Industry Low-down

Guide To Living And Working In China

Published on: 01-01-2018

The People’s Republic of China is the world’s most populous country (over 1.3 billion) with rapid industrial and economic growth over the last 10 years. Being now the second largest economy in the world, many architecture and design firms have established offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. We have placed hundreds of candidates over the years in China and Hong Kong, some find the cultural differences exciting and thrive while others find them overwhelming. Whilst our guide to living in China will not prepare you for the potential cultural shock, it will make the transition a little easier.



Living in one of the bigger cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou can be relatively expensive by local standards. With a bit of research, though, you will be able to keep living costs down. It is common to have a housing allowance included in your expat benefit package. Finding good value rental can be hard work – the market is not regulated as much as Western countries and agents can take advantage of foreigner’s ignorance. One way of checking the reliability of an agent is to check that the owner and tenant share the cost of agent commission (and never pay them money until you have found a place to rent!) If you have a Chinese friend – ask them to represent you through the process.

Average costs Chinese Accommodation, 3 bed, per month:

Beijing: £500 Shanghai: £500 Guangzhou: £300

Average Costs Western (expat) accommodation, 3 bed, per month:

Beijing: £1,100 Shanghai: £1,100 Guangzhou: £500

China Transport:

China’s transportation can be relied on. The bus and subway are extremely cheap but if you want the comfort of a car, the most convenient way to travel is taxis which are relatively cheap. Owning your own car will cost you about £600 a month and about £900 a

month if you have a private driver. Monthly costs for public transport will be around £50 per month but you could easily get around for less than £15. For inter-city travel you can take the train, the government has been expanding the length of rail to boost business prospects. It currently has the world’s second largest rail network.

China Food:

If you chose to keep costs down as much as possible you can eat local food at home or out at cheap places for about the same low cost, you can expect to pay around £30-50 a month on food this way. However, if you require your western food comforts the price will go up, but not dramatically. If you dine out and drink alcohol you can expect to spend around £10-15 a night (drinking is not a cheap past-time in China!) Another more costly expense is toiletries. You will need to pay up to £10 a bottle of shampoo/ conditioner for western brands.

China School Costs:

Schooling is a serious matter in the PRC and you have a choice between public, private, international or home schooling.

International Schools:

There are plenty of international schools to choose from, especially within the larger cities. Most teach the International Baccalaureate with elements of local knowledge and Mandarin or Cantonese lessons.

Costing up to £20,000

Public Schools:

Standards in public schooling varies as in most other countries. Standards tend to be pretty high with high levels of competition. Lessons will be taught in Mandarin or Cantonese, though.

Costing up to £10,000

Chinese private schools:

These lie somewhere between the International and public schools in price and in quality.

Costing up to 15,000

China Health Care

Unfortunately, China has a long way to go to catch up with western levels of healthcare. Saying that, if you live in a major city, there will be UK standard hospitals available and the government is pouring more and more money into healthcare. You can get health insurance from a variety of western companies including BUPA which will cost you around

£2,000 a year. It is advised that you locate your local (or best) hospital after you have settled and familiarise yourself with any language that may be needed when going to one. If you do not know where the nearest English speaking hospital is you may incur language problems.

China Language, Religion and Government

While the language difference can be intimidating at first, you will find most Chinese people you meet will be very friendly and patient with the language barrier. It does help to learn some of the language to get you by in situations like ordering taxis. The PRC is communist which once closed off and insular, opened up in the 1980s to international business. With this opening up came a relaxation of control over the population. The country still exercises control over communication – its moderation of Google is one example of this. Intrinsic to Communism is a belief in atheism which is practiced by the government. After opening up in 1980, the PRC has allowed greater religious freedom. Buddhism and Taoism are the main religions in China with a smaller population of Christian and Muslim. The majority of the population consider themselves agnostic or atheist.

Public Holidays (based on 2016 dates):

New Year – January 1st -3rd

Chinese New Year – January February – 27th – 2nd

Quingming Festival – April 2nd – 4th

May Day – May 1st

Dragon Boat Festival – June 18th

National Day – October 1st-3rd

Mid-Autumn Festival – September 24

Written by: Adrem Admin