Moving to China

China is one of the oldest nations in the world. Throughout history, it has been a cultural and economic powerhouse, giving birth to art, literature and technology that helped shape not just China itself but the whole of the East. Everything from China’s philosophy and early codes of laws to its writing system has contributed to the cultures of the surrounding region.

With the highest population of any country on the planet, China remains a global colossus – around 1.4 billion people currently live there. The principle language, Mandarin, is one of the most widely spoken in the world. From the bustling, high-powered cities of Beijing and Shanghai to timeless rural districts steeped in tradition, China is a country of many contradictions. There are a hundred different reasons to come live here, from the vibrant economy and cutting-edge research facilities to the fascinating history and culture.

Finding accommodation

If you’re looking for accommodations similar to Western cities, your best option is to search within one of the China’s major cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, Shenzhen. There you’ll find the greatest variety of choices, from luxury apartments to more modest dwellings. When picking your new home, consider the kinds of amenities that you’ll need. It’s a good idea to get experienced help in selecting your preferred neighbourhood – local expertise will help you find the ideal location.


China’s major cities have a wide range of international schools. The curricula are generally based on the International Baccalaureate programs, the American curriculum or the English National curriculum. Most international schools offer low student/teacher ratios, teachers with international experience, first-class facilities and an impressive array of extracurricular activities.

If you don’t receive an education allowance, local Chinese private state schools are well worth considering. They’re cheaper than international private schools while also providing children with greater immersion in the Chinese culture and language.

Education in China is compulsory for Chinese citizens for nine years, starting at age 6 in public schools. Senior secondary education in public school for Chinese citizens is charged at a very low rate but not compulsory.


Many newcomers notice that locals tend to stare openly in a way that may seem intrusive. However, this is only harmless curiosity. In other contexts, Chinese people are generally more reserved.

Visitors are sometimes greeted with applause; the correct response is to applaud in return. When meeting people for the first time or returning from your home country, it’s polite to bring a small souvenir.

When dining, wait to be seated and don’t start eating until invited to do so. Don’t stand your chopsticks in your bowl as this is considered a bad omen.

Avoid discussing political or religious matters with your Chinese hosts.

Good to know

Pollution in major cities is quite high – it is well-advised for you to follow the locals and wear a face mask while outside, especially if you suffer from respiratory conditions. Because of the very high population density in most cities, day-to-day life often involves long queuing in stores, at the bank, even when waiting for medical care.

Larger cities have denser crowds which can be challenging for newcomers. In street markets and smaller shops, there’s often a significant mark-up for foreigners, even for those who have been part of the community for some time. Haggling is acceptable in these cases, whereas in large Western-style shopping centres it’s not.

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