Andrew Smethurst

When I made the plan to come to China, I'll be honest it wasn't exactly a financially backed plan, it was for adventure, for travel, to explore the world. I'd never been to China before, and I just wanted to get on the plane at Manchester and get going.

Whilst doing a few minor preparations, I realised that I wasn't going to be making megabucks, but that over time perhaps it could still be a sustainable decision. The salary offer I received equated to something roughly similar to what I'd receive back home, perhaps a bit lower, so it wasn't going to be a crazy increase in income as I'd initially thought for an expat working abroad.

Online platforms seemed to indicate the cost of living in China was much lower, and you can find some pretty handy websites that break down the average cost of living in each city, feel free to just type google the name of a city and compare it to a city in the UK.

Living Expenses

Accommodation in most big cities in China is relatively equal compared to the UK. You'll find that about 30-40% of your salary could go to accommodation especially if you're in the downtown metropolitan areas (Downtown Beijing or Shanghai, for example, have accommodation prices similar to London in areas). It can also be costly if you're trying to find a big space on your own. But that's what roommates are for, right?

Overall, though, the standard recommendations for finding accommodation in any country apply: costs can be higher if you live closer to the expat / metropolitan areas, have a larger space, or have fewer/no roommates. When you find your place, you should expect to negotiate to reduce the price, you may get a TV or sofa thrown into the deal.

The bills are much cheaper in China, in a month I'll usually spend about £15 on water, gas and electricity combined. Mobile phone costs in China are also about 30% of what they are in the UK, I spend about £10 per month and that gives me 4GB of internet.


When I first arrived in China, I had no idea where to buy groceries, where to eat or what some of the ingredients even were - you'll find that your diet will definitely shift when you move abroad. Imported food can be costly, I'm addicted to Weetabix and they're about £5 for a 24-pack here and expect to pay a lot if you're a cheese lover. But buying local vegetables, and eating in local Chinese restaurants, are so cheap that you can eat like a king for a fraction.


I've found this to be very cheap, and very convenient. Metros in the city cost approximately 20p per journey (yes, that's £0.20!). They also have a convenient bike share scheme for £2 per month, but buying your own bike is pretty cheap too (the popular and inexpensive bicycle company GIANT is from China and has many stores). There's a taxi system called Didi which is similar to Uber, very cheap at usually £2 per 3km journey, but you can be waiting a while if the traffic is heavy, and they have 2x/3x/4x surcharges at peak periods. Tip: if you're travelling in groups, Didi is a great option, but if you're going solo, use other fun ways to get around.

Gym / Fitness

There are numerous gyms and exercise facilities and you'll find many have a similar cost per month overall, approximately £20-30 per month, some a bit cheaper. Usually, the cheaper places can be very crowded at peak periods, so keep that in mind, The main difference to the UK though is in how you pay, as most gyms in China ask for the full upfront cost rather than a per-month subscription. You can negotiate for a bit of a discount - the more months you ask for, the greater discount you will have overall (a 3-month gym subscription is therefore more flexible but also more expensive in the long run).

These are just a few things I found important when I moved to China, the cost of living has been cheaper here for me compared to the UK, and I've been able to have some great trips with the money I've saved. You'll be surprised with how far your salary can go.

If you would like to speak to one of our international recruitment specialists about their thoughts regarding life in China, then why not apply!

Post by: Andrew Smethhurst

Apply to Teach NOW

It takes less than five minutes
to change your life.

Related Articles