Living in Beijing can be a lot of fun, but it can be very challenging, too. If you’re considering a move here, here’s some information that you might find helpful.
There have been many stories in the Western press about China as a land of opportunity for people who are having trouble finding work in their home country. I recommend that you be skeptical. Unless you want to be an English teacher, have a skill in high demand (like programming), or are a senior executive, you probably won’t find a great wealth of opportunities. Especially if you don’t speak Chinese.
That means you should have savings to live on, and a game plan for your career. If you come here to study the language for a while and attend a lot of networking events, I think you’ll eventually do fine.
The cost of living has risen in recent years, but it can still be quite reasonable. Rents are going up dramatically, and it can be impossible to find any place affordable in popular areas like Sanlitun and the Central Park area in Guomao. But if you head further out, you can find more affordable accommodation.
Once you have a place to live, Beijing can be quite cheap. Taxis are inexpensive. Food from local grocery stores and markets doesn’t cost much (just avoid places like BHG and Jenny Lou’s). Local restaurants don’t cost much.