China is the world’s largest country by population, and one of the largest in the world by area. As such, it’s home to a diverse range of people and an equally diverse range of lifestyles. From a fast-paced working lifestyle in one of China’s large coastal cities to a relaxed, friendly lifestyle in a tiny farming village, the national lifestyle in China ranges hugely depending on your location.
Many people mistakenly think of China as the ‘land of cities’ – a country where everyone lives in a dense apartment building at the middle of a huge urban development. While this description is true for many of China’s large coastal cities – Shanghai and Shenzhen in particular – the typical lifestyle in China can vary dramatically depending on where you’re located within the country.
Despite its incredible urban economic development in recent years, China is still a country that’s largely rural. Small towns and provincial cities are home to most of China’s population, making it an incredibly country that’s built around a hardworking, semi-rural lifestyle. This is generally the case in China’s interior cities, where life is built around agricultural and manufacturing work.
In many of China’s small towns, life is slow-paced and relaxing, with family the most important part of the day and manual labor the typical work. As such, many retirees are choosing to live in rural areas due to the fantastic lifestyle that they offer. If an escape from city life is your goal, it’s likely that you’ll find China’s smaller cities – particularly its interior cities – a good option.
Nowhere is the contrast between the slow-paced life of rural China and the fast-paced lifestyle of the country’s major cities more obvious than in Shanghai. A sleepy coastal fishing city just twenty years ago, Shanghai is now one of the world’s largest economic hubs. From skyscrapers to endless street stalls, Shanghai is a monument to business and commerce that’s packed with opportunities.
As such, it’s home to one of the most fast-paced lifestyles in China, with work hours long and party activities hard and fast. Similar to its nearby counterpart in Hong Kong, Shanghai is a working city that isn’t afraid to let its hair down. As such, it’s a magnet for Western expatriates seeking a lively city in China that’s full of international opportunities and a lot of fun.
China’s other major cities range in terms of lifestyle dramatically. Beijing is fast-paced yet far less demanding than Shanghai, with business hours more relaxed and locals more sociable. Shenzhen is an international hub, with business booming thanks to export demands and locals eager to socialize with expatriates, particularly those involved in the local manufacturing and exporting industries.
One aspect of Chinese city lifestyles that many expatriates and retirees struggle to grow accustomed to is the emphasis on spending time outside the home. Most Chinese city residents live in absolutely tiny apartments – often a single room with a connecting bathroom. As such, most social activities take place outside the house, with everything from eating to casual conversations out in public.
Whether you’re searching for a relaxed, sleepy rural town or a fast-paced, rapidly developing city, you’ll have no problems finding what you seek in China. With a variety of lifestyles as broad as any other major country, China is one of the few countries in East Asia where you’ll stumble onto rural paradise and dense urban activity with equal ease.