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Overcoming the Challenges of Living in China

Posted: 9th July 2018 09:41

Moving to China is certainly not without its challenges. The impenetrable language and ancient culture paired with the dense population and a rapidly changing environment mean that China can seem a little overwhelming at times. Fortunately there are a number of things you can do to make sure that when problems arise, which they almost certainly will, you are ready to deal with them.

Internet Censorship

As you are probably already aware, the Chinese Government has imposed a number of rules and regulations with regard to what Chinese citizens can and cannot access online. Many visitors to China quickly discover that most of their preferred social media channels are off limits and that they are unable to access certain websites. There are ways around this but regulations appear to be getting stricter.

Top Tip: If like many others, you are averse to sacrificing your online freedom then you need to download a VPN. A VPN is a service that allows you to access the internet privately via a different server. There are plenty of these for sale online which you can purchase and download directly to your computer. It is worth noting that you cannot do this once you are already in China.

Language Barrier

As soon as you can independently direct a taxi, order a meal and ask for directions, your Chinese experience will become a lot easier. Those who cannot speak or understand any Chinese will inevitably face more problems than those who have learned the basics. It may seem difficult, but learning some essential phrases will save you from countless potential embarrassing incidents.

Top Tip: Invest in a beginner’s course before you go. Even if it’s only a few lessons, learning how to readpinyin, which is the official romanisation system for standard Chinese in the mainland, will put you in good stead when it comes to pronouncing words from your phrasebook. This is particularly important if you are heading to a more rural, less westernised area of China.

Extreme Weather Conditions

Before I arrived in China, I didn’t know what kind of climate to expect. However, I quickly discovered that summer – which lasts from June until late September – is exceptionally hot, there is very little in terms of autumn and spring, and winter is long and bitterly cold. Of course, China is a huge country, so conditions vary from place to place, but it’s advisable to pack for every occasion.

Top Tip: Research your accommodation before you go. It is vital to double check what facilities your apartment contains. Most modern complexes will have air-conditioning units fitted in the bedrooms which double up as heaters in the winter. I would also recommend packing a good, heavy duty coat to carry you through the winter months as well as plenty of light breathable options for summer.


Foreigners in China often struggle to track down home comforts such as wines, condiments, cheeses, sanitary products and other toiletries. These things are not impossible to track down in big cities, but more rural areas may not stock them at all. Some people may also struggle to find appropriately sized clothes as many shops in China only cater to petite customers.

Top Tip: If you are taller than average, I would recommend stocking up on certain clothes before you go. However if you do need to buy anything, and I meananything, you can almost certainly find it on the nation’s online superstore, TaoBao. You may need to ask a Chinese friend or colleague to help you set it up, but once that’s done, everything you could ever need is just a click away.

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