Moving to China - a good idea?

I need some opinions on living in China (more specifically: living in Ningbo). I’m aware this is a Taiwan forum, but I hope some of you have been there or can give me general advice on expat live in China. Of course, links to China discussion forums and other relevant websites are also welcome.

I’ve been to China once about 5 years ago and have to say - from what I saw - I’d prefer living in Taiwan if I had to chose between those two places. However, maybe things have improved since. I’ve also never been to Ningbo, a city I’m hearing a lot of good things about.

In fact, this is my problem: Everybody I ask tells me to go, because China is “the future”, a place where I could be making much more money with the same effort, etc., bla bla bla. I need some opinions from “non-brainwashed” people. Thanks!

i’ve got two friends who were teaching at universities in ning bo. one quit to open his own bar, and another … haven’t heard from in a while. but the second filled me in on life, or the lack thereof. he said he couldn’t bring a woman home with him, as the building guard wouldn’t let her in. he’s all but positive that his phone was tapped as well. not really surprising …

he was making excellent money, and that was the kicker - he couldn’t decide if he hated it enuf to continue not having a life …

you would think that with taiwan slowly saturating in terms of teaching work, china would be a good choice. but my opinion is that you would face a lot of adaptation there that isn’t necessary here, especially as concerns your private life. and i dunno that a bushiban teacher would make all that much more $$ there - someone else have more info?

Perhaps there are exceptions in other professions, but that’s emphatically not true for teaching. You can get some buxiban-style teaching side gigs which, calculating directly through the exchange rate, would be around 400-600NT/hour (but factoring in the lower cost of living gets you even more). I had several of those when I was a student over in the mainland. But from what I could tell, most of those places could only give you 5 hours a week or so, so it would be a struggle to patch together the sort of hours you could get in Taiwan. And I think it’s nearly impossible to get any sort of visa through those sort of places (though, unlike Taiwan, you would never have to worry about being deported).

I live in Shanghai, which is not too far from Ningbo. Never been down there, but I gather it is a bit of a shithole - like so many Chinese cities.

About the bringing girls into apartments issue. . . your friend was probably a bit unlucky. I have never run across that myself. Heard lots of stories. It does happen, but probably more the exception than the rule.

As for making more money over here. . . If you are teaching English then probably not. The English teaching salaries here range from being pitifully low to simply OK. Cheaper living costs are nice, but don’t really apply if you live a ‘western’ lifestyle (i.e. drink in bars etc).

If you enjoy your life in Taiwan why move?

“The future.” Gad. Well, there’s some truth in that, but you shouldn’t decide where to live based on what seems “hot” right now.

In Taiwan the government doesn’t care what your religion is, or who you sleep with. In China, they might well take an interest in such things. Also, we’ve got 7-11’s and they don’t.

Check out the discussion boards at (Dave’s ESL Cafe), and see what people who live in China have to say about this. I note in passing that China and Korea seem to produce a lot more disgruntled ESL teachers than Taiwan and Japan…

That doesn’t mean don’t go to China, or don’t live in China. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into, and that that’s what you really want.

What with it’s long and glorious history and two billion people and all that China is certainly destined to become the world’s next superpower! Why not jump ship now and join that facist dictaorship while you have a chance? After five or ten masochistic years of teaching the ABCs and wiping asses I’m sure the elite over there will be welcoming you with open arms. Go west young man, go west! Smog, tedium and insanity await you!

We also thought about a similar move when my company offered me an option on the mainland some time ago … we got a lot of info and insights from other discussion fora such as … &catid=109 … good luck!! Xpet.

Thanks for all the comments! I think I should clarify I won’t be going there to teach English (my English is too bad and I’m not patient enough for that job :wink:). I’m now working for a small trading company in Luxembourg which I’ve co-founded, in Ningbo I’d be working for a medium-size Taiwanese company doing more or less the same stuff, just on on a significantly bigger scale and with some employees to boss around.

If I decide to go, it’d be a long term commitment, so what I care most about now are really quality of life issues (smog, tedium, insanity, no 7-11s, exactly those things). I’m planning on going there end of this year to have a look myself, but of course it helps if I can gather some information in advance so that I can ask the right questions (“5000 years is really ancient, but where are your 7-11s?” :smiley:).

Hee hee! From Luxembourg to a Chinese shit hole. Ooh, the culture shock! China is a third world country where most of the people are still subsistence peasants. The pollution levels are incredible. If you can get a Western salary while living in China, it might well be worth it, though, because you’ll be able to hire servants and stuff like that.
And just as an aside - you will see very little evidence of that 5,000 years of history.

I have never been to china myself but I have quite an active imagination, from which I have created a detailed picture of the situation there. Please feel free to consult me on all matters of grave importance.

Went to Ning bo to met with a freight forwarder once. Can’t say much of the city. Reminded me of Tainan. Typical port city.

If you’re not in the business of moving and shipping stuff. You’re in the business of feeding, clothing, and housing people shipping and moving stuff.

If you like the lifestyle of a smaller city I guess it is for you. If you like larger international cities like Shanghai, you’ll be commuting a lot.

Yep, this is going to be funny. I’ve spent several years in Brazil, though, so it’s not like I’ve never seen anything other than rich and tidy European countries. Anyway, I don’t have to go if I don’t want to.

Yes, but Ningbo has one of the oldest special development zones with a lot of investors from Taiwan, too. Maybe it’s not that bad? I’m going to post some pictures if a friend of mine manages to get there next month.

The financial aspects are interesting, however I still have to look into issues like income taxes, health insurance, pension savings, etc.
Servants… couldn’t really get used to that… but who knows, maybe if they were good looking xiao jies. :smiley:

I know, that’s because Chiang Kai-shek stole almost everything and the Chinese trashed whatever was left! :laughing:

What is it you are trading? I’m going to be in Ningbo next January on a furniture buying trip (for business).

Look at that long and hard. If memory serves, you will be hit with a rather tall tax bill if you spend more than 183 days in the PRC, regardless of the origin of your income. If you exceed a certain level of income, even if earned during a period of a couple of days on the mainland (i.e., Bill Clinton’s speech a couple of years ago in Shenzhen), you will also be hit with a stiff tax bill. Mainlanders and Hong Kongers can find ways to dodge it (my wife and I did), but foreigners find it much more difficult to avoid tax on the mainland. We just stick out too much and our foreign empoyers are too honest and detailed in their payroll records. Expect to pay income tax at rates similar to the first world. If you are with a better foreign company, you may be compensated for this with some sort of salary adjustment. Find out how much tax you may be in for and whether or not your employer is going to reimburse you in any way. If you are with a Taiwanese or HK company, they will probably under report your income. That works fine for ethnic Chinese who don’t stick out too much; it may not work for a foreigner.

I’ve never been to Ningbo but I know a few people who have visited or lived their for business. They all say pretty much the same thing as AC_dropout. It wouldn’t surprise me if the pollution in Ningbo is worse than any city in Taiwan.

If it’s like Tainan, that would be good enough for me. Pollution is something I’m worried about, I do want to see the sun and (somewhat) blue sky from time to time.

Holmes5668, the only goods we’re currently “physically” trading are digital scales. The rest is representation or activities were we find suppliers for clients in Europe and elsewhere. Have a look at our brand new English website at for more information.
I’m probably going to be in Ningbo the second week of January, if you’re there as well, we could go for a beer in the pub xtrain_01’s friend opened. :wink:

My experience of living in China is only from short stays of a few weeks at most, and I wouldn’t go to live there even semi-permanently. Personally, and taking Taiwan as a baseline, China has all of it’s disadvantages and none of it’s advantages.

I came from 2 years Shanghai to Hsinchu this summer:

  • Pollution: Shanghai is much worse then Taiwan. Just for example, your balkony has a thick grey layer on it after one week (sic!). However, it is more a general pollution, which doesn’t bother you as much as the stinky scooters in Taiwan when you cross the road.

  • Cost of living: if you are used to local way of living, you can live bloody cheap. If you need imported stuff, it’s only slightly cheaper than Taiwan. Even no 7-11, but convinience stores like KEDI or ALLDAYS with same function on every corner.

  • Tax: check It’s from Beijing, but should give you an indication. Check with you employer about a contract in HongKong, that should be tax free what I’ve heard. Or get part of your salary in Taiwan or Europe…

  • Foreigner infrastructure: Shanghai of course has everything you need: all big hotel chains and shops, international cousine and nightlife. Finding appartment is very easy via agent and you don’t have to do much except paying. Ningbo should have basic infrastructure by now, also some five star hotels (which in China have small shops offering basic import stuff like newspapers, bread, coffee, etc.) If it has a Jallefou, then you’re fine.

  • Living: check with you employer about a car. Even if taxis are dirty cheap and you can live only using taxi (reference 30min shanghai traffic 20 RMB = 80NT), a car is nice to have, and protects you from taxis (cars and drivers). If you are not a tough driver, consider hiring a driver too. (sounds like too much, but a lot of people do. A driver or an AY cost you maybe 1500 RMB fulltime. If you can effort, go for a VW passat.
    People in general are sometimes quite rude and unpolite, but as a foreigner mainland is a very safe place.

Ningbo I’ve heard is not so bad: at the sea with mountains in the back, but certainly not so much developed as Shanghai in terms of laowai infrastructure. But in general I would recommend. I would go back anytime.


  • Tax: check It’s from Beijing, but should give you an indication. Check with you employer about a contract in HongKong, that should be tax free what I’ve heard. Or get part of your salary in Taiwan or Europe…[/quote]
    Nope, nope, nope. After you have resided (even if in a hotel) in the PRC for 183 days, you are tax liable no matter where your contract was signed or where you are paid. My wife and I make sure that we never exceed 183 days a year on the mainland to make sure we don’t count as “resident in the PRC.” They don’t care where you are paid or what currency you are paid in. As long as you are a resident in the PRC, then you must pay income tax there. Our company had a German customer who accidently stayed longer than 183 days last year. He was hit hard. He (actually his company) had to pay something like 35% on a yearly salary of about 200,000 Euros PLUS income from investments.

The German was a special case. His company was going through the process of applying for all sorts of permits to open up a branch office in Guangzhou, so the tax office noticed how long this guy had stayed. He didn’t actually realize it until they pointed it out (yes, they actually checked all the stamps in his passport). The tax folks strongly hinted that they wanted a red envelope. The guy’s company insisted on paying the tax instead.

I don’t think it is very likely that a foreigner would end up paying the full 35%; how the hell are they actually going to find out how much you make? What happens more often is that they just want a bribe (they just assume that all foreigners make tons of money) or your company will underreport your income. If your company takes care of it, then it’s no big problem for you, but if you have to handle it by yourself, then you are putting yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. An individual is much more likely to be taken advantage of than a company.

If it were me I would be most worried about accommodation: the quality of it. Somewhere quiet to live could make all the difference. If you are getting a package, I would strongly advise a tax equalisation clause which ensures you pay no more income tax than you did here, with the difference to be made up by your company. When I was in Shanghai I had to pay a flat 20% and I never saw it again.

The example of this German might be a bad case of “authority negotiation” (1st rule: never piss them off). I know many cases who pay tax based on a local contract (allowance + x). Total amount need to be reasonable (at least more then local salary for the same position). It is not a good idea anyway to get all your salary in China (RMB is not a free currency…)
I know many Taiwanese who don’t pay tax at all.