China’s Top 5 Lower Tier Cities For Expats to Live

China’s Top 5 Lower Tier Cities For Expats to Live
Nov 29, 2016 By Charles Cooper ,

Life in Guangzhou got you down? Sick of Shanghai? Bored of Beijing? For all their charm, life in the tier 1 cities is an exhausting and expensive life at times, but never fear. At we’ve prepared a list of some of the best lower tier cities for expats to live in, and even included some data from our 250,000 plus users to give you an idea of the sizes of their expat populations, so that you know where to head when its time to uproot.


Source: Flickr

Home to the West Lake, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that served as a favourite spot for Chinese poets throughout the centuries and was esteemed by Marco Polo as the most beautiful place on Earth, Hangzhou is without a doubt one of the most amazing cities in the Middle Kingdom. With its wide variety of ancient temples and pagodas, Hangzhou is an unmissable location for anyone interested in China’s religious history.

Its not all history and scenery though, Hangzhou is strewn with tea houses, theatres and is home to a buzzing nightlife and a wide variety of shopping, allowing its residents to easily balance the old and new. The ‘new’ is very much on the rise too, last year Hangzhou became the 10th city in China to reach 10 trillion yuan in GDP, making it one of China’s biggest and fastest growing economies. This wealth has ensured that there’s no shortage of work opportunities in the city, and as a result Hangzhou contains 4.2% of China’s expat population according to our user data, ensuring that you’ll have no shortage of expats to hang with.

While traffic in the city is notoriously bad, it can be easily explored with the ‘Hangzhou Public Bicycle’ system, the largest public bike sharing system in the world, in fact it’s so big that nobody actually knows how big it is! With around 1,000 stations dotted around the city, and the bikes free to use as long you have them back within an hour, getting from A to B couldn’t be easier.Whether you’re looking for a city rich in history and culture, or simply a place to live at a slower pace, Hangzhou is definitely worth checking out!

Source: Wikimedia

A delight for food lovers (particularly those with a spicier palette), Chengdu is a must for anyone visiting China, and there’s plenty to entice people for a more long term stay too. The city was voted as having the ‘best economy’ in 2015 by the US based Milken institute (Beijing came in at a hard 13th), owing to its ‘human capital, central government support, established industries in high-end aerospace and aircraft design, and a more recently developed electronics manufacturing sector’. No wonder over 2% of expats live there according to our user data! If you’re looking for work (particularly outside of ESL) then you’ll be hard pushed to find a better location than Chengdu.

The city’s devotion to drinking (both tea and beverages of a harder variety) is awe inspiring, with Chengdu having more tea houses and bars than Shanghai (despite having half the population. So if you’re looking to live a more relaxed lifestyle then you can’t do much better than China’s ‘party city’. Oh, and there’s one more thing we forgot to mention. Pandas! The great Chinese mascot, as well as one of the most rare and beloved animals in the world, 80% of the worlds Pandas can be found in Chengdu, so if wildlife is your thing, this is city you don’t want to miss.

Source: Wikimedia

Nestled in the heartland of the Yangtze River region, Nanjing has a long and distinguished history, having served as the capital for a number of governments including the Nationalist government. This legacy has left the city rich in historical monuments, like the the Mausoleum of Sun Yat-Sen, the founder of modern China, the Confucius Temple, which at one time served as the Imperial Examination hall for the Ming Dynasty. In addition to its historical sites, Nanjing boasts some of the finest art groups in the country, from the Jiangsu Province Kunqu Opera, which performs the Kunqu stylke of Chinese Opera, to the Nanjing Acrobatic Company, this is a city whose culture is sure to stun all who enter.

Nanjing’s place as an educational centre (indeed its ratio of university students to total population is the highest in the country) and the fact that it is consistantly one of the best performing economies in China (its economy grew a whole 9.2% in 2015!) mean that opportunity abounds for anyone looking for work or study. This abundance of opportunities means its a great place to meet other foreigners too, indeed our data at shows that just under 3% of our users hail from the city, making it an excellent place to meet new people!

Source: Wikimedia

Ranked earlier this year as the most livable city in China by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao has a well earned reputation as one China’s best places to live. The report focused on aspects such as safety, public infrastructure, transport and environment health (naturally Beijing came dead last). Best known for its beaches and beer (we love it already), Qingdao is home to the famed Tsingtao brewery and has become a favourite tourist site for nationals and expats alike. The food is nothing to sniff at either, as the city offers a wide array of delicious seafood at nearly every turn, owing to its coastal location.

The city’s not just for tourists though. Qingdao has a more multicultural and cosmopolitan feel than many other Chinese cities too, thanks to the plethora of German style buildings, owing to its time under German occupation, and its enormous expat community. Its expats, a huge Korean population as well as its English speaking population, which according to’s user data contains nearly 1.5% of China’s expats, are drawn not only by the relaxing lifesyle and beauty of the city, but also its fast rising economy, which grew over 8% last year and boasts a GDP of 940 billion yuan. So whether you’re looking for a drunken visit to the beach or a relaxing city where one can find some real opportunity without being trapped in the hustle and bustle of the bigger cities, Qingdao is a must see!


Source: Wikimedia

The capital city of Yunnan Province, Kunming is known as the ‘Spring City’ as a result of its temperate climate, and the lack of air pollution (always a plus in China) ensures it lives up to its name. Kunming is also just a bus ride away from Vietnam, giving its residents a chance to venture into South-East Asia at incredible ease. An incredibly diverse population (of China’s 55 ethnic minorities, 25 live here), an abundance of temples, and relaxing environment, Kunming is the perfect place for an expat who’s looking to have their horizons expanded in a unique and fascinating environment, but who’s also not too keen on expending much energy doing it.

While the expat community community here is rather small (according to’s user data less than half a percent of our users hail from here) and the economy perhaps a little less impressive than some of the other cities on our list, Kunming’s unique character, with skateboarding culture, psyche-trance parties and break dancing all making their appearances here (but rarely in the rest of China), the city has started to become more attractive to many in recent times, and it can be expected that the cities expat population will start to rise very quickly.

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Keywords: Settle in China Live in China Chengdu visit China Qingdao Nanjing moving to China Lower Tier Cities Kunming Hangzhou eChinacities


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Why would you put an image of "Nanjing rd" in shanghai for Nanjing city? LOL

Mar 02, 2017 01:45 Report Abuse



Are you guys trying to make us an A talent? lol

Nov 30, 2016 11:41 Report Abuse



3 dumps and a terror zone

Dec 07, 2016 08:21 Report Abuse