These are great alternatives to Western websites and other resources when your VPN isn’t working. Or, maybe you're one of the brave souls who wants to navigate China like the locals! Either way, sometimes when in Rome, it's nice to do like the Romans. In addition, there's Chinese alternatives to Uber, Amazon, and social media.
1. Youtube alternatives
a. Youku; While there's not an English interface, you can run the website through Microsoft Translate, like this. If not, type what you're looking for into Pleco, and paste it into the search bar! I've personally had great luck with just regular old-fashioned English searches for popular western tv shows and music videos.
b. Tudou; very similar to Youku, Tudou is great for movie streaming too. It's Chinese name literally means "Potato".
2. Google alternatives
a. Bing; as horrible as it is in the west, it's one of the best search engines in China. This internet user would warn against using baidu.com, the commonly-used Chinese search engine, unless you don't mind ads. You can read more about Baidu here.
b. Google.cn; not always reliable, but when it's up and working Chinese Google is my favorite option. We don't call searching "googling" for no reason...
3. Facebook alternatives
a. WeChat; if you don't have WeChat and you live in China... you're missing out on a huge world of possibilies. When I got WeChat, I started seeing in color for the first time. Birds sang. It's a smartphone app that in addition to calls and instant messaging, has a GIF Keyboard + Instagram + Facebook posts + mobile wallet + step counter + skype-like video calling+ many other functions. My personal favorite might be that you can use it on your computer too. GET WECHAT. (PS; functions of WhatsApp, a similar app, have recently been blocked in China. Encourage your family to download WeChat too, so you can still send pictures and video call on mobile!)
b. QQ; more commonly used on a desktop or laptop computer, QQ takes the social qualities of Facebook and adds an email platform and music streaming. In fact, their music streaming service is financially doing better than Spotify!
4. Tinder alternatives
a. Tantan; this is arguably the most popular dating app in China. It's virtually the same as Tinder, but you can see how many people have "liked" you. It's definitely an ego boost to see that number go up.
b. Grinder or Blued; these are the two most popular gay dating apps. A caveat regarding Blued: if you download the app in China it will operate in Chinese, which will add an extra challenge if you're not used to reading Chinese characters. Happy swiping!
5. Uber alternatives
a. DiDi; China's car taxi service is almost identical to Uber. This summer, they released an English version of the app so it's easy to request a ride. You can even send pre-scripted messages to your driver.
b. Mobike and Ofo; both of these apps allow you to access the wonderful world of bike sharing, by simply scanning the QR code on a bike and riding away. While there are many (too many) bike sharing companies to choose from, these two are the most common.
6. Amazon/online shopping
a. Taobao; by far, this is the most popular and cost-effective way to shop. You can search using English, but searches yield better results by using image-matching or typing in Chinese characters. If that's too advanced, Baopals (and English shopping platform) allows you to access most of the goods on Taobao and Tmall, for a percentage of each item's cost.
b. Tmall; a spin-off from Taobao, Tmall sells directly from business to consumer. Be warned, the trend on Chinese websites is to front-load webpages with lots of information and buttons.
7. News Alternatives
a. Quartz; global tech news, or as they say "for business people in the new global economy". Articles are relatively short, and not politically charged.
b. Asia Times; based in Bangkok, AT publishes regional news in a Western format. (I've grown to appreciate a clean, minimalist site in surfing the Sino-web.) You can subscribe and get news sent straight to your inbox.
c. China Daily; is one of the most popular English language publications. Most of the newspaper staff are Chinese nationals, writing for foreigners and natives seeking to improve their English. (At my host school, Speech Competition students were regularly assigned articles to read and discuss from CD newspapers.) You can read it online, and you're probably not to far from a print copy at any given time.
d. The Diplomat; an award-winning regional news source, The Diplomat is based in Tokyo, Japan. Their focus narrows in on regional political and economical commentary.
e. South China Morning Post; Hong Kong based, it was recently acquired by Alibaba, and until recently required a subscription. Now the news is free, but is becoming increasingly showing a Chinese bias.
f. New York Times; Although not accessible online, you can subscribe to get daily updates sent directly to your inbox; some links may not work, but you’ll get an overview of America-focused news. Here’s the Morning Breifing Newsletter and Breaking News Alert email sign-ups.
What Chinese websites do you use instead of Western ones? Comment below, and be sure to apply for the experience of a lifetime!