Home to over 20 million people, Beijing is a massive concrete jungle and expats may take time to adjust to life here. They're sure to have many questions before they move. Here are answers to some of the most common questions expats have about life in Beijing.
How bad is the pollution in Beijing?
International organisations, including the United Nations, have consistently ranked Beijing as having one of the world's worst levels of air pollution. On some days, the smog in Beijing has become so stifling that the Chinese government has cautioned people against venturing outdoors. This can be unhealthy for children who can develop respiratory problems, and even those expats who've managed to live their whole lives without allergies may find sinus congestion and a runny nose unavoidable side effects.
The government in China has made efforts to reduce pollution and much progress has been made. But, given the high number of privately owned vehicles and the thriving coal industry, air pollution remains a concern in the city.
Expats will find that the air is cleaner further from the city centre, and running an air purifier at night and exercising are good ways to counter any ill effects.
Will the communist government in Beijing affect me?
Not really. For most foreigners living in Beijing, the communist government just means a bit more red tape to deal with. Certain internet sites may be blocked and certain books and films banned, which can be frustrating, but the government is unlikely to feel repressive to non-citizens. The culture is every bit as consumer-oriented as the West. Still, it's important to be aware of the political situation as well as the sensitivities of openly discussing it. We also recommend that expats download VPN software to access blocked websites in China.
What is the weather like in Beijing?
Beijing has four distinct seasons with the most extreme weather in July and January. The summers in Beijing are hot with rain and humidity making the city more uncomfortable by increasing the effect of pollution. The winters are dry with temperatures often below freezing. Autumn and spring are mostly pleasant with occasional showers.
Is Beijing expensive?
Yes. Do not be fooled into thinking Beijing is a cheap place to live – Mercer's Cost of Living Survey consistently ranks it as one of the world's most expensive cities. The cost of living is high, and accommodation is likely to be the largest expense. Expats with children must also account for school fees. However, there are always discounts to be found and ways to save money, such as by eating out at local Chinese restaurants rather than those that serve international food.