The cost of living in Shanghai

The cost of living in Shanghai

23rd August, 2013

Shanghai is an increasingly popular destination for our expat community, with its growing influence on global commerce, culture, finance, media, fashion, technology and transport.

Sited on the delta of the mighty Yangtze River in the east of the country, Shanghai is a popular tourist destination as well as the showpiece of China’s booming economy. If you are considering living there, what can you expect as far as the cost of living is concerned? 

Comfortable, westernized Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s most westernized city, with excellent facilities. Although imported goods can be extremely expensive, you should be able to find everything you need in the city. Local food is cheap, imported food can be expensive. Taxis are cheap and easy to find. And the spotless modern subway system is equally good value.

There is excellent shopping in the city, with everything from low cost local street markets to top quality designer outlets with prices to match. Ready-made clothing might be too small if you’re a comparatively large westerner but there is an affordable alternative: having clothes tailor made for you. The city’s tailors are widely thought to be the best in Asia.

Comparing Shanghai shopping with other major international cities

The City Weekend website includes a great article showing you how prices for a stack of everyday items compare to other cities around the world. It will help you get a flavor for the cost of everyday items. 

Apartment rental from 4,000 Renminbi

Like most countries you can pay as much as you like for a rented apartment, the sky is the limit. The cost depends on the area you choose and your lifestyle. Apartment rental can be as low as 4,000 Rmb up for a one bedroom flat and most rental properties are furnished, often with Ikea-style modern furniture.

Schooling in Shanghai

Shanghai’s academic standards are high, with a good choice of international schools. There is a list of international schools here on a respected Shanghai realty website. The list includes websites and telephone numbers, so you can contact the schools direct to find put the costs.  

China cost of living increasing in the cities

A new study by Mercer reveals the cost of living in many of China’s cities is on the increase. As a result expats are paying more to maintain their standard of living and foreign companies are paying more in labor costs. The survey, which looked at 214 cities over a year, showed how Beijing is more expensive to live in than Paris or New York. Because Shanghai is also growing incredibly quickly, the pressure put on finite resources like accommodation means prices are due to rise even more in future.

In the words of one British expat who lives there, “Shanghai is indeed one of the most expensive places to live in China – however learning a bit of Mandarin and stepping out of one’s comfort zone can reap massive rewards in terms of pricing; food being the most obvious. Shopping at a Chinese market, going to smaller Chinese restaurants off the beaten track and eating more Chinese food can reduce expenditure.”

Chat to fellow expats via the Internations website

The Internations website is a huge international community for people who live and work abroad, and their members are always happy to help and advise. As a member you can exchange reliable information on expat-specific topics any time you like. Here’s a link to their Shanghai pages.

Detailed data from Numbeo

The Numbeo website looks at every aspect of the cost of living in the city in detail, from restaurants to transport, rent, buying property, salaries, clothing, shoes and more. Here’s a link to their page about the cost of living in Shanghai.  Scroll down and you will find a really useful tool for comparing living costs in the city to major cities in your home country.

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Image source: Toa55

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Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

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