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Living in China

Living in China, what to expect and do.

China is rich in culture and history. It is a huge country, which offers exciting goals for life and discovery. However, it is also a place of challenges that can arise from language barriers and differences in cultural behaviour. Nonetheless, while living in China, you will be able to adapt and adjust by self-growth and learning to look at the aspects of life with a different angle. You will come to know things such as not expecting 100% accuracy from the craftsmen and expecting the metros and buses to be a little tightly packed.

We are happy to prepare you for this time and coach you tailor-made for your “China adventure” so that the culture shock has no chance.

Apartment search
Looking for a place to live in China is a challenge of its own and, from a distance, an almost impossible undertaking. The apartment search sites are, for the most part, heavily decorated or fictitious. Do not bother, because the best way to get an apartment or a suitable home in China is through an agent in the preferred district. The first four weeks you should book a hotel or service apartment to start your search for peace. The starting point of the search will be the workplace, and then you proceed with looking at the different neighbourhoods. Add your own needs and combine them with the metro and bus routes. The next step should be visiting the districts on your shortlist and getting in touch with the different agents on-site. It is advisable to have a Chinese colleague or one of our partners on your side.

In a personal interview, we will inform you about this particular topic and explain you the points with the deposit, the lease and how the furniture is handled in China.

The cost of living in China
The cost of living varies significantly in China. It depends very much on where you live and whether you want to continue the “western” lifestyle or if you want to adapt to a more “Chinese” way of living. Renting an apartment can quickly become expensive. In contrast, the costs of gas, electricity and water are relatively low. If you want to buy Western products, you will find them in the big cities – since import duties are relatively high in cost, imported goods will also always cost more. If you go to a Chinese restaurant or a food stall, then you can still eat very cheap (main course for 3-8 Euros). As soon as it is a bit “western”, the food will be more expensive.

We will gladly inform you about full details of the cost of living that you have to expect in China.

Food
Anyone who thought that eating Chinese takeout at home in the West would be an authentic Chinese experience will be surprised how good, but different the food in China is. Many dishes, which one knows from the restaurants in their homeland, do not exist here or are very different. Also, there are no fortune cookies in China, as these are an invention of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco that became popular in the western world. Tofu can be found in such a diversity that is just not present in Europe. It is also served with meat, as it does not act as a meat substitute, but as a common ingredient. Also, there are plenty of regional cuisines: Sichuan, Yunnan, Beijing, Hunan, Xinjiang, DongBei, Mongolian and many more, and all of them are very different.

However, you do not have to live without pizza, pasta, burgers, German or international cuisine in China, but you have to keep in mind that these usually come with a very high price or as “Chinese” versions.

Although China is traditionally a country of tea drinkers, this preference is shifting more and more towards coffee enjoyment. Coffee is considered a luxury in China, and it is seen as “fancy” to have a Starbucks coffee mug in hand. That is why many coffee shops serve the drink at a high price. Price of a medium sized beverage at Starbucks starts from 5,40 euros and goes up.

Language
Although China may look like a unified country, there are several different Chinese languages and countless dialects throughout; 70% of the population speak Mandarin (Putonghua, the High Chinese), while the rest speaks Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghai), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese) and other minority languages. Nevertheless, one should at least learn some Mandarin before and during their time in China, as this simplifies the everyday life immensely. English is becoming increasingly important as a business language, yet you have to expect that the majority of the population does not speak it or have just fundamental skills.

Driver’s license
The international driver’s licenses are not recognized in China. If you still want to drive, you will need to do an additional theory test and a small medical exam. The test is done on a computer, and you can select different languages. Out of 100 questions, you will have to get 90 answers right.

Climate
China has various climate regions due to its size. The north has short summers and can become extremely cold in winter. The central area, along with the Yangtze River valley, has a long and humid summer with very high temperatures. However, the winters are in the north part of China very cold, and it is not uncommon for temperatures to fall below freezing point. Southern China, on the other hand, has hot summers and short mild winters.

Air pollution & water
Unfortunately, especially in winter, many Chinese cities suffer from air pollution. It is advisable to invest in an air purifier in your own home so that at least the air in your living room and the bedroom is filtered. The filter offers you more comfort, allows you to sleep better, and it is better for your health. For cooking and drinking, order 20 L containers which can be done in English over the phone.

Internet
The Internet in China is heavily controlled and censored. Websites and apps like Facebook, Google, Gmail, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Tinder, WhatsApp, etc. are officially blocked in China. To be able to use these, one needs a VPN program. There are a variety of programs available, yet the programs that function properly are mainly the ones that require the customer to pay. The rate is about 80 to 150 euros per year. These programs can then be installed on the phone or computer, but they must already be downloaded outside China.

You will need the programs mentioned above for your work in China or you do not want to do without them? We are happy to advise you regarding the Internet in China and the VPNs.

WeChat
WeChat is the Chinese version of WhatsApp, but in its scope much more comprehensive and indispensable in China, whether in private or professional life. Chinese use WeChat for voice messages, text messaging and phoning. It even serves as a substitute for the business cards. But WeChat is much more because it also has social media elements that have become the Chinese mobile version of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also download WeChat on a computer and use it as a chat program or send documents as attachments.

Pay cashless
Now we come to WeChat Wallet, where the Chinese bank card is deposited, and you can send money to friends or pay cashless in almost all stores. Even the electricity, gas, and water bills can be paid via WeChat. Even the flight and the train tickets can be booked with this all-inclusive app! You will also be thrilled with Alipay and learn how useful this app is. Like the WeChat Wallet, Alipay lets you pay for everything, for example, you can pay your electricity bill with just a few clicks. Even as a non-Chinese you will love this app.

Let us introduce you to the operation of these programs.

Apply for a bank account
If you live as a resident in China, you can open a bank account at any time and at any bank. You also need a bank account to use the WeChat Wallet and Alipay. You can transfer money from your home country to China. Please note, that it is not yet possible to transfer RMB from your home country. However, you can easily transfer Euros or USD and then exchange them for RMB at your bank.

Safety
China is a very safe country, and it is not in the culture to cause trouble on the streets or to harass people. It is forbidden to possess weapons. Prostitution, gambling and drug trafficking are also banned in China. The death penalty applies to rape, drug trafficking or murder. The country is also full of surveillance cameras for increased security control. Nevertheless, one should protect oneself – as in other countries – from petty criminals like pickpockets. Do not accept any offers from people to go to a tea house or bar as you will most likely end up with a hefty bill at the end.