5 Challenges Living in China as An Expat

As an expat, living in China is fun but also challenging. 

China is a remarkably beautiful and large country, but it’s very different than most Westerners are used to.

That doesn’t make it a bad place to call home for a time, however knowing what to expect will make your experience in China even more fruitful.

Here are 5 challenges that you might face and should consider as early as possible if you plan to live and work in China.

1. Location matters: where to live in China impacts your experience as an expat tremendously 


Much of your expat experience in China will depend on where you choose to live and work. So making the right decision for yourself is your first challenge.

If you choose a smaller city, or even a rural location, it’s going to be a very different experience than if you were to choose a place like Beijing or Shanghai.

That doesn’t mean you’ll hate the smaller scenes, but you should look into each city fully before committing to a contract to be sure you’ll be happy there.

If not, there are plenty of places in China you can teach at instead.

2. You’ll know how celebrities feel: a unique experience everyone should have 


As China is a pretty homogenous place, it’s exciting for most people to see a foreign face.

Again, in big cities, you’ll draw far less attention, but you’ll still get your fair share of people coming up to you and wanting to take photos of you. Or even just taking your photo while pointing at you.

Don’t get offended. They just think you’re cool.

It might a huge challenge though, if you are someone who just prefers to live quietly by yourself.

3. The Chinese language is difficult: putting effort in learning is always worth it  

Mandarin Chinese is not an easy language to master.

Though you can get by living in China without speaking the language, you should absolutely plan on taking Chinese lessons to maximise your experience and learning there. Luck for us, today’s mobile world offers a lot of easy-to-use language apps that helps you master Chinese faster and easier. Otherwise you’ll forever feel lost and confused while living there.

4. Choose topics carefully: respect the culture 

We take for granted our freedom of speech and the rights we have here in America. We often forget that different countries have different political cultures and customs.

Many Americans like discussing politics and criticizing the government. Don’t do that in China.

Stay away from sensitive topics and everything should be fine.

5. Food: your taste buds get both satisfied and challenged


In China, you’re going to need to let go of your preconceived notions of what Chinese cuisine actually is.

In time, you will find similarities and some items that you recognize from that Chinese restaurant you always order from back home. But when you first arrive, try to go in with an open mind and try as much as possible.

Experience it in first hand

There’s a lot more to living in China than this though and the best way to find out is to experience it first-hand. You’ll find many ups as well as downs living in China, but it’s an experience that will forever change you for the better.

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