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 ๅŒ—ไบฌ้ฆ–้ƒฝๅธˆ่Œƒๅคงๅญฆ studying Chinese. For my second and current expat experience, I came here as a working professional in engineering and management.

Iโ€™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 โ€œcelebrity / big man on campusโ€ especially the farther the schools are from the big city.


For teachers, life is so-so. Teachers donโ€™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. Itโ€™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. Donโ€™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)

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