The living standard for all Chinese people has risen dramatically in recent years, but unfortunately so has the cost of living. China’s three most cosmopolitan cities, Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong, now rank as some of the most expensive places to live in the world; however, this statistic is based on a comparable western lifestyle.
Buying a car and a house with a yard in Toronto is much cheaper than doing the same in Beijing; but the difference is you don’t need to buy a car or a house in Beijing, and you can get by nicely with much less.
Compared to the North America and Europe, living in China can still be a bargain. In the second tier cities, such as Tianjin, Hangzhou, or Qingdao, your cost of living will be about two-thirds lower than in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, and in inland cities such as Chengdu and Xi’an you can easily live on less than half of what you’d need in the Big Three. Your lifestyle expectations will also greatly impact your cost of living. If you’re willing to live like the locals and don’t mind riding a bus or bike instead of catching cabs, eating noodles instead of steak, and taking trains instead of airplanes, China can be an incredible bargain.