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Shanghai, China

Retire in China

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jan 19, 2023

Summary: What is it like to retire in China? Retirees share their experiences living in China.

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What is it like to retire in China?

"Nanning is NOT a tourist area. I rarely seen any Westerners where I live. Sometimes I see them downtown. Really do not hang out with Westerners. At 65 I don't "party" much. Never was one for nightlife. Surprised there is no symphony in a city this big. Also I am married to a Chinese women I met after coming here. There is an English Corner where English speaking people can go every Sunday morning so the Chinese people can practice their English. Most Chinese cities have these "corners". There are numerous parks here, Vietnam is close if you want to visit there. So is Beihai and Guilin," explained a retiree in Nanning, Guangxi Provence.

"Yes to all of the above, although at my age i will not be frequenting the night clubs here too often. My wife did attend one very exclusive one with my Chinese step-son and his friends and other family members. Very exciting and much cheaper than most American clubs or ordinary bars for that matter. We spent ab. $80 U.S. on 8 of us and had a great time. very safe with helmeted guards, pat downs and metal detectors. 12 guards inside and out and a very posh setting. Travel is cheap either by bus .15 or taxi ab. .80 depending on how far and if you have a Chinese friend to negotiate price-for taxi that is-bus will be same price for all. TerraCotta Army nearby. One big savings, don't hire a translator as every sign inside is in English and Chinese. Bring your own water and snack as most of the kiosks are overpriced but still cheap by U.S. standards," explained one retiree living in Xi'an.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What advice do overseas retirees have for others considering retiring abroad?

"Walmart is here but don't think it is like a Walmart in the USA. Yes it sells clothing, food, some furniture and electronics but catering to Chinese. The thing I miss the most is hot dogs, good hamburgers (they have MacDonald's but they were bad in the states and beef patties are rare, their filet of fish is good). Keep in mind Chinese food in America is NOTHING like Chinese food in China. Not even close. Have never seen an egg roll here. Sweet and sour anything doesn't exist. Forget a good steak, doesn't exist. Pizza Hut does serve a good pizza and if you can find a Subway Sandwich shop they are FANTASTIC for an American craving USA food," said a retiree who moved to Nanning, Guangxi Provence, China.

"If you have favorite items like the 8 packs of lint remover rollers I buy at Costco, buy, but 10 of them. These were such a big hit with my Chinese relatives that I have given all of mine away. They don't have them here and I'll be bring back a resupply when I make a return trip to USA shortly. Stock up on meds if you take any. Stock up on allergy meds and eye washes as Xi'an at least, is windy at times. My wife and I did buy a few packages of babywipes from the 99 cent store and they have been very useful in our travels in cleaning our hands," said another retiree in Xi'an.

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What are the most rewarding aspects of retiring in China?

"China is more like the USA than a lot of Americans who have never been here would believe. Capitalism is rampant, so is hard work. Crime is very low. The people are very friendly and helpful. The police have helped my several times to find where I want to go, even telling me to follow them and they went out of their way to take me to the place I wanted to go. Rarely been ripped off buying things, but then I do my homework first and figure out what I should spend and I always can just walk away. Taxis are metered. No tipping. Buses are $0.15 if un air-conditioned and $0.30 if air-conditioned and that can take you across Nanning. A medium size city of just about 6 million! When I first came here I rented a four bedroom apartment of about 1,400 sq feet, fully furnished, with Internet hookup, on the top floor of a 6 year old building (18th floor) for 1,900 yuan or about $315USD, add another 600yuan (about $100USD) for utilities," said another retiree in Nanning, Guangxi Provence.

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What are healthcare services like in China?

We asked retirees if they have access to good medical care in China. They wrote:

"It is difficult unless you have someone who speaks English go with you to explain the problem. After that it is easy. I have been three time to the hospital. Once to have a mole removed from my face directly in front of my ear under my side burns (so to speak) and have it biopsied. about 1,200 yuan including anti-biotics. or about $200. Another time was for an eye infection about 200-300 yuan for medicine (office visits are almost free) and to have a new prescription for my eyeglasses which had to be done at the hospital. I paid $0.50 for the exam (not to sure if they meant to charge more, they wanted me to buy the glasses there but they wanted 3,500 yuan about $581 USD (I do need progressive lenses and am very far sighted (+7 to +9 diopter correction I can barely make out the letters at the top of the eyechart!) I said "No way" and left. I later bought them for 1,028 yuan ($170USD). The hospital go out of there way to set me up with doctors that have some English ability and in one case they called in someone like an orderly who had been to America for college and was very good at English and he was i big help. Prescription medication is very expensive. I have diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol for $30USD I got my medicine in the USA for 90 days here it runs about 400 yuan for 30 days or about $66USD," said another retiree in Nanning, Guangxi Provence.

"Yes and not as expensive as US. Must go to major hospital for clean facilities and care. One hospital we visited an old family friend in was comparable to what i would expect to find in a poor part of Tijuana, Mexico. I had 3 crowns and a root canal done on my teeth for $1,200 total and that was a month ago and everything is fine," commented one retiree living in Xi'an, China.

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How do I meet people in China?

When we asked people living in China about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"If you are a parent with children in one of the international schools, I strongly recommend that you get in touch with the school parents committee. Friends of Dulwich has regular meet ups and social events. The Expat Association of Suzhou also had fortnightly coffee mornings and members can enjoy discounts at various local businesses as well as networking opportunities. The Internations Organisation also has a significant presence where members gather for monthly international buffets and socialising," commented one retiree living in Suzhou, China.

"ZhuhaiNights.com is Zhuhai's only English city-wide dedicated lifestyle web site, run by expats living locally in the city. With over 3,000 members, half of those being Chinese and half being foreigners, it's a great way to meet friends. It's fun and free. The organisers of the web site also host regular events, including a weekly English / Chinese language exchange, days out to Zhuhai's International Race Circuit, trips to surrounding islands, pool parties, dance parties and more to boot. DeltaBridges.com covers the entire Pearl River region and is great for anyone looking to visit more surrounding cities. It's another great way to connect with the locals and the DB city guide is very large with English and Chinese address details to help you get around. Additionally, you might spot on of their handy pocket-sized city guide books in one of the many locations around town," explained one retiree living in Zhuhai.

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What is life like in China?

When we asked people living in China what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"Suzhou has more of a family-friendly feel than it's sister city; Shanghai. Many expats prefer to move here from Shanghai when they start a family. The expat scene has a strong work focus but socialising often revolves around eating and bars. There is also a sport and fitness scene, with the f45 fitness, a running and a cycling community," remarked another retiree in Suzhou.

"Zhuhai is a sleepy, laid-back city on the South China Sea. It's miles of coastline attract tourists the world-over, so the priority is usually to have a great time. Work does go on here though - in the form of new cutting-edge business districts, multi-national corporations and SMEs all managing to operate successfully. To be well-and-truly on the pulse of life in Zhuhai, I strongly recommend joining www.ZhuhaiNights.com," said a retiree who moved to Zhuhai, China.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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William Russell Health Insurance

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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What do I need to know before retiring in China?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to China, they said:

"If you have children, decide if you want to be in a more family friendly compound, such as Lakeshore Gardens or one that has a more singles demographic. Definitely get in touch with the schools' parents' committees. As well as a flourishing shopping and hospitality scene, Suzhou Industrial Park contains vast areas of factories and company head quarters, with little else to do. Are your priorities to be near the schools and/or work place or to be near the recreational parts of the city? If the latter, then chose a compound that is close to Jinji Lake. Make sure to check out the old town and visit the heritage gardens to gain a flavour of what pre-industrial Suzhou was like," said a retiree who moved to Suzhou, China.

"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," said another retiree in Tianjin.

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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.

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