Life of an Expat in China

December 12, 2015 Leave your comments

China is one of the world’s oldest civilizations. It has become one of the economic superpowers of the world. Many foreigners target China due to its favorable policies, cultural experience, sound business opportunities, and rapid development.

According to a study by HSBC, “China is the third most desirable expat destination, just behind Singapore in second place and Switzerland in the lead.”

Most expats move to China for worthier pay packages and enormous job opportunities.

“China is the best place for expats looking to make their money go further, with 76% of expats in the country experiencing growth in their spending power once they’ve moved,” the global bank said.

Around a quarter of expats make more than $300,000 in annual salary, the most astounding proportion of any country.

Leading Expat Destinations in China


Shanghai is located in the Yangtze River Delta in eastern China. It is one of the most important industrial cities in China. It has the busiest cargo port in the world and it is home to one of the biggest stock markets in Asia. For two consecutive years, Shanghai has been voted the most attractive city for expats. It is well known for its multicultural environment, children’s education, salary, and international atmosphere.


Beijing, sometimes still known abroad as Peking, is the capital of China. It attracts many foreign correspondents, diplomats, and journalists. Beijing’s economic impact is tremendous. It is home to 98 of the biggest companies in China. Three Beijing-based companies are also among the top ten. Beijing is an exciting destination for expats. It is the center of Chinese culture and politics. Beijing also holds an important position in international business. Foreigners complain about its traffic and air pollution, but still it is the second best city for foreigners to live in China. The multicultural environment, education, personal rights, international environment, and health environment make this city favorable for expats.


Tianjin is ranked the fourth largest city in China after Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Since the mid-19th century, it has become an important seaport and a portal to Beijing, the capital of China. It offers great promotion opportunities, methods for acquiring policy information, and integrity in organizational structure.


Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is the capital and the largest city in Guangdong Province. It serves as the economic, educational, political, scientific, and cultural hub of the Guangdong region. This city attracts many foreign investors. Guangzhou is best known for its working environment, government backing for starting a business, urban planning, and promotion opportunities. The highlights of the city are the living and healthcare environments.

Finding a Job in China

The employment market in China hugely depends on the geographical area. Beijing and Shanghai offer vast job opportunities for expats. There are many jobs offered as traders to foreigners in Shenzhen and Ningbo. Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing have thriving financial sectors ready to hire foreigners. Dalian is the place where both local and multinational technology companies have set up.

The majority of expats in Beijing are foreign correspondents and diplomats hired by the various embassies and international press offices. The foreign companies in China have more job opportunity for expats available. Around 85% of foreigners work in departments related to sales, marketing, banking, and finance in these international firms.

“If you’re coming to China for an engineering job, you’re being hired for a technical specialist, and you can expect to make a salary at least on par with the US – if not more – plus an expatriate package,” said Matt Zedler, an engineer specializing in clean technologies for coal-powered boilers at US energy company LP Amina’s China operations.

Salaries of Expats in China

A survey conducted by ECA International showed that a total package for an expatriate middle manager in mainland China is now worth over $276,000 annually on average.

Expat salary packages in China are going up in China, as the cost of living is also rising. In Hong Kong, the package is around $272,000 annually, which is slightly lower than in Beijing and Shanghai.

Expats who are hired from within China enjoy less attractive salary packages than the expats who are hired in from outside of China. The acquisition of Chinese language skills is very important for a successful career in China.   Expats with multinational company experience and a high level of language proficiency can expect the top tier in salaries.

The survey, which was shown in a CNN report, showed that about a quarter of expats in China make more than $300,000 in annual salary, the highest proportion of any country.

Healthcare Facilities for Expats

Some public clinics and hospitals in China have opened internal wings for the expats. Their aim is to provide health care with Western standards of health management to the expats. They exist as the association between the state and the private sector. There are many international hospitals present in larger cities, such as Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai.

The pharmacies in China are widely available in the urban areas and are organized into different departments and sections for the public convenience. An expat in China can acquire any type of medicine prescribed to them. They also have access to traditional Chinese medicines that are very effective in treating chronic and minor complaints. The labels on medicines are mostly in Chinese, so a little help is required from a colleague, local friend, or bilingual pharmacist.

Schools and Education

The two biggest considerations that expats have to keep in mind while choosing schools for their children in China are cultural barriers and language.  There is a variety of options for expats in China when it comes to education. They can send their children to schools in private, public, or international sectors. China is very stern about the educational philosophy that emphasizes results and discipline.

Most expats in China prefer to send their children to an international school. There are many international schools present in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, but other cities will also have at least two or three nearby. Most international schools follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum or the curriculum from the country they represent. Expats moving to China should attempt to negotiate an education allowance into their package if one is not included.

China offers higher quality living standards by providing expats with low living costs and high salaries. Economists predict that by 2018, China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy.

Moving and adjusting in a new country is a challenging decision. You should make this decision when you are at your prime. The most productive age is between 20 to 30 years, and this is when you should consider moving. Also, by moving early, you are going to reduce your opportunity cost.


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