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Expat Exchange - 10 Things to Know Before Moving to China
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Shanghai, China


10 Things to Know Before Moving to China

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Mondly by Pearson
Mondly by Pearson

Summary: If you're planning a move to China, here are 10 things expats living there wish they had known before moving to China.

China, a country with a rich history and a rapidly growing economy, is becoming an increasingly popular destination for expats from around the world. However, moving to a new country is a big step and it's important to be prepared. Here are 10 things you should know before making the move to China.

1. Understanding the Importance of Guanxi

Guanxi, or relationships, is a fundamental part of Chinese society. It's not just about knowing people, but about building strong relationships based on mutual trust and benefit. Whether it's finding a job, securing a business deal, or even getting a table at a popular restaurant, having the right guanxi can make all the difference. So, start building your network as soon as you can.

2. Navigating the Language Barrier

While English is taught in schools, don't expect everyone to be fluent. In fact, outside of major cities, English speakers can be hard to find. Learning Mandarin, the official language, can be challenging but it's definitely worth the effort. Not only will it make your daily life easier, but it will also open up a whole new aspect of Chinese culture to you.

3. Adapting to Chinese Etiquette

Chinese etiquette can be quite different from what you're used to. For example, it's common to give and receive items with both hands as a sign of respect. Also, when dining, it's polite to leave a little food on your plate to show that you're full. Understanding these cultural nuances can help you avoid any faux pas and make a good impression.

4. Preparing for the Great Firewall

China has strict internet censorship laws, known as the Great Firewall. Many popular websites and apps, like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, are blocked. To access these sites, you'll need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). However, be aware that the use of VPNs is a legal gray area in China.

5. Embracing the Local Cuisine

Chinese food in China is vastly different from the Westernized versions you might be used to. Each region has its own unique cuisine, from the spicy dishes of Sichuan to the sweet flavors of Shanghai. Be adventurous and try as many local dishes as you can. You might just find your new favorite food!

6. Dealing with Pollution

China's rapid industrialization has led to significant pollution, especially in major cities. Air quality can vary greatly from day to day, and it's not uncommon to see people wearing masks on particularly bad days. It's a good idea to check the air quality index (AQI) regularly and take necessary precautions, like staying indoors on heavily polluted days.

7. Getting Around with Public Transportation

China's public transportation system is extensive and efficient. Major cities have subway systems and buses, and high-speed trains connect most parts of the country. Taxis are also widely available and relatively cheap. However, be aware that traffic can be chaotic, and driving is not recommended for newcomers.

8. Experiencing the Chinese Work Culture

Chinese work culture can be quite intense, with long hours and high expectations. However, it's also a place where hard work is recognized and rewarded. Be prepared to put in the effort, but also take the time to understand the work-life balance in China, which can be quite different from what you're used to.

9. Navigating the Healthcare System

China's healthcare system can be a bit of a maze for newcomers. Public hospitals are often crowded and the standard of care can vary. Many expats choose to go to private clinics or hospitals, which offer a higher standard of care but can be expensive. It's a good idea to have comprehensive health insurance that covers treatment in private facilities.

10. Enjoying the Rich History and Culture

China has a history that spans thousands of years and a culture that is rich and diverse. From the Great Wall and the Terracotta Army to the bustling streets of Shanghai and the tranquil gardens of Suzhou, there's so much to see and do. Take the time to explore and immerse yourself in the culture. It's one of the best parts of living in China.

Expats talk about Moving to China

"Make friends with the locals. Visit Xiangfan Museum. Make sure your cab driver uses the meter. If you are large sized like me make sure you have enough shoes and clothing as it's very hard to find otherwise. I wear a size 48 here (which is size 13 US ) and most shoes here stop at size 44. I needed some new shirts and had to have them specially made which is very expensive in Chinese RMB. Some of the Restuarants have picture menus so if you don't speak/read Chinese you can point to what you want. I recommend learning at least some Chinese before coming here, as it will be extremely helpful," said one expat living in Xiangfan.

"Lousy weather - cold, windy winters and very polluted. Hot sticky summers. Little to do aside from eating out and shopping malls. However, there is an airport close by and a train station - and Beijing is 2 hours away," wrote a member in Tianjin.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


Mondly by Pearson
Mondly by Pearson

Mondly by Pearson
Mondly by Pearson

Shanghai, China

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Flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget. Use Promocode: LIFE10 and get 10% off your international health insurance for life!
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