Shenzhen is one of China’s fastest-growing expat destinations. Rapid growth and urbanisation have resulted in rent prices skyrocketing, so expats hoping to live close to the city centre should expect to pay for the privilege.
Shenzhen is home to one of China’s Special Economic Zones (SEZ). Thanks to its more liberal economic policies and practices, this megacity has become a hub for multinational companies. As such, many areas of the city are commercial and business-oriented but equally promote a positive work-life balance.
When looking for accommodation in Shenzhen, we advise expats look in areas that are convenient for getting to work and school. Commutes between certain parts of the city can be as long as 90 minutes during morning and evening peak hours.
Shenzhen is formally split into nine administrative districts offering residential space for families as well as expats who have relocated on their own. Some of the most popular expat areas in Shenzhen are explored below.
Family-friendly areas in Shenzhen
Among the preferred areas for expat families are Nanshan and its sub-district, Shekou. Yantian is a more peaceful option for families and offers easy access to the beach, but is further away from the city than expats may like.
Nanshan is one of Shenzhen’s most popular areas. Sometimes referred to as the city’s ‘garden district’, a significant percentage of Shenzhen’s expat population call Nanshan their home.
Nanshan is known for being clean and giving residents easy access to some of Shenzhen's best green spaces. The area is particularly popular with expat families, who enjoy the proximity to a strong selection of international schools.
Apartments in Nanshan are generally of a high standard, and luxury serviced apartments can also be found here.
Nanshan's accessible metro, bus and taxi services mean that getting around in Shenzhen is simple, albeit busy during rush hour. The ferry terminal also offers residents a quick and easy way of visiting nearby Hong Kong.
Shekou is part of Nanshan district but deserves special mention thanks to its extreme popularity among expats. This small neighbourhood has one of the highest populations of expats in Shenzhen. New arrivals should have no difficulty finding accommodation in one of the area's many residential complexes, most of which offer amenities including gardens, swimming pools and exercise facilities.
Shekou boasts a high concentration of international schools, a factor that draws the attention of many expat families. For those looking for a night on the town, an array of excellent restaurants, pubs and bars will meet their needs.
While Shekou seems to have everything an expat will need, many new arrivals confess that they feel isolated from the rest of the city. Those who prefer to avoid the infamous 'expat bubble' could look to areas such as Futian and Luohu for a more authentic experience of the local culture.
Buzzing areas in Shenzhen
Young and outgoing expats who move to Shenzhen to pursue work or education may be drawn to the buzzing atmosphere and social lifestyle in areas such as Futian and Luohu.
Futian is Shenzhen’s main business and administrative centre. This busy and modern district houses city landmarks including the Shenzhen Stock Exchange building as well as the Shenzhen Library and Concert Hall. Some of China’s tallest buildings dominate the Futian skyline, adding to its urban feel.
Futian is also one of the most expensive and exclusive districts in Shenzhen. Its pricey and modern apartments are particularly popular with young and single working professionals.
Despite a handful of international schools, family-sized apartments in Futian can be exorbitant. And while it may lack green spaces, its vibrant nightlife makes up for it with bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as shopping centres such as COCO Park, to keep city residents entertained.
Futian’s rush hour traffic is infamous, so it’s best to find accommodation as close to the workplace as possible. Thankfully, Futian is well connected to the city’s public transport network.
Luohu is Shenzhen’s trading and financial centre and a former fishing village. The district is one of the oldest in Shenzhen. Expats who live here will get a feel for how the city’s history and culture meet with modern living.
Luohu offers residents a shopper’s paradise, where luxury designer clothing and pricy antiques – as well as cheap fake goods – will be at their fingertips. There is no shortage of entertainment options either, thanks to a diverse range of bars, karaoke lounges and nightclubs.
Nature lovers will find many beautiful natural landmarks in Luohu, including Wutong Mountain and several rivers.
Accommodation in Luohu is not nearly as excessively priced as some other areas in Shenzhen. However, many apartments are notably smaller and older than those in areas such as Nanshan and Futian.
►Find out more about Accommodation in Shenzhen
Photo credits: Shenzhen green space by Zean Wu; Shenzhen cityscape by Vincent Chan. All sourced on Unsplash.
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