Doing a better research on Wikipedia is the difference between living and working in a livable cosmopolitan city, or being stranded in a small country village with nothing to do. Your first choice might be to go and work in Beijing, Shanghai or any other top tier city, but those cities are now some of the most unaffordable cities in the world. Here’s how to find an alternative, yet smaller but still enjoyable cities in China.
When another teacher recommends a city to you
Failure to understand the geography
I lived in a county level city in Hangzhou a small rural city which I chose by choice. I had a colleague who saw “Hangzhou” in the address and just assumed it will be in the metropolitan area. When he was picked up from the airport and started seeing rice paddies from the car window he was furious. He believed he was misled, but he failed to do any research and didn’t ask further questions on the location, he just simply assumed.
Here’s a map of Guangdong province you’ll find on Wikipedia, each of these cities border each other, but that doesn’t mean it’s wall-to-wall city. All the farms, villages and country side all fall under their city’s administration. A school’s address will include the city’s name even though it is in a county level city.
How to find the right district for a city to live in
Imagine having a friend who lives in Los Angeles has a house in the Hollywood hills with a view of the Hollywood sign and has movie stars for neighbours. He tells you to come and work there, only to end up living in the gang infested part of the city living next door to a crack house. Not as extreme as that, but that’s how some teachers make the first mistake when researching a city in China. They ask around on the internet from other teachers who suggest a city but never ask exactly which district is ideal, and wound up in the middle of nowhere.
On the province page you’ll find the list of cities and their seats, which is the central business district of each city. Capital cities like Guangzhou will have a subway so it won’t matter which suburb you’ll live in, but for other cities it’s best to know which is the central district.
Qu – district
Shi - city
Take the city Foshan, it’s where I am based and it may not be a top tier city, yet it has a subway, depending on which district you live in it is a lively city. However some districts are more rural and you’ll need to spend a long bus commute to the downtown area. Once you know the district you want to work in then do a Google search for a job.
Before accepting any job get their address
Unlike top tier cities where as long as there is a subway it doesn’t matter where you are, yet for second and third tier cities it’s imperative to know where you might be living. Get their address find out which district and search on Wikipedia. You can also do a Google map search once you have their address to get a better look at what's in the area.
Finding a city from scratch
Most people prefer recommendations based on others’ experience, if you’re searching for the right city simply from research then you need to first know what you want from your time in China.
  • Night life and expat community
  • To save money to pay off student loans or to have travel money
  • Cultural immersion

It’s best to start with this page on Wikepedia to get a better understanding of what types of cities there are. For instance; municipalities are Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing, they are not a capital of a province, but basicly a province in itself. This doesn’t mean only these cities are good for night life, a lot of the prefectural-level cities are popular among expats.

For those who want a cultural immersion doing a “top 10” city search on blogs will only get you large cities. County level cities are satelite cities where the rural area is built up and has become a city of its own. Some have amenities that you can survive quite well, but will lack western supermarkets and Starbucks. All you need to do is choose a county-level city that is not to far from a major city. Whenever you need to need something, or meet up with other expats, you simply get a bus and stay at a hostel for a weekend.
More "Living" blogs
Search for Jobs
Looking for a job in China? Then is for you. It is an interactive map of China so you can select the city you want to work in rather than having to screen all the jobs in China. is not a job board where anyone can post a job, instead builds relationships with recruiters. Too many job boards allow mysterious and questionable recruiters who often change their names to post dubious jobs.
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