China > Moving

How To Move To China - The Definitive Guide

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Apply For A Visa
Find A Job
Rent Property
Buy Property
Register For Healthcare
Open A Bank Account
Learn The Language
Choose A School



Apply For A Visa

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A valid passport and visa are required to enter China and the latter must be obtained from a Chinese Embassy or Consulate before travelling to China. China has very strict immigration laws, and anyone arriving without the appropriate visa is likely to be fined and immediately deported.

The main categories of visa for people entering China for employment purposes are the Business/Official Visit Visa, the Employment/Work Visa, and the Resident Visa. Additional permits are required to visit many remote areas, including Tibet. Visa requirements for Hong Kong are not the same as for the People’s Republic of China (see Hong Kong guide).

It is necessary to obtain a business or work visa before travelling to China, and to apply for a residence permit once in the country. In order to be successful in obtaining an employment visa, applicants must be over 18, be in good health, have a definite job offer and the appropriate skills and experience for the position being offered and have no criminal record.

Labour departments in different regions of China operate different application procedures for obtaining an employment permit. The usual procedure is as follows:

1. The employer must apply to the supervising authority of the relevant industry for a licence, submitting a completed application form, letter of intent to hire, justification for hiring this individual, copies of the prospective employee’s resume and references, and evidence of the good health of the employee, confirmed by a medical report. The medical report must confirm that the employee has had a negative test for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

2. Once the licence has been obtained, a visa notification letter and employment permit will be sent to the employee. On obtaining these, the employee should apply for an employment visa from the Chinese embassy in their home country, or through an agent in Hong Kong. They will need to submit a completed application form, the visa notification letter and employment permit, their passport with at least 12 months validity remaining, a passport photo and a letter confirming their job offer. To apply for visas for dependents, the employee should also submit the relevant application forms, original passports, additional passport photographs, birth certificates and marriage certificate. The employment visa is usually issued within two weeks, and the employee and their dependents must enter China within 90 days of the visa being issued.

3. Within 15 days of arrival in China, the employer is required to apply to the local labour department for an employment certificate for their expatriate employee. They will need to submit a completed application form, employment permit, a medical report issued by the Sanitation and Anti-Epidemic Department or a health certificate issued by a public hospital recognized by this Department, three passport photos, the employment contract and the employee’s passport.

4. Within 30 days of arrival in China, the employee must apply for a residence permit from the municipal or county Public Security Bureau in their area of residence. A temporary residence permit is issued to those staying less than a year, and a foreigner’s residence permit to those staying a year or longer. To obtain a residence permit, it is necessary to submit a letter from the employer, a medical report, justification for staying in China, two passport photos, a copy of the employer’s business licence and, in the case of foreign ventures, a foreign-invested enterprise approval certificate.


Find A Job

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China has one of the most thriving economies in the world. This means there are plenty of opportunities to find employment as an expat. However, there are some important factors to consider when looking for a job in China

The Chinese job market has grown steadily over the years. China is the only economy that remained robust even after the global economic crisis. In addition, some multinational corporations are moving their headquarters to China, where the cost of running a business is cheaper. Expats looking forward to living and working in China are likely to be absorbed by the many companies setting up shop in the country

Some of the international companies that have set up shop in China have more than 70 percent expat staff population. Many expats working in China are mostly in sales and marketing (40 percent), engineering (20 percent), management (10 percent), and IT (five percent)

Expats looking to work in China should be aware of the job market rules practiced by employers there. When it comes to recruiting staff, Chinese companies will give priority to local people who are bilingual and have some level of work experience. The second priority is offered to Chinese citizens coming back from abroad who have plenty of experience working for international companies

Nevertheless, it is still possible to be employed as an expat in a Chinese-owned company. There are those positions that Chinese employers reserve for international workers, including senior management positions or engineering posts. These vacancies are available in Chinese companies dealing in top-tier manufacturing.

The only other way to be employed by a Chinese company is to provide a skill set unique to the employer’s workforce. For example, expats who have lots of knowledge in IT and complex manufacturing processes are often highly regarded by Chinese employers. Financial and accounting skills can also put you in a better position for being hired.

Local Chinese companies often favor financial managers who double as expats in international WTO rules. Law is also a highly sought after skill set for most companies, and attorneys with an added knowledge of international trade law often get priority during recruitment processes. Expats who combine a unique skill set with knowledge of Mandarin stand a better chance of nailing top managerial positions in Chinese owned firms.

Recruitment Agencies

You can also find work via a recruitment agency as an expat. There are plenty of online recruitment agencies in China that link qualified candidates with potential employers. One of these job agencies is Hudson, who have a website where you can search for new job postings daily.

The first step in the job application process is to submit your updated curriculum vitae to an online recruitment agency. The agency will save your CV in their database and send you an alert whenever a position comes up that matches your skills. The advantage of job ad agencies is that they skim through all the available CVs and find the right candidates for the advertized position. These agencies can also give you tips on how to prepare yourself for a job interview or for the expectations of potential employers.

Salaries In China

It is possible for expats to find well-paid employment in China. How much you are paid will depend on several factors. In addition, your salary will determine what kind of life you can afford in China.

If you are an expat being hired from within China, expect a salary that is lower than that of a migrant sourced internationally for the same position. Making the effort to learn the local language of Mandarin will boost your chances of top tier positions with great salaries. A Chinese employer would give you a raise for the same position if you become proficient at the language.

Another factor to consider in terms of your salary package is the specific allowances you will be getting. Most Chinese-owned firms hire locally to avoid the extra cost of paying their workers housing or education allowances. This is why you are better off working for a multinational company, where such allowances are guaranteed. Don’t forget to consider health insurance, which is quite expensive for expats in China. Getting your employer to cater for a portion of your insurance fees will make them more affordable.

If you are an expat moving with your entire family to China, an education allowance could be a major deal breaker regarding whether you accept a job or not. Like health insurance, getting your children to the best schools in China can make deep inroads on your income. Negotiate for an education allowance with your employer before accepting a job.

Income Tax

China has high income tax. It is possible to receive a deduction of 20 percent from your salary to cover taxes alone. If you move up the ladder to top tier positions, your income tax can rise to 40 percent. However, you should still be able to afford a good life in China even after taxes.

Finding Temporary Work

Expats can find temporary jobs in China, although this will involve a lot of searching. Fortunately, you can visit websites such as expat.com, where migrants chat and alert each other of possible job offers in the local area. If you are a university student looking for temporary work or an internship, you can get leads from your college mates or from campus mentors in your faculty

Working Legally In China

It is important for expats to have valid visas while looking for work in China. Recently, the Chinese government increased the penalty for migrants who live or work in China illegally. The penalties can be as much as 10,000 to 20,000 yuan. The expat might also be detained in a prison cell for a period of 15 days pending a court hearing.


Rent Property

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In China, expats enjoy the same privileges as Chinese citizens when it comes to renting property. Migrants can rent apartments, furnished villas, hotel rooms and dormitories at affordable prices.

The most plentiful rentals for expats moving to China are apartments units, which are either standard or modern luxury units. What differentiates these is the price difference and the features that come with each.

Standard Apartments

Standard apartments are the most affordable option. They can be found within the big cities such as Hong Kong, Beijing, Macau and Shanghai. Most expats working or studying in China can afford standard apartments; however, there are some sacrifices to be made. Most apartments of this nature are not spacious, may lack a shower and tub, and may also have latrine-style toilets.

You should also expect poor renovation on standard apartment units. You may have to contend with exposed pipes, improperly working doors and windows, or living in a noisy neighborhood. Standard apartments cost between $100 and $200 a month, and make good places to stay temporarily while looking for something better.

Modern Luxury Apartments

Modern luxury apartments are a great upgrade from the standard apartments. They are also found within Chinese cities, and tend to be in quieter areas. Luxury apartments in the city come with a host of amenities for families or individual tenants.

City luxury apartments come with convenient air conditioning and central heating. The interior is often stylish and may even feature Italian marble. Some luxury apartments include broadband, built-in ovens, washing machines and dishwashers. You may also find beauty salons, tennis courts, swimming pools, pubs and restaurants as standard amenities for the apartments.

The rent for modern luxury apartments is often quite high. However, it is still possible to find an upscale luxury flat within the city at a more affordable price. You may have to forego some amenities such as a luxury tub or marble flooring in the bathroom.

Villas And Town Houses

The Chinese real estate market has in recent years witnessed a growing trend in high-rise villas and town houses. These housing units are developed to target the newly wealthy Chinese people. Expats have recently been added to this group; therefore, it is possible to find villas that are furnished to Western standards.

Chinese villas are often found within gated communities. The houses are detached and are designed in different styles such as mid-American, Japanese minimalist Zen, Mediterranean or the more pronounced, classic European. A villa can be a stand-alone house or a several homes attached to each other. However, they are not as crammed together as most apartment complexes.

Shared Housing

For expats who want to really cut on costs, shared housing is a great option. Shared housing is more common for young expats coming to China for studies, exchange programs, work experience or internship programs. Shared housing might also suit older expats who don’t have a family.

There are two ways to go about sharing a house. One is to link up with other expats and search for an apartment in the city. The other option is to find a local family, often a Chinese one, that is willing to rent a room for you. This is called home staying and is common with expats looking for temporary accommodation. This is also a great idea if you do not want to spend too much on rentals within the city.

Students coming to study or take part in exchange programs in China can find cheaper accommodation in dormitories. These are often provided by universities and colleges to expat students that they admit. There are dormitory units that can be shared to help bring down the cost of living for students.

For expats coming to China to work as teachers, the educational center that is employing you may supply an apartment. School apartments can be shared, which is often encouraged to cut costs.

Tips For Finding A Home

It is advisable that you search for accommodation a few weeks or even months before moving to China. This will give you an idea of what to expect beforehand, so that you can make the right choices. Here are some additional tips to help you find the right rental unit in China.

Single or small units are cheaper to rent and are often in high demand. It is advisable to ask a friend in China to help you with your property search before moving to the country. Alternatively, hire a real estate agent to do the house hunting for you. Make sure you hire a local Chinese real estate agent, as this has some advantages.

Chinese housing agents understand the local market better and are in a better position to find the right house for you. Note that most single units and apartments are privately owned by Chinese property owners. The real estate agent will bridge the gap between you and the property owner, eliminating the problem of a language barrier. You are also more likely to get a good rental deal if you let your real estate agent negotiate with a fellow Chinese person.

Every expat is required to register their address with the Public Service Bureau for the period they will be staying in China. When signing a contract with a property owner, ensure that the contract is written in a language that both of you understand. If there is a language barrier, it is best to draft two contracts; one in Mandarin and the other in English or your native language.

In China, a standard apartment could mean anything from a simple room with only a squat toilet to a luxury apartment that includes Wi-Fi and marble floors. Generally, apartments in China are determined by size, location and the number of amenities they come with. Make sure you research adequately before moving to China so that you can find a house that you can live in for a long time.


Buy Property

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When looking for property to purchase in China, it is important to take your time to consider all available options. Consider sitting down and writing a list of the features or characteristics of the home that you would like to buy. In addition, research the area where the property is located and find out the going rate for other similar properties.

There are many types of properties for sale in China, ranging from one-bedroom apartments to five bedroom bungalows, which is why it is important to determine what you want before you start your search. Currently, China does not have many restrictions on the type of property that expats can purchase. You can purchase a home from developers, agents or directly from the owners

Buying property is a huge investment, no matter where you live. Therefore, it is important to carefully do your homework before you invest in the Chinese property market. The government requires all property owners to pay taxes on top of the actual costs of their homes. You may be required to pay three percent stamp duty, two percent maintenance tax, 1.5 percent contract tax, and 0.1 percent stamp duty for property resale

Factor in all the costs that will be incurred in the house purchase, determine the characteristics of your desired home, and research the location of the target property to make the house-hunting process as smooth as possible, and to find your dream home quickly

Research is key to buying property in China. The more time you invest in shopping around, the better. You can use various tools to help you in your search including local newspapers, magazines, online property sites and classified listings among others

China has many real estate agents that you can contact to help you find your dream home. Most of the agents have offices and may provide newsletters that show recently listed properties. One of the advantages of working with an agent is that they will provide you with a good idea of the current housing market as well as relevant information regarding the area you are interested in. In addition, English-speaking property agents can help you negotiate with property owners

There are many newspapers and magazines that provide property listings as well as information regarding prices and market trends. Many prospective homebuyers prefer to use magazines when searching for properties for sale, because they provide an in-depth look of the Chinese real estate market as well as detailed graphs, diagrams and images of properties for sale.

The internet is one of the most helpful property search resources. A significant advantage of the internet is that it allows you to use multiple channels and resources to find the type of property you want. Through the internet, you can find property and market information, contact property agents or agencies and register for a newsletter. This resource allows you to find everything you need without leaving the comfort of your home

Attending property shows allows you to see multiple properties sponsored by different agencies in one place. Real estate agencies in China usually hold property shows throughout the year. Some of the most popular property shows in China include the Beijing International Property Expo, which occurs from June 28 to July 1, the Shanghai Green Roof and Wall & Building Greening Exhibition, which takes place between June 29 and July 1.

Property Market Customs

The Chinese real estate market is quite different from those of Western nations. Therefore, it is important to understand how things work in the country before you invest in the property market

Once you purchase a house in China, the title of ownership is yours, but the land on which the property stands still belongs to the government. What you are doing is simply renting the land

Something else to bear in mind when buying property in China is the fast pace of the Chinese real estate market. This is because that many people in China pay for property purchases in cash. People hardly use loans and mortgages, making the process much faster

There are some extra costs that come with property purchases in China. Getting a loan in China as an expat can be tedious and time consuming. In addition, owing property in China does not give you the right to residency. It is a good idea to check the current visa policy before investing in the Chinese property market

Making An Offer

Buying property in China can be a long and tedious process if not properly undertaken. Research the rules and regulations carefully as they can change quite fast. Consider working with a lawyer or real estate agent to provide you with valuable information about what is expected from you and the requirements for a property purchase

Once you find a property that meets your needs and specifications, you can make an offer. An offer is usually made in the form of a letter, with details of the price and other conditions that you should be met. The offer is usually accompanied with a deposit, which is often one percent or more of the sales price. The deposit proves to the owner that you are serious about the property purchase.

Once the owner accepts your offer, the next step would involve making certain financial arrangements. Whether you decide to pay for the property through a mortgage, check or cash, the public security bureau or real estate agent will have to approve the payment beforehand. You may be required to pay at least 30 percent of the value of the property, as well as taxes and other fees when signing your property purchase contract. In addition, the contract must be notarized after signing by both parties

The deed is transferred to the buyer once you finish paying all the fees and both parties have signed the contract. You will be required to pay the remaining cost of the property after the transfer of the property deed. The property belongs to the buyer once they finish paying for it and has the deed signed over to them.


Register For Healthcare

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QUICK LINK: China health insurance

The health care system in China is well-established and readily available in both major cities and rural towns. However, getting decent medical care as an expat can be a difficult due to the potential language barrier and high costs. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to select the best health services in China as a migrant.

For expats who will be living in China for more than five years, it is advisable to get adequate health cover for yourself and family. As you will notice, healthcare in China is quite expensive, especially for migrants. Finding quality healthcare also depends on where you choose to be treated. In China, hospitals are either private or public-owned.

Private Hospitals

Most private hospitals in China are foreign-owned. These are large hospitals located in established cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Expats may prefer private hospitals because of the guarantee of receiving higher quality medical care. Private hospitals often employ highly qualified medical staff, and are equipped with state of the art equipment.

Expats may be able to afford appointments in private hospitals. These hospitals also have medical specialists able to handle a wide range of healthcare problems, from simple checkups to complex physiotherapy sessions. The only disadvantage of private foreign hospitals is the expensive fees they charge. Expect to pay almost 10 times the amount charged by public local hospitals.

Migrants need to have proper medical cover to receive quality treatment from private hospitals. This will help to cushion hefty bills and not force you to dig deeper into your pocket. Bear in mind that private hospitals in China do accept insurance policies from outside the country.

Public Hospitals

Public hospitals charge fairly for medical care when compared to other international hospitals. In addition, expats will pay the same low prices as locals. However, public hospitals lack the high quality medical facilities offered by private hospitals. Such hospitals are unreliable when seeking advanced medical care such as complex surgical procedures. If you have a complex health problem and go to a public hospital, you may be referred to an advanced private hospital. There is also the option of flying abroad for further treatment, which can be expensive.

It is impossible to schedule doctor appointments in public hospitals. Everyone waits in line to see a doctor or to be treated. Queues in public hospitals are often long, as few doctors and nurses are available to serve the influx of patients. Medical staff are often overworked, and in some cases may lack the knowledge to handle complex medical procedures.

Unlike in a private hospital where a bill is presented at the end of your care, in a public hospital you will pay for every individual treatment you receive. There are public hospitals that will ask for an initial deposit to cover the expected cost of treatment. Any other arrears that add to the bill will be presented to the patient on check out.

Public hospitals in China will not accept any insurance from overseas. However, hospitals in the cities will accept credit card payments. You can then ask your health insurance company to reimburse you the money spent in treatment as outlined on your cover.

VIP Wards

VIP wards can be found in public hospitals. These private wings provide special treatment to patients, but will charge higher fees. Nevertheless, VIP wards are a cheaper alternative than private hospitals. You get the same professional medical treatment and enjoy the same facilities found in private hospitals, but at a lower rate. Doctors and nurses on VIP wards will also speak fluent English. Some public VIP wards even offer special medical packages tailored for migrants.

City Level Hospitals

You have a better chance of getting quality treatment from a public hospital in the city than one in the rural towns. City public hospitals are more advanced and will have more highly qualified medical staff. They also have better emergency response facilities such as ambulances. Rural public hospitals are ill-staffed and will only handle basic medical procedures

District Level Hospitals

District hospitals have the same medical standards as the large public hospitals. In addition, these hospitals have the advantage of shorter waiting time. A simple checkup or basic treatment should be completed in under 20 minutes. The same kind of treatment can take hours in a large public hospital

Rural Clinics

Rural clinics are quite unreliable when it comes to receiving proper medical care. Not only are they understaffed, the existing medical personnel may be under-qualified. These clinics are also poorly equipped, which is why most of them are reluctant to admit expats with emergency cases.

Pharmacies And Medical Prescriptions

There are plenty of pharmacies in the major cities of China. You can locate these by the trademark green cross sign outside. It is possible to buy medication from pharmacies without a prescription. However, the pharmacy will ask you to sign a written consent that will not hold them liable should the drugs harm you in any way.

Prescriptions are provided by a trained doctor from established hospitals. A big benefit of a prescription is that the correct drugs will be written in Mandarin for you, making it easier for the pharmacy staff to serve you. The alternative is to visit the drug store directly and deal with a non-English speaking attendant.

Have a Chinese friend or colleague write the exact medication you need in Mandarin. You can also carry a photo or the drug packaging to help with the description you give to the pharmacy attendant. Most labels on Chinese medication are in English, but the prescription itself is often in Mandarin.

Privately-owned pharmacies are cheaper than public or private hospitals. However, an advantage of pharmacies in private hospitals is that they stock the exact drugs you find in Western hospitals.

Health Insurance

Medical care is expensive in China, especially for an expat. It is important that you get adequate insurance cover for yourself and family. Most Chinese employers and multinational companies only provide basic healthcare cover. In such cases, getting a private health policy is advisable.

Always read the fine print of your insurance cover before signing up for the policy. Understand how much your health policy will cover in terms of medical expenses and what you will be expected to top up as deductibles.


Open A Bank Account

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China is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia and the world. The Chinese currency is known as the renminbi, and is one of the most competitive currencies in the Forex market. Renminbi (meaning money for the people) is the most commonly used term locally, although yuan is another word for money.

Chinese money consists of three denominators, the yuan, jiao, and the fen. The yuan is the highest denominator and is issued in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 bank notes. The jiao is the second strongest denominator and comprises of 1, 2, and 5 notes. You can also get the 1 jiao coin. Fen is the smallest denominator and is issued in coin form

Opening A Chinese Bank Account

The Chinese financial sector is heavily dominated by local banks. Nevertheless, you can still find foreign banks such as Citi Bank, Standard Chartered and HSBC in this country. Normal banking hours are from 9am to 5pm on weekdays. Some banks will close for a one-hour break between 12noon and 1pm

Expats receive the same benefits as Chinese nationals when opening bank accounts. Opening an account is easy, and you will be issued with a debit card upon completion. Ensure that your local Chinese bank has all the services that will be useful to an expat, such as international transfers, checkbooks and so on. If not, you may be better off opening an account with one of the international banks established in China

A potential downside of opening an account with a local Chinese bank is that everything is conducted in Mandarin. This language barrier may present many problems with trying to explain your financial needs whether you are opening an account or requesting a banker’s check. If you don’t speak Mandarin, it is advisable to have a translator with you. Nevertheless, there are local Chinese banks that will translate their services in English for international customers.

As an expat, you will only require your passport and some local currency to open an account with a Chinese bank. Some banks will ask for proof of residency or a copy of your visa, although this is not always the case. Once issued with a debit card, you can carry out basic financial transactions such as withdrawing money, checking your account balance, or inter-account transfers from any ATM.

Minor transactions such as withdrawing money are best done from any of the ATMs available in the cities. Banking halls tend to be crowded and queues can be annoyingly slow. If you really have to visit the bank, it is best to pick a service ticket then attend to any other errands you have. By the time you are back in the bank, it will be your turn to be served.

Checks And Credit Cards

Checks and credit cards can be used in China, though they are not as frequent as ATM debit cards. Many of the day-to-day transactions in this country are handled in cash. Some local Chinese companies even pay salaries in cash. Checks or credit cards are mostly used for making purchases online, booking plane tickets or when dining in any of the country’s international hotels and restaurants.

Avoid using a bankers’ check to pay for items or make other financial transactions in China. No local shop, mall or any commercial establishment in China will accept payments through checks or credit cards. Local Chinese banks also reject check payments. If a check is accepted, the Chinese bank will only credit your account once they receive the funds from the financial institution that wrote the check. Some local banks will even ask for collateral as insurance in case there should be an issue with your banker’s check.

Chinese people usually rely on cash for their day-to-day financial responsibilities. Therefore, do not be surprised to discover that many Chinese locals do not have a bank account, let alone a checkbook. As an expat, it is wise to carry some money in cash, especially if you will be spending a lot as you go about your day.

Money Transfers

It is possible to transfer money from a foreign bank account into a local Chinese bank account. The only downside to this is that transaction fees are usually very high. Withdrawing money from an ATM using a MasterCard from a different bank will also attract high fees. The cheapest way to move money from abroad to China is through money services such as Western Union or Money Gram. Another option is to put money in your foreign account while back at home, then only use your ATM card in China; especially if your home bank has a branch in China.

Income Tax

Income tax in China is very high compared to other Asian countries. Fortunately, the Chinese government levies uniform income taxes to all employees, whether you are a citizen or an expat. Income tax percentages are normally between 5 percent on the lowest and 45 percent on the highest.

All migrants who are residing in China for at least five years must pay taxes on their income. Expats who are in China for less than five years will have their taxes calculated for the period they are residents. An income tax exemption may apply for expats who come from countries that signed a tax treaty with China.

As an expat, it is important to ensure that all your taxes are paid during your stay in China. Tax evasion is a serious crime in China, and attracts hefty fines or possible jail time.

Cost Of Living

As China has become heavily industrialized, the cost of living has risen. Shanghai and Guangzhou are among the most expensive cities for you to live in. As an expat, your income level will determine where and how you will live while in China

Expect to spend around $400 per month while living in any of the major Chinese cities. This does not include the cost of hiring cabs, eating out in fancy restaurants, or going out to have some fun in a club or restaurant. If you wish to experience the best of China and live in one of the best apartments in the city, you will need to have a disposable income of at least $1000 per month.


Learn The Language

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Guoyu is the official language of China. About 98 percent of the population of China are Mandarin speakers who also speak a second native dialect. Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn as an expat. However, with plenty of practice and exposure to the Chinese culture, you can achieve fluency.

The Chinese language is divided into several distinctive dialects. Han is the dominant dialect in Chinese. Outside China, Guoyu is spoken in Taiwan, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. Other languages spoken in China include Lolo, Mongolian, Tibetan, Tai, Miao, Cantonese, Hakka, Hunanese, Min, Gan and Wu.

Mandarin is the base dialect of the national language Guoyu, and is spoken in northern, western and central parts of China. Cantonese speakers are mostly found in cities such as Hong Kong, Hainan, Guangdong, Macau and southern Guangxi Zhuang. The Hakka language is spoken by Chinese natives residing in South West Fujian, Hunan, Yunnan and Hainan. You can also find Hakka speakers in Jiangxi, Guangxi, Taiwan, Guizhou, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Hunanese is spoken by Chinese people in the Hunan region. Min speakers are found in Hainan, Fujian, East of Guangdong and Taiwan. The Min language is also spoken in south-east Asia and parts of the Leizhou Bandao peninsula. Gan speakers are also found in Hunan as well as Jianzhi and South of Hubei. Wu dialect is spoken in South of Anhui and Jiangsu, and Zhejiang. The Wu dialect has many similarities with Mandarin and Gan.

Guoyu borrows from different dialects to form the distinct Chinese characters and their pronunciations. Most Chinese people who also speak a variant of the Chinese language can speak Guoyu fluently.

Written Chinese

The Chinese language is written in characters known as Kanji. There are over 3,500 Kanji characters that can be combined to form another 10,000 unique characters. Written Chinese follows the same pattern as English in that the characters are written from left to write. However, Chinese can also be written vertically from top to bottom or horizontally from right to left.

What makes Chinese a difficult language to learn is mastering the pronunciation of each character. With so many characters to master, it can be discouraging for an expat to learn Guoyu. Fortunately, the Chinese developed a phonetic system known as Pinyin, which migrants can use to learn how to pronounce each character correctly. Furthermore, many of the street signs and even labels on products are translated in both Kanji and Pinyin.

Luckily, one can live in China for years without needing to learn Mandarin. English is widely spoken in big cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou. Stores are mostly staffed with Chinese speaking personnel. However, these staff are trained to understand basic queries in English so that they can help non-Chinese speaking people. Foreign-owned stores in China often have English-speaking staff, so shopping there should be easy. On the other hand, it could be helpful to learn some basic Mandarin, and Google the words you might use most often. Speaking Mandarin can help you make connections with the local people.

Areas such as the Silk Market in China are filled with vendors that speak some English. However, the vendor’s English may be limited to a few words. There are few cab drivers in China that speak English, so if you happen to find one, take their contacts so that you can easily call for them whenever you need a cab.

If you are looking for housing options, search in areas where expat communities are congregated. This way you can get by without the need to learn the local language. If you need directions in the streets of China, consider asking directions from young people, since they are perhaps more likely to have learnt some English.

Learning Mandarin goes a long way in showing the locals that you appreciate their language and respect their country. Going beyond the usual greeting will earn you respect and even hospitality from the local people. In addition, fluency in Mandarin or Guoyu makes you more marketable in the Chinese job market.

Tips For Learning The Language

There are several ways to learn Mandarin as an expat living in China. How quickly you will reach fluency depends on your learning ability and how much you practice. Generally, you only need one to two years of practicing Mandarin to attain a good level of fluency.

One way to learn Guoyu is by practicing speaking and writing in the language. Watching television shows in Chinese is one of the fastest ways to grasp spoken Mandarin. Listening to local radio stations and reading local Chinese publications including newspapers and magazines will also help you learn Mandarin. For practice, go out and speak Mandarin to anyone you interact with, whether that is a shopkeeper, taxi driver, ticket vendor or your employer.

You can also learn the Chinese language by hiring a private tutor. Private Mandarin classes are helpful because of the one-on-one interaction with the tutor. If you can find a skilled, experienced teacher, you may be able to pick up the language quite quickly.

There are Mandarin teaching centers in China known as Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi or HSK. These centers are established in all major cities, and provide Mandarin classes for both local people and migrants. At the end of your classes, you will be issued a certificate of Chinese for passing the state Chinese proficiency test.

Another way to learn Mandarin is by enrolling yourself in a Chinese teaching school. Hutong school is one of the best learning centers for expats with branches in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu and Hangzhou. Hutong offers Mandarin classes, group and private Chinese lessons, as well as cultural activities such as calligraphy, painting and martial arts. You can contact Hutong School through their hotline number, which is +86 1 085 236 030.


Choose A School

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As an expat living in China, there is a lot to consider before sending your child to school. Besides the language barrier, other factors include school fees and proficiency to learn. Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about education and schools in China.

The Chinese curriculum follows the American system of education. Students start at the elementary level then move up to junior high and eventually senior high. Learning institutions in China consist of public, private and international schools. Affordability and eligibility are two factors that often determine school enrollment in China.

Public Schools

Public schooling in China can begin for children as young as two years old. Children between the ages of two to six years can join Kindergarten. They will later enroll for primary school, which is for children aged six to 12. These students then join junior middle school at the age of 12 and complete their studies at the age of 15. Education from primary to junior middle school is compulsory for children living in China.

Primary and junior middle school education is offered free to Chinese citizens. Expat children will have to pay tuition fees for their primary level education. It is possible as an expatriate to enroll your child in a public local school. However, there are some caveats to contend with

All public local schools in China offer their curriculum in the official Chinese language, Mandarin. Therefore, it is advisable to first have your child coached in Mandarin for two years before they attend public school. However, expat students enrolling only for language classes do not need to have prior knowledge of Mandarin.

Expat parents who choose public local schools often do so to avoid the hefty tuition fees charged by private schools. Fortunately, local Chinese schools offer a comprehensive curriculum emulating that of the Western world. Chinese people value education and want to produce the best students for the next generation. This is why the Chinese school curriculum involves intense exams, testing ability before students join senior high school or university.

Private And International Schools

Expat parents concerned about the language barrier of public Chinese schools may prefer private schools. These schools follow the top curriculums such as the international baccalaureate, the American curriculum, the English national curriculum, as well as those from other countries including France and Germany.

Private and international schools in China are concentrated in cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing. These private learning institutions have more qualified teachers and better facilities for learning than public schools. They also have plenty of extra-curricular opportunities in sports, art, music and drama. The costs of these amenities as well as the better learning environment mean that private schools are expensive. In fact, international schools in China are considered to be some of the most expensive learning institutions in the world.

To enroll your child in a private school, expect to pay an annual tuition fee of between $10,000 and $25,000. Despite the cost, private schools are still in demand, and admission slots often get filled up quickly. It is no surprise that most expat children are put on a waiting list for the next available admission. Expats are advised to send their child’s enrollment as early as March to be considered in the next admission year.

Expat children hoping to be admitted to private schools must present a number of items. A copy of the student’s passport and health records will be required. Some private schools will ask for proof of academic qualification and letter of recommendation from a previous school. An interview may be conducted to further vet eligibility of the student to join the private school.

Chinese Universities

China boasts of having more than 2000 universities and colleges. These campuses are able to accommodate over six million students seeking higher education programs. Local Chinese universities follow the US system of education which includes bachelors, masters and doctorate degree programs.

Bachelor degree programs take four to six years to complete. All university students must attain a required number of credits to be able to graduate from their respective degree program. On graduation, the undergraduate student receives a graduation certificate and their bachelors degree.

Undergraduate students can pursue a masters program if they wish to upgrade their bachelors degree. A masters degree program takes two to three years to complete. Masters students must complete the required number of credits to graduate, and write a thesis at the end of the degree program. This thesis must be defended in front of a panel of scholars, whose approval will determine the eligibility of the student for graduation. Upon graduating, the masters student is presented with a certificate of graduation and their certificate.

A doctorate degree will take four to six years to complete. During this period, students are required to reside in China, where they will conduct extensive research to complete their doctorate thesis. As with masters students, doctoral candidates will present this thesis to panel of scholarly experts who will review and approve it if properly defended. At the end of the doctorate program, the student is presented with a graduation certificate and their doctorate degree certificate.

Despite the high number of local universities in China, not all Chinese degree programs are recognized by countries in the West. Many expats consider flying their children abroad, or back home, to pursue a university degree. Should the child prefer pursuing their degree program in China, it is advisable to enroll them in a private university in China.

Other Educational Opportunities

Homeschooling is another option for expats wishing to educate their children in China. Hiring a home tutor is a good option if your child is waiting to get enrolled in a private school and you don’t want them to go to public schools, perhaps because of the language barrier. However, the downside of homeschooling in China is that it is not recognized by the Chinese government. Therefore, it is important to weigh your options carefully before homeschooling your child.



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