One thing that many expats find most difficult about being away from home is not knowing where to buy something they need. Most employers have someone in the office to help new foreigners get what they need, but it doesn’t always feel great to bother someone on their day off because you don’t know where to buy a hammer or some good cheese. Online shopping helps you get some of your independence back, and with fast delivery and an incredible number of products, Taobao has got your back.
Of course, the site is entirely in Chinese, so signing up can be a bit daunting. Here’s a quick run-through of Taobao’s quick signup process, with screenshots so you know exactly where to click and what to type. All screenshots in this article can be enlarged, just click on the pictures for more detail.
Go to Taobao’s website. If you usually have a VPN running, or an automatic translation function, turn them off beforehand — sometimes they mess with the site’s display format.
In the top left corner, click the link indicated in the photo to get to the registration page (免费注册, free registration).
You need a Chinese phone number to sign up, and your Chinese friends have already used theirs for their own Taobao accounts. Get thee to a SIM card store if you haven’t got one.
Type your full phone number in the box indicated by the green arrow.
Click the box indicated by the blue arrow and slide it all the way to the right.
Click the button below (下一步, next step).
After you submit your phone number, Taobao will send you a text message with a confirmation code. It should take under a minute to get to you. If it doesn’t come after a couple of minutes, check the phone number and then click the button indicated in the photo to the right to resend the code. If you do have the code, input it in the box and click the big orange button below (确认, confirm).
Choose a password and input it twice, once in each box indicated by the blue arrows. It will tell you if the password is too weak or doesn’t match.
In the box indicated by the green arrow, enter your desired username. Nothing filthy, you’re better than that. Don’t get all fancy with characters and symbols. It will notify you if your chosen username is taken.
Click the big orange button (提交, submit) to continue.
The next logical step is to connect your bank account to Alipay, China’s version of Paypal. Until then, you’re set to browse Taobao, add items to your favorites or your shopping cart, and communicate with vendors. Go ahead, check out what Taobao has to offer. Although it seems intimidating to do your online shopping in Chinese, it’s pretty easy. Keep reading for more guides to get you through your Taobao experience, and if you have any trouble, let me know in the comments section below!