When I first learned that I was about to embark on an expat journey to Hangzhou, China, I was filled with questions. Will there be a good nursery for my child? How's the food? Do people speak English? Can I find my favorite wine there? I scoured the internet for answers, but most of the information was either for tourists visiting Hangzhou or expats relocating to other parts of China. There was a scarcity of information specifically about being an expat in Hangzhou. Despite the initial uncertainties, moving to Hangzhou turned out to be a fantastic decision for us. However, I wished there had been more online resources to ease my anxiety during the planning phase.
So, I've decided to compile this article to assist anyone contemplating a move to Hangzhou, China. With the rise of international schools, the construction of expat-friendly accommodations, and shopping malls brimming with international stores, it seems Hangzhou is preparing to welcome more expats in the near future. Here's my guide to becoming an expat in Hangzhou, China.Expat Community in Hangzhou
The expat community in Hangzhou is growing, although it's not as large as in cities like Shanghai or Beijing. There are numerous social groups for expats, organized through WeChat, including walking groups, buy and sell groups, women's rugby, and social events. The community is generally very supportive and helpful. During the Southern Song Dynasty, Hangzhou was the capital for over a hundred years, and it has a rich history that expats can explore.Living CostsThe cost of living in Hangzhou is not cheap. While some items like rice and vegetables are very affordable, imported goods like cheese, bread, and milk can be quite expensive. Utility bills are surprisingly low, and transport is also cheap, especially if you use public transport or taxis (locally known as DiDi).Accommodation
Most expats live in apartments in Hangzhou, and these are usually located in private compounds that may have facilities like gyms, pools, gardens, and playgrounds. The cost of accommodation is high, and it's common for landlords to increase the rent at the end of a contract due to the rising cost of real estate in the city. For those looking for quality housing options, I highly recommend Hangzhou PLUS Housing (www.hangzhouhomes.com) or Hangzhou LEASE RENTALS (www.hangzhoulease.com) which offers a wide range of expat-friendly accommodations. There are several districts that house expats in Hangzhou, they are largely centered around school districts. Internet Access and VPNsMany popular websites are blocked in China, but ex-pats can access them by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is essential for maintaining privacy and accessing favorite websites or services from home.TelevisionExpats in Hangzhou have access to a wide range of TV channels through IPTV, which offers both live TV and on-demand options.Foreign Food and DrinkWhile Chinese food is widely available and cheap, foreign food can be quite expensive. However, there are online platforms like Taobao and Epermarket where expats can order their favorite foods from home, although prices can be high.Culture ShockNew expats in Hangzhou may experience culture shock due to differences in food, language, and social norms. However, with time and the use of translation apps, these challenges can be overcome.ActivitiesThere are plenty of activities to keep expats occupied in Hangzhou. From visiting tourist attractions like the Longjing Tea Plantation and West Lake, to spending time in malls that offer a variety of entertainment options like cinemas, trampoline parks, and ice skating rinks. There are also plenty of sports clubs and nightlife options. Regular haunts such as Wades, 9 Bar, Shares, Social10 and Jazz Bar are known hotspots for expats in the city.Work OpportunitiesHangzhou is classed as a tier 2 city, with a population of approximately 9 million people. It's home to many western companies such as Tesla, making it a great place for expats looking for work opportunities.EducationHangzhou is home to several international schools, making it a suitable place for expats with children. Hangzhou International Schol, Wellington College China, for examples, are popular choices among expats.HealthcareHangzhou has a number of hospitals and clinics that offer services in English, making healthcare accessible for expats.This guide provides a comprehensive picture of life as an expat in Hangzhou, covering aspects like community, cost of living, accommodation, internet access, television, food, culture shock, and activities. If you're considering becoming an expat in Hangzhou, I hope this guide will be a valuable resource for you.