China, the land of adventure, the land of culture to be experienced, and of flavours to taste. Ah, yes, the land of the Yuan! There’s a lot to do. We mean, A LOT. And you can spend money faster than you can say zài jiàn!
The cost of living in China is much cheaper than many parts of the world, which helps. But here’s a few tips we’ve found (about the cost of living as an expat), and what it’s like saving money in China.
We’re always greeted with a strange perspective when we arrive somewhere new, we’re hit with nostalgia when we reminisce about landing (ah, that moment when we step of the plane) into a new country for the first time. These feelings give us so much enthusiasm and energy to take the bull by the horns, to take it all in as quickly as we can because at the end of the day nothing lasts forever.
But when you’ve determined that you’re going to live in China rather than just visit, you need to approach it slightly differently. It’s a marathon, not a sprint: you’re here for much longer, and if you spend all your time living like you do during the first week, you’ll find yourself in a bit of a tricky situation financially.
You have plenty of time to visit the tourist hotspots, and you’ve got plenty of meals you can eat in different places. Take it day by day and don’t rush, you’ll also enjoy it more too. Take a note of the places you want to visit and tick them off one by one.
How many times have we seen “live like the locals do”? It may be a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. If you purchase fruit and vegetables from a local market, and eat out in local Chinese restaurants, you’ll find your budget stretches much further and you’ve got a lot more money to play around with.
Many foreign tourist hotspots are expensive, but there’s other great local options for entertainment like KTV (karaoke bars), Hotpot, and even dancing in the park! These are all great ways to experience China without breaking the bank.
Tip: Coffee is a perfect example of a high cost expat activity in China, as the cost is similar to anywhere else. But if you carry a flask and get some tea / boiled water, then you’re living like a local and saving at the same time.
We have responsibilities when living in China – rent, bills, all those things we probably all thought we could outrun one day. Rent will be the greatest expense, even if you negotiate a decent price. So, if you make a good economical decision on what you’re paying on rent at the beginning, this will keep your bank account very healthy throughout your whole time. There’s a temptation to live on your own in a beautiful downtown pad, but if its eating +60% of your budget, you’ll have no money. Be sensible about it.
Finding some roommates will drastically reduce your rental costs, and you’ll find that it’s a lot of fun too, as you’ll be sharing with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Electricity / Gas / Water bills are much cheaper in China than back at home, even more so if you’re splitting the cost with roommates. Expect to spend approximately 30-40% of your salary on your rent + living expenses.
During your first few weeks in China you’ll find it quite tricky to have consistency, because you’re paying for accommodation and getting settled in your place, picking up a few pots and pans and stocking up with general foodstuffs. You’ve probably not even received any consistent pay checks yet, although a few companies offer a salary advance to help you out at the beginning. After the first 2-3 months it’s a great idea to sit down and plan how much money you’re receiving per month, and how much you can spend in different areas. This allows you to reflect and understand what items cost more.
China is a wonderful place to explore, and you’ll find your money can go very far if you keep conscious of where you’re spending your cash. These tips have helped us both with saving money and having a much more in-depth experience overall.
If you would like to find out more then why not apply and speak to one of our international recruitment specialists.