Living in China as an Expat

Here’s what you need to know before you move and how to make the most of your situation.

First off, what’s an expatriate, or expat for short? This is a person who chooses to live in another country other than their home country, either on a temporary or permanent basis. People do this for a variety of reasons. Some want a lower cost of living, while others have no choice due to a job relocation. Still others are students who want to live abroad and gain invaluable immersion experience.

If you have decided to live in China as an expat, you may be filled with wonder and excitement – and a little bit of terror! After all, this is a totally different world for you. And while you may have studied the language before you arrived, nothing is as invaluable to language learning as immersing yourself in the culture head on.

Prepare yourself: In addition to learning the language, prepare yourself for just how big this country is. In fact, it’s the third biggest country in the world by land mass with the largest population – tipping the scales at more than 1.33 billion people. That means the cities are congested and busy all the time, even more so than what you may be used to even in NYC or LA.

Cost of living: Surprisingly still a developing country, China has a low cost of living in general. While things like tax rates and housing rates are all low, salaries are also lower than you may have been accustomed to here in the States.

Local languages: There are many Chinese languages spoken throughout the country, with Mandarin being the most popular at 70%, followed by Cantonese, Shanghaiese, Fuzhou and Hokkien-Taiwanese. When it comes to business dealings, though, English is increasingly important.

Weather: Because it’s just so big, there are many varied climates in China. The north can enjoy a brief summer but a long and cold winter. Along the Yangtze River valley, you’ll experience a longer and more humid summer, while Southern China has hot, dry summers with short winters.

Jobs: Many expats are employed in China as teachers. That’s because there’s a high demand for English-as-a-second-language instruction. There is also a demand for accountants, financial analysts and managers, along with IT, manufacturing and marketing. Keep in mind you’ll need a good grasp of the local language in order to get a job in the first place. That’s why language learning is so important before you decide to make the leap as an expat.

Prepare yourself by learning Mandarin Chinese with BRIC Language Systems. While you’re browsing our website, take a look at our Expatriate Services too!