Ask Beijing Today is our weekly attempt to make life in China less confusing. Whether it’s tracking down the papers to apply for a Chinese green card, dealing with KTV-crazy neighbors or finding the best buy on saffron, we are happy to help.

Send your questions to or post with the hash tag #askbjtoday on Twitter or #askbt# on Sina Weibo.

This Week…

Q. In 2015, how much money (per month) does a foreigner have to spend to enjoy a comfortable middle-class lifestyle in Beijing?

A. That really depends on what you mean by “comfortable” lifestyle. Rent for a decent apartment in downtown Beijing and Shanghai nowadays costs about 5,000-6,000 yuan, plus at least as much for food, transportation, communication and all the other basic needs. So 15,000 yuan would be about right.

Q. Can I drive in Beijing with a U.S. driver’s license (if visiting)?

A. Now you can. You can be issued a temporary Chinese license if you’re staying for less than three months. You can pick up the license at the airport (terminal 3) upon your arrival. You need to bring your original U.S. (not international) license and go downstairs in the terminal building to the traffic police office that issues temporary licenses.

Q. I’m thinking about getting a Chinese driver’s license. Can you tell me how to apply?

A. It’s quite a complex process. First, you need a physical exam certificate (which you can request at the hospital), your passport (with your visa valid for at least three months), residence permit, four 1-inch-by-1-inch photos on a white background, a driver’s license application form, the copy of your overseas license and the translation of the license. Secondly, you need to take all those documents to the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau (people also call it the Motor Vehicle Administration).

18 Southeast Fourth Ring, Chaoyang
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Q. Hello, I’m a recent college graduate, and I would like to work as a teacher in China, preferably Beijing. I want to know some good websites to apply for jobs in Beijing and across China. I’ve mostly been using ecitieschina. Do you know any other good websites?

A. Websites like the Beijinger, City Weekend and Internations have good job listings for foreigners. If you’re looking for a teaching job, you may send your resume and photos to They partner with reliable schools, and if you have the right qualifications, they will help you obtain a work visa.

Q. What are the differences between Shanghai and Beijing?

A. The biggest difference is the economic and political history of the two cities. Beijing is the political capital of China, so there is a stronger sense of nationalism, tied especially to historical artifacts like the Imperial Palace and Tiananmen Square. Shanghai was the cultural and economic capital for the early part of the 20th century, aided by its favorable location as a port city. It therefore modernized earlier than Beijing and feels like a much more Westernized city.

Qu Chaonan

About Qu Chaonan

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Qu Chaonan is a typical Pisces who loves cute things. She's tone-deaf but loves music – especially old songs. Her ideal day is one spent in her pajamas, lying on her bed and watching movies.

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