Life in China: A Series

Life in China as expats

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Hi Everyone! Welcome to the first in a series of posts about life in China, specifically Shenzhen. Living in China is something friends and family ask us about regularly, and learning more about daily life in this humungous nation was a topic of sincere interest for us before we moved, too. We found it really helpful to get in touch with people who lived here, but that was kind of hard to do. So in the interest of being informative to friends and family and helpful to people interested in moving to China (especially teachers), here’s the inaugural installment. Let’s kick it off with a simple who/where/why post.

Shenzhen Civic Center
One of the coolest buildings in town

Who we are:

You already know this, right? We have an “About” page, after all. In a nutshell, we’re a family and I (Shon) am an English teacher. We relocated with our children to South China in August 2017. No, we aren’t afraid of hauling our small kids around the globe, but yes, it does complicate things a bit. There is plenty to write about regarding expatriate family life, but that’s for another post.

Shenzhen Civic Center Family
Always the explorers πŸ™‚

Where we are:

Shenzhen. This is a city of somewhere around 12 million people. There are estimates that up to 20 million people actually live here, as the lower number doesn’t include temporary residents. At any rate, this is a teeming metropolis. Shenzhen is on the bay and across the border from world-famous Hong Kong, which gets all the attention, despite Shenzhen rapidly becoming  equal in many ways, and being poised to overtake HK financially.

Shenzhen is located in Guangdong province, and is part of a Special Economic Zone. Guangdong used to be translated as “Canton,” but these days it is transliterated instead. This is the region the Cantonese tongue comes from. However, due to Shenzhen’s status as an SEZ, it attracts residents from all over China, and Mandarin is the language typically spoken. That said, there are a billion different accents, so there’s an extra wrinkle to our language learning experience. (“Did she say ‘si’ not ‘shi?’ What?”)

Despite the size of the city, it is easy to navigate as a result of an excellent metro rail and bus system. There are announcements in English on both the bus and metro system, which make them convenient for us. They’re also affordable.


Well, we wrote a whole post about why we teach overseas, but nothing about why we chose China specifically. So here we go. China has tons of teaching opportunities, and accordingly, finding a job here is pretty simple. There are public and private schools, universities, and language centers, all looking for qualified native speakers. Having taught in both the UAE and Russia, we felt that we were up to whatever challenges we would face in China. When I was offered a job in Beijing, I came about one breath away from saying “Yes,” but the horrible smog that plagues the region convinced us to look elsewhere. After doing research and talking to friends and acquaintances who lived in Shenzhen, we decided it seemed a much better bet. Reasonably clean air, a warm climate, and proximity to Hong Kong were all factors in our decision.

Life in China Series:

Life in China: Cost of Living β€“ What does it cost to live in Shenzhen as an expat?
Life in China: Our Favorite Foods β€“ A list of our Top-5 things to eat in Shenzhen
Life in China: Food Culture β€“ Chinese culture is different and fascinating. Chinese food culture deserves a post of its own.
Life in China: The Noise β€“ Living in Shenzhen is noisy. Very noisy. You thought that Americans were loud? Read this post.
Life in China: The Art of Not Tanning β€“ Asian women have perfected the art of protecting their skin from the sun. Read about how they do it in China.
Life in China: How to Shop in Hong Kong – Here’s our tongue-in-cheek guide on crossing the border to go shopping in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong.
Life in China: How Living in China Compares to Living in the UAE – Our detailed response to the oft-asked question about 2 of the countries we’ve lived in.
Life in China: How Does Living in China Compare to Living in the US – We write about our personal pros and cons of living in these 2 countries.

More about China:

How to Get to Hong Kong Airport from Shenzhen
How to Get Chinese Work Visa
Living in Shenzhen. How Do You Like It?
Shenzhen Souvenirs – an Interview with the founder of Bolsa & Sacoche

Living in China as Expats
Expat Life in China
Life in China: A Series


  1. Anya
    July 12, 2018

    All of these articles are so interesting and helpful! I am so curious to learn more about China since still considering this country for a potential move. Look forward to hearing more stories! The one about Art of Not Tanning reminded me a lot about Vietnam πŸ™‚

    1. Shon & Jenia
      July 12, 2018

      Hi Anya! Thanks for the compliments. Yes, when we were in Vietnam we saw women bundled up to avoid the sun, too. More Life in China on the way, but the question is what to write about next–it’s hard to narrow down and figure out what’s worth reporting about, basically. Anything you’d particularly like to learn more about?

  2. […] For the latest on Life in China, pop over and check out our series on, or click this link. […]

  3. Kendall
    November 7, 2018

    I’ve really enjoyed this series as it helps me prepare for my own move to Shenzhen in February. Have y’all considered doing an article about packing? Luggage and why you chose it, clothing and how much to bring, etc.

    1. Shon & Jenia
      November 7, 2018

      Hi, Kendall, I’m so glad you’re finding this helpful! We do have a “what to bring” article in the works, actually. I’ll move it to the top of the work pile πŸ™‚ Also, don’t hesitate to ask any specific questions should they arise. -Jenia

  4. […] For more on Life in China, check out our new in 2018 blog, Our Traveling […]

  5. Simon
    August 25, 2019

    It was great reading that I was not the only one scared of the Beijing smog! It definitely put me off teaching opportunities there. Would be really interested to read a piece on the cost of living in Shenzen…

    1. Shon & Jenia
      August 25, 2019

      For sure. A post about cost of living in Shenzhen? We’ve got one:) First entry in the box above. Just updated it this spring, too.


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