China is gigantic, dynamic, and is wildly different than almost every other country on this planet.
Living in China as an expat is a wild experience that comes along with limitless opportunities and a constant whirlwind of challenges. It can be a very hard country to live in. Some expats love the lifestyle enough to stay here for five, ten or even twenty years.
There are also those who land in China intending to stay at least a year, but end up having a mental breakdown and catching a flight back home within a week or two.
Therefore, before you decide to purchase a 15-hour flight to Beijing, it is probably best to think about some of the pros and cons that come with being an expat in China.
Finding a job:
Pro: China’s economy is still booming and finding a well-paying job is incredibly easy. There is an endless sea of job openings for English teachers which is where most expats start out.
Con: There are so many scams and dishonest employers which can cause problems for new expats. There are times companies who delay salary payments and others give their staff tasks and responsibilities that were not previously discussed in the employment contract.
Pro: Cities like Beijing, are foodie heaven! The dining options are endless. There is food from around the world and every region in China. You can have McDonald’s for breakfast, dim sum for lunch, Mexican food for dinner, and street BBQ for a midnight snack. The best part is that everything can be ordered on an app and delivered to your doorstep!
Con: Western food tends to be overpriced, which can put a big dent in the salaries of those who can’t stomach Chinese food on a daily basis.
Pro: Generally speaking, foreigners in China are treated as guests. There is always someone to help you when things get confusing. You will never go hungry because Chinese people are constantly snacking and offering you food whether you want it or not.
Con: Although there are around 600,000 expats currently living in China, this is nothing compared to the 1.3 billion Chinese population. Although it is completely harmless, the locals love to stare at foreigners, which can become annoying and uncomfortable in day to day life. They stare constantly, whether you are shopping, eating, or simply walking down the sidewalk. Many will even “secretly” but obviously take pictures of foreigners when they think they aren’t looking.
Pro: Public transportation is amazing in China! The major cities have great subway systems, busses, and bike-sharing apps. There is even a Chinese version of Uber, called Didi. There usually no need to own a car. Most expats in need of private transportation simply buy an electric scooter to get them around town. If these options aren’t enough, you can always hail a good old fashioned taxi to take you where you need to go… just be sure the driver turns on the meter.
Con: Most people’s driving skills are equivalent to those of a drunken angry 13-year-old boy. Most traffic laws are disregarded and you can catch people driving in any place in any direction at any time. During rush hour, public transportation can be extremely crowded and you will find yourself shoving your way through a sea of people to get on and off the busses and metros. ( If you get motion sickness, good luck in cars and buses here)
Pro: Wherever there is an apartment, there are usually plenty of food and convenience shops within walking distance (my apartment wasn’t close to anything as I lived on the outskirts of Beijing) Also, rent can be much cheaper than it is in some of the major cities in Canada.
Con: Renting an apartment near the city center in Beijing can also be super expensive. Regardless of how much you pay for rent, you can expect plenty of things to be dirty or broken when you move in. When something breaks, it could take a while for someone to fix it. The amount of cockroaches around the city and in the apartments is disgusting.
The Language Barrier
Con: The language will be one of your great barriers. Mandarin is very difficult to learn, and you will need to be very consistent to be able to start a conversation with them, without having to look at the Google translator.
Con: Pollution: Between the people littering and all the factories running year-round, the skies are smog-filed with pollution. It gets so bad some days that you can’t see 10 feet in front of you. (if you visit, WEAR A MASK)
Make breathing a priority and download an Air Quality app on your phone and wear a mask when needed no matter what.
Well, this barely scratches the surface of the pros and cons of living in China. In any case, I hope it helps!
“Traveling leaves you speechless but turns you into a storyteller”