Living in China
China has undergone a remarkable transformation in the last 20 years. Huge modern cities, foreign food restaurants, karaoke bars, bullet trains, and Starbucks are staples of day to day life for many foreigners in China. Indeed as a foreigner it has never been easier to live in China with even smaller cities catering for foreign workers. Despite these advances many people are still not quite sure what to expect from life in China and, looking from the outside in, many might be unsure what to expect. This page will answer some of the questions people looking to work or study in China may have, as well as give a first-hand account of some of the things you can expect from day to day life.
The first thing you will notice is the price of food in China. Food and drink are considerably cheaper than in the West, and if you eat like the locals you can expect to spend as little as US$5 a day on food without having to cook a single a meal. Eating out is hugely popular and visiting the local rice and noodle restaurants are a great way to keep costs down. If you want a taste of home there are a lot of foreign food restaurants available in the bigger cities, and whilst they are generally not as cheap as eating the local food, they are still cheaper than the majority of restaurants in the West. Even in smaller cities chains like McDonalds, KFC, and Pizza Hut are widely available and these prices are extremely competitive compared to back home.
“Life in China wasn’t what I was expecting. The people were very interested in speaking English and I’ve made so many friends. I was also worried about the air quality, however it’s not nearly as bad as I was expecting.”
When your country contains 1.4 billion people transport becomes a huge issue. Travelling in China though is actually a relatively easy and cheap experience. Most of the big cities have subways and a journey all the way across the city can generally be made for less than a US dollar, with most journeys being around 30-40 US cents. Buses are generally cheaper again, and most cities bus journeys will cost around 20 US cents. Inter-city travel has become extremely easy thanks to the country’s bullet train service, with many of the large cities connected through the network.
Accommodation is again, on the whole, cheaper compared to the West, and although RHT offers accommodation as standard in the majority of its postings, those wishing to rent their own apartments will find the price does increase in the larger cities, especially in Shanghai and Beijing.
“Before I moved to China I was working in recruitment in London. My salary was roughly triple than what it was in China, but the cost of living is so much cheaper here I find I actually save more now. I can’t speak much Chinese but my school has helped me with the essentials and most restaurants have English menus. I can’t recommend China enough”
In terms of the social scene, every major city has a strong expat community with people of all ages and walks of life who have made their home in China. Being in a foreign land brings people together like nothing else and you can expect to make lifelong friends in your time here. The local Chinese people are also very welcoming, and don't be surprised if you are asked by complete strangers to go to their houses for dinner.