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Beijing

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 05, 2023

Summary: The population of Beijing, China is 21.5 million people. Beijing is a vibrant, bustling city with a rich cultural history. Expats love living in Beijing for its diverse food scene, vibrant nightlife, and easy access to public transportation. The weather in Beijing is generally mild with hot summers and cold winters. The average temperature in the summer is around 77°F (25°C) and in the winter it is around 37°F (3°C). The average cost of living in Beijing for an expat is around $1,500-$2,500 USD per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment is around $500-$1,000 USD per month and a two bedroom apartment is around $800-$1,500 USD per month.

What do I need to know about living in Beijing?

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

"Before retiring in Beijing, an expat should research potential healthcare options, as international health insurance may not be accepted or comprehensive enough. A residency permit is also necessary to stay long-term in Beijing, and the process to obtain one can vary. Cultural barriers can also present a challenge; expats should look into classes or language exchanges to help them build a community. Additionally, expats may need to learn how to use common Chinese payment methods, such as WeChat Pay or Alipay, in order to make purchases and pay bills. Finally, expats should consider their air quality needs, as Beijing is known to have high smog levels throughout the year," remarked another expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

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What do I need to know before moving to Beijing?

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

"Beijing is a major international hub in China and home to over 21 million people. Mandarin is the official language of Beijing, although some locals also speak English. Beijing is known for its often extreme climate, with cold winters and sweltering summers. It is important to plan ahead for sudden changes in temperature. Life in Beijing can be crowded and fast-paced, so it pays to be prepared. Make sure to get the appropriate health insurance and vaccinations before moving to Beijing. Chinese culture is quite different from Western culture, and can take some time to get used to. Beijing has many distinct neighbourhoods, each with its own unique charm and cultural attractions. It is important to research where you would feel most comfortable living when selecting an area. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the transportation options available in Beijing. When traveling by public transport, always keep your valuables close. Lastly, if you are planning on staying for an extended period of time, it may be beneficial to learn some of the basics of Mandarin," said another expat in Beijing, China.

"Be patient and have a lot of cash on hand! Apartments in north China require an initial payment of 3 months and 1-month deposit. That is a lot of money to spend at the beginning. Everyone should arrive in Beijing with at least a minimum of $5,000 USD for start-up costs. The best way to find an apartment is to ask a colleague which realtors they used," added another expat who made the move to Beijing .

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How do I find a place to live in Beijing?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"Finding a place to live in Beijing can be a challenging task. It is recommended to start researching in advance, as rental properties tend to be filled quickly, so it's important to start looking early. Another important factor for finding a home in Beijing is to have a good understanding of the local housing market. It will be helpful to hire a real estate agent who can provide useful information and help you to find ideal properties that fit your specific requirements. Additionally, you can use online resources to facilitate your search, such as expat forums or websites including listings of available properties. Furthermore, you can explore real estate websites and apps to find appropriate living spaces, such as furnished studio apartments near the city center, lofts near tourist areas, or 3-bedroom homes in residential districts. It is helpful to physically visit the area you are interested in and be familiar with the local landscape and cost of living. Finally, it is important to make sure you understand the local laws so you can be aware of what is expected when renting a property in Beijing," commented one expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

"Beijing is a HUGE city and you want to live near where you work. You'll hate life if you have to commute a long time on the subways - which is insanely crowded during rush hours. I work in the CBD so I got an apartment that is about a 30-minute walk from home or a 5-minute ride on the bus," remarked another expat living in Beijing , China.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Beijing?

"Expat homes and apartments in Beijing are generally spaciously designed and comfortably appointed. Most feature bright modern interiors with minimalist-style furnishings, and often include balconies or terraces with views of the city. Many larger expat homes and apartments come fully-furnished and are equipped with modern amenities, such as air-conditioning, WiFi, and washing machines. Security is often offered in the form of 24-hour guards, gated access and CCTV. Expats in Beijing also commonly seek out international communities offering villas and serviced apartments with shared leisure and recreational facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and playgrounds," remarked another expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

"Pretty much everyone here lives in apartments in big buildings. Some families may choose to live in villas in the Shunyi area, but everyone else is in apartments. Apartments in Beijing tend to be older but they are all furnished and safe. Decorations can be a bit underwhelming so you'll want to invest in some plants, paintings and other things to make your home warm," explained one expat living in Beijing , China.

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What is the average cost of housing in Beijing?

If you are thinking about moving to Beijing, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The average cost of housing in Beijing is generally high, as it is one of the most expensive cities to live in. Property prices have increased steadily in recent years, due to increased demand and higher costs of land and materials. Renting an apartment in Beijing can be costly, typically running upwards of around 4,000 yuan per month for a basic one-bedroom apartment. High end properties can cost significantly more," remarked another expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

"Housing in Beijing is expensive. I would estimate that most expats are spending at least $1,000 USD a month on their housing. The further from the city center, the cheaper. Roommates are also an option to cut costs," explained one expat living in Beijing , China.

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How do I meet people in Beijing?

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

"Expats in Beijing often join a variety of clubs and activities, ranging from sports and recreational leagues to cooking, language and yoga classes. These activities are a great way to meet people in a relaxed environment, as well as learn important skills. Other popular activities for expats include attending concerts and art performances, exploring attractions and bars, and going to markets and flea markets. Expats often also meet people through shared interests, such as joining hiking, cycling or running clubs. Additionally, there are many online forums, such as expat websites, expat communities and chatrooms, that can provide helpful information about living and socialising in Beijing for expats," remarked another expat living in Beijing, China, China.

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What should I bring when moving to Beijing?

People living in Beijing were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"When moving to Beijing, it is important to pack several weather-appropriate clothing items, such as a raincoat, light sweaters, and long-sleeved shirts. It is also recommended to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes and sunglasses to protect from the strong sunlight. Moreover, items such as toiletries, medication, and personal documents should also be included in your moving preparations. If possible, it is also helpful to learn some basic Mandarin before moving to Beijing, even if it is just a few key phrases and words," said another expat in Beijing, China.

"Men's Shoes in China: If you are a size 11 or larger you'll find it difficult to find quality men's shoes here. Over the counter medications in China: It's difficult to find simple brands that you know in Chinese shops like Pepto-Bismol, Nyquil, etc. If you have some brands that you rely on, bring those. I also recommend bringing a First Aid Kit as it is just a good idea to have on hand! VPN: Most Western Internet sites are blocked here. You want to pre-install a VPN on your computer and phone before you arrive in China. If you don't, the initial days here will be confusing," added another expat who made the move to Beijing .

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Where should I setup a bank account in Beijing?

We asked expats in Beijing what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:

"Expats considering retiring in Beijing should be prepared for the city's high cost of living, especially for rent and food. It is important to research housing options and learn about the local markets to understand the best places to purchase quality food. Beijing has a harsh climate with long, cold winters, so those retiring should consider investing in quality insulation and heating to stay comfortable. With a population of over 21 million people, Beijing is a densely-populated city and one should research the various neighborhoods available to determine the best location to live. Additionally, it is important to take into account the city's air quality, which can be quite poor; be prepared to buy air masks if needed. Retirement in Beijing also requires a visa, so it is important to start the visa process early, exploring the requirements and paperwork needed. Taking the time to research and prepare for Beijing can ensure a smooth transition when relocating," added another expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

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Will I be able to find a job in Beijing?

When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in Beijing, they reponded:

"Foreigners in Beijing often take on jobs in teaching English, information technology, sales, banking, and consulting. Other opportunities include working in international medical facilities, in international companies, or as foreign correspondents. Additionally, many foreigners are employed in hospitality services such as hotels, bars, and restaurants, or in language-related fields," remarked another expat living in Beijing, China, China.

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What is life like in Beijing?

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

"Expat life and digital nomadism in Beijing is an exciting mix of fascinating cultural immersion, great connectivity and a unique lifestyle. The hustle and bustle of the city provides a vibrant energy to the vibrant city and there is plenty of energy and enthusiasm within the community of expats. The modern infrastructure ensures that the internet connection is reliable and fast, so digital nomads can continue working uninterrupted while they take in the experiences of living in this amazing city. Cultural immersion can be experienced through exploring the countless fascinating sights and activities, partaking in walks through the markets, or simply chit-chatting with the locals in a language exchange session. With a large expat and foreign population, there are plenty of groups, activities and opportunities to get to know and link up with like-minded people. Thanks to its attractive living conditions, Beijing is definitely a top destination for the expat and digital nomad lifestyle," remarked another expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

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What do expats in Beijing appreciate most about the local culture?

"Expats in Beijing appreciate the rich history and artistry of the city. From centuries-old architecture to the iconic Forbidden City and the Great Wall, there is much to explore. Additionally, the cultural traditions of the city, such as Peking Opera and Confucianism, present a unique opportunity to learn more about China’s culture. Local food is a hit amongst expats, with dishes such as Peking Duck, Kung Pao Chicken and a variety of other dishes providing a taste of Chinese cuisine. Finally, expats also appreciate the diversity of nightlife and leisure activities available in Beijing, from traditional tea houses to modern bars and clubs, allowing visitors to mingle and take in the exciting atmosphere of the city," remarked another expat living in Beijing, China, China.

"The Chinese had a great desire to care for their family. The parents retire at about 55 (women) and 60 (men). They care for the grandchild and live with their children. They feel a sense of duty to care for their parents and the grandparents feel that it is their job to care for the grandchildren. It is also a law that the children care for the parents. The government can garner part of the childrens' wage to care for the parents if the children are negligent in their care for the parents," added another expat in Beijing.

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What do expats find most challenging?

"One challenge expats in Beijing may encounter is language barriers, as most Chinese people do not speak English fluently. Additionally, the local cultural etiquette can be confusing to many expats as there are numerous traditional customs which must be followed. This can make it difficult for expats to connect with locals and become part of the community. Additionally, the dense traffi c and air pollution can be an obstacle to those used to less populated areas. Finally, the extreme weather conditions, with long winters and hot summers, can be hard to adjust to," commented one expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

"There is no transparency and consistency in how things are done in China. We cannot make any sense in how they operate in the university (we work in the university), government (the Chinese call this the "Black Box" since no one understands how officials are selected), banks (answers differ based on who you talk to). It all depends on your relationships (otherwise called "Guanxi". The stronger the relationship you have to someone that have strong connections, the better you have in getting things done. This certainly builds inequality, sometimes it helps us," remarked another expat living in Beijing, China.

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Is there a lot of crime in Beijing?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Beijing is generally considered to have relatively low levels of crime compared to other cities around the world. Despite this, like any big city, petty crime such as pickpocketing, theft, and bicycle theft are not uncommon. To ensure safety when visiting Beijing, it is advised to take extra precautions and remain aware of your surroundings," added another expat who made the move to Beijing, China.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Beijing accepting of differences?

"Beijing, the capital of China, is home to an incredibly diverse population, representing the country's 56 recognized ethnic minority groups. Despite the wide range of cultural backgrounds, the city still has a high degree of cultural unity and Beijingers generally accept one another's differences. In general, people from diverse backgrounds can be found across most sectors of life in Beijing, from the vibrant street markets to the international corporate scene," remarked another expat living in Beijing, China, China.

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What are the schools in Beijing like?

"Beijing BISS International School (BISS) is one of the best international schools in Beijing. It is known for its commitment to delivering a challenging, world-class education to its students. BISS is an independent, non-profit school that offers an English language primary program, a Mandarin language program, and an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. The school is made up of four divisions: Primary, Middle, High and IB Diploma. The curriculum focuses on preparing students for success in the global marketplace, creating independent thinkers and innovators, and developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Beijing City International School (BCIS) is another excellent international school in Beijing. BCIS is an internationally-accredited school providing an international curriculum based on that of the United Kingdom. In addition to the core academic subjects, BCIS offers select AP courses, Mandarin and music classes, and a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. Advanced Placement (AP) exam preparation and a Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (igCSE) exam preparation are also available to students. Beijing National Day School is an excellent bilingual school in Beijing. It offers a rigorous dual language program, with the majority of classes taught in English and Chinese. The school has a well-deserved reputation for excellence, and a proven track record of providing successful bilingual education. Beijing National Day School also offers a variety of clubs and activities, and encourages its students to get involved in the local community. Furthermore, it offers international educational exchange trips to countries such as the United Kingdom, France, the United States and Japan," remarked another parent with kids at in Beijing, China.

"It looks big on the outside but each dept, i.e. primary, Ms & HS are well separated. It is very academic which is good for preparing the children for the future. It has a very good name in the community," explained one expat living in Beijing, China.

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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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