Useful Information on Living in China

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The Language Barrier in China

There are many different dialects and Chinese languages spoken in China, and English is also very popular. 71.5% of the population speak Mandarin, then Wu and Cantonese are also widely heard. In bigger cities English is widely spoken, and it is also the preferred business language in China. In rural areas however, you might struggle to find English-speaking people.

Weather & Climate

China is a seismic hotspot which experiences landslides and earthquakes throughout the year. Most are minor and are not worth serious consideration; however some can cause significant damage. This is something you should take into account when thinking about living in China.

During the wet season (May-November), the Southern and Eastern coastal regions experience typhoons and many parts of the country are prone to flooding. Coastal regions of China are also vulnerable to tsunami waves.

British Embassy in China

Address:11 Guang Hua Lu
Jian Guo Men Wai
Beijing, 100600
Phone:(+86) (0) (10) 5192 4000 General enquiries only
(+86) (0) (10) 8529 6083 Consular assistance for British nationals
Fax:(+86) (10) 5192 4239
Office hours:Local Time
Mon-Fri: 08:30-12:00 / 13:30-17:00

Emergency Services Contact Information in China

Emergency ServiceContact Number
Police Service110
Fire Service119
Ambulance Service120

Health in China

It’s recommended that UK residents visit a local GP a minimum of 8 weeks before leaving for China to receive the appropriate vaccinations and medical health checks. This is highly recommended as healthcare in China is not provided free of charge and can be costly, especially in the case of an emergency medical evacuation. In addition to the UK’s standard MMR and Tetanus boosters, other vaccinations that may be recommended include; Polio, Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, and Tick-borne Encephalitis. Those travelling to rural areas may also be advised Cholera, Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies medication.

Any visitors aged over nine months, who are entering China from a country that has a Yellow fever risk (including airport stopovers), will be required to present a Yellow fever vaccination certificate upon entry.

Health is a real concern for people who live in many urban areas of China. The authorities have developed a quick response to suspected outbreaks of any infectious diseases; it’s not uncommon for suspected patients to be quarantined to prevent spread. Individuals with bronchial, sinus or asthmatic infections that are planning on migrating to urban or industrial areas may find the high levels of air pollution a challenge. Another health risk while living in China is Dengue fever. Due to this you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites.

Driving while Living in China

The road conditions in China vary from district to district, however even some major cities have road surfaces that do not rival those in England. If you’re planning on living in China, you should ensure that you own a vehicle that will adequately handle the road surfaces.

Because of the dense population in the cities, traffic can be tiring. This is why many expats living in China opt to use the public transportation systems or cycle. However, if you’ll be travelling long distances frequently you may require a car.

You should also be highly aware of other road users as many local drivers will not have car insurance. If you are involved in an accident, you should also be cautious of the other party bribing witnesses and authority officials.

Getting your Driving Licence

In many countries, you are allowed to drive on a foreign driving licence, but this is not acceptable in China. Even an International Driving Permit is not recognised by Chinese authorities. Instead drivers living in China must apply for a regular Chinese licence, or a temporary local driving permit if you’re only there for less than three months. To apply for a Chinese drivers licence, you will need to provide the following:

  • Your passport
  • A copy of your visa
  • A copy of the passport page with the last entry stamp for China
  • Passport photographs
  • A health certificate
  • A copy of your foreign drivers licence
  • A certified translation of your licence
  • A document stating your Chinese name and your height

You will also be required to take a multiple choice theory test. You may need to bring a translator for this as only major cities are likely to offer it in multiple languages other than Mandarin.

Legal Requirements

As in the UK, drink driving is prohibited. The legal blood alcohol content for drivers is less than 0.2%. This could result in a fine of up to 500 Yuan (£55) and a maximum license suspension of up to 17 months. The punishment for an offender with a reading higher than 0.8% will be considerably harsher and could include a prison sentence. When living in China, or anywhere in the world, it is best to avoid drink driving at all costs especially if you rely on driving for work.

Another similarity to the UK is that the use of mobile phones while driving is forbidden and will get you in trouble with the local authorities.