Wuhan, China Report of what it's like to live there - 02/05/08
Personal Experiences from Wuhan, China
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Born and lived in U.K. until 2007. I lived in Romania for 5 months in 2007 and then moved to China.
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
I have a job here with a western company.
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
From Europe you need to change in Beijing or Shanghai. Ten hours to Bejing from Europe and then another two hours to Wuhan.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
It's all apartments. There are some houses about a 40-minute drive from the centre.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can easily get everything except cocoa powder and deodorant! There are Metro, Carrefour and Walmart stores that sell a lot of western food. Local markets are good for fruits and vegetables. Our food bill is about 60% of what is was in U.K. for about the same products.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More books to read. Otherwise not much else.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Most western fast food chains have outlets here. There are decent restaurants in the large hotels with reasonable prices (dinner is 16 euros).
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Normal mail has been reliable so far. It takes 3 weeks for European mail to arrive in China.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It's hard to find good ones. Many are from rural areas and so have to be trained to use washing machines, irons, etc. Once they are up to speed, they are good. We pay 400 RMB (40 euros) per month for a 6 hours per week cleaner and we have an excellent live-in nanny for 2000RMB (200 euros) a month.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
International credit cards are not widely accepted. It's best to open a local bank account in RMB and get local debit and credit cards.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
China Daily available in large hotel lobbies, otherwise no. You can get satellite TV with English channels.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
There will always be one person in a larger store who speaks a little English. I've only met one taxi driver who speaks English so addresses must be written in Chinese. It's best to learn as much Chinese as you can. It's slow going but well worth it.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be difficult.
1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?
People drive wherever there is room! This includes sidewalks!
2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses are very cheap (2RMB a trip) but confusing! Taxis are cheap (20RMB for a half hour, 8km ride) and are a much better option.
3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
The main problem is the bureaucracy for getting a Chinese driver's license and a Chinese license plate. Some expats have cars provided for them and drive themselves. Driving standards are very scary though. It's very easy to have an accident here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We have excellent high-speed internet at home for 100 RMB (10 euros) a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
It's easy to get set up with a phone but not particularly cheap.
3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?
Skype or Yahoo Messenger.
1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
You can get a teaching job or a job with a foreign-owned company. The latter particularly if you learn some Mandarin. Most western expats here are teachers or are sent on assignment by a Western employer with an expat package.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual. It is rare to come across Chinese who wear suits to work.
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
Unhealthy. Days when you see a clean blue sky are quite rare.
2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. You can walk around at night with no problems.
3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
We have used the local hospital a number of times and it has been very good. All doctors speak English and many of the nurses too.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
March-May, nice: 24 C. by day, 18 C. by night.
June-September: hot and humid. It can go up to 40 C.
September-mid November, same as March-May. November-March, quite cold.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small and you are still a rare sight on the streets. It's about 4000 out of a population of 8 million.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of noisy bars for singles. Good opportunities to meet older couples and families through various expat clubs here.
3. Morale among expats:
Pretty good amongst the ones I've met. Everyone worries about the pollution, though. If you could get rid of this it would be OK
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for single men for the usual reasons. Not good for single women. It's OK for families. Young singles or couples will find good, cheap opportunities to travel to other parts of China from Wuhan.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There is not much to do in Wuhan on the weekend. There are a couple of parks and museums but not much else. Most scenic attractions are a long drive away. Wuhan is in the middle of China and the local airport has cheap short flights to other parts of China that are good for weekends and short holidays. Hong Kong and Beijing are both a 1 hr 35 min flight. and you can get a return ticket for about 160 Euros.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Furniture, which seems good and reasonably priced.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Tricky. I am here because I can save money for a couple of years. A coastal city with clean air would be a much better option for long-term living in China.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Preconceptions about China. Its more modern and easier to live here than many people think.
3. But don't forget your:
Deodorant, cocoa powder!