Google has launched a beta version of the Google Local service in Chinese. According to one report, information is provided for 170 Chinese cities. Like the English version, you can find information about where the closest movie theater or coffee shop is to you. But how does this actually work in practice?
First, the site is located here, and not at the “Local” link in the Google-in-English page. Nor is it accessible from the Google-in-simplified-or-traditional-Chinese pages in the bar where “Local” is placed in the English version. If you try to put in “China” or “PRC” in the location, the closest you will get is Prescott, Arizona (type in “PRC” if you don’t believe us). Local in English works mostly for countries like the US, Canada and the UK in the English speaking world, and Tokyo in Asia (no Hong Kong or Singapore as far as we can tell).
Google Bendi, as the new service is called (本地 ben di means “local” in Chinese), doesn’t give you maps the way that Google Local does, or at least Shanghaiist couldn’t get it to work. A Chinese media report here says that instead of 170 cities, that their information covers 100 cities, and maps cover 70 cities. Shanghaiist couldn’t get any maps to show up at all. For the most detailed information, input Chinese, such as “咖啡厅”, meaning coffee shop, and then input the city and district “上海浦东”（Shanghai Pudong), and presto! You can use English, but Shanghaiist is guessing this might be less useful, because how key words play out depends on how extensively and accurately things are translated into English, and we don’t have much faith in that. You can’t type in the district name in pinyin, you can only type in “Shanghai”. Our search for “成人用品 or adult products” in Shanghai — big boys and girls you know what that is — was quite disappointing, especially compared to searching for “sex shops” in Tokyo, which was quite detailed. But we guess that’s not Google’s fault, right?
Shanghaiist now knows, for example, that there are no coffee shops within 100 kilometers of Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. Heck, if we’d known that beforehand we could have spared ourselves some unnecessary suffering on our recent trip there …
One more factoid. You can access Google in pig latin. Ouyay eelingfay ucklay, unkpay?