(Last updated on: 27/04/2021)
Moving to China is a pretty big deal. There are so many uncertainties and potential risks, but fear not….
If you are reading this article then it probably means that you are either considering moving to China or you have already decided to move to China. As you may already have realised, there isn’t always a lot of information out there about what it is like to live here. And if you’re anything like me, you will want to have as much information possible before making that life-changing decision to up roots and head to China.
So today, I will share with you what I have learnt since moving to Hangzhou, China. I am perhaps the only person to blog about this topic who is not an ESL teacher, so hopefully I can bring a slightly different perspective to the arena. Oh, and how did you find this article? Google? Well, you can’t access that in China- make sure you set up your VPN before you leave home!
- Why should you think about moving to China?
- 25 things you need to know before moving to China
- #1 The food is not Chinese food as you know it
- #2 Smog is an issue
- #3 WeChat is the world
- #4 Having a good VPN is essential when moving to China
- #5 There are a lot of rich people
- #6 People wear masks when they get sick
- #7 The beds are as hard as rocks
- #8 You won’t find your favourite foods
- #9 You are being watched ALL the time
- #10 Holiday dates change at the last minute
- #11 Personal space? Forget it…
- #12 You don’t need to learn Chinese
- #13 Everyone has an aunty in China
- #14 It’s ok to spit and pee in the street
- #15 You will be photographed A LOT
- #16 Social status is everything
- #17 You could be eating cat or dog or bat or….
- #18 You don’t need to carry a purse
- #19 You can order almost anything to your door within an hour
- #20 Things break ALL the time
- #21 Foreigners are second class citizens
- #22 The cost of living isn’t as cheap as you think
- #23 China is the world leader in high speed rail
- #24 China has the world’s most efficient (and cheap) taxi service
- #25 The tea is great, but it doesn’t come in bags
- #26 Chinese hairdressers can’t do blonde hair
- #27 People don’t eat yoghurt, they drink it
- #28 You can’t drive a car in China as a foreigner
- #29 Recycling doesn’t really exist
- #30 Always carry tissues and hand sanitiser
- #31 You might receive a red packet
- #32 Beware of maltreatment of animals where moving to China
- #33 It’s very difficult to take your money out of China
- #34 Don’t forget your swim cap when moving to China
- #35 Racism exists
- #36 It’s a challenge to find cold water to drink
- #37 Wifi is intermittent
- #38 You will be offered a teaching job in China
- #39 China is one of the safest countries in the world
- #40 Christmas, Thanksgiving, Guyforks and Easter are banned
- #41 China does ‘it’ bigger and better
- #42 The malls are incredible
- #43 Stock up on your ladies’ items before moving to China
- #44 You can’t tell if items are real or fake
- #45 Some religions are illegal
- #46 You can give your kids a world-class education when moving to China
- #47 You can’t buy shoes in China
- #48 Chinese people smile when confronted
- #49 Get used to apartment living when moving to China
- #50 You will be living on a building site
- What else do you need to know before moving to China?
Why should you think about moving to China?
Before we get to the good stuff I would like to throw in my two cents about why you should think about moving to China.
Moving to China is not for everyone. In fact, it’s kind of a marmite country- you either love it or you hate it.
The major benefits of living in China are:
- the salaries are good
- there are good career prospects
- the cost of living can be low
- the economy is thriving
- the country is developing at a rapid pace
- the culture is fascinating
- you can learn Mandarin
- there is lots to see and do in China
The things that some people struggle with living in China are:
- culture shock
- not being able to speak Chinese
- the food is not what they’re used to
- imported items are expensive
- accommodation is generally small and in apartment blocks
- air pollution
As with anything (I’m an academic– we love to analyse the pros and cons), there are positive and negative aspects to living in China. For me, and many other expats in China, the pros outweigh the cons.
China is a great place to come if you want to save money or further your career. Some people come here to save money for their travels. Other people come to save to buy a house. Most employment contracts include free accommodation and a generous salary, so it is easy to save money fast. The career opportunities can also be good. There are many opportunities to climb the ladder if you so desire.
There is so much to see and do in China that it will take you a while to get bored. So China is a great place to live for people who want to satisfy their inner wanderlust and really get to know the country.
Chinese people are generally very welcoming and friendly and there are some fantastic expat communities here too. You can get most of your home comforts in China (with a few exceptions).
Whilst life in China is generally good, there have been many surprises along the way. And that’s what this article is all about- to warn you about the things that I didn’t know! I just wish somebody had been around to tell me about these things…
25 things you need to know before moving to China
Are you ready? Here is my list of 25 things that you need to know before moving to China…
#1 The food is not Chinese food as you know it
Chinese food is probably the biggest disappointment about living in China for most expats.
Before moving to Hangzhou I had dreams of eating delicious meals of crispy shredded beef, chicken chow main and prawn crackers for dirt cheap prices. Oh, how I was disappointed!
In reality, the food that we know to be ‘Chinese’ isn’t really Chinese at all! You can find some of the dishes you are used to in Hong Kong, but here on the mainland its hotpot, tomato and egg, noodle soup and a whole lot of chicken claws….
Did this surprise you? I had the same thing in India too! Nobody told me that Chicken Tikka Massala was a BRITISH dish! What!! Anyways, I’ve written all about that in this article- Authenticity in food: 10 foods you are eating that are FAKE!
#2 Smog is an issue
Did you know that the smog doesn’t come from the cities (well, most of it)? It actually comes from the factories in the countryside! Yep, those new clothes that you just bought and the toy that you got your kid last week (the things that were made in CHINA) are causing the smog that covers the entire country like a dark cloud.
OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the issue is real. It’s actually a bit like the weather- you download an app and check the forecast. Rain clears the smog and brings clear skies. The smog is blown by the wind, so depending on which direction the wind is blowing, the smog may be bad or it may be good.
Regardless, it is a bit of an issue. If you go outside in the smog it will likely give you a headache. Prolonged exposure will give you a cough and over time this can make you ill.
I won’t get into the nitty gritty details here, but smog contains a toxic ingredient called PM2.5. These particles are so small that the body cannot clear them out of its system. So even if you leave China and never return, the pollution will always remain in your body.
If you will be spending a lot of time outside in the smog you may want to consider buying a mask. You can’t buy any old mask (remember I told you those particles are small!), you need an N95 mask. Smog is definitely one of the downsides of moving to China.
#3 WeChat is the world
WeChat is both amazing and terrible.
EVERYONE is on WeChat. WeChat is one of the must-have apps in China. It’s how we communicate. It’s how we share photos and updates that would usually be posted on our social media channels (which are blocked in China). It’s how we pay for things.
That’s pretty cool, right?
But it’s not all wonderful. If your WeChat goes down, then the world is over. You are locked out. You can’t even buy a drink at the shop. You can’t collect your parcels. And you definitely can’t chat with your friends.
WeChat is monitored by the Government, so don’t share any private or personal details here. If you want to share your bank details, a link to a controversial article or discuss politics or VPNs then WeChat is not the place. If you say something you shouldn’t, your account could be closed.
Did you wonder what all the fuss was about when Trump tried to ban WeChat in the USA? Well, now you know.
Regardless of whether you think WeChat is good or bad, you will needs to get it set up and running before moving to China.
#4 Having a good VPN is essential when moving to China
There are many Internet sites and apps that are banned in China.
The Great firewall is used to provide censorship of the Internet. There are two main reasons that many website and Internet applications are banned in China:
1- To control information about the Government in China
2- To ensure that people use Chinese companies and websites over foreign competitors
Everyone I know in China uses a VPN to access their favourite websites AND to keep their data private.
There are several VPNs that are available to use, however many claim to work in China but actually they do not. The difficult thing is that once you are connected to Chinese Internet you can not download or update any VPNs. Therefore it is essential that you set this up before moving to China!
I have tried several different VPNs and the only one that I have found to be any good is Express VPN. Whilst you can expect all VPNs to go down during big national events, such as conferences or national holidays, Express VPN has never caused me any issues. They offer a free trial at certain times of the year too- click here to check current offers.
Once you have your VPN set up you can access all of your favourite websites and apps including:
- Google Maps
- BBC (and other Western news outlets)
Seriously, what are you waiting for? Get your VPN set up now!
#5 There are a lot of rich people
Many people think that China is a poor country. Whilst this was largely true a couple of decades ago, it isn’t true now.
As of 2020, China had almost 5 million millionaires. This accounts for 10% of all millionaires in the world. Wow!
Yes, there is still poverty in rural areas, but in the cities there is wealth, and a lot of it!
When I see the clothes that the other mums wear and the cars that they drive, I’m pretty sure that I am one of the least wealthy parents stood outside the school each day when I collect my daughter…
#6 People wear masks when they get sick
When the Chinese people get the sniffles they don a mask.
This is actually very responsible behaviour, unlike in the rest of the world when every coughs and sneezes over each other…
#7 The beds are as hard as rocks
China has some of the most rock-solid beds that I have ever slept on!
One of the first things that I bought when I arrived was a mattress topper, which turned out to be money VERY well spent!
#8 You won’t find your favourite foods
You can buy many different things on Epermarket or Taobao. However, many of your foreign favourites are likely to be extortionately priced or not available at all.
Things that I struggle to find include:
- Cajun spice
- Halloumi cheese
- Fajita seasoning
- Cadburys chocolate
- Mint toothpaste (it is mostly green tea flavoured)
- Salt and vinegar flavoured crisps
- Fish fingers
Things that I can find but that are pretty expensive include:
- Bread (that’s not the sweet Chinese kind)
- Oven pizza
- Mince meat
#9 You are being watched ALL the time
There are eyes everywhere in China….
- When you stop at the traffic lights in your car there will be several cameras all flashing at you whilst taking your photo.
- You can’t check in to a hotel, take a train or enter a tourist attraction without your passport.
- There are cameras everywhere from outside your apartment door to the entrance to your compound to the street outside.
- The Internet is not secure and your messages and browsing history can be viewed by outsiders.
You also need to register where you are staying at the police station. Hotels do this for you but if you are staying in an Airbnb or with a friend then you must take all of your documents to register- even if just for a night!
Trust me when I say that there is no hiding in China…
#10 Holiday dates change at the last minute
They like to change holiday dates at the last minute in China.
One day you might be planning a last minute trip with your newly awarded days off work. And then the next day you might be cancelling reservations in exchange for a day in the office.
If you are someone who likes to plan in advance, this can be pretty frustrating.
#11 Personal space? Forget it…
In Britain we love a good queue. In China, it’s the opposite.
If you go somewhere busy (like we did when we visited Chengdu with the kids during the Golden Week holiday), expect pushing and shoving.
Orderly queues don’t occur that frequently in China, and when they do it’s probably because they are enforced by a guard or security official.
#12 You don’t need to learn Chinese
Do most people in China speak English? Absolutely not. I rarely meet people who speak English!
However, this is not a problem because there are so many fantastic translation apps!
You can just speak or type into your phone and the app will translate it for you. Chinese people are pretty used to communicating in this way. And it’s an absolute lifesaver!
Do you need to learn Chinese before moving to China? Nah.
#13 Everyone has an aunty in China
In China almost everyone has an ayi, which translates into aunty in English.
There are two types of ayi- cleaning and childcare.
You can hire a cleaning hire by the hour. The rate fluctuates between 30-50rmb per hour.
Childcare ayis look after the children. In China, maternity leave only lasts for three months and there are no group childcare options until the child is old enough to attend kindergarten at age 2-3. Therefore, most Chinese babies are raised largely by their ayi, whilst their parents go to work. Childcare ayis are pretty affordable at around 6000-10,000rmb per month.
It is rare to find an ayi who speaks any English unless you live in Beijing or Shanghai. If you do find an English speaking ayi you will pay a premium for this.
#14 It’s ok to spit and pee in the street
‘Better out than in’ is a common belief in China. And people have no shame when it comes to spitting or peeing in public, especially men. This tends to occur more amongst the older generation.
Also, as I mentioned in my article about travelling in China with kids, children are potty trained at an early age in China. Instead of using nappies, you will find parents encouraging their toddlers to pee in bushes or sometimes just outright in the middle of the street!
#15 You will be photographed A LOT
Despite the world becoming more and more globalised, non-Chinese people are still a rarity in many parts of China. For some people, you may even be the first foreigner they have ever seen!
Unlike in Western culture, where we consider it rude to take photos of people that we do not know without their permission, in China this is everyday practice. Sometimes people will be obvious about it, and other times they will be more discreet.
I would urge you not to pose for photographs though. Whilst it might feel good to be the celebrity for a few minutes, you may well find this photo in a magazine or on the side of a bus…. trust me- it happens.
#16 Social status is everything
Another reason that the Chinese like to take lots of photographs of foreigners is because they believe that it helps to enhance their social status. I’m not sure exactly what people do with these photos, post them on WeChat, I guess…?
Nonetheless, Chinese people like to have foreign friends as it increases their social status. This also means that they are super helpful when you need a helping hand… and when you don’t speak any Chinese, that could be more often than you think…
#17 You could be eating cat or dog or bat or….
In China they do not waste food. They eat many animals and almost every part of the animal! I am always shocked at the variety of meat on display in the supermarket…
Whilst translation apps are brilliant, they are not always 100% accurate. I have translated many menus in my time and it is common for it to simply state ‘meat’. For me, this is a good enough excuse to choose a different dish, because it could literally be anything…
As a side note- I actually think it’s great that they eat all parts of the animal. We waste so much produce in the Western world, which is unsustainable. Whilst I personally choose to avoid the chicken claws, it’s great that food doesn’t go to waste in China…
#18 You don’t need to carry a purse
When I went back to the UK for a holiday after living in China for a year, I repeatedly went out without my purse. Credit cards and cash seem so old fashioned to me now!
China has demonstrated that we can move to a cashless society. This is actually great- everything is done from your phone.
It’s so much more hygienic than handling cash and having cashiers touch card after card, spreading germs from person to person. When you pay for things in China it is entirely contactless and super efficient- even street sellers have QR codes for you to pay them with!
#19 You can order almost anything to your door within an hour
Another things that I LOVE about China is the efficiency of their delivery services.
You can order almost anything you want and it will be delivered to your apartment door within minutes.
Forgot to get another packet of your contraceptive pill? Run out of toilet paper? Fancy some chopped mango? Want one more glass of wine? Yep- all of these things and much more can be ordered at the click of a button-amazing!
#20 Things break ALL the time
I don’t quite understand it- almost all of the toys that my kids had in the UK were made in China. And they generally lasted quite a long time….
But it seems that China ships the good stuff around the world and sells the cheap stuff here. Toys break straight away, sometimes within minutes of me buying them! Yes, they are cheap- but I would like the kids to be able to play with them for a few weeks at least before having to replace them!
#21 Foreigners are second class citizens
There are many things that foreigners cannot do in China, but that Chinese people can. This is generally because you must have a Chinese ID card.
Some examples include:
- There are different queues for foreigners at tourist attractions.
- Foreigners cannot hire or buy a car from most dealerships.
- Foreigners cannot buy an apartment or a house.
- Foreigners cannot use certain functions of AliPay.
- Foreigners cannot stay in many hotels.
#22 The cost of living isn’t as cheap as you think
Many people think that it is really cheap to live in China. Whilst there is some truth to this, in general, the cost of living is not as cheap as you think.
Ultimately, the cost of living really comes down to how you choose to live. If you immerse yourself into the Chinese culture and eat and drink Chinese products then life will be pretty cheap. However, if you start buying your favourite cheese or gravy or salt and vinegar crisps…. then the price increases quite a bit.
One of the biggest costs in China is housing. Rental in the big cities can be especially high per square foot. If you can get your accommodation costs covered by your employer then that will make a difference to your monthly expenses.
#23 China is the world leader in high speed rail
Why fly when you can take a train?
High speed rail in China is phenomenal. You can travel across the country in just a few hours (and the country is HUGE!).
The Chinese maglev trains and bullet trains are world-renowned and more tracks are being built everyday. Travelling by high-speed train in China takes away the stress of the airport and you will often reach your destination in a similar amount of time anyway.
Plus, the trains are better for the environment than flying-win, win!
#24 China has the world’s most efficient (and cheap) taxi service
Taxis in China are amazing.
The app that most people use is called DiDi. DiDis come in different types, which can be chosen on the app. This includes:
- Regular taxi (the cheapest fare)
- Express (generally arrives within a couple of minutes)
- Select (an upgraded vehicle)
- Premier (High standard of driving, complimentary water, high-class vehicle)
- Luxe (Luxury vehicles e.g. a limo)
The DiDi service is really easy to use and super efficient. And a bonus is that there is an English version of the app!
#25 The tea is great, but it doesn’t come in bags
If you are a big green tea drinker (like I am), you will not be disappointed at the flavours in China. BUT, the tea doesn’t come in the same way that it does at home.
Tea in China is served in a cup with loose tea leaves. There is usually no strainer, so you WILL end up swallowing leaves.
#26 Chinese hairdressers can’t do blonde hair
When I moved to Hangzhou, a city of more than 10 million people, I was shocked to learn that I would have to travel to Shanghai to get my hair done.
Chinese people have really strong and thick hair and nails. As a consequence, when they do Westerner’s hair, they often burn it with die or thin it out to the point where you have hardly any hair left. I have heard many horror stories about Chinese hairdressers.
Fortunately, there is now one man who appears to do almost every foreigner in Hangzhou’s hair. He is trustworthy because he worked in the USA for several years- so is familiar with non-Chinese hair!
#27 People don’t eat yoghurt, they drink it
In China yoghurt is runnier and more like a drink than it is at home. So it actually makes sense that it comes with a straw instead of a spoon.
I just wish there were not so many plastic straws- its terrible for the environment.
#28 You can’t drive a car in China as a foreigner
If you are brave enough to drive in China, you will have to pass several hurdles first.
To begin, you will need to sit a Chinese driving theory test. The test isn’t easy, because some of the translations of the questions don’t make any sense. And many of their ‘correct’ answers, would be incorrect in Western countries. This test requires some serious revision, that’s for sure. And a considerable amount of guess work too. Many people fail.
If you do pass your driving test, then you have to get over the next hurdle of finding a car. The vast majority of car sales or rental shops will only work with you if you have a Chinese ID card, which you obviously do not have because you are not Chinese.
The only car hire company that I have found that is prepared to rent to foreigners is EHI. You can also set up a private deal with a local person, or get a Chinese person to sign the paperwork (and except liability) on your behalf.
#29 Recycling doesn’t really exist
When I first arrived in China there was almost zero effort to recycle. There has been a move towards being more sustainable, but it is far from enough.
Everything you buy in China comes in a ton of packaging.
The other day I bought one avocado that came wrapped in a plastic film, then a polystyrene protective layer, then it was placed inside a plastic box and then into a plastic bag. Crazy, right?
Unfortunately there are barely any recycling options around the country, although this is starting to change.
#30 Always carry tissues and hand sanitiser
Toilets rarely have tissues and soap. Even after the COVID pandemic, nothing changed.
I suggest that you never the home with a stash of tissues and hand sanitiser in your bag!
#31 You might receive a red packet
Most people moving to China are unfamiliar with the red packet concept.
Red packets are a tradition in China. You fill the packet with money and give it as a gift. This is popular during the national holidays, such as Chinese New Year, but is also used year-round.
Red packets don’t have to be physical. WeChat and Alipay and a red packet function, enabling you to send them virtually.
#32 Beware of maltreatment of animals where moving to China
One of the things that upset me when moving to China, was the maltreatment of many animals.
In food shops it is common to see crabs with their legs tied up, frogs in tiny pots and fish in containers so small that they cannot move.
Terrapins are kept in tiny containers that look like toys and goldfish in tanks smaller than a glass of water.
Zoos and other wildlife tourism attractions typically house animals in unethical settings.
I hope that there is a greater awareness for ethical practices in the future, but right now, I’m not seeing it.
#33 It’s very difficult to take your money out of China
If you are thinking about moving to China to save money then you need to consider that taking your money out of China might not be as easy as you think.
Apparently there is a Chinese version of PayPal, but I haven’t been able to make it work. There is a maximum limit on how much you can send home with a bank, and it requires you to physically visit the bank for several hours to complete the transaction.
People do send money back to their home country, but beware that it isn’t as easy as you might think.
#34 Don’t forget your swim cap when moving to China
Most swimming pools in China require you to wear a swim cap.
It might not be a look that you usually go for, but I guess it is more hygienic…?
#35 Racism exists
Black people and Indians are treated with less respect in China than people from other ethnicities.
This is a sad reality. There are people from all walks of life living in China, but if your skin isn’t white then you should be prepared for negative discrimination.
#36 It’s a challenge to find cold water to drink
They generally don’t drink cold water in China. Even if there is a vending machine or a water fountain, the water will usually come out hot or warm.
I think that this has something to do with the ‘health benefits’ of drinking warm water. But I’m not entirely sure.
#37 Wifi is intermittent
If you will be relying on a fast and strong Internet connection when moving to China, then think again.
China have invested A LOT of money into their 4G and 5G networks. And these are great, much better than I ever experienced back in the UK!
But unfortunately, the same level of investment has not happened when it comes to WiFi.
Plus, the bandwidth is generally smaller for Chinese websites than it is for foreign websites. This means that your Internet may work ok if you are visiting a Chinese site, but it won’t work well if you are trying to access foreign websites. Your VPN will also exasperate the situation by slowing your connection down further.
#38 You will be offered a teaching job in China
There are soooo many teaching jobs in China!
If you are moving to China to teach English then you are most certainly in demand!
#39 China is one of the safest countries in the world
Another thing that is great about China is that it is really safe. I haven’t seen any crimes committed or even heard of any wrong-doings since I have been here.
Perhaps this is because the penalties of doing something that you are not supposed to do are so high… ?
#40 Christmas, Thanksgiving, Guyforks and Easter are banned
Foreign celebrations, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, are only allowed to be celebrated and promoted privately.
Public malls can have pictures of snow men on the walls, but not Santa. And if you attend a Chinese school, there will be no mention of these festivities at all. In fact, Christmas Day is an ordinary school day in China!
#41 China does ‘it’ bigger and better
Everywhere I seem to travel in China there is always something that is ‘the biggest/strongest/longest’ etc in the world. China don’t do things by halves! It’s actually pretty cool…
#42 The malls are incredible
In most parts of the world a mall is just a building that houses some shops. But in China, the malls are soooo much more than that!
You can easily spend all day in the malls in China. They have everything from shops and restaurants to gyms, soft play parks, ice skating arenas, cinemas, car racing, archery, video gaming, education centres, petting farms and more!
#43 Stock up on your ladies’ items before moving to China
When you are planning on moving to China you should stock up on your ladies’ items (if you are a female, of course).
I have had to have my contraceptive pills posted to China from the UK, because it is unavailable here.
And I was horrified to realise that after I spent almost £5 on a box of tampons (which I had to order from a supermarket specialising in imported goods), there were only 7 in the box! That makes for one very expensive period…
I strongly suggest that if you need these things, you bring as much with you as you can and stock up each time you travel home. In actual fact, the difficulty that I experienced in getting these products has made me re-evaluate how I manage the time of the month! I have now purchased a menstrual cup, which I love- it’s better than the environment and it is reusable, so will save me a lot of money! Win-win!
#44 You can’t tell if items are real or fake
China is one of the only places in the world that has no copyright laws!
This means that there are fake products all over. Whilst some might not be a big deal (I love my fake Longchamp bag), others are pretty serious (fake medication).
Beware that many things are fake in China so do your research before you buy.
#45 Some religions are illegal
The history of religion in China is is fascinating.
Despite there being many beautiful temples scattered around the country, most people are actually not religious in China. This is because religion was banned up until fairly recently and many religions continue to be illegal in China.
If you are moving to China and you practice a particular religion, it is worth doing a bit of further research into this.
#46 You can give your kids a world-class education when moving to China
One of the major benefits of moving to China is the fantastic high-quality education provision.
New international schools are opening up every year, many of which are subsidiaries or partners of some of the best schools in the world (e.g. Wellington College, Dulwich, Harrow).
I am absolutely thrilled at the fantastic education that my children are receiving whilst we are living in China.
#47 You can’t buy shoes in China
Chinese people are inherently smaller than most Westerners.
Before moving to China, people told me that buying clothes would be a challenge, however I haven’t found this to be true. I am a UK size 10/12, and I usually buy large in China. The sizes are hit and miss, but I can usually find what I am looking for. (tip- add ‘fat girl/boy’ to your search in Taobao and you will probably find what you are looking for!)
However, shoes do remain a challenge. Anything bigger than a UK size 5 and you will need to go to a foreign store to look for shoes. I wear a size 6 and there are some stores, such as H&M and Zara, that sell shoes in my size. But if your feet are much larger than this then you will almost certainly struggle to find shoes after moving to China.
#48 Chinese people smile when confronted
In Chinese culture people do not like to be confronted and they do not like to lose face. This is actually pretty common across Asia, not just China.
As a result, many foreigners get frustrated when Chinese people smile or laugh at them during moments that they think this is inappropriate.
For example… when my ayi turned my favourite white shorts pink, she laughed! And when I asked her to take my boots to be re-heeled and she returned with odd shoes (one heel was black and one was brown!!) she smiled as she handed them over! But I know she didn’t actually think this was funny, in fact she was probably quite worried about how I would react…
This is just a cultural thing. If you understand it, it will bother you less.
#49 Get used to apartment living when moving to China
When we first decided that we would be moving to China I really wanted to try and find a house to live in. In the UK we had a garden and lots of space in our four bedroom house. I wanted an equivalent in China.
But upon our arrival to China, I quickly realised that this was not possible. Yes, there are some houses in the outskirts of the city. But these are gradually being replaced with high-rise buildings as the city rapidly expands and the standards of said houses are not particularly high.
The populations in Chinese cities is high, and there simply isn’t the room for houses. If you are moving to China then you just need to get used to apartment living. And now I’ve realised it isn’t actually that bad…
#50 You will be living on a building site
They are building rapidly in China. China is developing quicker than any other country in the world! In Hangzhou, buildings go up as quickly as one story a week- it’s really quite incredible!
But, this means that I spend my days listening to building work as I try to write. On a nice sunny day I cannot open the balcony doors because the noise is too loud.
If you will be living in an older part of town that is already very built up then you probably won’t have this issue, but for now, many parts of Chinese cities remain a building site.
What else do you need to know before moving to China?
I hope that this article has given you lots of interesting hints and tips about what it is like moving to China.
Yes, there is culture shock and some things might not always be to your taste, but this wonderful country has so much to offer foreigners- from attractive salaries, to world-class schooling to adventure and excitement!
If you want to know more about living in China follow my stories on Instagram, or check our some of the links below.
- 9 essential tips for getting your visa for China
- A fascinating overview of Chinese religion
- China with kids: 10 things you NEED to know
- The Yellow Mountains: A comprehensive guide
- Things to do in Sanya, the ‘Hawaii of China’
- Chengdu with kids | Things to do in Chengdu
- Hiking in Yunnan: Everything you need to know
- 35 things to do in Shanghai with kids