As you might imagine, there are many hoops to jump through to obtain official residency status in China. In Beijing, this means a mandatory check-up at a Chinese government health center.
While we were on our house hunting trip last month, we decided to get this checked off our list. Here’s what I heard from friends who had completed the process:
”They put these weird suction cups on your nipples for the EKG.”
”Well, let’s just say it’s over with quickly.”
”You must not eat or drink before, and it takes an hour and forty minutes in traffic. I’ve never felt so carsick in my life.”
Armed with this information, I strapped on my motion sickness-prevention wrist bands, stuffed an energy bar and water bottle in my purse and headed down to the lobby to meet our driver.
Thankfully the drive passed without incident and our relocation company had arranged a translator to meet us there. Mr. Jimmy took our passports and returned with our paperwork. The goal was to collect signatures from each doctor as we visited each of the required rooms.
In exchange for the signature, I handed the doctor a bar code sticker with my information. Vision screening, blood pressure, stomach ultra sound – I ticked off the tasks as quickly as possible, just like the Amazing Race. In this case, there would be no luxury vacations awarded to the top finisher, but the promise of a strong cup of coffee back at the hotel propelled me forward.
If the line was too long, Mr. Jimmy held my place while I went on to a different room. Security guards patrolled the hallway to keep order.
I stood in line at room 104 behind a group of beautiful Korean dancers- young ladies with matching yellow t-shirts, red sequined jackets and hair swept up in a bun. I heard flesh-smacking noises coming from inside, and one-by-one the petite teens came out almost in tears.
As I got closer I peered into the room to see a row of technicians whacking the young girls’ forearms to make their veins pop out. When my turn arrived, I proffered my forearm and averted my gaze from the needle, reading the sign requesting that I “kindly inform them if I have a history of fainting before blood draw.”
One more room to go. So close I can almost smell the coffee. How do those teams make it through the Amazing Race without coffee? I wait outside the x-ray room as a fellow American complains of a caffeine-deficit headache. I hand her two Tylenol, and glance at the sign warning that women of procreating age should not enter as the technician beckons me in for a chest x-ray.
Eight stops, a few pokes and 30 minutes later I feel a sense of accomplishment as I hand Mr. Jimmy my paperwork. Out of the three carloads of Americans that arrived at the same time as I did, I came in first!
I can’t say I’d want to do it again soon, but it wasn’t awful. In fact it was kind of fun once I started to think of it like a game. It’s just like anything else; the experience depends on your attitude.
And even though I didn’t win any prizes along the way, I collected experiences most people will never have. And the coffee back at the hotel tasted even better than ever.
Staying healthy while living in China is one of my main concerns as we prepare to move. So I logged onto the Center for Disease Control website, clicked on China, and the following helpful information came up:
- Get vaccinated
- Eat and drink safely
- Keep away from animals
- Prevent bug bites
- Avoid sharing bodily fluid.
Ok, I think we can manage this. To tackle the vaccines, we headed to Passport Health in Orlando, rolled up our sleeves and emptied our wallets. One hour, 9 shots, $1,925 and a stop at Chick-fil-A later, the boys and I are sufficiently armed against Japanese Encephalitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis. We decided to pass on the rabies vaccine (I thought those were for dogs?) vowing instead to duck and cover if we are attacked by a swarm of rabid bats (or rats for that matter).
Stocking the pharmacy
With the shots out of the way, I turned my attention to gathering inhalers, Epi-pens, allergy medicine and enough over the counter meds to give CVS or Walgreens a run for their money.
Tums, Tylenol, Sudafed, Benadryl, cold medicine and other soothing remedies readily available in the U.S. are hard to come by in China outside of a hospital setting, as no Western-style drug stores exist. I’ll probably throw in some hand-sanitizer and sunscreen for good measure.
And then of course there is the infamous air pollution problem. Some studies suggest that living in Beijing on a bad air quality day is the equivalent to smoking 25-40 cigarettes a day. Well, I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life and don’t intend to start now.
So we are bringing our Vogmasks, super comfy, stylish cotton face masks that filter out the harmful particles in the air.
I have this pretty floral one, but I am thinking about ordering a few more. Don’t you think a girl should have a mask for each outfit, kind of like shoes?
While we are prepared enough to make any Boy Scout proud, it’s highly unlikely we will be swarmed by encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes or suffer permanent damage from a few smoggy days. More than likely our biggest risks are painful fingers from Chopstick Overuse Syndrome (COS) common to new expats and Beijing belly (gastric upset from too many stuffed buns)
You made it this far. Thanks for reading! What’s your go-to home remedy or OTC medicine when you are sick? I’d love to hear so I can bring it along. Comment below or send me a message. Best suggestion wins a prize (pollution mask or Pepto Bismal, your choice.)