Even though China is an ancient, mysterious and beautiful country, moving to China can be a daunting prospect and a culture shock for even the most hardened well-travelled mining expatriates. Because of its immense growth over the last two decades and its massive contribution to the mining industry China has continued to attract expatriates.

Mining is big business in China; and it is the largest producer of coal, gold and many rare minerals. Besides being massive in mining production, China is also the leading consumer of most mining products.

China is the third largest country in the world, after Russia and Canada, and has around 23% of the world’s population living in China, which equates to about 1.33 billion people. Because of its size the climate can vary tremendously depending on where in China. The northern part of China has short summers and is very cold in winter. The central part of China has long and humid summers with very cold winters, and the southern parts of China have longer hot summers with shorter winters.

One of China’s most magical qualities is her long and rich history and culture, with reports of human life evolving 1.7 million years ago. The Chinese are extremely proud of their heritage, and because it is such a huge country and has so much history and culture, it is an intriguing country with many magical paces for expats to visit and explore.

Many expatriates are lured away from the comforts and security of home by lucrative salary packages that will allow them to live a far more luxurious life than they would back home. China is no exception here, and the majority of expatriates will find that they are paid higher salaries than the local population and will often find they have a higher standard of living in China than they would have in their home country.

Depending on where in the world they originate from, expats do need to be careful though and keep in mind that an expats cost of living will depend a lot on their lifestyle, and that they may still need to make lifestyle adjustments and may not be able to recreate the western life they had back home. The cost of living will also vary depending on where in China, and for expatriates based in rural areas the cost of living will be a lot lower than in the cities.

As with many areas of the world, new expatriates in China will find that the largest expense they incur will be accommodation. The price of accommodation can vary tremendously depending on the size and location with the most expensive accommodation found in the big cities.

Western brands and goods can be a lot more expensive than locally made goods in China, and things that are not typically produced in China such as wine, many fruits and dairy can prove to be very expensive.

Language barriers and difference in cultural behaviors can make it very frustrating for expatriates and difficult for them to adjust to life in China, and for this reason some mining expatriates take a long time to adjust and some are just not able to and return home. The Chinese have a way of life that is centered on family and tradition, and they are proud of their strong values.

However on the downside its rapid development economically has created challenges around extreme pollution and overcrowding in some areas, which expatriates find very hard to adjust to. Jostling crowds, dealing with the language barrier and air quality can make life frustrating for expatriates who otherwise enjoy the luxury of higher than average income and active expat communities in China. Language barriers can also prove to be challenging for expatriates as even though many young people do learn English at schools in China, many don’t have that much opportunity to use English on a regular basis and for this reason communicating on a day to day basis can prove challenging for expatriates.

China has tried very hard to accommodate expatriates and has expanded its healthcare system to include facilities aimed at expatriates, and its private hospitals are of an extremely high standard. Expatriates do need to keep in mind though that the quality of care, access and costs may vary hugely between different parts of China. The majority of expats in China will take out private health care insurance and use private facilities. Public healthcare in China can be erratic, with some cities having excellent public healthcare whilst in some rural areas the public healthcare is not good at all.

Whilst language is a problem at the majority of Chinese schools for expatriates, there are a number of excellent world class international and private schools that expatriates can send their children to. Expatiates do need to keep in mind that the costs attached to international schools can be astronomical, and for this reason expatriates need to try to either cost in these expenses when looking at salary package or to negotiate an education allowance as part of their salary package. International schools are also very popular but there can be long waiting lists in some areas. There are in recent times more expatriates sending their children to public schools as they want their children to be able to adjust to the language and culture in China as quickly as possible. Homeschooling is also another popular choice for expats as well as some locals.

For expatriates who are able to adjust to life in China, it can be a wonderful experience and regardless as to how long an expatriate will stay in China, spending time in this unique mystical and different country, provides expatriates with an experience that they will never forget.



One Response to “The expatriate life for mining professionals considering a job in China”

  1. Irvine Hay

    Is this your direct experience of working/living in China?
    It matches quite well of my two years there. The one thing you missed out was the sometimes quite lumpy standard of accommodation. My ranged from a very primitive aging Russian built apartment with a galvanized water tank for a shower (water on 2x a day for a hour), very smelly plumbing etc. my team did not have showers – they used a communal bathhouse. The other end of the spectrum was a designer apartment. The rest of your comments are on the money.


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