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      Live in China    

Money and Payments


Chinese currency is called Renminbi, which literally translates to “people’s currency.” It is referred to internationally as Chinese Yuan (pronounced “you-an”). This means that the currency code is RMB inside China and CNY outside the country. When you are in China, you may also hear yuan being referred to as “kuai” (pronounced “kwai”).

China is an increasingly cashless society. It is useful to carry 200 yuan (30 USD) for emergencies, but most goods are paid for by scanning a QR code using WeChat and Alipay mobile apps. It may shock you that panhandlers and people selling small items on the street will ask you to scan their QR codes, rather than accept cash. You need a Chinese bank account to use these apps. See our Banks and Taxes in China guide for more details.

Image by Jonas Leupe

Emergency Numbers


Police 110 Fire 119 Ambulance 120 Traffic Accident 122

Emergency operators should speak English or find someone who can. However, be prepared to say your location in Chinese. Please note that, depending on the nature of your emergency, it may be quicker and easier to take a taxi to hospital than to call an ambulance.

China’s dialing code is +86.

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Public Holidays


1st January New Years’ Day Mid-January to mid-February (3 days, varies each year) Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) 4th, 5th, or 6th April (1 day, varies each year) Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) 1st May Labour Day holiday Late May or June (1 day, varies each year) Dragon Boat Festival September (1 day, varies each year) Mid-Autumn Festival 1st October (followed by 2nd-7th October) National Day (turning to Golden Week)

Foreign employees working in companies that do business with the West may receive Christmas day off, but this entirely up to the company.

Be warned: Traveling in China during public holidays can be unpleasant. Public transportation and flights become more expensive during this time. Tickets are sold out months in advance and tourist spots are extremely crowded. Foreigners often prefer to fly to nearby countries or return home for the week.

Image by Natalya Zaritskaya

Main Airports

There are over 230 airports in China and the number is growing. Many cities in China have their own airports and even their own airline.

The biggest international airports in the country are:

  • Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)

  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)

  • Shenzhen Bao’an International Airport (SZX)

  • Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN)

  • Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport (CTU)

International flights to more remote areas in China will have a layover in one of these airports.

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Do’s and Don’ts


China is often painted as a society with a strict societal code. This is not always the case, and you may find that customs Chinese citizens follow to don’t apply to foreigners. There are certain concepts you should bear in mind, however.

  • Do try to speak Mandarin or a local Chinese dialect. Saying nihao (“hello”) and smiling goes a long way. Asking ni chi fan le ma (literally translated as “have you eaten?”, a caring and personal way to greet someone) will endear you to friends.

  • Do buy small gifts for friends, to show that you are thinking of them. It’s common to regularly buy little gifts for friends, such as fruit, snacks, or beauty products. If you visit a friend or their parents’ home, a small gift is appreciated.

  • Do not discuss politics, particularly among colleagues or whilst drinking. Chinese people are reluctant to discuss politics. The state may get involved if you talk openly about politically contentious issues. 

  • Do not generalize people’s experiences. China is incredibly diverse. Someone from Guangdong will likely not have the same heritage, cultural and life experience, or even taste in food as someone from Hubei.

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WeChat is everything social in China. This app is the equivalent of WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, PayPal, and more. Contact friends, send queries to co-workers, post updates about your life, find a new apartment, pay bills, order train and flight tickets—if you can think of it, WeChat is capable of it. You will get used to adding people as contacts immediately and will soon wonder how you used to stay in touch with people back home.

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Dining Etiquette


  • Meals are shared in China. Usually, you order a few different dishes that are placed in the middle of the table to be shared.

  • Use chopsticks. The only option in some restaurants, and an easy and pleasant way to eat Chinese dishes.

  • “I’ll get this one!” Chinese people, and men in particular, will often offer to pay for the bill. You can offer to pay for your share but do not press the issue. Instead, make sure you pay next time you eat together.

  • Drinking is encouraged. You can say no to drinking alcohol at your meal, especially strong drinks such as Baijiu (a traditional Chinese distilled spirit). However, it is common to buy big bottles of beer to share between everyone. Try not to get into drinking contests—the people challenging you are probably well-practiced at out-drinking foreigners.

Image by Jonathan Borba
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