What It Is Like To Live In Shenzhen.
We were two foreigners that happen to meet in Shenzhen, China. In 2017, we became pregnant and had our little girl in Nanshan, number 6 hospital. It’s a public hospital without English speaking doctors.
Life in Shenzhen is full of activities. As an expatriate, you will be welcomed with open arms. There is a large ex-pat community and it seems to be growing every year.
If you have found yourself in Shenzhen through a teaching opportunity, here are a few things to keep in mind: living, cost of living, holidays, and salary.
In most cases, the place you will live will have to be found by you. There have been some rare occasions where the school will host you and your family in a dorm or apartment close to the school you will be working in. Depending on the contract and agreements your school will include a housing allowance to cover your rent, either partially or in full. This can be in addition to your salary or included as part of your taxed salary.
While we are still on the subject of salary, let us briefly describe what you could expect. For the most part, foreigners teaching in China are doing one of these three methods of teaching: teaching in a training center, teaching in a public/international school/internationalized school or teaching private lessons. There are cases where you could be doing all three.
Salaries while working at a training center starts as low as 13,000 RMB and may go as high as 20,000 RMB depending on the number of hours you spend at the center training.
Salaries while working at public/internationalized/international school start as high as 15,000RMB to 40,000RMB. Factors they will consider include your educational background, the number of years teaching, subject matter expertise, TESOL/TEFL certification, whether or not you have a teaching license from a native English speaking country and any other requirement that the school may deem suitable for the role.
One of the perks of being in China is the number of holidays that you experience while here. The North American or Western cultured holidays are not as predominantly recognized here, however, you will quickly come to find that the amount of time you get off for the Chinese holidays, and the destinations you will get to travel to for a considerably inexpensive air-fair amount, will help you to quickly forget about the one day Christmas vacation.
The holidays you can look forward to, in order from the beginning of the year are:
Spring festival – duration 3 – 4 weeks usually from mid to end of January to mid-February.
Tomb Sweeping festival – duration – long weekend. Always in April
Labour day festival – duration – this year, 2019 it is rumored to be 1 week long. The first week of May.
Dragon boat festival – duration – long weekend. Always in June.
July and August are the summer vacation period for those that are educators in China. Usually returning the last week of August to prep for the September school year.
Mid-autumn festival – duration – long weekend. Always in September.
National holiday festival – duration – 1st to 7th of October, always.
New years day – January 1st.
You will note that several long holidays will allow you, your family or friends to enjoy some downtime, without having to worry about using up vacation days. As mentioned before, you will have an amazing opportunity to explore many of the Asian countries while stationed here in China. Traveling within China, during these holidays, maybe a little stressful due to overcrowding, however, if you are with someone that has been living in China for some time and knows the secret locations to go where there are not that many people, then you may enjoy traveling within China during these holidays.
The downside to these holidays.
If you are working in a training center you may only get one week for the Spring and Summer holidays, as training centers have clients all year round.
Secondly, for the long weekend holidays, they, turn into a regular weekend as you would have to make up a day the following week. So instead of a 5-day working week, you will end up with a 6-day working week.
In terms of getting in touch with the community or, simply getting familiar with the culture, you will need to get acquainted with the Tencent app, WeChat.
WeChat is essentially the WhatsApp/Facebook of China but on Steroids. It has many user-friendly, multi-faceted functions that you simply can not live without while you are living anywhere in China/Asia.
WeChat will be the gateway to any community, activity, event, news or updates you want to get into. WeChat will become your wallet, chauffeur, food delivery man, conference call medium, blog, and so much more. If you want to play sports, there are a multitude of groups and communities that you could get involved with. Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball, Ultimate Frisbee, Rugby, just to name and few.
With WeChat there is always something going on. Unfortunately, for families, most activities are happening either on weekends or during the day. As a working full-time teacher, your options will usually be weekends unless you and your spouse are ok with alternating nights out while the other stays home with the baby.
Not to worry though, WeChat has groups for young mothers and dads with kids. The mothers usually arrange meetups, talk about various topics that range from baby care to personal care. The fathers usually chat about family life and how to deal with the in-laws.
Over-all, your experience here as an ex-pat will have a variety of ranges. The one advice that I usually give is to not take things personally. You will come across many challenges that may not make any sense. You may encounter people that may not make any sense. However, if you keep an outlook that coincides with a peace of mind, you will do just fine
In terms of being here with a wife and child, you will be thankful that your family is with you. Your family will create a sense of home away from home. When it comes to healthcare and communication, you will not have to worry much about language barriers. Several clinics are foreigner-friendly, with English speaking doctors and nurses. Now, being that they are private they tend to be more expensive. If you or your wife speak mandarin, it would be advised to go to the public hospitals, as they will have tenured staff and experience. This is purely opinion, based on the fact that my wife has a higher mandarin proficiency than I do and I can always rely on her to get the meaning of the parts that I do not understand. The downside to public hospitals is the wait times and the number of people. Therefore, if you have health insurance then you might as well go to the private clinics. The only thing we would caution about is that if a serious ailment were to be present, the private clinic would end up sending you to a public hospital facility.
Life in Shenzhen is good. Once you get over the subtle nuances that come from cultural differences, you begin to appreciate the uniqueness that is China.
When it comes to being colored and living anywhere in the world you can be sure that you will encounter some form of discrimination, fear, hatred, and admiration.
Let’s talk a little bit more about life, and the life of having and child in China as a foreigner. As mentioned earlier, there is a multitude of groups that are open to sharing experiences of raising a child while abroad.
We don’t have immediate family living with us, therefore, raising our child while in Shenzhen has been challenging, as well as rewarding. Initially, we took the first year and a half to raise our child without the assistance of a nanny. We just were not comfortable with the idea of having someone else raise our child and experience all the first moments without us. Maybe we were scared because it would be a stranger. Maybe we didn’t ask enough questions. Maybe we didn’t want to spend the money. Needless to say, we managed to make it work with our schedule. The wife stayed at home with our child, while I made sure that we would have enough funds to continue living, after the initial amount we put aside was depleted.
When the wife was ready, she was able to pick up some gigs and make some pocket change. This was also a great opportunity for us. We were able to put together a project and start to explore options for growing it further. For more details on our project, March 17, check out this link: https://elikweli.wordpress.com/2019/02/19/march-17/
Opportunities In Shenzhen
Shenzhen is becoming the new economic hub of Southern China, it would be fair to say that the opportunities here are boundless. Do you have a new tech idea? Find a maker space and get your idea off the ground!
Have a new way of improving the lives of others? Host or join a few seminars, network or join a few clubs and watch your idea come to life.
There are business ideas that will come to you. There are seminars, workshops, networking events that you can attend. If none of them strike you as interesting, you could always create your own.
The limit is only present if you create it.
Hope this has helped you make a decision. If there happens to be a question you have that was not answered, please feel free to send us a message and we’ll be sure to respond with the answer if we have one.
We hope to see you in Shenzhen soon!
Wait! What about the Coronavirus? Is it still safe to go to Shenzhen, China right now?
These are all great questions, and we encourage you all to monitor and keep informed about the status of China and all the provinces within. We will update you with what we know about the China and the coronavirus as we get informed ourselves. As of now, we would encourage everyone to refrain from travelling anywhere in the world. We are at the point where we need to be safer than we were in the past.
More details to come.