China Relocation



As relocation experts, at Move One we know how important it is to familiarize yourself with your potential new home before making the big move.

Move One’s country profiles take a closer look at Relocation, Immigration, Moving and Pet Transportation issues and this month’s series profiles China..

Rapidly becoming a major player on the international stage, China is the third largest country in the world with a population of 1.3 billion throughout 9.6 million square kilometers, 23 provinces, four municipalities and two special administrative regions.

Taking you from busy, noisy, glittering cities that exude vitality and dynamism, such as Shanghai or Beijing, to the open isolated mountain-tops of Tibet, where you could hear a pin drop, China could not be more diverse from region to region. China’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics highlighted its energy as a nation on the rise, where a rich and ancient culture is complemented by modern architectural and technological wonders. In just 30 years, this resolutely communist country has successfully changed from a planned central economy to the vigorous ‘‘workshop of the world’ it is today. Unavoidable in their immense number, the Chinese are known to be a garrulous and very friendly people, where guests are treated with great kindness and sometimes overwhelming curiosity.

Property Market in China

Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are modern cosmopolitan cities where housing options and standards are comparable to those available in Western capitals. When choosing a neighborhood, it is best to have specific criteria and elements of life that you want close at hand. For instance, having open spaces may mean sacrificing on a good nightlife; conversely, choosing short commutes into town may mean sacrificing spacious housing and putting up with higher levels of pollution.

However, accommodation is mainly available in urban apartment buildings that are finished to international standards. A furnished two bedroom apartment with a bathroom and kitchen will typically cost $1000-3000 per month depending on whether the apartment is in a new or old building, as well as its location. Bear in mind that the closer you live to the city center the more expensive accommodation gets. Each city has its preferred expat areas and districts with unique characteristics; it is therefore recommended to have a professional help you find accommodation.

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Health Care in China

China’s health care system is unbalanced, both between the rural and urban hospital’s standards and within the staff’s level of medical qualification where little standardization is enforced. Also bear in mind that China does not have a recognized private health insurance provider.

Although changes are being made in the public sector, private hospitals, which are much more aligned with western standards, are recommended for expats. These are also often staffed by foreign doctors and specialists. Private facilities are especially advised for any major operation or emergency. While it is crucial for expats to have health insurance, most hospitals and medical facilities will nevertheless require either a deposit or payment up front. The costs can then be recovered through the expat’s insurance provider. Naturally, public services in China are cheaper than in the west; however, private facilities will be on par with western medical expenses.

It is important to check how expensive your medical insurance is, whether it is issued by an overseas or Chinese company. Also, be sure to research the best hospitals and clinics in your area.

Obviously, traditional Chinese medicine is also widely practiced, although this is not usually covered by an insurance provider.

China Health Advice

  • Check with your current doctor about required vaccinations and up-to-date medical advice before traveling to China. You may also want to check travel advisory websites issued by national governments.
  • Do not drink tap water! Very few cities have a public direct drinking water system, but bottled water is easily available in China and drinking water is also offered at restaurants and hotels.
  • Most major cities have at least one hospital with emergency services at hand. But note that in rural districts, hospitals may not be as abundant, so it is advisable to call an ambulance instead (dial the free hot line: 120).

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Cost of Living in China

Life in China is fairly cheap compared to western countries, although certain aspects of life in its major cities are more comparable. Costs do vary dramatically, particularly between cheaper local produce and expensive imports as well as between rural and urban areas.

Accommodation, for instance, in the downtown districts of Beijing or Shanghai can be costly but smaller and cheaper alternatives are also easy to find. On the other hand, many expats can make the most of luxuries that are out of their budget in their home country such as employing a driver, nanny or maid (commonly referred to as “ayi.”) Overall, the main expat destinations offer shopping options for every budget, from luxury boutiques and fine dining restaurants (which charge exorbitant amounts) to cheap market stalls and small local restaurants.

Here are few typical daily purchases to give you an idea of the cost of living in one of China’s larger cities (prices are in USD, mid-range):

Furnished two bedroom apartment $380.00
Unfurnished two bedroom apartment $278.00
Room in shared apartment $125.00
1lt milk (2.11pints) $1.20
A loaf of white bread $1.20
1 kg rice (2.20lbs) $0.75
Can of soft drink $0.40
1lt still mineral water (2.11pints) $0.75
1 kg apples (2.20lbs) $1.60
Local can of beer $0.75
Table wine $8.00
One pack of cigarettes $1.55
Laundry detergent $2.30
Shampoo $2.88
Aspirin $3.50
Monthly energy costs (apartment) $43.00
Three-course dinner in restaurant $11.80
Fast-food meal $3.25
Cup of coffee in a bar or cafe $4.00
Beer in a bar $4.00
Taxi rate per km $0.90
City center bus fare $0.45
1 lt petrol $1.00

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The Chinese Language

The Chinese Language is widely known as the most challenging language in the world to learn, due especially to its use of over 50,000 different characters rather than a set alphabet. Luckily not all of the 50,000 characters are in regular use and mastering a basis of 3,000 will enable you to read the Chinese newspaper and impress your new Chinese neighbors and colleagues.

Reading and writing aside, the spoken language comes with its own challenges. Chinese is based on four tones which can be used to pronounce the same word. Thus, what may sound like the same word to a foreigner could mean up to four different things to native Chinese speakers. Moreover, there is a wide array of dialects which can be a challenge even to a native speaker! The Shanghai dialect (Shang hai hua), for instance, is quite different from the official language Mandarin (Pu ton hua), which is taught in schools and understood by almost all Chinese.

However, learning Chinese can be made easier through the use of Pinyin, which is a standard system using the Roman alphabet to represent the pronunciation sounds. Luckily, the majority of road signs use Pinyin, making it relatively easier for expats to make their way around. Fortunately for expats, English is largely recognized as the language of business in major cities and is also fairly well understood and spoken by locals in most expat hubs.

Even though it is possible to get around without speaking the language, learning the basics will enable you to make the most of your stay in China and bring added convenience to your day-to-day life. Despite the challenges, learning Chinese Mandarin has become increasingly popular among expat residents in China over the past few years. Indeed, there are a variety of language programs and schools that will tailor their classes and learning material to expat’s specific preferences and time schedules.

Regardless of your proficiency in Chinese, make sure you have your address written on a card with you at all times in case you get lost.

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Education in China

In the past few years, a number of local Chinese schools have opened up to expat children and some expats without education allowances are giving it a go. Although these are remarkably cheaper than private schools and give children the opportunity to become immersed in the Chinese language and culture, most expats still opt to send their children to international schools.

China’s larger cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou, offer a diverse range of international schools based on the International Baccalaureate programs, the American curriculum as well as the English National curriculum. These have a very high reputation and offer first-rate facilities, advanced teaching technology and equipment, internationally experienced teachers, low student/teacher ratios, and a wide variety of extracurricular activities.

Here is a list of a few of the International Schools available in China:

Ivy Academy Beijing
International School of Beijing
Western Academy of Beijing
Beijing BISS International School
Dulwich College Beijing
Yew Chung International School
The British School of Beijing
Beijing City International School
British International School
Community International School
Western International School
Yew Chung International School
German School
French School of Shanghai
Shanghai American School
Other cities…
The British School of Guangzhou
Hangzhou International School
Shekou International School
Xiamen International School
Shenyang International School
Qingdao MTI International School
Nanjing International School

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Climate in China

Due to the size of the country, there are extremes in climate between the North and South and from region to region.

Winters in Northern China are formidably cold. Indeed, temperatures north of the Great Wall and into Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang, can plummet to -40°C (-40°F) while summers are hot and dry. Along the Yangzi River valley and in the Shanghai area, the summers are long and uncomfortably hot and humid, so much so that the cities of Wuhan, Chongqing and Nanjing are known as the ‘three furnaces’. Winters on the other hand are short, wet and cold. To the south, the Hainan, Hong Kong and Guangdong provinces have hot and humid weather (38°C/100°F) coinciding with the rainy season. Winters are relatively mild in these regions. Although Tibetan winters are famed for their fierce winds and chilling temperature, this area also has the most erratic weather of the country, with all four seasons easily fitting into one day. Temperatures often go below zero Celsius (31°F) during the night and soar to a formidable 38°C (100°F) at noon.

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Expat Life - Living in China

Moving to such an exotic location may seem scary at first, especially when leaving your friends and family behind. But with a blossoming expat community, China has endless opportunities in each of its major cities that facilitate socialization amongst expats and locals. From groups such as Brits Abroad, the Australian Association of Hong Kong, the Shanghai Expatriate Association, the Russian Club and other interest specific clubs, there is a wide range of great meeting points for expats to make friends easily. Fellow expats will always be ready to welcome a newcomer and introduce them to life in China.

From the historical hot spots in Beijing, to the jaw dropping panoramas of Tibet, from the volcanic dishes of Sichuan, to beer by the bag in seaside Qingdao (and let’s not forget the bustling streets of Shanghai), you will never be short of weekend trips, evening entertainment and activities to keep you busy while living in China.

To-dos’ in Beijing….
The National Stadium (Bird’s Nest)
The National Grand Theater
Tienanmen Square
Great Wall of China
The Forbidden City
Beijing Music Festival (October)
Great Wall Marathon (May)
Meet in Beijing Arts Festival (April/May)
‘To dos’ in Shanghai…
The World Expo Shanghai 2010
Walk along the waterfront
The Bund
The Yuyuan Gardens
Shanghai Museum
Moon Festival (September)
Shanghai Tourism Festival (September/October)
China Shanghai International Arts Festival (October/November)
‘To dos’ in Guangzhou…
Guangdong Provincial Museum
Temple of the Six Banyan Trees
South China Botanical Garden
The Chime-Long Group (circus performances)
Spring Festival (1st day of the 1st Lunar Month)
Guangdong Dragon Boat Festival (5th day of 5th Lunar Month)
Chinese Export Commodities Fair (Spring and Autumn annually)

Major cities, especially Shanghai and Beijing, have internationally renowned nightlife scenes. These feature an eclectic range of international restaurants, bars, nightclubs, karaoke parlors and live music venues bustling with life until the early hours of the morning. In more rural cities, the evening entertainment centers on eating out, singing in karaoke parlors and playing cards, snooker and mahjong in local gaming halls.

The above mentioned Karaoke, written OK+ on Chinese signs, is extremely popular across China. Some karaoke venues offer 24-hour service, a dinner buffet and have more than 100 private rooms to choose from. Music venues also often feature traditional local music and dancing, especially in areas with larger ethnic minority groups such as in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan.

Expats should not miss out on the Chinese opera, circus, ballet and theater opportunities widely available throughout the week in most larger cities. English language theaters are available in Beijing and Shanghai with English or subtitled performances and films that are also easy to find.

Culture Shock
The major cultural gap mentioned by expats is the indiscreet stares Westerners get from locals in restaurants or walking down streets, especially in more remote provinces. Do not be offended as this is simply an open display of harmless curiosity. However, there are also a few others worth mentioning…

City life.

  • Expats often feel overwhelmed by the enormous and dense crowds, especially when using public transportation and crowded sidewalks.
  • Numerous Chinese cities suffer from dangerous levels of pollution, making it common and in some cases recommended to wear a face mask.

Business as usual?

  • As in many tourist destinations, there is a mark-up when shopping for foreigners, even for those who have lived in the community.
  • Depending on the shop, bargaining is customary and the initial price offered is not expected to be accepted. Bear in that in shopping malls, which are identical to western shopping centers, bargaining is not the norm.
  • Long queues are frequent and frustrating parts of day-to-day life, from long lines at the bank to extended delays when waiting for treatment at the hospital.

Meeting and greeting….

  • In China, the surname is always mentioned first when naming someone.
  • The Chinese are by and large reserved and courteous in manner, so do not expect any signs of familiarity.
  • Visitors are often greeted by applause as a sign of welcome and it is expected to applaud in return. In most cases, however, handshaking is sufficient when meeting someone.
  • Guests should wait until the host allocates them a seat at the dining table and only begin eating when prompted to do so.
  • Do not rest your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl as this symbolizes death.
  • Taking a culinary treat such as chocolate or a memento from a home country is customary.
  • Avoid expressing political or religious opinions that may offend locals.

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Public Holidays in China

2010, the year of the Tiger in China, features the following public holidays:

January 1 – 3
February 13 – 19
March 8
April 3 – 5
May 1 – 3
May 4
June 1
June 14 – 16
August 1
September 22 – 24
October 1 – 7
New Year’s Day
Spring Festival, Chinese New Year
International Women’s Day
Qingming Festival
Labor Day
National Youth Day
International Children’s Day
Dragon Boat Festival
People’s Liberation Army Day
Mid-autumn Festival
National Holiday

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If you are considering moving to Shanghai, China, Move One’s relocation services include city orientation, home and school searches, immigration as well as door to door moving services worldwide and cover packing of personal effects, warehousing, pet transportation and fine art shipping. Should you need help with your corporate or individual relocation needs, or if you would like to receive a free moving quote, do not hesitate to contact us at

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