Living in China
Moving to a new country and getting used to its culture and customs can be a cumbersome process, but it doesn’t have to be. Here we’ll try to address some of the concerns you might have about living in China in the hope that we can make your transition as smooth as possible!
While the quality of medical facilities in China varies, they all practice “Western medicine” and can prescribe either Western or Chinese medication. In general, there are three different types of clinics: (1) Western style hospitals & clinics (2) regular clinics in local hospital, (3) VIP clinics in local hospitals. Treatment in these facilities doesn’t vary that much, but waiting times, quality of the facilities, and cost do. Check your coverage with your insurance provider, as costly trips to VIP clinics might not be reimbursed.
Finally, the cost of treatment (even in VIP facilities) is still much lower than in Western countries. For most problems you can go to your local clinic/hospital (even in smaller cities) if you bring a translator, but for rarer, more serious injuries that require expensive modern equipment you may need treatment at a specific hospital. Then again, this is true in all countries as it’s simply too expensive for all hospitals to have expensive equipment like CT scanners.
Prescription Medication: pharmacies can be found on nearly every street corner and sell almost all of the common Western OTC (over-the-counter) drugs. To avoid any language problems, write down the medical name of the medicine, rather than the brand name (i.e. Ibuprofen instead of Advil).
Cost of Living
The cost of living is much, much lower in China than in the West. Meals in China can be had for under a dollar, taxi-rides for a fraction of what you’re used to, and buses and subway tickets are less than 50 cents. Living in China is cheap. for more details check this info sheet about the cost of living in China.
Unless your position comes with free housing, upon arrival you will stay in a hotel for 1 -3 weeks. This will give you time to work with a local Realtor (realtors are used for rentals as well as purchasing) to find an apartment. Housing in a tier 3 city is around $200USD (schools in smaller cities typically provide housing) and around $500USD in a tier 1 city like Shanghai. Please ask us for any advice if you’re looking for a place to stay.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that China is the best place to learn Chinese. Many schools offer Chinese classes but if not Chinese language schools abound in bigger cities. Even with home study it’s possible to become pretty good at Chinese in just a year. Befriend local people who don’t speak English, force yourself to only use Chinese when speaking to Chinese colleagues, and order some books online to learn the characters. Though smaller cities don’t have as many possibilities when it comes to formal learning, the lack of English-speaking locals makes it an even better environment to pick up the language. Just remember to be on your best behavior in these smaller places because foreigners aren’t a common sight in less developed cities. This means your individual actions will likely affect their view of ALL foreign people.
Check out the following websites to get started:
Money & Banking
The Chinese currency is the “Yuan Renminbi”, it is referred to as Yuan, CNY or RMB (Renminbi). It is the only currency that can be used to purchase local items. In general, the Chinese do not use checks. Most payments, including payrolls, are done through bank transfer. You will want to open a bank account right away and your employer typically does it with you. This can be done very easily with only your passport and a signature. The banks have all the services you are used to such as: on-line banking and SMS alerts when purchases are made. The bank will issue you a debit card that you can use to make purchases and use ATMs for only small service fees.
Saving Money & Sending it Home
Many of you may be planning to save extra money while you are in China and bring back home with you. In this case, you will probably want to wire the money to your account in your home country. This will certainly be easier if someone at your bank speaks English. The wire process is really pretty simple and your bank will walk you through it, but first you will need to convert your YUAN into your home currency. The bank will do this if you can prove that you already paid taxes on your money, therefore you will want to save your pay stubs! Without your pay stubs the limit for a foreigner is $500USD/day, so don’t wait until the last day! You can also have a Chinese friend convert the money for you, they are allowed up to $50,000USD/year.
As for credit cards, Discover card is great for China! They have an arrangement with Union Pay which is the card accepted everywhere in China. This means you can use your Discover card anywhere with NO international transaction fees. VISA is also accepted in some places, while Mastercard is only accepted at high end restaurants or retailers. Most ATM's will accept MasterCard, Discover or Visa.
Internet & Mobile Phones
Lots of websites are blocked by the Chinese government. Skype works, but “social media” sites like Facebook and Twitter, and many foreign newspapers are all behind the “Great Firewall”. Don’t despair, however, by downloading a Virtual Private Network (VPN), you can circumvent the Firewall for as little as $4/month. Internet Connection Speeds “in” China vary with more developed cities having rather fast connections. That said, if you are browsing or downloading from outside of China it will be much slower than you’re used to.
In China there are three mobile providers, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. Their mobile services are prepaid, while packages for a set amount per month containing a combination of data, text, and minutes are also available. You can top up your account at most convenience stores, or add money online.