What to expect from China

General Info For China

China, officially known as the People's Republic of China is made up of 22 provinces, 4 directly controlled autonomous regions, four directly controlled municipalities and two mostly self governing special administrative regions, as well as claiming sovereignty over Taiwan. Here we have listen all provinces where you can click and find out more information about them.
Moving to China can represent a significant challenge for even the most hardened expat. China is the third biggest country in the world by land mass and has the largest population at just over 1.33 billion people (23% of the world’s total population). Because of the large numbers of people living in the cities they are extremely busy and crowded places that are full of the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.
China is a place that is rich with culture and history, both of which centre around their ancient civilization. Because it is such a vast country it is a fascinating place for expats to live in and explore, and there are many places to visit, from the ruins of the Neolithic settlements through to the ancient trade routes.
92% of the population in China consists of the Han people with the remaining 8% consisting of 55 other nationalities.
While China has been under communist rule since 1949, it is currently undergoing social and economic development and a great deal of money is being invested into the infrastructure of the country. Previously stringent trade barriers are being relaxed and the whole country is becoming a better place for international relocation.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in China is something that is often misunderstood. It is worth remembering that China is still a developing country and the living standard for the majority of the population is very low. However, the majority of expatriates are offered salaries that are much higher than that provided to the locals and the low tax rates on offer mean that quite often expats who are based here have a higher standard of living than they previously enjoyed in their home country. The cost of living in the major cities in China did increase in the 2012 Mercer cost of living survey and Chinese cities remained some of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live. Shanghai was named as the most expensive city in China at position 16, following by Beijing at 17. For full details of the cost of living expenses that you can expect to have to pay as an expatriate in China please see our Shanghai expat guide or our guide to living in Beijing. To read about average incomes click below



Language: Several different Chinese languages are in existence throughout China; 70% of the population speaks Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect) whilst the remaining people speak Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghaiese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese) and other minority languages. English is becoming increasingly important as a business language.


China has a varied climate because of its vast size. The north has short summers and can get extremely cold in the winter. The central area, along the Yangtze River valley, has a long and humid summer, which has very high temperatures. Here too the winters are very cold and it not uncommon for temperatures to fall below freezing. Southern China has hot summers and short winters.

Key Facts

Key facts every expat should know about China
  1. Any contracts you are required to sign in China will always have an English and a Chinese version. In the event of a dispute the Chinese version of the contract will take precedence so you should always get contracts checked before you sign them.
  2. Whilst healthcare in the cities is readily available, some rural clinics may refuse to provide foreigners with treatment. You should check with the local hospitals in advance and always make sure you have identified a suitable clinic in the event of any emergencies.
  3. Many of China’s public hospitals will not accept medical insurance from abroad; you will therefore need to find suitable insurance within China itself.
  4. Checks/cheques are not generally accepted as a valid form of payment in China.
  5. Expats living in China are encouraged to take photographs of their furniture and belongings as proof or ownership in the event they are lost or stolen.
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