A city built on China’s southern coast along the banks of the Pearl River, expats moving to Guangzhou will arrive in a growing modern metropolis with more than 2,800 years of history. The futuristic cityscape, shaped by tall skyscrapers and the striking Canton Tower standing 1,982 ft (604m) high, is reflected into the rivers that cut through it.

Living in Guangzhou as an expat

The capital and commercial centre of the wealthy Guangdong Province, Guangzhou is often overshadowed on the world stage by Beijing and Shanghai, but as South China’s largest seaport it is one of the most economically significant cities in the country.

One of the first free-trade zones in China, Guangzhou has developed sturdy, expanding business and manufacturing sectors, and a growing consumer culture. The job opportunities which come with a larger economy have lured waves of inland migrants and expats to its towering skyscrapers, contributing to the international flair and cosmopolitan diversity of the city centre.

Some of Guangzhou’s lesser-travelled areas resist the frenetic charge of city life, where historic temples, pagodas and churches are reminders of simpler times. Residents also have access to enclaves of natural beauty in the form of botanical gardens, hiking trails, river cruises and attractions such as Yuexiu Park. 

The city is also a cultural centre known especially for its arts, crafts and cuisine. While Guangdong embroidery and ceramics are well known, it is the food in Guangzhou that earns it international renown. Boasting the country’s largest number of restaurants per capita, the city offers Cantonese cooking at its best and has shaped the way the world perceives Chinese food.

Cost of living in Guangzhou

As a major Chinese city, it comes as little surprise that living in Guangzhou is expensive. Expats can take some small comfort in knowing that Guangzhou's cost of living is still well below Shanghai and Beijing – but the city's high rent prices and international school fees can nevertheless be hard on the budget. On the upside, many of the city's best attractions can be enjoyed for free, and the cost of regional travel is reasonable.

Families and children in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is a good place to raise a family, offering a variety of education options in the form of quality private and international schools, a wide selection of real-estate options and first-rate healthcare facilities.

Of course, there is a significant adjustment that expats have to make in terms of language and cultural barriers. English is often not an option, and even activities such as hailing a cab, getting the bill at a restaurant and opening a bank account can be challenging for expats.

Climate in Guangzhou

Guangzhou's weather is pleasantly mild during winter (December to February) but hot, humid and wet in summer (June to September). The rainy season can begin as early as March as monsoons rake the area, causing storms and flooding. For the sake of safety, it's imperative that expats take care during stormy weather and heed weather warnings. September heralds both the end of summer and the end of the rainy season, and the city begins to slowly cool down as the year ends.

Expats who plan on living in Guangzhou will find themselves in a city where old meets new, and China meets the world. Those who adjust, overcome their culture shock and find financial stability rarely regret taking on the challenge.

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