Frequently Asked Questions about China

China is a vast country steeped in history and tradition. Expats will likely need to make many adjustments when moving there, so it's best to gather as much information as possible before the big move. Here are answers to some of the most common questions expats have about moving to China.

Is it worth learning Mandarin? What about Cantonese?

Most of the general population cannot speak English, making a basic Mandarin vocabulary necessary for ordering food, purchasing goods or asking for directions. Mandarin is very different from Western languages in structure, thus it can prove complicated to learn.

The written characters are separate from the spoken language. But if expats work hard to jump this hurdle, learning the language is hugely beneficial for both social reasons and in business settings.

Knowing Mandarin, even the rudiments of the grammar, is a large bonus for employment in any company in China. Cantonese is mostly spoken in Hong Kong, Macau and the Guangdong Province.

How is life in China for female expats?

There can be strong gender stereotypes in China and often it is difficult for women in managerial positions. A bad dating scene for women is usually a popular topic of discussion on expat forums.

Is my internet censored?

The Chinese government stringently and successfully polices internet use. Sites that include subject matter about Falung Gong, the Dalai Lama and even the English word "freedom" are among the many that are censored. That said, most sites are still accessible, including foreign news sites. Illicit sites are often censored as well. This is an ongoing controversy and levels of enforcement and effectiveness change often.

Restrictions on many of the popular Western social networking sites also exist, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Many expats use VPNs (virtual private networks) to access blocked material, but lately, even these services have been ineffective in circumventing the "iron curtain".

Is China safe?

Most expats report feeling safe in China. While it’s usually safe to walk home at night in major cities, obvious risks and bad neighbourhoods should be avoided. Expats do have to be careful in crowds as they are often the victims of petty crimes such as pickpocketing and scams. The largest danger to expats is food safety, as many people suffer from disease and bacteria resulting from unclean or improperly cooked foods. Pollution is another safety hazard that can affect expats, especially those with underlying respiratory issues.

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