16 Pros And Cons of Living in China

Updated On October 9, 2023

Living in China is an adventure that captures thousands of people every year.

Tens of thousands of students and workers receive visas annually.

China offers surprises and delights most visitors can hardly imagine. China is diverse and seems almost endless.

No two foreigners living in China have exactly the same experience.

Still, there are general pros and cons of living in China that most foreigners tend to agree on.


Pros of Living in China

So what are the biggest benefits of living in China?

Here are some of the top things that ex-pats have to say.

1. The Food Is Delicious

Authentic Chinese food is full of flavors, textures, and ingredients that blow foreigners away.

A number of dishes popular around the world are available here and with even better results.

But the Americanized buffet style is only scratching the surface.

China is home to eight major cuisine styles based on region.

Many cities have their own further specialized cuisines.

Xi’an cuisine, for example, uses lots of different noodle styles, often with spicy peanut-based sauces. 

2. Salaries Are Comparable To Living Costs

The average salary in China varies significantly from region to region.

As in most other countries, you can expect to earn more money if you live in a large urban area than a less-developed or rural one.

Though the average worker in China earns less than in many other highly-developed countries (the equivalent of about $54,422), most residents find that they can afford all their necessities.

3. There Are Many Job Opportunities

The Chinese economy is booming and that means there are loads of job opportunities.

China has a complex hiring process, and visa application can be difficult.

But there are many job opportunities for foreigners with competitive salaries and benefits.

There are tons of jobs for editors, copywriters, video game writers and designers, models, actors, and far more. 

4. Cost Of Living Is Low

The cost of living in China varies depending on location– like anywhere else in the world.

But most places in China are relatively affordable.

It is fairly straightforward to work, live, and save money.

Many ex-pats are shocked by the low costs of housing, food, utilities, and transportation, even in larger cities such as Beijing.

5. Living Standards Are High

Living standards in China leave those of many Western nations far behind.

There have been widespread efforts since the turn of the 21st century to improve life for residents.

These have affected the Chinese economy as well as transportation, food safety, measures against violent crime, and more.

Most ex-pats find themselves extremely impressed by their quality of life in China. 

6. You’ll Have Access To Amazing Destinations

China is home to many of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and historical sites.

Travelers worldwide dream of visiting the Xi’an Terracotta Army and the Great Wall.

Beijing and Shanghai are some of the top-tier cities anywhere in the world.

Living in China gives me a much better opportunity to visit these sites and really take them in.

And right nearby are worthwhile locations like Nepal, Vietnam, Mongolia, and more.

7. Crime Rates Are Low

China is quite safe. Foreigners commonly walk around after dark almost anywhere without issue.

People leave their apartments and homes unlocked regularly.

Families leave shoes and bicycles outside apartment doors.

Thefts are highly uncommon.

Some of this has to do with recent updates in public safety measures, as well as widespread surveillance.

8. There Is a Kind And Welcoming Community

Chinese people are remarkably kind!

Foreigners widely report Chinese people to be friendly and eager to lend a hand.

Most locals are easy to befriend and willing to help you out.

They are also open about sharing their culture and customs with newcomers, especially if they express an interest in learning.

Foreigners who move to China often find deep, meaningful relationships with many native Chinese people.


Cons of Living in China

Chinese culture is significantly different from that of many Western countries, and assimilating may be a challenge for some.

Here are the biggest hurdles that come with moving to China.

1. There Are Different Food And Hygiene Practices 

Food safety in China has been a longstanding concern, not only because of lax public hygiene laws but also because of toxic food additives.

Though recent laws have improved food safety, some ex-pats may feel uncomfortable knowing that restaurant hygiene is significantly less strict than in most Western countries.

You might also find some public toilet etiquette difficult to get used to — for example, many public restrooms do not stock toilet paper.

2. Workloads Are Tough

Chinese society is a hardworking one, which unfortunately can affect a healthy work-life balance.

In fact, some workplaces require a 72-hour work week, which involves working from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week.

While this isn’t the norm in every company — and there have been growing calls for the government to make these practices illegal — “996” schedules are definitely not unheard of.

3. Surveillance Is High

Chinese society is under high surveillance.

This is part of what cuts down on theft and other crimes.

Cameras are all over public spaces from classrooms to stores and city streets.

It’s common to see microphones hanging from ceilings.

Depending on your personality and values, this may be more or less of a con in your eyes.

Many people value surveillance and transparency, while other visitors feel violated by it. 

4. There Is a Tough Visa Process

Very few people are approved to become permanent residents in China each year.

The government is currently revising the visa process to allow foreigners to receive a “Chinese Green Card,” but this is not finished yet.

Most immigrants to China have ethnic Chinese backgrounds.

To successfully get a work visa, you’ll need the help of an employer.

You’ll also need a comprehensive medical exam, recommendation letters, and criminal background check.

5. The Language Barrier Can Be a Challenge

Mandarin, the major language of China, can be brutal to newcomers.

Lots of people are likely to misunderstand you until you get it right.

They may even assume you’re speaking English.

Mandarin uses four tones that you have to get just right to be understood.

Simply studying Chinese characters will get you through reading street signs and menus.

True communication can take years to accomplish.

Having digital translation tools handy can be a lifesaver.

6. There Are Different Cultural Concepts Of Personal Space

China is highly populous, so Chinese people are used to crowds.

Public transit can be a little disorienting for newcomers.

People have no issue pushing past each other to get where they need to go.

People often speak very closely to each other, compared to Western countries.

Apartments can be small, so people are used to crowded living quarters, too.

Even bathrooms are set up quite differently than in western countries.

7. There Are Ongoing COVID-Related Difficulties

China is still taking COVID-19 very seriously.

To many foreigners, the public health measures still in place are surprising.

Yet, they are why China has had such comparatively low infection rates throughout the pandemic.

In the face of some unrest, Chinese government authorities have begun loosening some restrictions.

This is currently the case with those traveling to China from elsewhere, too.

But COVID-19 has temporarily changed China’s social atmosphere in many ways that will affect any trip or move.

8. People Might Stare

Depending on where you live in China and what you look like, you might need to get used to people staring at you.

This is especially true if you have light hair or eyes, which are exceedingly rare in China.

Staring doesn’t necessarily have the same connotation of rudeness as it does in many Western countries, and ex-pats have found that they need to get used to locals openly staring at them or even taking pictures.

Pros And Cons of Living in China – Summary Table

Pros of Living in ChinaCons of Living in China
1. The Food Is Delicious1. There Are Different Food And Hygiene Practices 
2. Salaries Are Comparable To Living Costs2. Workloads Are Tough
3. There Are Many Job Opportunities3. Surveillance Is High
4. Cost Of Living Is Low4. There Is a Tough Visa Process
5. Living Standards Are High5. The Language Barrier Can Be a Challenge
6. You’ll Have Access To Amazing Destinations6. There Are Different Cultural Concepts Of Personal Space
7. Crime Rates Are Low7. There Are Ongoing COVID-Related Difficulties
8. There Is a Kind And Welcoming Community8. People Might Stare

China Safety Overview

READ THE FULL REPORT: China Safety Review

Safety Index:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is China a Good Place to Live as a Foreigner?

China has a lot to offer for foreigners looking for somewhere to call home.

While there are unique challenges to establishing residency and finding a job, you can bank on finding a welcoming society.

Most foreigners find that once they get used to the newer culture, they have a happy and fulfilling life in China.

Does China Have Good Quality of Life?

China has a high quality of life.

Living in China generally means having affordable access to transportation, education, medical care, housing, and other necessities.

While the country also offers unique challenges, many ex-pats find that the quality of life outstrips their experiences in their native countries.

Is Chinese Healthcare Free?

China has a free public healthcare system for both residents and ex-pats.

This makes most basic medical care free or low-cost for everyone who needs it.

However, there are some differences in medical coverage and options depending on what region you live in, so be sure to do your research before accessing medical care in China.

Do You Need to Speak Mandarin to Live in China?

Knowing Mandarin is extremely helpful but not strictly necessary to live in China.

China has over 10,000,000 English speakers.

Moving to China from an English-speaking country is in many ways much easier than the reverse.

While most Chinese people are not fluent English speakers, English is taught in schools and many people retain much of it.

Most English-speaking Chinese are found in large cities.

Many staff, especially in highly populated areas, are used to communicating with English speakers, too.

Is it Easy to Move to China?

For most people, moving to China is no small task.

It requires a lot of paperwork, background checks, and funding.

That doesn’t begin to consider the detailed planning it requires.

Most people will need an employer’s help to move to China.

Those with Chinese ethnicity generally have an easier time.

3 Comments on 16 Pros And Cons of Living in China

  1. One thing that struck me was the state of the air. Air pollution can be bad, especially in the big cities and if you have asthma you might be in a bit of a pickle. The culture is so rich and vibrant, and there’s always something new to see and do. The food is also incredible, and I’ve never had so many delicious and affordable meals in my life. Chinese people are so friendly and welcoming, and they’re always happy to help out. I’ve also made some great friends here during my one month stay, both locals and expats.

  2. I currently live in Beijing and it’s very affordable, especially compared to many other countries. I’m able to live comfortably on a fixed income, and I still have plenty of money left over to travel and enjoy myself. There are many museums, art galleries, and theaters to explore. And there are also many traditional Chinese festivals and events that take place throughout the year. The country is growing and developing so rapidly, and it’s exciting to see.

  3. If a Chinese person stares at you, they may seem to be in touch and that doesn’t look like a con to me…… 😂

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