US. My second favorite (better for oily skin as it has a matte finish, so with my normal skin, I use it on top of another moisturizer like the Innisfree one, above) is the Etude House Sunprise SPF32 (the US one is SPF50 and reviews claim it’s better for dry skin so maybe that’s a slightly different product to the one I have).

Now you put on your base (or primer, or veil… some people use veil and base, I personally feel they’re interchangable). I have some nice ones of these, and the K-beauty ones all seem to be good for color-correcting, especially if you have dark circles under your eyes. My favorites are the Etude House baby choux because I wear it on its own for color correction and it’s fabulous (I will review this, too, soon) and the Cle De Peau Correcting Creme Veil which I also wear on its own sometimes, without any other makeup on top. It is a French brand but, like many western cosmetics companies, they have a completely different line of (arguably better) products for the Chinese and Korean market, because they have to compete against homegrown Asian products that are really good. And HOLY MACARONI I had no IDEA how much that Cle De Peau one cost as I got it as a thank-you gift, as part of a big set of Cle De Peau cosmetics from a first-grader’s mom after I taught her daughter English. It’s sooooo good though. If all expensive cosmetics are that good, I can totally see why Kim Kardashian looks so good, even if we ignore the surgery and personal trainer sessions.

After primer, you add either BB cream, cushion, or what-have-you (whatever you use for foundation). I was using the Innisfree cushion but I’ve just ran out, so last week I bought the Clio Kill Professional one. I like cushion makeup (it’s like pressed powder but wet… I can’t explain it), because it’s quick to apply, but when I have time, I prefer BB cream applied with a beauty blender (or a 20-cent Chinese knock-off… $10 for a sponge?? Nope) as it’s more nourishing and I think it looks more natural on my face. I haven’t used western foundation since I got to China because it’s complete garbage compared to the stuff here, and SO bad for my skin. All the redness I’ve had, and which I’ve seen pretty much every western beauty vlogger seems to have before they apply their makeup, has vanished since I stopped using western foundation; I think there’s something badly wrong with it. Unless you have deeply tanned skin, Asian foundations are way better.

After that, you do the rest of your make-up; blush, eyeshadow, lipstick, brows.

Lastly, dust with some finishing powder and you’re good to go. And if you feel dry during the course of the day? Don’t be afraid to mist your face with moisturizing spray in public. Seriously, people do this SO OFTEN at coffee shops in Korea. I just got the LaNeige Water Bank Mist last week and I really love it. It’s so much fun, and quick and easy to use, although I’m lazy and only use it about once a day.

HOWEVER, there’s a huge difference between what I know I *should* do and what I actually do. I feel dowdy just thinking about the fact that some people are doing all of this every day. They will look like Zsa Zsa Gabor when they’re 80, and I’ll look like Sir Ian McKellen. I know I should do all this, but it’s so much effort and when I was working full-time I didn’t have time. Anyway, I tend to go along with how my skin feels, and a lot of the time, I don’t feel like I need to use all of that stuff.

So instead, usually I go:

Essence,

Serum,

Moisturizer/moisturizing suncream. I put all those on my face AND neck, because I feel like my neck needs more love than my body lotion can give it. If I get too much product on my hands, I also rub it into the backs of my hands and I’ve noticed the difference in my hand skin since I started doing that, but I still can’t bring myself to regularly use hand cream, it just isn’t me.

If I feel red or washed out I add one of the choux base veils I mentioned.

Then, unless I’m going out somewhere nice or Youtubing, I usually just sort my brows out, throw on some lipstick (my current favorites are Bobbi Brown or Elizabeth Arden… because I know where I left those) and get on with finding where I left my shoes and whether I have any hair elastics.

Then I am ready to face the day.

I’m a soccer mom waiting to happen.

In Pictures: Shanghai, China

So I went to Shanghai a few weeks ago, during the mid-Autumn festival, and here are some of the pictures:

shanghai old town2
Shanghai Old Town

shanghai old town1

 

Shanghai river bank

spiral escalator before this one in a Shanghai shopping mall
Are these common outside of Europe? I’d never seen a spiral escalator before this one in a Shanghai shopping mall.

Shanghai river bank3
A literal wall of flowers in Shanghai near the river and bund.

Overall, it was a lovely city, but if you weren’t coming to China to see some other things as well (or at least coming to this corner of the world to visit other nearby countries) I’m not sure it’s worth the time and expense to come only to Shanghai from the US or Europe as a tourist. Definitely a lovely place to go if you’re already within a thousand miles or so, though, and the shopping here is fabulous. There are so many markets and shopping malls that you’re sure to find some nice things while you’re here!

Shanghai also has a recently-opened Disneyland. If/when I get the time/opportunity to go there, I will show you what that’s like, too.

In China for the foreseeable

It’s been quiet on this blog for a few weeks because I’ve been hurriedly packing a 3-bedroom house into 2 suitcases, then renovating parts of it so my friends could move in (they’ve taken the rabbits with the house, so don’t worry, the bunnies are safe and happy), getting all the official nonsenses sorted out and generally moving from Britain to Asia.

We arrived into Shanghai the day before yesterday.

The furthest I’d been before now was Rome, Italy. I’ve been as far as Italy three times, but I was starting to wonder if the world ended at the stiletto heel tip of Otranto.

I have also done some significant renovating to this blog. A few categories are gone, now, because those are things I can’t talk about while I’m here. I can’t take comments on them while I’m here either, sorry. It was delete some posts or delete the entire blog. At the same time, I took the opportunity to remove some of the 1-2 sentence posts that were life updates for regular readers. You guys have all read them, and they’re cluttering up my page organization, so they’re gone too. There’s probably more of those that have gone than anything serious. Overall, about 100 posts have disappeared from the site. I’m a little reluctant to do that from an accurate-record-keeping point of view, but it’s for the best from a clearer-blog-layout perspective (and let’s not get my website blocked in the country I’m living in because then I wouldn’t be able to update any more, and so many sites are blocked here).

So far, all I’ve seen of China has been Shanghai airport, which is the biggest airport I’ve ever seen (admittedly I’ve only seen 3 other airports, including the one I left Britain from), and my apartment. There’s been a couple of brief trips to fulfil official requirements but that’s all. I’m hoping there’s a chance to see and do things but my husband’s work started pretty much straight away, and I don’t have any Chinese money (or any way of getting any) or much independence due to our living situation, so the seeing/doing will have to wait a little while.

Also, it is HOT. Like, it’s been 35 degrees (95 Farenheit) this whole time. We have air con in our apartment. On the stairwells, in the bathroom and outdoors, however, it is seriously hot. The heat is so… liquid, like it clings to me and gets inside my body, then I’m exhausted all the time. The day starts and ends around 30 degrees and it just gets hotter. And it’s always sunny. It’s incredible. I’m interested to see what winter is going to be like.

More pertinent to this blog, of course, I am SO GODDAMN EXCITED to be able to buy and try out more Korean, Japanese, and other Asian beauty brands and techniques while I’m here!

International Window Tinting Laws for Cars Driving Around the World

Tinted Windows In Europe and Around the World (updated Feb 2016)

So you’ve worked out how to get petrol when you’re abroad.  Next on your list of vehicle considerations is how to stop light getting into where you’re sleeping.  If you’re thinking of doing a longer term driving expedition, you need to know about the worldwide laws surrounding tinted windows. It’s probably occurred to you that it would be a Very Good Thing if you could sleep in your camper conversion without having passers-by staring into your lovely portable home while you sleep. Other people like the UV protection, and women drivers say they like being able to avoid unwanted attention of men in countries like UAE or Iran.  However, while the EU has passed a decisive law on the matter, individual EU member states have still made their own laws about it. One country has completely outlawed any tint. And then there’s the rest of the world; beyond the EU, in Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine, for example, it’s very difficult to find out what the legalities are for tinted windows. The other complication is that, for the most part, these laws only apply to citizens of the country which made the law, so if you’re passing through, you’ll probably (but not necessarily) be able to get away with it in a UK registered car. Once you’ve stayed in the same country for more than 180 days, it becomes a legal requirement to follow their car maintenance and tax laws, and remember that your car will still have to be fully road-legal for the UK before you drive onto that ferry home, as well.

Here’s a breakdown of the tint laws, ranked by percentage tint.

100% Black tint on all windows – not legal, anywhere. In Britain it was outlawed for front side windows in 2003. It reduces the distance of your visibility and has been shown to increase the chance of an accident (although this could be something to do with the fact that drug dealers etc tend to have tinted windows, and they don’t exactly drive carefully, so perhaps they should be cracking down on drug dealers, not tinted windows).

Rear Windows:

100% black tint on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B post) – UK, Germany (must have a manufacturing approval number at least once on each window, and you must carry a document explaining who did the tint and with the same approval number on it), Spain (same paperwork as for Germany), Belgium (but must be certified by the Glass Institute and if you’re putting any tint on rear window, you must have two wing mirrors), France (providing it doesn’t deform or reduce visibility, and has been certified), Czech Republic (but must be certified), Italy (must be certified), Russia, Spain (but film must be approved for use in Spain and certified), Poland (same as for Spain).  From people’s experience, lots of travellers found it impossible to get tinting film that was approved for either Spain or Poland, because they haven’t actually approved any that are reasonably available to buy at the time of writing.

80% tint or 20% VLT (visible light transmission) on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B-post) – Austria (and 20% tint (80% VLT) on front windows),

65% tint or 35% VLT – Australia (all windows)

60% tint or 40% VLT on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B-post) – Denmark.

30% tint or 70% VLT on rear window and rear-side windows (after the B-post) – Finland, Hungary.

Front Windows:

25% tint – 75% VLT – on front windows and front windscreen: UK, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Russia,

30% tint – 70% VLT – on front windows and front windscreen: Belgium, Malta, United Arab Emirates,

No tint whatsoever on front windows or front side windows forward of B-pillar: Italy, France (you’re allowed a low tint on sides but nothing on front), Spain,

65% tint – 35% VLT – Australia (all windows).

Total Tint Ban:

0% Tint – all windows must be 100% transparent – Portugal, Belarus, Libya, Kuwait, Bolivia, Iraq, Kenya, Pakistan. Almost all of these are recent law changes and are due to violence and the ongoing threat of terrorism. Except Portugal. They’re just being silly for such a hot country. Egypt and Cyprus – unless it’s the actual glass rather than a tinted film. Tinted glass appears to be fine at any transparency in Cyprus and Egypt, but tinted film is totally banned.

Unusual Exceptions:

Greece – they state that all passengers and driver must be visible at all times, so some tint is probably OK but dark tints would not be. I would be a bit concerned about taking a tinted vehicle to Greece because they’re not very specific.

Tunisia – they say tints are allowed but should not be so heavily tinted that it is not possible to see into the car from outside, but they don’t specify a percentage.

Tajikistan – no tinting at all unless you buy a tinting “licence” to own tinted windows – at about $500 per vehicle.

India – total tint ban for film, but if it’s come from the manufacturer, it can be 30% tinted – so 70% VLT – in front and rear windows, and 50% tinted on the side windows.

America – state vs federal law in the USA, and a similar thing in Canada, appears to over-complicate the tinting requirements depending on which state you are in. This helpful article explains it all (near the bottom): http://www.ritrama.com/ritrama/userfiles/file/prodotti/Car_Window_Tinting_Laws.pdf

Turkmenistan – Window tints are totally illegal, but Turkmenistan deserved a separate entry because the following are also illegal: 2 door cars, engines over 3 litres, cars older than 5 years of age, black coloured cars are also banned and so are any kind of sports cars.  Source here (about halfway down the article): https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-strange-things-banned-in-countries

Notable lack of information:

There was no information despite hours of detailed searches for the following countries: Romania, Morocco, Mongolia, Iran, China – apparently some tints are illegal in China, but there’s no specifics (see the only reference I could find)

Tanzania – taxis and buses should not have tinted windows but there’s a distinct lack of information regarding the legality of private vehicles.

Got any inside info on countries I could add to this article?  Let me know in the comments!

References:

France: http://www.connexionfrance.com/Tinted-car-windows-ban-Pechenard-90kph-80kph-15171-view-article.html

Bolivia: http://www.carthrottle.com/post/the-10-most-awesome-cop-stories-youve-lived-through/

Kenya: http://allafrica.com/stories/201405161523.html

UAE: http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/transport/drivers-face-fines-and-seeing-their-cars-impounded-but-they-still-want-tints

Egypt: http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/namru3/Staff/Documents/WELCOME%20ABOARD%20BROCHURE%20Update%20AUG%2012.pdf

Libya: http://www.tripolipost.com/articledetail.asp?c=1&i=7778

Tunisia: http://www.ediplomat.com/np/post_reports/pr_tn.htm

Sudan: http://catholicradionetwork.org/?q=node/7211

Tajikistan: http://www.eurasianet.org/node/63670

China: http://www.scmp.com/article/376926/tinted-window-law-not-tough-enough

India: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/From-Friday-any-tinted-film-on-car-windows-will-be-illegal/articleshow/12956949.cms

Pakistan: http://centralasiaonline.com/en_GB/articles/caii/features/pakistan/main/2013/03/28/feature-01

Any other countries mentioned: http://www.ritrama.com/ritrama/userfiles/file/prodotti/Car_Window_Tinting_Laws.pdf