What do I NEED to know when coming to live in China?

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying they want to come to China, which is great!  I’ve also been asked the question – what do I need to know before coming to China? 

What do I need to know before coming to China?

~ Everyone

That’s a great question!

I think the people asking this question are the real winners!  It’s SO important to ask the questions before jumping in, regardless of this YOLO stuff that has been popular over the last few years.  Ask the questions about the things that are going to affect your life.

The reason I think this question is so important is that China is just SO different to the rest of the world.  There are a lot of things I wish I’d have known before coming here that would have saved me a lot of time and money!  Below are some of the questions I’ve been asked.  I won’t answer them all here, but in future blog posts they’ll all be answered. If you have more questions, let me know in the comments!


  • Learn the language
  • What’s the food like there?
  • Is it easy to find an apartment?
  • What are some typical ways to be scammed?
  • The ups and downs of every day life in China.
  • Are there gyms in China?
  • What do people do in their free time?
  • What is the healthcare like there?
  • Is it expensive?
  • How do people there travel?
  • Can I cook in my apartment?
  • What does a typical apartment look like?
  • Opening a business in China
  • Things to avoid doing in China

So, let’s see let’s see.. First I guess the main thing to think about is getting a visa.  Why are you going to China?  Are you going to workStudyTravel?

The ‘easy’ ticket

Teach English in China

If you have degree and a TESOL/TEFL then you’ll be in demand all over the country. If not, you can still get a job but it’s 10 times more difficult. Don’t let any agency tell you that you need to pay for anything upfront, except maybe a flight. Even a flight, be wary, as most good companies will pay for flights too! If you’re going to a first tier city like Beijing or Shanghai then you can expect to earn between 12,000-15,000 RMB per month with (almost*) no experience, or up to 25,000 RMB with experience. Teaching is most likely going to include weekends but 2 days off during the week. Ideally find a company that gives 2 days completely off – many try to give split days off which is just tiring. *Teaching jobs ‘officially’ require 2 years prior experience…

Other jobs?

There are just so many job opportunities in China!  I was amazed at how many different types of jobs for ‘foreigners’ there were available.  From designers, architects, and videographers, to sports coaches, models and IT professionals.

After living in China for some time, you may also wish to consider opening your own business, however, this is another huge episode I’ll have to talk about in another post.

China is different, there’s no other way to put it. You can call it interesting perhaps but it’s a very different place compared to anywhere else on earth. You need to be prepared for NOTHING to be normal. Everything will be different in some way and you’ll need to make sure you’re ready for living in an alternative reality.

Culture shock?

China doesn’t compare to anywhere else on earth because it’s been so locked off from the rest of the world for an extended period of time. You’ll most probably be stared at, have random photos taken of you, have all sorts of comments made about you, good and bad, but there’ll be comments all the time. Food is very different too, not like ‘Chinese’ food we have in the UK or anywhere else. You can definitely get western foods out here, but that’s the fastest way to become broke. If you eat like a local Chinese person, you can live on a low budget, but if you’re eating like ‘back home’, you’ll have money problems in no time. If you want to access YouTube, Gmail, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and pretty much any social media or communication app you use back home you’ll need to get a VPN. There are so many, but I have been using Astrill for years and it’s been great. I’ve been told Express VPN and Nord VPN are also good. You’ll need to get this set up before you arrive.

Make friends, learn Chinese and life will be good. Number one tip for being here is learning the language. It opens up a whole new dimension to being here.

Before coming to China, I highly recommend you find a job directly with a company and not via an agent. Agents here can be so misleading and they also take a cut of your salary every single month! There are so many stories of rogue agents making promises to people and luring them to come to China without the correct visa before either turning them in to the police, or dumping them in a situation where they are locked into a contract with an awful company. Do your research and try finding a job directly with a reputable company directly. I’d advise you to check Goldstarteachers.com, theBeijinger.com or eChinacities.com (I’ve personally used them all).

Ok, this post is getting too long! Which question about moving to China should I focus on in the next post?

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