A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching in China: Cost of Living


Are you about to move to one of the world’s fastest growing economies?

Lucky you, life in China is very affordable and significantly cheaper compared to the UK.

To begin with, the salary you earn as a foreign teacher in China is three times greater than most locals get each month, the average salary for a Chinese worker is around 500 pounds a month. The living expenses are way lower compared to America and European countries. Thus you can be assured of a comfortable life.


Cost of Housing/ Apartments

Housing is affordable compared to the UK. If you add utilities, (gas, water and electricity), then that’s won’t add up to more than 300 RMB (35 pounds). Living in the city centre will put your costs at a little higher price than living outside the city centre. Even so, still within an affordable margin. On the other hand, your school may decide to give you free accommodation or housing allowance.


Cost of Food and Drinks

Food is very cheap in China! Opting for street food is a great way to get to know authentic Chinese cuisine.

If you decide to eat street food, which is usually very fresh, let’s say a bowl of fried rice or noodles, it is about 5-8 RMB which a little above a pound. For the more upmarket street food, you will spend about 3-5 pounds.

If you rather go to a nice Chinese restaurant or a restaurant serving Western food, the meals are about 100 RMB (10 pounds). Very affordable indeed.

If you love to cook, then you end up saving a whole lot because the grocery stores are much cheaper. If you are to shop for groceries for a month for one person, assuming you are a vegan, then that wouldn’t be more than 400 RMB (50 pounds). If you love meat, you will spend about 500-800 RMB which is not more than 100 pounds for a month. For instance,

Milk (regular), (1 liter)¥12.44£1.46
Loaf of Fresh White Bread¥9.76£1.14
Rice (white), (1kg)¥6.49£0.76
Eggs (regular) (12)¥10.91£1.28
Potato (1kg)¥5.93£0.69
Onion (1kg)¥6.87£0.80
Lettuce (1 head)¥4.25£0.50

Note: imported goods are a little pricey. So, if you love cheese or cereals, you will have to pay a little more.

 ¥30(£3.53 pounds)  ¥38(£4.45)


Cost of Transportation

Transport in China is affordable. If you decide to use the subway or the local bus, you will spend about 2RMB for a one-way ticket (less than a pound for a return ticket), and that could be more than 4-5 stops which could take 30 minutes to an hour. If you decide to take a taxi, which most expats expect to be expensive, it isn’t more than 60 RMB (5-7 pounds).

One-way Ticket (local)¥2.00£0.23
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)¥120.00£14.03
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)¥10.00£1.17
Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)¥2.30£0.27

Another amazing way to get around, when you are going short distances, is to rent a bike from any street corner, use it for how long you need it and then drop it in at the next street corner. Most people use bicycles or scooters for short distances, as they are a convenient shortstop mode transport.

Cheap Treats and Utilities

Cinema or Movie Tickets.

The price of the movie ticket will depend mostly on whether you buy it at a big chain cinema or the smaller cinemas. In the big chain cinemas, the movie tickets range from 90 RMB (10.54 pounds) while in the smaller Cinemas it’s about 28 RMB (3 pounds). To buy the tickets at discounted prices, buy them online via Apps like Dianping. You can easily find it in the Google App Store.

Gym/ Fitness Club

A gym membership would cost about 85-170 RMB (10-20 pounds) per month, outside the city centre. While in high-end places you will end up spending about 30-50 pounds in a fitness club.

Internet/ Phone Usage

You can also pay for 60Mbps plus Unlimited data for about 100 RMB (10 pounds). That’s half or a third of what you would spend for the same deal in the UK. Also, if you would opt for 500 Megabytes of the internet for 34 RMB (3.99 pounds) only, which comes with Data and 100 talk time and it would last you for more than 5-months. Simple!

In conclusion, life in China is very cheap compared to the UK. If you buy mostly local food and drinks, you will end up saving a lot.


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