Great wall of China at day.

Moving to China

In Moving Guides by Steven Kane

Capital City: Beijing
Population: 1.4 Billion
Language(s): Standard Chinese
Currency: Yuan (CNY)
GDP per capita: USD 8,570 (2016)
Drives on the: Right
Time: GMT +8
Internet domain: .cn
International dialling code: +86

We are pleased to provide you with our guide on moving to China from Dubai, UAE.

Please complete the form on the home page so movers can get in touch, thank you!

As one of the world earliest civilizations, China is home to an ancient history and a past made up of numerous dynasties stretching back over many millennia. The final imperial dynasty of China, the Qing dynasty, lasted almost 270 years and ended in 1912. Following the Second World War and the Chinese civil war, Communist Party Chairman Mao proclaimed the country as the People’s Republic of China and the 1st of October marked the countries National Day.

Economic reforms in 1978 transformed the country, making it the world’s largest exporter and the second largest importer today. Whilst China still faces economic challenges, Less than 10% of the population is considered to live below the poverty line compared with 65% only 40 years ago.

China is the world’s most populous country with an incredible 165 cities boasting a population in excess of one million inhabitants. Manufacturing, agriculture, and services are still the leading economic sectors. The country consumes more electricity than any other nation. It has traditionally relied heavily on fossil fuels, with coal and oil providing over 70% of the country’s energy production.
Consequently, there has been more of a focus on alternative fuels and renewable energy particularly since 2011. China has become more proactive in improving its environmental sustainability to counter the overpopulation and pollution which comes hand in hand with the incredible growth the country has experienced.

China’s terrain is immense and varied, ranging from the arid northern deserts to subtropical woodlands in the south of the country. Mountain ranges including the Himalayas separate China from most of Southern and Central Asia. The Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, flow from the Tibetan Plateau to the densely populated eastern coast which stretches over 14,000 kilometers bordering the Pacific Ocean as well as the Yellow, East China, and the South China Sea.

Expats in China
China is a real contrast of traditional and contemporary, where ancient shrines and modern developments co-exist. This exposes expats to a rich culture, set within huge cities and massive country to explore. Chinese people are generally friendly and hospitable. Language may be a challenge especially outside of the major cities and even if you are able to learn Mandarin, there are so many regional dialects, this does not guarantee you will be clearly understood.

Pollution and traffic congestion in major cities can be an obstacle for many people. Similarly, the crowding on public transport can be a real culture shock. Chinese people have a slightly different take on personal space than many foreigners may be accustomed to.

Food in China differs greatly from region to region but once you acclimatise and find good restaurants, you are in for a treat. If you are invited to dine out with colleagues, do not refuse, not only will you avoid causing them to lose face (very important in China), but the likelihood is you will be well taken care of whilst enjoying a traditional often very memorable meal. Western food is readily available, with most western fast food companies available in numerous locations throughout major cities, but with so much fantastic Chinese food on offer, why would you want a burger?

As hinted at in the last paragraph causing someone to lose face in China is something best avoided. As a rule, make a habit of avoiding criticism and generally focus on the positives and you should be fine. People in China, whilst traditional can be quite forgiving of faux-pas especially when it involves foreigners.

Sport and leisure are well catered for in China. In cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, cinemas, theatres, and music festivals are increasingly catering to English speakers. Golf is becoming increasingly popular. Health clubs, gyms, and swimming pools are increasingly common.

Cost of living (Beijing)
A meal at a standard restaurant is likely to cost roughly USD 5-10 per person with an imported beer priced around USD 4.00 and soft drinks around USD 0.60 per can.  A reasonable bottle of wine costs approximately USD 14 and a coffee typically sets you back around USD 4.50.  At the local supermarkets a loaf of bread is priced around USD 1.50, a liter of milk approximately USD 1.80 and a dozen eggs roughly USD 1.80.

Public transport in China, in general, is very good and inexpensive, although can be cramped. A monthly pass in a major city is likely to cost around USD 30. Taxis start around is USD 2 and then around USD 0.40 per kilometer thereafter. Petrol is relatively cheap at around USD 1.10 per liter. Accommodation is fairly expensive. A typical 1-2 bedroom apartment in a good area would be approximately USD 700-1,100 per month. Less desirable areas would reduce the monthly rent to around USD 400-650. A typical 3 bedroom house in a suburb would cost around USD 1,200-1,800 per month.

Basic utilities for an average two-bedroom apartment will be around USD 60-80.  Prepaid mobile phone charges are approximately USD 0.05 per minutes and fast broadband internet is roughly USD 20 per month.
(Source – NUMBEO)

China treats education very seriously. Parents and teachers take a strict and regimented approach which is understandable in such a highly populated country. Chinese schools offer a quality education, and expats are able to enroll their children in some schools, however, class sizes are generally very large, the language can obviously be a problem, especially for families on a short-term posting in China.

China has a variety of reputable of international schools. Expats have the option of several curricula including American, British, and to a lesser extent German and French. In addition, there are several International Baccalaureate (IB) schools, which is ideal for families who may have moved from another international expat hub/location.

International schools are not cheap. Annual tuition can cost USD 30,000 or more. Despite this International schools are gaining in popularity with Chinese students as well as foreigners and the increased demand has seen a huge increase in international schools in the last 10 years. Most schools have waiting lists and so applying and enrolling children is an absolute priority and should be arranged at the earliest possible opportunity. An entrance exam and interview is not unusual and of course, it is vital that students’ previous schooling records are at hand.

Shanghai has a wide selection of international schools, Guangzhou also has a reasonable choice. Places like Shenzhen and Tianjin offer a smaller number.

Some schools in the Beijing area

National healthcare in China was initiated back in 1949 and then underwent a major reform in 2011, which aimed to offer a heavily subsidized basic medical healthcare. The sheer size and vast population mean that healthcare is inconsistent.

Those who can afford it opt for private healthcare. This offers Chinese doctors who have studied abroad, which combined with the increasing number of foreign healthcare staff, eliminates the language barrier.  Whilst the cost of this can be high, waiting lists are much shorter and access to top quality equipment and procedures become available.

There are a wide variety of renowned International insurance companies and brokers who offer health care packages. However, it is absolutely essential that you only consider using companies who are licensed. Health plans purchased from companies who are not registered can lead to problems as you will not have any basis for recourse should you find yourself in the middle of any disputes.

There is a flourishing Chinese medical insurance market which offers a VIP health plan which can fill some of the gaps in the public health service. This is a cheaper option than private healthcare, but should only be considered if the cost of private healthcare is out of reach.

In an ideal situation, a suitable private healthcare plan for you and your family should be part of the compensation package you negotiate with your employer before you accept your position.

Moving Documents Required

When moving to China from Dubai, importation of Household Goods and Personal Effects

  • Original passport with valid residence and work permit (12 months)
  • Detailed Packing list in English or Chinese
  • Baggage declaration form
  • Bill of lading / AWB
  • List of electronic items
  • List of Alcohol

Useful link(s);
Online dictionary
Chinese Customs Clearance

Note: This document is provided as a guide for people moving to China from Dubai, UAE and for information purposes only. Customs regulations can and do change at any time, usually without notice. Your mover will provide you with more information.