Forty years ago, Shenzhen was just a small fishing village in Guangdong. Now the city is home to some of the largest manufacturers in the world, is one of the biggest shipping hubs in the world, and has become known as the Silicon Valley of China. These days when foreigners come to China, this exciting and growing city is near the top of their wish list. As a current resident, I’ve compiled some tips for foreigners living and working in Shenzhen.
The future is bright – In the past decade, Shenzhen has gone through a perfectly timed reinvention from a manufacturing juggernaut to a self-styled Silicon Valley. Tech companies are thriving and the local government is quick to upgrade public facilities and promote innovative policies. With the continuing uncertainty in neighboring Hong Kong, Shenzhen has benefited at their expense and is predicted by many to continue to grow. The sense that Shenzhen is a city set to lead China into the future was confirmed recently when President Xi Jinping visited and declared it an example that the rest of the country should watch and emulate. The importance of the president’s visit and words should not be underestimated.
Perfect location – Be it for domestic or international travel, few Chinese cities are as well situated as Shenzhen. These days boasting access from Futian to Hong Kong’s Kowloon in just 14 minutes by high speed rail, Shenzhen offers super easy access to “Asia’s World City”. Not only that, but you have Macau, the Vegas of Asia, less than one hour away by ferry, as well as mainland tourist spots like Xiamen and Guilin just a few hours away by high speed train. Looking abroad, Shenzhen Airport is expanding rapidly with more and more international routes. Guangzhou Airport is also just over an hour away by car, while Hong Kong Airport is accessible by ferry in 30 minutes.
Beautiful parks and beaches – If you don’t know Shenzhen well, you might have an image of a concrete jungle in your head. The city, however, enjoys a large number of natural attractions. The local government has invested massively in developing a network of parks, with the jewel in the crown being Shenzhen Bay Park. This waterside oasis, totaling 13 kilometers in length, wraps around the bottom of Shekou and up towards Futian. Not only is it the best park in the city, but it’s one of the best parks anywhere in China. It’s also easy to forget that Shenzhen is on the coast. There are loads of picturesque beach spots out to the east that rival the more famous islands and coves across the water in Hong Kong. Dameisha is best-known as host of the luxurious Intercontinental hotel, a nice option for staycations, while the more secluded spots of Xichong and Dapeng are great for surfing, paddle boarding or just chilling on the beach.
Strong community – While Shenzhen is one of the biggest cities in China, the expat population retains a strong sense of community. Everyone seems to know everyone, in a good way, and people are quick to pull together if one of their own is in need. There are enough foreigners here too that you’re likely to find a sports team or hobby club for your interests. While the expat scene is arguably not as well developed when compared to places like Shanghai, you might find the people here are a little more welcoming to newcomers.
Manufacturing – The initial rapid development of Shenzhen was driven by manufacturing. Located next to Hong Kong, the city was ideally placed for foreign companies looking to find suppliers or set up their own factories. Some of the biggest players in industries such as electronics, shoes and furniture set up production lines in the area. While manufacturing is no longer the only game in town when it comes to job opportunities for foreigners, and although many companies have moved their operations to other countries in South East Asia, there are still plenty of career opportunities for foreigners looking to work in quality control, product development or as factory managers in Shenzhen.
Tech – Shenzhen has earned the title of the “Silicon Valley of China” in recent years. Some of the country’s biggest tech success stories are either headquartered or have large offices in the city. Look around and you will find the likes of Huawei, Tencent, Baidu, Oppo, DJI and Insta360. Whereas some manufacturing is moving out of the area, tech is an industry that continues to grow. Foreigners living and working in Shenzhen can find a number of exciting opportunities at these companies, whether in e-commerce, marketing or copywriting.
English Language Centers – China as a whole has a high demand for English language teachers, and Shenzhen is certainly no different as one of the country’s largest and most international-facing cities. There is never any shortage of roles for teachers at English language training centers, be they in the CBD areas of Futian, the tech corridor of Nanshan, or further outside the center in Longgang or Bao’an. With so many businesses looking to expand globally from Shenzhen, there is never a shortage of adults who need to learn English.
International Schools – International schools have long been a fixture in Shenzhen, ever since oil companies started sending expats to work in Shekou in the 1980s. These days, there are more international schools than ever, with a number of well-established and respectable groups operating establishments. Foreign teachers of varying subjects can find work at schools such as QSI, Shekou International School and the International School of Nanshan Shenzhen.
Futian – In a city with several distinct hubs, Futian is arguably the true center of Shenzhen. The district has a large CBD, the fourth tallest building in the world at Pingan Tower, the famous nightlife spot of Coco Park, a border crossing with Hong Kong and a high-speed train station with lines that extend all across the country. There’s always something happening in Futian, but expect to pay the rent to reflect that. Besides some exclusive areas of Shekou, Futian is the most expensive place to live in Shenzhen.
Shekou – Speaking of Shekou, this bayside area is in many ways Shenzhen’s historical expat neighborhood. When the first wave of expats came to Shenzhen in the 1980s to work in oil and manufacturing, they congregated here. You can still find some of these old timers in Shekou, but now the foreign community is much more spread out across the city. Shekou boasts plenty of spots to go for a meal or drinks, some of the city’s best international schools and easy access to the beautiful Shenzhen Bay Park. Nanshan Park is also within striking distance for those who like to hike.
Bao’an/Xili – If you don’t want to pay the rent required for Shekou and Futian, take a look at Bao’an in the northwest of the city and Xili immediately east of it. Where once these places consisted mainly of factories, now they’re in the midst of massive redevelopment. New apartment complexes and large shopping malls have sprung up and the subway system is already well connected. These areas are great for foreigners who are happy to trade off a longer commute to the center for savings on rent.
Longgang – If saving money is your absolute top priority, you can look even farther outside the center to Longgang in the northeast. You’ll still find a lot of factories in this area, and while the dining and entertainment options don’t compare to the likes of Futian or Shekou, there are shopping malls with all your standard chain restaurants and conveniences. As quite a few manufacturing and teaching jobs are based in Longgang, foreigners working here may find it’s the most convenient place to live.
Language – While the level of English in Shenzhen has improved dramatically in the last decade, you’ll still probably want to learn some basic Chinese to make your day-to-day life easier. Noticeable improvements have been made, particularly in places such as banks and government offices, where you can now expect to find English speakers to help. And although English may not be widespread throughout the population, most young people have at least some grasp of the language and it’s common enough that you may want to be careful about what you say on the subway or in a taxi. It is also worth pointing out that while Cantonese is the local language in Shenzhen, the majority of the Chinese people living here are immigrants. Cantonese prevails in places like Guangzhou and Hong Kong, but in Shenzhen Mandarin is more widely spoken.
Pollution – The pollution used to be quite severe at the height of Shenzhen’s manufacturing years. Fortunately, the city has since shifted to tech and the government has taken steps to clean up the environment. Air quality has undoubtedly improved, to the point where we get clear blue skies most days. It’s still China though, so just like anywhere, you’ll probably want to invest in a couple of air purifiers for your home for the bad days.
Transport – Your view on the transport situation in Shenzhen will vary wildly depending on if you like to take taxis or the subway. The Shenzhen Metro seems to open new lines and add extensions every year, with each new development making the city more accessible and relieving pressure on existing parts of the network. While certain sections of some lines can become jammed during peak hours, it’s still nowhere near as busy as Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. Car traffic, on the other hand, can be a nightmare, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours. At least there’s an endless supply of taxis so you can sit in comfort as you wait to get to where you’re going.
Are you a foreigner living and working in Shenzhen? Drop your own tips in the comment box below.
Warning：The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.
Keywords: foreigners living and working in
All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.
Please login to add a comment. Click here to login immediately.