Cost of Living: China vs. USA

Posted on Posted in China Life Hacks


For those of you who are considering making the move to China, this blog post will try to answer the all-important question of:


What does it cost to live in China?

As a foreigner living and working in China, you will find that it’s a very affordable country. Working in China will allow you to save a substantial amount of your income, giving you financial freedom and ample opportunities to travel, pay off debts, and save for your future.


To put it into context, take a look at some typical price differences between the two countries: A bottle of water in the U.S. costs $1.50, whereas in China it’ll cost you $0.30 (2 RMB); A dozen eggs in the U.S. costs you $2.64, whereas in China it’ll cost you $1.55 (10.65 RMB); A McDonald’s combo meal, $7.00 and $4.37 (30 RMB); A single-fare metro ticket, $2.25 and $0.30 (2 RMB); A domestic beer, $4.00 and $0.73 (5 RMB) and so on. In nearly every situation you’ll find cheaper prices on everyday items.


Let’s break it down further.

According to a 2015 Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American saves around 9% of their monthly income after taxes. The largest expenditures go to housing, transportation (car payments, insurance, gas), and food. On average, American teachers make $47,601 per year, which is an average monthly savings of about $357 per month.


Working with Ambright in China, you will receive free housing (or subsidized for teachers living off-campus) with western amenities. You’ll also receive a flight & relocation allowance two weeks after your arrival. This alleviates our teachers’ initial upfront costs that come along with moving to a new country.


Ambright teaching salaries are based on overall qualifications and experience. Let’s consider, for example, the estimated monthly costs based on a starting salary of 20,000 RMB (2,985 USD):

  • Food: 1,200 RMB ($179)
  • Entertainment: 2,000 RMB ($298)
  • Utilities: 400 RMB ($59)
  • Clothing: 400 RMB ($59)
  • Transportation: 240 RMB ($35)
  • Healthcare: 200 RMB ($29)
  • Insurance: Free (provided by Ambright)

Savings: 15,560 RMB per month (2,288 USD)


These numbers are realistic, but of course depend entirely on your own spending and saving habits. Example: If you plan on eating at western-style restaurants multiple times per week then you’ll surely need to budget more for food.


Most of our teachers are placed in AHSP partner schools throughout Tier 2 & 3 cities across east China – Anhui, Jiangsu, Shandong, and Zhejiang provinces. China is indeed a massive country but no matter where you live, the cost of living between cities is relatively universal. Even in Tier 1 cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou – you’ll find only slightly higher prices than the national average, and way more Starbucks!


For more China/USA price comparisons you can visit Numbeo.



*Featured image courtesy of



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