The Cost of Living Abroad: Shenzhen China

I LIVE IN CHINA! I never thought those words would be coming out of my mouth. Let alone posting them on internet.  Teaching English Abroad has given me the opportunity to live in another country and continue down my road to Financial Independence.

How much does it cost to live in China? Is it cheaper than the U.S.? Well… I can answer that question now: yes , but not for the reasons you may think.

To show you an example of the cost of living, I tracked my expenses for 30 days. In this post, I will show exactly how much I spent for 30 days, while living in China. I’ll go over the following expenses: HOUSING, FOOD, TRANSPORTATION, FITNESS, and MEDICAL.

HOUSING – $ 425


I live in a 2 bedroom apartment in the heart of, one of China’s largest cities, Shenzhen . The city itself is one of the more expensive cities in China, because it (like the rest of China) is growing very quickly.

It is also home to some of the country’s largest technology companies, and is known as the ‘Silicon Valley of Hardware.’
The is a photo of the city of Shenzhen China
I would say my neighborhood is in a newer area of the city. It’s a 10 minute walk to the nearest metro station, and a 5 minute walk to the nearest bus station.
Fortunately, I live near an International School, so my neighborhood has a ton of other English Teachers.
Unfortunately, this means I pay a little more, because of the location to the International School.
This is a photo of the type of buildings in my neighborhood.
THe buildings look a little creepy at night.
It comes fully furnished, with a washer, and no dryer. My Girlfriend and I had to go buy a temporary dryer from Wal-Mart.
This is a photo of one of the bedrooms in our Shenzhen apartment.
Bedroom #1
This is a photo of a dryer that we purchased at Wal-Mart.
This is how we dry our clothes.
We also had to get used to some of the kwirks of the apartment. Did you notice that there is no oven in the kitchen?
This is a picture of our kitchen. There is no oven.
Where is the oven?
and that there is no traditional shower or tub
Our bathroom features a traditional 'Western' Toilet
Our ‘kwirky’ bathroom
We did make sure we got a ‘western’ toilet. Even though I have gotten quite good at squatting over these
Travel Abroad
Pretty good at using these now.
My portion of the rent is just over $425 Dollars USD per month. Our total rent is about 6500 YUAN (RMB), or about $950 (USD) depending on the exchange rate.
We weren’t expecting to pay this much for housing when we arrived, but we liked this place because of the location.Some of the cheaper, and larger, apartments are on the other side of the city. It can take almost an hour to get there.
Now that we know the area and are familiar with transportation, we might venture a little further out with our next place. We also have more of an idea of what we should be paying for the apartment (I always ask anyone who is willing to tell me).
Getting the Apartment
We used a popular, ‘foreigner friendly’ rental APP, so of course we paid a premium. I know we could’ve searched a little harder and found something cheaper, but being new to a country, not knowing language, or the culture, can make you say ‘I’LL TAKE IT’ pretty fast.
Did i mention we only had THREE days to find an apartment after arriving?Fortunately, our former boss was there to help walk us through the process, but I’m not sure how much that helped.
Our utility bills have been relatively cheap for most of our stay here. We don’t spend much on water, gas, or electricity, internet is included in our rent.
During the summer months the electricity bill increases quite a bit because of the AC. Our utility bills are due bi-monthly. I paid about $54 in utilities this month.

Food – $ 271

Like most people, food is my second largest expense. I probably ate at a restaurant about 6 times during the month. I use food to blow free time after my Chinese lessons.
The rest of the time I throw some meals together at the apartment. I purchase 80% of my groceries from stores like these. Mainly produce and things that I can grab on my way home from work.
Thus is a convenient store that I buy many of my groceries.
I buy about 80% of my groceries from stores like these.
Some more ‘foreign products’ can be purchased from grocery stores like these.
China is a very convenient place. To order groceries all we need to do is use this application and the food will be delivered directly to our front door.
This is a photo of a mobile application that I use to have food delivered to my home.
This is the mobile application I us e to have food delivered to my home.
I was never really interested in delivery apps in the U.S, because I didn’t think the extra fee was worth it. Fortunately, in China labor is a little cheaper and the delivery guys are using electric bikes , not Toyota Corollas, the costs are minimal. I can spend more time writing blog posts like this and less time walking to the grocery store.
Eating at Home
I eat at home WAY more than I ever did in the U.S. I’ve been able to throw a few meals together with the food I’ve seen in the grocery stores, which is so much more convenient here.
Eating at local Chinese restaurants are relatively cheap. The prices range from about 20 RMB to 40 RMB per plate.
The problem is interpreting the menus, or even trying to figure out what in the hell it is that you are eating. As a rule of thumb though, If you see English on the menu, you will probably be paying more than a place with a Chinese Menu only.
This is a picture of a local restaurant. I have no clue what the menu says.
I have no clue what this is… Or what is says.
Yes, there are a variety of ‘foreigner’ restaurants, but they have the highest prices and are in the most expensive areas, so I try to avoid eating out.
This photo is a pizza that I order from a restaurant that makes foreign pizza.
This Pizza is AMAZING!!
This is a more detailed photo of the New York style pizza.
Taste just like home!!!!
This is a photo of a KFC.
Chinese Lessons -$107

I never dreamed of learning Mandarin before I moved to China, but after living here for a few months I saw how EVERYTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE unless you know the language. Hell.. go to Starbucks or McDonald’s on the wrong day, and you can’t even order an Americano or a Double Cheeseburger.

So… I told myself I would take a crack at it.
Photos of my Chinese Textbooks.
This is me taking a crack at it.
My girlfriend and I take weekly one-hour, in-person lessons together, and I take two additional lessons online. I suggest every EXPAT or English Teacher should make an honest attempt at learning the language.
这是我的中文老师 (My Chinese teacher.)
这是我的中文老师 (My Chinese teacher.)
I was actually blown away by how much I spend on Chinese lessons. I spend about $107 a month. Which doesn’t seem like alot, but I wasn’t expecting it to be the 3rd most expensive thing on the list. GEESH. I guess this is better than spending it on something ridiculous, like fake Yeezys.
This was one of the biggest expenses I had at home. I was easily spending $500-$800 /month on transportation. Like most people, I had a car payment, inusrance, and gas to pay for every month.

A one-way trip on the metro will cost you about 6 RMB ($ 0.86 USD).

This is a photo of the Subway in Shenzhen.

The bus is half the cost of that, at 2 RMB ($ 0.30 USD).

This is a photo of the electric bus in Shenzhen

The most expensive way to move around the city, outside of owning your own vehicle, is to take a taxi. The minimum cost of a Taxi is 10 RMB and the most I’ve ever spent is about 100 RMB.

The Taxis in Shenzhen are electric and blue and white in color.
These things are EVERYWHERE!
This month I took a few taxis, but my main mode of transportation is the Subway.
Other Expenses
Fitness – I currently use a set of treadmills in our apartment that you have to pre-load money for.

I looked into gym memberships but I wasn’t liking the price that the agent was giving. I even tried negotiating. Which bought the price down tremendously, but I think I’m just going to stick with the treadmills for now.

Finally, I spent a total of $936 in the past 30 day. My quality of life is not much different than it is at home.
If you enjoyed this post, check out my blog. See you in the next one!

2 thoughts on “The Cost of Living Abroad: Shenzhen China”

  1. This post brings back memories. I worked in China for two years a few years ago. The food out there was so delicious and cheap! So I ate out much more often than I do now I’m back in the UK. And I miss how cheap the transport was. China wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but I do look back fondly on my time there, so I’m going to live vicariously through your blog!

    Do you have much of a problem with the pollution/smog? China was an amazing country when the skies were blue, but that didn’t occur often enough for my liking!

    1. Thanks for the comment! Fortunately, I’m in a ‘cleaner’ city, so I don’t get too bothered by the air quality. Thanks for the read.

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