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5 Reasons Why Living in China Sucks

Natalia and I have travelled extensively in SEA. We also spent a year living and working in the Republic of Korea. Nearly all of our experiences have been fantastic. That’s why when we had the chance to live and work in China, with a much higher salary, we jumped at the chance. How could it be so different than the rest of Asia? Sure there will be some minor annoyances to get used to but we’re adaptable, we can handle it.

Shanghai Smog

A beautiful sunrise can also happen in a factory.


1. The internet really sucks.

Okay, if you spend all day browsing Chinese web sites then the speed will be fine. I love using the internet and I use a lot of it. From gaming to watching things on YouTube to posting on Facebook to torrenting. I knew I’d have to use a VPN for YouTube and Facebook but wow is it slow. Sometimes it slows to a crawl. 5 minutes to load one image is not my idea of browsing the internet. I remember my 28k modem being faster than that – unacceptable for any city not stuck in the 90s. From Korea I was able to torrent a 1080p movie in the time it took to cook eggs.




2. The aesthetics.

We had a wonderful view of Pudong (downtown Shanghai) from the 26th floor of our apartment building. That is, we had a wonderful view on the occasion that everything wasn’t shrouded in grey soupy smog. Also, surrounding our gated apartment complex are old style shanghai housing filled to the brim with citizens waiting to be evicted in the name of progress. Often these homes have no running water and share communal toilets. It’s a little hard living in “snazzy” accommodations and coming out to see people making so little.

Smoggy Smoggerson

I love the smell of PM2.5 in the morning.


3. The people.

It’s time to make some generalizations. The driving culture in Shanghai is awful, terrible and horrendous. People drive more selfishly than I thought possible. People constantly turn in front of you without a glance at oncoming traffic. Countless times during my stay I had to slam the brakes or swerve out of the way of a car pulling out of a side street. Also, people love to hork. It’s not just a spit missile flying out of their mouth but a deep phlegmy roar emanating from even the smallest young woman. It happens so often that it almost feels strange when you don’t hear it. Like if all the sounds of trucks and buses on the road were to go away you’d wonder where everyone went. Lastly, many young kids wear split pants and can often be seen peeing or pooping on the sidewalk. You can also see parents holding their children over garbage cans in public areas as they relieve themselves. You can even see children relieving themselves on the subway, next to grandpa horking up a big one in the middle of a crowd of people. Needless to say, you never want to touch the ground and there is no 5 second rule.

Nanjing Squatters

People also have yet to figure out how benches work.


4. You are being watched.

I like independence. That might be partly why I like bicycle touring. Getting up in the morning and seeing where and how far I want to go is fantastic. Reading about how the Chinese government sentenced two young girls for writing gay fan faction about a T.V. show they watch is not fantastic. Wanting to stay at a hotel, even a Super 8, is often not possible for foreigners. Hotels must have special permission to allow foreigners to stay and they have to register foreigners with the police. Many smaller cities will not have a place for foreigners to stay. Also, having your picture taken every two blocks in Shanghai by automatic cameras is also annoying. It’s only a minor annoyance (though the flash is quite bright at night but Chinese people love using and ignoring high beams so I guess the people are used to it) but it adds up. The government routinely blocks blogs and news agencies they deem inciteful. I think you’re getting the idea.

Shanghai slum

The new up and coming neighbourhood, partially filled with tenants.


5. Scams.

Everyone is in it for an RMB. Look up anything you want to do in China and you’ll find associated scams. People wanting to import their pets receive their pets from government run quarantine and see that their pet is near death after not having been fed for a week. People getting hit by a car end up having to pay the driver thousands of dollars. Take a look around the forum on and you’ll see what I mean. I was also scammed by a taxi driver who nearly hit me on my bike 3 times, 2 of which were on purpose. The police were called and basically threatened me to pay him a huge sum of money or be “detained” until trial. Needless to say I got out of China and I’m not looking back.


Not everyone has a bad experience in China but I did. Some people handle the difficulties better than others. I’ve left out many things like how the huge city of Shanghai basically shuts down at 10:30pm and the pointless jobs everywhere you look. Also, visiting China can be interesting and I think most people would not be exposed to many of the difficulties of living there. There are many interesting things to see and do in China. I’m just glad I’ve done them and have no reason to go back.

P.S. The China referred to here does not include Hong Kong nor Taiwan because… well… there’s no confusing the differences.

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'12 Responses to “5 Reasons Why Living in China Sucks”'
  1. Karin Erica says:

    I’m sorry for you guys that it wasn’t all a good experience, but I’m very happy you and Natalia are back safe and can consider it another notch on your belt of life experiences!

  2. Linguagirl says:

    I know exactly what you mean, and your reasons are spot on. I lived in China for two years, and I feel that I wasted that time trying to make myself appreciate the country. I essentially blamed myself for hating the cities that I lived in, and strove to have a sunnier outlook on the laowai experience. I finally realized that nearly every seasoned expat I met who had previously lived in a country that wasn’t China was balls-to-the-walls desperate to leave. One even went so far as to tell me, ‘I have lived in 5 different countries. China is the only one where I have had a nasty reaction to the people.’

    I also noticed that every time I traveled outside of China, I would meet local expats who had come to that country after China. Every last one of them raced about how happy they were in that country, and how miserable their China experience had been. Every time I sat in the airport wiring for my return flight, I seriously considered just ditching my current chinese contract.

    • Vincent says:

      You wanna know why some people work there hardest for their children’s happiness and they get like 2 dollars they make their own house they have children its not easy to live with no money and Chinese people are generous they even donate what they make to their own country

  3. I had no idea that China is such a bad place to live in. I have never been to China so I can’t say anything from my own experience but I have read stories from other people and most of them seem to like China, but it is interesting to read your point of view.

    I know that China like to keep an eye on their citizen and it can be annoying not to have reliable internet available. The pollution is what I think I would dislike the most, smoke everywhere is not healthy fro anyone.
    Sigurdur Bjorgvinsson @redheadexplorer recently posted…Top 5 things to do in Paris.My Profile

  4. van ngoc duy khang says:

    Yeah cause Chinese people are such ASSHOLES that i can even cope with in my school, next time if you want to live in a friendlier Asian country. You should go to Vietnam, people their are WAY more friendlier

  5. chinepeopledosuck says:

    You want to know what suck even more? Those fucking chinese tourists. They take their shitty attitudes and behavior with them into your country. No wonder people hate chinese.

  6. Keven says:

    Have you ever visited Guilin? I’ve been living there for 2 years now. I spend my first year in China near Beijing and it sucks. I moved to Guilin, a small town near beautiful mountains and rivers and it feels like heaven here =)
    Keven recently posted…My 2015 ResolutionMy Profile

    • Saperi says:

      I just spent a month in China. Guilin was one of the places I visited. Had a good time there. Rented scooters and taking a boat along the river. Many bad and good things to say about the rest of the country. My time was mostly good except for business dealings, the heat, pollution and noise. Guilin was one of the bright spots

      • Lisa says:

        Guilin was terrible, bad food, and the river was polluted are you kidding. I love this post, not many expats post about the truth in China but I guess it’s to be expected with constant surveillance. Have lived in Shangahi for a year and can’t wait to get out! 🙂 love all other cities we have been to in Asia, especially cities in Japan which provide a nice contrast to the unhygienic and unethical culture we observe in China. Of course not everyone is terrible but enough to make a generalization.

  7. George says:

    I can’t agree more with everything you just wrote. Living almost 1 year in China has been hell for me and my girlfriend. The only reason to visit and stay is travelling (on weekdays when there are no chinese tourists) and learning the language (as it might be useful in the future). Other than that, horrible living conditions (even in the richest cities), ruthless people, no sense of consideration and don’t get me event started on the “famous” Chinese cuisine (their food is unhealthy fried shit swimming in oil).

  8. Sean says:

    I am Chinese and I admit that everything in China is seriously bad, the facts that he lay out are all abosolutely correct and that’s why I’m in Canada now.

  9. David Briard says:

    Yea, I’ve not meet one non Chinese person who had anything good to say about living and working in China.

    Great place to visit. Lot’s to see. But not a place you would want to live is the impression i’ve always been told.

    I’ve only visited Macau and Hong Kong which I though were amazing but super expensive.
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