What is it like for an American to live and work in China?

I live in China currently; this is my 3rd time moving to China. My first experience in China was around 2005 as a student at Capital Normal University in Beijing 北京首都师范大学 studying Chinese. For my second and current expat experience, I came here as a working professional in engineering and management.

I’ve had the chance to meet people from all walks of life from all around the globe in Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou where I have lived.

There are 3 types of American expats living in China:

Other Professionals (engineering, management etc.)

For students, life in China is very fun. You are exposed to a new culture, get to travel, and make friends. You will learn a new language and have lots of travel opportunities. You will have an equivalent living standard to the USA. You will enjoy a “celebrity / big man on campus” especially the farther the schools are from the big city.


For teachers, life is so-so. Teachers don’t make a lot of money, maybe $30k to $40k USD on average, and life in China is expensive. It can be fun and rewarding, but you will likely have a slightly lower living standard than a teacher in USA. On the good side, housing is normally provided.


Other professionals, like engineers or managers, enjoy a very high living standard. Typically salaries are above $100k, and including all perks above $200k USD. It is common for housing and a car with full-time chauffeur to be included in the package. Good companies will include good health and dental care, equal to but also often better than what USA employees will receive. It’s also common for an all-expense-paid annual leave either to your home country or other destinations for R&R (rest and relaxation). Many companies treat China as a hardship country which will often give you a significant % increase in base salary as well.

For me personally, the most difficult part of living in China is the internet (censorship and slow speeds to US services I want) and food. Don’t get me wrong, the food is amazing in China. The problem is cost. If I want high quality cuts of meat or dairy, it will cost you, maybe 5x the USA price.

To counter this, I have started to dry-age meat at home and make my own greek yoghurt. I normally like to do this, but now I have a very good incentive to do so.

(Source Quora, by Frank Pereny)

Owner Admin

Popular Comment
Photo review in progress...
Edited answer: My answer: Upload up to one picture and one file
Message Message