Safety in China
Expats concerned about their safety in China will focus less on the dangers travellers are usually worried about, such as pickpocketing, and more on seemingly innocuous areas such as food and driving.
Serious and violent crime in China is rare, and although expats often fall victim to petty theft, especially in tourist hotspots and crowded marketplaces, it still isn’t commonplace. A little extra precaution needs to be taken when it comes to securing housing. Locking the doors, keeping valuables out of sight and, for women living alone, avoiding ground floor apartments are appropriate safety measures.
At face value, there seems to be little that can be done to avoid these unfortunate realities, but adopting certain defensive behaviours is easy and beneficial. New arrivals should take routine precautions in larger cities by paying attention to their surroundings, being mindful of their belongings in public places, and staying away from poorly lit areas at night, especially if travelling alone.
Expats should also be wary of the high levels of pollution, unregulated additives in food and reckless drivers.
Pollution in China
The smog in China can be overwhelming, especially in urban centres. Expats living in these areas should make an effort to exercise regularly and use an air purifier at night. Although pollution can cause sinus congestion, itchy eyes and a runny nose, healthy individuals are unlikely to suffer long-term effects.
Food safety in China
As the country’s population continues to grow, so does the number of local food producers attempting to cut costs by using illegal additives and unsafe food practices. "Food scandals" emerge often, and while this should not discourage new arrivals from trying everything from dim sum to thousand-year eggs, caution should be exercised.
Only approach street vendors that always seem to be busy and, until a trusted local can vouch for its safety, avoid the charming but clearly dirty corner restaurant. It is also important to only purchase raw food that, at the very least, looks fresh and appealing.
Driving safety in China
When everyone else on the road seems to be openly breaking laws and violating principles of etiquette, driving defensively in China can easily get frustrating. New residents would do well to use Chinese public transport when it's available, as it's generally fast, safe and economical, and a good way to get to know one’s surroundings. Expats who want to use a car should consider hiring a driver at first, but those who do get behind the wheel must try to stay calm and allow themselves some time to adapt to the Chinese rhythm of driving.
Expats shouldn't be afraid to walk, either – China can be surprisingly pedestrian friendly, although being aware of the unpredictable surrounding traffic is important.
Terrorism in China
Terrorism is rare and generally doesn't affect expats or the areas they tend to settle in. Minor attacks in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang province in the fairly remote northwest of the country, have been blamed on separatist extremists from the region's Uyghur minority. Historically, incidents such as these rarely have effects outside of the province and expats should remain unaffected.