You’ve accepted your offer and you’re busy getting ready to set off on your new journey to China. There’s just one thing you’re puzzling on, and it’s the burning question in many new teachers’ minds. Is living in China expensive? This is one of the most difficult questions to answer when making a transition to a new country - identifying the cost of living in comparison to what you’re used to. Each country around the world has different living costs, with each nationality having different expectations on what things should cost. So to make it a bit simpler for you, this article will give you a bit of an idea on the differences between the living in China vs South Africa.
As South Africans there’s a few things we’re used to: easy access to goods for a ‘lekker’ braai, limited access to public transport, and constantly checking the Eskom app to see what time your district is scheduled for load shedding. Things are a little different here in China. This article will cover living costs in China, but also dive into the lifestyle differences and ways to make China your home away from home.
Let’s start off with the basics, you’re probably aware that China is a seriously tech savvy nation- which makes life convenient. Ordering food, take out or groceries, has never been easier. With just a few clicks on an app, and a scan of your fingerprint on your smart phone, your favorite meal or groceries for the week could be at your door in less than 45 minutes. Food is culture in China, make the most of your experience here and delve into eating at your local restaurants and trying out the local food, with a single meal costing between 15-35RMB. If you’re more into cooking, try out your local grocer, their produce is cheap and delicious, with each fresh vegetable product ranging from about 2-10RMB. How you spend is dependent on your lifestyle choices, a lot of our teachers choose to eat out every meal – because it is affordable, where some enjoy cooking. As long as you’re aware that Western restaurants and import stores are going to cost you a bit more than usual, you’re good to go! My personal tricks…I always ensure to bring my favorite goods from home with me, but even if you forget a few things, there will always be a South African you’ve met along the way who could help you out with a thing or two. With such a large South African community out here, you can even come across some boerewors and biltong if you make the right connections.
Living conditions in China are great, foreigners are welcomed into local communities, with everyone wanting to learn more about your culture and heritage. Although it’s important to be aware and embrace the cultural differences you will face, the convenience and public transport makes getting settled in so much easier. Unlike in SA, public transport here is reliable, efficient and super cost effective. Subway lines, bikes, taxi’s and scooters, take your pick at your preferred mode of transport. Subway trips average on about 4-6RMB per trip across the cities, and with the online mobile payment methods, you’re on your way in a matter of seconds. On the topic of mobile? Let’s just add that the price of data and 5G network will be your savior – no longer will you have to pay R100 per Gig of Data with MTN.
A lot of the questions we get from our South African Candidates revolves around safety in China. As South Africans, we’ve grown up learning to always look over our shoulder. This is not the case over here. Obviously, it’s important to use your common sense in all situations, and always be aware of your surroundings. However, in China our teachers feel safe walking around the city on their own, there are no burglar bars on windows, and one rarely feels stressed if they hear an alarm going off in the middle of the night.
Although your China adventure will come along with some challenges, it also comes with a lot of good, a great adventure, a challenge and experience of a lifetime. It’s important to get yourself as prepared as possible for what it’s like over here, so do your research, familiarize yourself with the culture and the language barriers, watch as many YouTube videos as you can, and get yourself excited about the new adventure that’s coming your way.