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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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'32 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

    • Ay says:

      I lived next to hk and would have to go almost every weekend to keep my sanity. The only good thing about china was the location. It’s easy to fly to anywhere in Asia. The foreigners I knew only liked it because they finally could find a girlfriend. I met people that liked china but they only travel it and stay maybe a bit in Beijing or Shanghai others are brag about the girls. China is just a depressing hell hole full of ignorant people

  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

    • Ay says:

      Yes that’s true. Vietnamese are so friendly and nice. They go out of their way to help and are never cold. Chinese backstab and are two faced. At my school they always try to get the teachers to do promo work at primary schools for free even though you work full schedule and they always take money from the salary. So if salary is 10k they will take out taxes and other bs to bring it to 7-8k. Just dishonest tricksters

  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.

    • Vincent says:

      Tbh some Chinese are kinda of an ass but you don’t what it’s like to be made fun of and the racist jokes sometimes people are like that because they get bullied but I’m Chinese and everyone makes fun of me and I’m alone but I realized that I’m not alone cause my ancestors live among me

  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.

    • Ay says:

      Guilin is just a tourist town. It be better to just move to vietnam

  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).

    • Anonymous says:

      The food in China is incredibly famous for its variety and spices. The Sichuan spice is amazing, you should try it before talking like that about Chinese culture.
      Why do you call the people ruthless? What have they done to you?

  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.
    David Briard recently posted…Pictures Are Without all of the Emotional baggage/stuff/whateverMy Profile

  10. Kevin says:

    I have to say, you guys with your attitudes towards China. I lived in China for four years, the best place I have ever been to! The lights, the culture, and you dumb idiots. I now live in America and it is hell. Because of my race I can’t even walk on the street without a police officer following me. Why don’t you look at all the shit you’ve ever given them and then come back to this idiotic post.

  11. bevin says:

    I’ve been here for 30 years now, didn’t knew all of this while I was in school, because schools are isolated from outside, children been forced to spend most of their time, except sleep hours in school, after graduation, I began to realize how the government were brainwashing people, what makes me most angry was, most of the people doesn’t know it, they think that’s the life everywhere around the world, they don’t know when the government took more than 70% of their money as tax , indivisibly. there is no law here, they use law only when they can justify their action using it. I even have to get permission from they government, if one of my cousins comes to see me to my home, the police would search my home anytime they like, in the middle of the night, I can’t say anything about it; my own sister can’t even come to see me forever, because government forced her organization to find a terrorist, and they had to play game to decide who should be the ‘terrorist’ , and she got unlucky, so she is banned to the location, have no right to go to the next village! I’ve born other city, now working another city, so I need to get a permission card ( we call it green card ), only to stay in this city, and I need to go back every now and then to get another new card.
    I can keep describing for ages, they don’t allow us to go abroad, if you do your family probably will be in trouble, so recently I found a way to escape, it takes huge amount of money, so looks like I’m going to spend every penny I have to get my freedom back
    I have a dream, I want to change the word, but first I need to get my freedom back
    btw, I’m using vpn to see those posts, don’t know when it will be blocked.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Hey, how dare you be so racist to the Chinese… You lived in Shanghai for only about a year or so I believe and your statement about it is already horrendous.
    Firstly, you only looked at Shanghai; how can you say that it is terrible to live in ALL of China? Don’t be a short-minded person.
    Secondly, the smog in China is not always bad.
    Thirdly, there is poverty in every country and if you weren’t blessed with your advantages you would be begging for an RMB just like those poor people.
    You could be reported for taking pictures of the Chinese and posting them without their permission, and your rude remarks about how to use a bench are terrible.
    Before posting this, please consider how rude and racist it is.
    About the Internet in China, it was so slow because sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube are banned in the Chinese society, and perhaps although you had a foreign device, the Internet was slowed to such websites.

  13. Anonymous Expat says:

    I’ve lived in China (Shanghai and Shenzhen) for over two years now, and unfortunately, *everything* that you wrote has been mine – and every single other expats – experience living in China.

    It’s fine if you are visiting China as a tourist, but actually having to live here and do any productive work (except English teaching) is seriously hell – what with the irrationally censored internet, scammers, pollution, unhealthy food, crappy infrastructure and rude, dirty, petty, selfish people (not all, but most).

    I’ve lived and worked in UK, Australia, Singapore, HK, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, USA etc etc. for extended periods for work, and come away with positive experiences and memories from all these countries. Not China. Living in China sucks period.

  14. Geofficus says:

    Many people migrate to Calgary or Vancouver from China……..they seem to have extreme respiratory issues, requiring them to wear breathing masks, as in an operating room…..It’s sad to see so many lovely Chinese women wearing nice clothes and seemingly pretty faces, but need to wear masks because of breathing issues,……tip of the iceberg, as they say

  15. Pan says:

    Well, as a Chinese, I also agree with your opinions to some degree.
    1st, China is a developing country, the heavy haze is the same as Britain or other developed countries several years ago. 2nd, China is poor, and needs money. Having the largest population, advertisement industry is important in China, and the relatively poverty of China (average GDP or sth), leads to a relatively little education level and morality level among some Chinese (especially the ones who are at their 50ths or more, as China was suffered from invasion at that period). Finally, what I want to mention is that Hong Kong is a part of China, which is also admitted on the international level, while for Taiwan, hah, China will take it back some day.

  16. intsokzen says:

    I’m Chinese (Shanghainese) and I agree with this post 100%. China wasn’t always like this. The Shanghai I grew up in was quiet, people knew each other and were friendly. We even had trees lining our small narrow streets and small neighborhood restaurants on every block. This all changed in the last 30 years as old historic neighborhoods were bulldozed to make room for Soviet-style high rises and the city’s population increased from 5 million to 15 million (mostly from migrants elsewhere in China). I don’t recognize my city anymore. People are rude and all about money, partly as a result of skyrocketing housing prices putting pressure on everyone.

    Millions of us Shanghainese have left China. In my opinion it’s an industrial wasteland with little hope of fixing itself from the past 30 years of malignant growth at all costs. I’ve visited Japan two years ago, and parts of it still remind me of the Shanghai I grew up in, I was hit with a profound sense of sadness.

  17. bryan says:

    You forgot to mention the fake products.

  18. Brock says:

    I’m an American that has lived in China for over 7 years now working in investment banking. Not going to disclose the city since they’re pretty much all the same. Your post is very accurate…and as you mentioned, you left out many things of which I can certainly imagine what they are.

    To be fair, however, its not all bad in China. Most of the people are very friendly, one at a time, that is. Crowds are nightmarish. I do about 200 pushups daily so I have the strength to fight them off as I wade through them.

    Just one extra helpful hint before taking the plunge of coming here your first time… make sure you search for holidays in China. You definitely don’t want to be anywhere near any type of transportation station during one of those. Especially the Chinese New Year.

    All in all, China does have its problems…some astronomical. But it can be a very fun place if you do your homework.

  19. hirobo says:

    Hahaha. Idiot Western blogger. Shanghai is the slums of China. Even Asian tourists from Western countries complain of rude Shanghainese tour guides and dirty five-stars hotel. Shanghai was lost to foreigners during the Opium war. The Chinese never bothered to tidy it up. If Shanghai is a third world city as per Asian foreigners, then Beijing is the first world class one that is especially NOT very friendly to foreigners especially ones working in China. You got placed in Shanghai b/c it’s the least desirable city to live in in China.

  20. Ay says:

    Yes all of those things are true about china. I taught there for almost 4 years. Ypu also forgot how there is no personal space and how people don’t understand single file or the flow of traffic. Having ten people trying to cram inside an elevator or metro when you are trying to get out. The foreigners in china who never been anywhere else and think they are kings. How if you get upset and tell a Chinese friend about it they get all mad because they think china is the pinnacle of civilization. Most people last 2 years before moving to Taiwan, Japan, Korea or going home. Vietnam is much better place to visit and teach at.

  21. Johny says:

    Worst was the dishonesty in everywhere

  22. Dwayne says:

    No wonder they flood our Street her in Tasmania
    We have a beautiful country they don’t by the seems they have no respect for our country
    Always complaining about our open hour’s.and have no manners rude little cunts they don’t get on we’ll with others in other country’s because their so impolite.

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