If you’re moving to China there’s plenty to consider from visas, politics and currency. Read our guide for expats and find out how Barclays can help.




As of December 2015, the population of China is 1.36 billion

Source: World Bank

Main languages

Mandarin is the official standard language – used in all government communication. In Hong Kong the main languages used are English and Cantonese, a Southern dialect of Chinese originating in the Guangdong region.

Source: CIA World Factbook


Buddhism 18.2%, Christianity 5.1% and Islam 1.8%, unaffiliated 52.2%. Note: officially atheist

Source: CIA World Factbook

Time zone

Beijing Time is GMT + 8 hours. The entire country has one time zone

Popular employment sectors

Around 48% of jobs are in the service sector, 42% of jobs are in industry and a further 9.2% are in agriculture. A large proportion of new jobs are in law, marketing and IT, along with pharmaceuticals

Sources: www.cia.gov, Economy Watch


Expats who apply for a work permit in China will need to fulfil different requirements depending on where they'll be working. After entering the country with their Z Visa, expats should apply for work and residence permits for China as soon as possible. The processing period for permits can take up to 15 days and interviews may be required.

Sources: Chinese Embassy for UK, Expat Arrivals

Political system

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is governed by the Communist Party of China (CPC). Under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, Special Administrative Regions Hong Kong and Macau have their own legislature and a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign policy and defence. The President of the PRC is the Head of State.

Sources: GovHK


Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Two-pin sockets and some three-pin sockets are in use.

Source: Travel China Guide


Known as the Renminibi - but individual units are known as Chinese Yuan.
Hong Kong has it’s own currency - the Hong Kong dollar (HK$) which is pegged to the US dollar.

Source: XE

International dialing code

The international dialling code for China is +86

Internet domain

The internet domain for China is .cn

Social media

Like the rest of the world, China has seen huge growth in the number of people using social media. The most popular domestic sites include Tencent QQ, an instant messaging site that has games, shopping and microblogging options, with over 860 million users. QZone allows users to share music, blogs and videos, while Sina Weibo is a popular microblogging site.

Sources: Tencent [PDF, 493KB], China Business Review


Broadband in China is available in large urban areas – such as Beijing and Shanghai – but isn’t always available in more remote rural regions or smaller cities. Broadband speeds vary, but the average connection speed is around 3.7 Mbps. This increases significantly in Hong Kong, to 15.8 Mbps.

Sources: Akamai [PDF, 6.9MB], China Highlights

Mobile network coverage

Mobile coverage is excellent in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and expanding elsewhere. Last year a new 4G service was rolled out to 40 cities.

Source: Reuters

Emergency numbers

Police - 110, Fire - 119, Ambulance - 120

Source: Travel China Guide


Treatment is available in public hospitals, international clinics within them, or at private facilities that cater to expats. Healthcare is generally good in major cities, but the quality of care, the ease of access and the associated costs vary tremendously between different places and institutions. Most expats in China take out private health insurance and seek treatment at private facilities.

Source: GOV.UK, Expat Arrivals


Chinese food is recognised as one of the world major cuisines - and widely eaten in many Western countries. Those travelling to the region should note that rice and noodles are the main staples, pork is the most commonly eaten meat and dairy foods are far less prevalent when compared to Western diets.

Source: Travel China Guide


Many Chinese wear western dress, especially in big cities like Beijing or more international destinations like Hong Kong and particularly in business situations. Traditional Chinese clothing may be reserved for festivals.

Source: Expat Arrivals


Tipping isn’t routine in China. However, it has become more commonplace in places like Hong Kong and Macau, due to the influence of western visitors. If you are staying at an international hotel or taking part in an organised tour, staff may expect a tip.

Source: Time Out

Education system

Many expats in China send their children to an international school, where lessons are in Chinese and English and follow the International Baccalaureate.

Source: Expat Arrivals

Cost of private education

Admissions to international schools can be a long process involving forms, interviews, placement tests and application fees, so it's often best for parents to start the process from their home country as early as possible. Costs at some schools can be extremely high – comparable to the cost of attending international universities – with fees for senior students approaching RMB 250,000.

Source: Expat Arrivals

Top Universities

  • Peking University, Beijing
  • Tsinghua University, Beijing
  • Fudan University, Shanghai
  • University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei
  • Nanjing University

Source: Times Higher Education

Cost of childcare

Costs can vary considerably - depending on the service used - whether you have a nanny or nursery - and where you are in China. In Hong Kong full-time childcare for pre-schoolers ranges from between HK$10,000 to HK$100,000 a year.

Source: ExpatBriefing.com

Cost of a nanny

Many people hire an Ayi - domestic help who may be able to assist with childcare. In Beijing a live-in Ayi typically costs around RMB 25-35 an hour.

Source: Beijing Expat Guide

Family activities

In Shanghai, an ordinary movie ticket costs RMB 100 (NT$500) and a 3D movie ticket costs RMB 150. Eating out at local restaurants can be relatively cheap – even in urban areas of Beijing and Hong Kong.

Source: numbeo.com


In mainland China, traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road. The Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau, drive on the left.

Source: World Standards

Train ticket costs

The Chinese rail system offers a number of sleeper trains, ideal for crossing the vast distances of this country. There are also faster high-speed services although these cost more. The ‘soft-sleeper’ between Hong Kong and Beijing costs HK$ 934.

Both Beijing and Hong Kong have their own metro systems. In Beijing, ticket prices start at RMB 3 for journeys of less than 6km, rising to RMB 6 for journeys up to 32km. A single one-way ticket on the Hong Kong metro costs between HK$ 2 to HK$ 55 depending on the length of the journey.

Sources: China Train Guide,The Wall Street Journal, MTR [PDF, 5.8MB]

Cost of a taxi

The minimum taxi fare in Beijing is RMB 13 for the first 3km – you will then be charged a basic rate of RMB 2.3 per km.

Source: Numbeo

Main airports

Car insurance

Driving in China can be expensive - and dangerous. It is compulsory to buy two types of insurance - one to cover your vehicle and another for third party liability. Many opt to hire a car with driver, this can cost up to RMB 10,000 a month in Beijing.

Source: Expat Arrivals

Utility bills

In China, utilities often work on a pre-paid basis, with residents required to have a card to top up their meter. Heating and water for a two-bedroom apartment is around RMB 310 a month in Beijing, or HK$ 1,627 a month in Hong Kong.

Sources: Lihong, Numbeo - Beijing, Numbeo - Hong Kong

National Insurance Contributions

When you live and work in the UK, you make National Insurance Contributions (NICS), which mean you’re entitled to claim a state pension at retirement and other benefits. If you move abroad and stop paying UK NICS, the amount of state pension and other benefits you can claim when you return to the UK could be affected. However, you can make voluntary payments to top up you contributions. There are two types of contribution that you can make, either Class 2 or Class 3.

Source: GOV.UK

The information above has been collated from a range of reputable sources. Some of the lifestyle information may be anecdotal or the opinion of the source and is therefore a guide only. If living abroad and planning to return to the UK, you may want to continue making National Insurance payments in the UK to contribute to a state pension. Visit HMRC.gov.uk for more information.

What's next?

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