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5 FAQs for expats planning to live and work in China

For over 20 years, expats from all walks of life have reached out to our insurance experts in Beijing and Shanghai for their medical insurance inquiries, as well as asked numerous questions about living and working in China

So much so that Pacific Prime China has pooled together 5 frequently asked questions and their answers to help newly minted expats stay informed as they make plans for life working in China.

Read on to learn what these questions are and their answers from our insurance experts!

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1. What kind of expat remuneration packages should families be asking for?

For expats planning to move over to China, there are several things to include in your remuneration package, especially if you are bringing over your family too. Firstly, you will need to negotiate housing which is one of the largest expenses in a household. You are encouraged to look for several housing options, as well as consider your family’s needs and requirements.

Once you have a rough idea of what’s suitable, the next step is to present a few to your employer so that they can budget and include accommodation as part of your expat remuneration package. Or if your employer has a few housing options to choose from, then make sure to consider available modes of transport and proximity to international schools for your children.

2. How to rent an apartment in China?

Renting in China is not difficult but even so, expats are encouraged to follow these steps to renting an apartment in China.

Step 1: Begin your search in the city or town you are staying

As an expat, you will want to pick a good location that is close to work and offers excellent amenities. If your employer is located in either Beijing, Shanghai, or any other major city, then renting an apartment in the city is highly recommended.

However, if you like commuting and don’t mind committing time to travel to and from work, then a town or place on the outskirts of the city is also a good choice. However, as an expat, you will want to do some research and make sure the place you choose to eventually rent is safe and friendly.

Step 2: Establish your budget for renting the apartment

Before committing to any agreement or settling for a location, you are encouraged to budget accordingly and include various expenses like living and travel costs. Review the amenities around and get an idea of what the rental cost will be for each month. Ask for any hidden fees and populate your budget so that you have a realistic picture of your potential expenses.

Step 3: Establish a positive and friendly relationship with the landlord

As you are a foreigner in China, it is good to show respect to locals and those you will be in touch with often like your landlord. Learn the Chinese culture, basic Mandarin Chinese, and social etiquette so that you convey the best image of yourself. This way you will be able to develop good, positive relations that will help make your experience in the area and apartment an enjoyable one.

3. How to learn Mandarin Chinese in China?

Many expats will most likely have no knowledge or experience of Mandarin Chinese and will be hesitant, to begin with. But despite the thought of Mandarin Chinese being hard to learn, especially for those who only speak one language, learning Mandarin Chinese is possible by following these steps:

Step 1: Check out online sources

The internet is a wonderful way of looking for sources that are not only extensive but also free. If you fancy videos, then YouTube offers many free, useful clips and even playlists on learning Chinese. Video content is often great as they are visual and audible. You can also subscribe to learning websites and try the courses for free before you opt to pay for a subscription. These include Duolingo and That’s Mandarin, and are examples of many more that you can search from the net.

Step 2: Learn how to pronounce words properly

Pronouncing words correctly will help boost your confidence especially when you are working with locals or if you meet with local Chinese clients. Learning pinyin can help beginners get used to the sounds and tones of Mandarin. Check out this online pinyin table (with audio) and download it for your reference.

Step 3: Start speaking Chinese

Like everything in life, what you learn in theory is best to be put into practice, otherwise, you’ll never be able to develop your understanding and Mandarin Chinese language skills.

Follow the 3 steps mentioned above and you will be able to integrate well and easily into Chinese society, as well as have a pleasant experience working and living in China.

4. How to find work in China as a foreigner

Life is about searching for what you want and this applies to finding work in China as a foreigner. If you are looking for a job in China from abroad, then internet job searches are an efficient way to find job opportunities in China. There are numerous job sites but if you are a working professional, then trying Linkedin can help you leverage connections and reach out to key players in the industry you are hoping to work in. Just be aware that you will need to obtain a Z visa, or Chinese work visa to legally work in China. You will also want to consider securing medical insurance for when you do land a job. Depending on the employee benefits offerings from your employer, you may want to top up your company health insurance plan to make it more comprehensive.

For further reading: How to find work in China as a foreigner

5. What kind of challenges can expats expect in China?

Expats new to China will certainly come across a few challenges. These include:

Doing your taxes as an expat

Expats are encouraged to speak with their employer to sort out their tax arrangements and ensure that everything is correct and legitimate. Tax bands can vary depending on your actual income and it may be better to hire a tax professional to do your taxes.


Across China, the level of pollution can be a real health hazard for expats and is particularly harsh on children and the elderly. So if you have your family over, then it may be best to have insurance plans like family health insurance to help pay for unforeseen medical expenses due to the ill-effects of smog and pollution.

Keeping in contact with relatives and friends from abroad

China has laws and regulations in place that block access to several western websites and applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. This can make it hard for expats and their families from contacting relatives and friends at home or abroad.

But hope is not lost as expats can look for alternative ways of reaching out to loved ones. For instance, try downloading and using WeChat, which works similarly to western platforms and allows video-voice calls as well.

Reach out to Pacific Prime China and speak to an expert

Pacific Prime China’s insurance experts are on hand to help expats and their families secure health insurance in China. With offices in both Beijing and Shanghai, our insurance experts cover large areas of the country and have extensive knowledge of the medical insurance market, as well as experience of working and living in China. Many in the workforce are expats themselves with years of experience.

Feel free to contact us today for more information on health insurance or a free quote!

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