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Cost of Living in China

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Low cost of living in China

Cost of living in China is substantially cheaper than that of the West, so although salaries are lower than in the West, they actually go a very long way in terms of purchasing power in China. Foreign English teachers in China generally earn 2 or 3 times more than that of a local Chinese teacher. This allows for a very comfortable lifestyle in China with teachers being able to enjoy frequent meals at restaurants, weekly shopping trips, membership to sports clubs, weekend trips to other areas of China and the ability to indulge in nice little luxuries such as massages on a weekly basis.

High disposable income

Most English schools in China offer a good benefits package on top of the salary. This will usually include a flight allowance to and from your home country, free accommodation shared with another teacher, health insurance and sometimes even free Chinese lessons and lunches provided. Therefore a lot of the usual expenses you are probably used to paying in your home country are already covered, leaving a lot more of your salary in your pocket at the end of the month. The typical cost of living in China that teachers face in terms of monthly bills are housing bills of around 200 to 300 RMB (30 to 45 USD) and mobile phone bill of roughly 300 RMB (45 USD).

Cost of living in China

Cost of living in China allows for significant savings

Whereas in the west you may be able to save only a small percentage of your salary, with the lower cost of living in China, teachers can save up to 50% of their salary. Teachers who decide to eat at local restaurants and prepare their own meals, not go out partying too much and set themselves a budget can still live a comfortable life in China while also accumulating substantial savings. It is definitely possible to put away 4,000 RMB (640 USD) per month which means at the end of a 12 month teaching contract you could have 48,000 RMB (7,600 USD) saved up.

Regional differences in the cost of living in China

The cost of living in China varies somewhat depending on which area you are based in. Most teaching jobs in China are located in major cities of at least 3 million people. Generally cost of living in China is similar throughout these first and second tier cities however cities in the west of China are slightly cheaper than in the east. Some teaching positions are available in smaller towns where the living costs will be 20-30% lower. For teaching jobs in Shanghai and Beijing the cost of living is about 10-20% higher than other cities. Apartment rents can be 1,000-2,000 RMB (160-315USD) more per month than other cities.

Food prices in China

Food prices can vary considerably in China depending on where you decide to eat. You will have countless options for local Chinese food, which doesn’t mean just rice and noodles, rather pages and pages of delicious Chinese cuisine including all your favourites from your local Chinese restaurant back home plus countless new dishes to try. It is not easy to believe that English teachers can afford to literally eat out for every meal; breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout their entire time in China. Saying that, if you choose to eat in foreign restaurants or fancier local places the price can easily be double, triple or higher.

Chinese RMB US Dollars UK Pounds
Chinese lunch box 15 2.30 1.50
Local Chinese dinner 20-40 3-6 3-4
9″ pizza in restaurant 40 6 4
Water (1L) in supermarket 3 0.50 0.3
Milk (1L) 6 1 0.60
Instant noodles 4 0.60 0.40
Local beer (0.5L) 4 0.60 0.40
Chicken breast (1kg) 15 2.30 1.50
McDonalds meal 22 3.40 2.20
Prices as of May 2012

Travel costs in China

Chinese RMB US Dollars UK Pounds
Bus 2 0.30 0.20
Subway (major cities) 3-6 0.50-1 0.30-0.60
Taxi (within 3 km) 10-15 1.50 1
Purchase a new bicycle 250-1000 40-160 25-100
Fast train from Shanghai to Beijing 600 95 60
Flight from Shanghai to Beijing 1000 160 100
Prices as of May 2012

Entertainment costs in China

Chinese RMB US Dollars UK Pounds
Cinema ticket 70 11 7
Massage (1 hour) 40 6 4
Gym or yoga membership / month 150 23 15
Theme park ticket 50 8 5
Haircut 30 5 3
Prices as of May 2012

Sending money home

It is relatively easy to send money from China back to your home country through either a bank transfer or using a money transfer company such as Western Union. This involves a trip to the bank with your passport and residence permit. Expect to pay a transfer fee of around 100 RMB per transaction (15USD).
With a cost of living in China much lower than that of the west coupled with generous salaries and other benefits including a flight allowance and free accommodation, teaching English in China allows for a very comfortable lifestyle and the chance to build up some good savings.

Gold Star TEFL Recruitment has been assisting teachers secure the very best teaching jobs in China since 2009 and has close connections with China’s leading schools. For details on teaching jobs with Wall Street English, Disney English and English First and other major language schools have a look through our website and submit an application today.
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