The highlights of China are some of the world’s top tourist destinations. Many travelers dream about the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, and world-class cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
2. Job Opportunities
China’s economy is booming, which means countless job opportunities for foreigners. Sure, the hiring process is complicated and the visa process even more so, but once you get through them, you’ll find competitive salaries and lots of benefits.
The cost of living in China varies greatly depending on where you live, but in most cases, you should be able to save money while you work and live in China.
Besides English teaching jobs in China, you’ll find opportunities for editing, copywriting, videogame writing, modeling, acting, and more.
This aspect of living in China is especially important to me because I moved from a place that was definitely unsafe.
You can walk around after dark practically anywhere in China without worry. You can leave your apartment unlocked, and indeed many Chinese families leave racks of shoes and children’s bicycles outside their apartment door with no fear of theft.
Of the many stereotypes and impressions of China held worldwide, here’s one you may not hear too often. Chinese people are nice.
People in China are friendly and helpful
Sure, as with anywhere else, there are some jerks and weirdos. But once you’re living in China, you’ll quickly be disarmed and pleasantly surprised by the genuine kindness of many Chinese people, as well as their willingness to help and befriend a foreigner.
In fact, you’ll most likely end up making friends with the locals and in turn, will learn about Chinese culture, customs, celebrations, and way of life. All of which is fascinating.
If you’re similarly interested in learning Chinese, living in China means you can support your lessons with real-world practice. Otherwise, it would be little more than an intellectual exercise, like learning Latin — an extremely onerous Latin.
In fact, China has eight major cuisines, based on region. These include Cantonese, with its dim sum and barbecued pork, and Sichuan, with its spicy hot pot and kung pao chicken.
Besides these eight cuisines, there’s distinctive food in every corner of China.
Chances are, if you’re not living in a first-tier Chinese city, your only options for Western restaurants will be McDonald’s, Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and KFC — perhaps a Burger King or two.
If you don’t live in a first-tier city, don’t despair. You can order anything online: cheese, bagels, bourbon, you name it.
One of the great advantages of living in China is the convenience afforded by an array of apps. I just mentioned shopping for food. Many people never set foot in a grocery store, but order everything online, and sometimes for better prices.
In most cases, you never need to speak to a waitress in a restaurant. You scan a code from your table, choose what you want from the menu, and pay, all on your phone.
Didi is the Chinese version of Uber, and it’s much cheaper. Hualala is similar to Uber, but it’s for moving vans, and you have the option to ride in the van to your new apartment.
Taobao is the Chinese version of Amazon, though it’s not exactly the same, because it connects you with many different suppliers offering the same product for varying prices.
The king of all apps is WeChat. It’s a combination of WhatsApp, Facebook, Paypal, travel booking sites, and much more. Most people never use cash in China, nor credit or debit cards. It’s all WeChat Pay, or Alibaba pay.
Getting familiar and ultimately dependent upon these apps is a major aspect of what it is like to live in China.
All these apps wouldn’t be so great if there wasn’t easy internet access everywhere. Luckily there is, and also inexpensive cell phone plans with data.
I pay between $5 and $10 USD per month for mine, and although I’m not constantly on social media, this is enough for regular use of WeChat Pay and Didi.
In People’s Square in the center of the city, the Shanghai Museum has five floors of ancient Chinese art, calligraphy, coins, ceramics, jade, and furniture.
The largest museums in major cities are almost always free.
The first disadvantage of living in China occurs before you even get to China.
If you live in a smaller city, you’ll be the center of attention as there probably aren’t all that many foreigners around.
China is crowded, and Chinese people are generally used to being surrounded by others.
Stand on any street corner, public park, or shopping center in China, and you’ll need both hands to count the number of cameras pointed at you.
As mentioned above, this comes with an advantage: China is overwhelmingly safe. Consequently, this one doesn’t bother me too much. But I’ve met numerous expats in China who are seriously bothered by it.
You may recall that I listed “Finally Learn Chinese” under pros. Well, until you actually learn it, the language barrier will be a huge con for you in China.
It’s best to have Google translate or something similar on your phone while living in China.
As you can see, sometimes the pros and cons of living in China closely intermingle. A pro to one person may be a con to another. This is especially true for cultural things, such as the language and the food.
Some of these disadvantages of living in China may actually become advantages over time.
This was the case with my initial difficulty in finding Western food. It forced me to try real Chinese food and also seek out a website that had more options than I could have found in any one supermarket.
I hope this article has given you a better idea of what it is like to live in China. Please ask any questions or give your own pros and cons in the comments.
Author: Ted Campbell
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