China travel

Published on December 14th, 2011 | by Paz


Is China Safe to live in?

Is China safe to live in and raise your children? Are we afraid of people stealing our children? Keep a close eye on your children…you never know what can happen in China!! We hear these comments and questions all the time. So I thought we should answer them. 

The recent shootings at a beautiful school  in a beautiful town of Virginia  inspired me to write this article. Our thoughts and prayers go out to that community and hope that there isn’t more violence.

Are we more or less safe in China? What are we afraid of in China?

We live in a local Chinese neighborhood. We are one of four foreign families that live on our block and remember it is all high rises. There are probably a million people living on our block alone.  We can’t read or understand any of the signs in our neighborhood and things are dirt cheap. Basically we live among the locals…except our apartment building is one of the nicest in the area. We like our western toilet and shower.

Do we feel safe? Has anyone tried to steal our kids? Have we been robbed? 

Let me share our real experiences.

Do we feel safe?

Yes… Why?

First, Chinese society is a non-aggressive society. Even when they are mad it escalates to screaming and yelling in faces and well that is about it. That is not to say that people don’t get in brawls or fist fights don’t happen, but for the most part you don’t see people fighting. You see TONS of yelling  in people’s faces…but then they both turn and walk away. I am sure they are doing the usual insulting of your mother and your family, maybe even talking about how small the others’ genitals are, but they don’t throw too many punches considering how heated the arguments get.

Most of the violence is domestic, as it is in most societies. If you mix with the wrong people doing the wrong things then you kind of get yourself in trouble. In China there is a lot of domestic violence. It is said that 1/3rd of the population has experienced some sort of domestic violence. Yes, we are talking about husbands beating their wives and children. This is something that is not greatly frowned upon and is commonly known. Everyone here knows someone who is in an abusive relationship. However, very little is done about it.

Violence against foreigners. It is good to know that if a Chinese National commits a crime against a foreigner the penalty is tripled. So if you committed that same crime against one of your countrymen your penalty would be much less.  We all know about China’s punishment system…so let’s just say harming a foreigner isn’t worth it.

Has anyone tried to steal our kids?

I am obviously very happy to report, NO!! Once after we first hired our nanny we went out for a walk and left only our youngest blue eyed child with her. We came back and they were gone!! We didn’t know where they were and I will admit all the CNN stories started flashing through my eyes and I almost threw up. We called her and they were on the first floor of our building playing. It was too nice of a day to stay inside. She was right. It was.

Here they are playing in the park and this woman just happened to have a baby duck in her bag for the kids to play with….that is another post.

Should you worry about someone stealing your kids?

No more than you would in your own country. In the U.S. there is also a lot of child trafficking and kidnapping.  We advise people to always contact your babysitters/nanny’s references prior to leaving them with your children for long periods of time and then taking it slow. Don’t go away for two days the first time they are coming to watch your child. The same common sense that you would use in your own hometown.

A local amusement park. Who knows where they think they are going.

Why China is safer for your children?

  1. Now after 8 months of living here we think that China is actually safer for our kids. Why? Considering most Chinese have very similar physical features we stand out A LOT. Everyone knows who we are and who should and shouldn’t be with our kids. They are very friendly with our children and we believe that if our children were in any sort of danger or needed anything would help.
  2. China’s strict child policy. If there is one thing that China does care about it is the amount of children that you have. They keep a close eye on it and have created a million different processes to check and recheck everyone all the time. So, the idea of someone stealing one of our kids and keeping them would also mean that they would have to go through a lot of red tape and it would be extremely expensive. Another child on the block is not something that goes unnoticed…especially a foreign one.
  3. China loves children. They are very understanding when our son screams or kicks and no one ever gives a disapproving glance on the subway or bus when they are obviously annoyingly loud. Everyone stops to take pictures with them and they receive gifts from the neighborhood on a regular basis. Almost every time we go out they we come back with a little something that one of the store owners gave them. Yup, they get spoiled.

Have we been robbed or pick pocketed?

NO!, But I know many people who have been pick pocketed. That is the most common offense and yes it happens all the time. People don’t even know it has happened until they get to the office and find their wallet or phone missing. Those are the most common items to be stolen.

They are hot commodities. Most of the time your are pick pocketed on a busy bus, subway or when you are walking down the street not paying any attention to what is going on around you. Carry a bag with a zipper and keep it zipped. That is the lesson.

Guns in China? 

You cannot own a gun in China. It is plain and simple. That is considered a serious offense and punished to the fullest extent.

That comment perhaps foreshadowed the gun control laws later implemented by Mao and the Communist Party – some of the most severe firearms laws in the world. China has imposed a blanket ban on gun ownership, including replicas. Since 1966, the government has prohibited the private manufacture, sale, transport, possession and import or export of bullets and guns.Possessing a single gun can yield a three-year prison sentence, while perpetrators of gun crimes are often executed.

So as you can guess it isn’t beneficial to mess around with guns in China. No NRA membership here.

I will say that in choosing a country to move to we did think about the safety factor A LOT! I spoke to a few non-traveling Americans and they told me of CNN stories and reminded me of all the kidnapping and the injustice that happens to Americans across the globe. We got scared, we started letting other people’s fear influence our own fear. But, we moved anyways despite all of there comments and here is are our findings….


We feel very very safe in China and are happy we didn’t listen to all of those people that had no idea what they were talking about.

Step outside and see the world, it isn’t as dangerous as you think it is.

p.s. bring your kids too.

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About the Author

Paz is an avid adventurer in life and food. Traveling across the globe with her family they enjoy cultural immersion and checking out the local eateries.

20 Responses to Is China Safe to live in?

  1. Joanna says:

    Good post, Paz..thanks for the info. As a Canadian, I’m glad Canada has strict gun laws too but its good to know there are prohibited in China too. One question, how safe do you think the streets are for a foreign teenager? In our city, my son and daughter like to walk around/explore but I wonder how it would be when we are in China? Of course, we’d try to prepare them as much as possible (basic phrases, cards with their address, etc.) but inevitably they’ll want to go places on their own…what do you think?

    • Paz says:

      Joanna, Your children would be fine exploring on their own. I would just have them follow the same rules you would at home. Give them a curfew and times that they should call in. China is very safe for anyone of any age. The only thing they need to be careful of is their cell phone, iPod, or other fancy gadget. They are stolen all the time and people don’t even realize it. I also would make sure that they don’t buy things for the sake of buying things because they will most likely get ripped off. So if they want to make a purchase….anything over 100-200 RMB they should do it with you. Again, this is not something that is dangerous but more annoying. We still get ripped off because of our foreigner demeanor. But a teenager with some cash and cheap prices might want to go on a shopping spree…now remember they might make some great friends that then can haggle for them…which in that case I say you might want them to buy your purchases for you. You children will have a great time and be able to go out at almost any time of the day or night. It really is a very safe country.

  2. Kimberly says:

    True, true & true- Especially about the children getting spoiled!
    Re the comment above, as long as your child or teenager has some street saavy (and I mean can cross a chinese street) it is pretty safe. When before and after school here in Nanjing, I see 7, 8, 9 y/o walking to and from all by their lonesome, or in a group. I have even seen a few stop in a shop for dinner by themselves before going home.
    It is a bit of an art to cross the street here so I don’t think I would let my older children (8,6)walk around by themself but it is done and often.

    • Paz says:

      Your comment about crossing the street is so true! That might be the most dangerous part of China…you not only have to be careful of cars, but then you have bikes, carts, and depending on the day…who knows what else might be coming your way. I also find it funny to see school aged children having breakfast by themselves before going to school. What I am most surprised by is that they still pick the healthy option for food. No sugary breakfast snacks…they go for the eggs and veggies.

  3. Angela White says:

    Where do I begin! You will be welcomed back into WI where a law was recently passed to carry a concealed weapon… scary. Only need a 4 hour training class to be legal (this might even get taken away, so you need no training!). I hope Scott Walker is recalled!!! I wish it were illegal to own a gun here. I hate listening to the evening news because it is 90% about violent crimes happening locally. China is looking pretty safe to me right now. Glad to hear the positive and informative post!

    Lastly, you must write about the duck appearing from the women’s purse, that is just too funny and kind of weird:)

    • Paz says:

      I heard that Wisconsin is now a concealed weapon state. No training is crazy!!! Everyone should be trained and then need to keep up their training. I remember turning on the news and seeing so much violence and death contributed by the misuse of guns. I have to say that I am very happy to not have to worry about that in China. Yes…what we do have to worry about is the stuff popping out of peoples purses that are still alive. Very weird as we were walking in the park for a bit of exercise a woman noticed our foreign looking children and started talking (practicing her English) with them and then pulled out a baby duck from her bag!!! I was scared and totally weirded out by it. The kids were so happy and played for about 30 minutes. I have to admit the thoughts of bird flu kept running through my head…but I had to let go a bit and let them have fun with their new friend. We washed our hands when we got home and all was fine. You never know what they are carrying around in their purses here…there are no guns, but you might find a chick or two. 😉 Give Caleb a kiss for us!!!

  4. Eowyn says:

    This is really interesting as a perspective on safety. I know that my parents often comment that we let our children get much farther away from us in public than North American parents do. Also, people here (Netherlands) frequently leave their children alone in the car to run into a store, at the play area in grocery stores etc. There isn’t a culture of fear here in terms of stranger danger, even though many people think that “Europe is dangerous”.

  5. Paz says:

    Eowyn, It is great to hear of cultures that are not controlled by their fear of the unknown. The fear people have of other countries is made up from scary stories of the boogie man. Then we take this concept and portray it on the rest of the world or the unknown. We also have a media and society that gravitates towards the “bad” or “negative” stories. So when a child is kidnapped you hear about that story for months and we never hear about the good Samaritan stories. Thanks for reading!

  6. Kirsty says:

    This made me laugh – we lived in Guangzhou when our first daughter was born and people used to ask us if it was safe all the time too. Like you we lived in a Chinese neighbourhood and I felt totally safe taking her out to play and getting around on the busses and metro etc – the biggest problem was that doing the supermarket shop with a blonde haired blue eyed baby would take forever cos everyone wanted to stop and take her picture!! I visited again this summer on my own with my kids, now aged 3 and 5 and it never even crossed my mind that China might not be safe – people have such strange perceptions!!

    • Paz says:

      Kirsty, Right! There is so little to actually be afraid of and yet the perception is that you are taking your children to the end of the world. When in fact you are not…but you might make them want to be a movie star! I hope you had a wonderful trip to Guangzhou. Where did you used to live? We are in Yuexiu area right now and looking for different neighborhoods for 2012. Always good to change it up! Thanks for reading.

  7. Hyeji says:

    My husband has found your website and it’s very good to know what China(especially big cities) it like. I’m a Korean living in New Zealand with a Kiwi husband and a-18 months-old boy. He’s got a job interview(international school) on skype two weeks ago then is waiting for being offered. The job will be in Tianhe, Guangzhou, too.
    I’ve been afraid of raising my boy as a full-time mom if we settle down in China because of smoking, noise and language… My mother-in-law even said to us to be careful of kidnapping, too.
    I feel relieved to find out useful information that you left here and I wish my husband get the job offered. 😉

    • Paz says:

      Hyeji, So glad you found our site. You don’t have to be any safer here than you do in New Zealand. People are very friendly and love kids. I will be launching a few workshops that will focus on specific topics needed for living in China. Stay tuned and make sure you sign up if any of them appeal to you. So excited for you and your family!!!

  8. Linda says:

    How do people treat animals in China? I read that there are a lot of stray animals in the streets. My husband would be travelling a lot and I would be by myslef – we probably would live in a compound with other expats. We are both in our late 50- early 60’s, so at this point in our lives it is not a make or break career decision. I am more used and familiar to European lifestyle.

    I have read that hygiene is not that nice, plus children wearing “split pants” in the street and doing their bathroom duties …….

    Sounds like a very intersting culture, but not sure it would suit me.

  9. Ana says:

    Hi there, I have recently been accepted into a paid teaching programme that will take place in either Xi’an, Chengdu or Qingdao (Shandong) in 2013. I was wondering when you made your move to China if you had any concerns about the nuclear threat in North Korea and how you resolved those concerns. The information of the safety in China is very reassuring as i have always been told how safe and developed China is as a country and its lovely to see this reinforced by people such as yourself. I’m truly excited for my opportunity to experience China for myself however I have a mother and father who have raised me to be very aware of the world I live in so I can’t overlook the Nuclear threat that nearby countries pose. If you by any chance had the same concerns i would love to hear your thoughts or any other advice for someone moving to china would be greatly appreiated as I am SO excited to get over there and want to prepare as much as I can in any way!
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  10. JSK2 says:

    Hey, Ana, The NOrth Korea Nuclear treat was only exaggerated by western media, go to read some news media outside western, you can get a more accurate point of view.

  11. Tiff says:

    I just have to say, I am so glad I ran across this article. I am moving to China for half a year to go and teach English. I am twenty-one and I have lived out on my own before, but my dad has been stressing like crazy. I can understand, different country, different language, petty theft is a lot bigger there then here in Utah. But I have been trying to find ways to show my dad I’ll be just fine. It has been something I have looked into for about three/four years and I decided to take a break from the college life and go on an adventure. The fact I have had a few close friends go and met people who have gone with ILP doesn’t help him at all. So I am hoping to show him this and help him a tad bit more!
    Thank you!

    • Paz says:

      So happy we can help. Please also let your dad know that we aren’t crazy left or right wing people, just average mid-westerners with a flare for life! Whenever I found people to show my family they always assumed that they were these crazy people and not normal people. lol Best of luck.

  12. Julianna says:

    Hi Paz,

    Thank you for writing this. Your findings confirm my gut feeling that adventure is worth the risk and that China is a good choice.

    I recently accepted a position teaching abroad. I’m a young, single female and my father’s youngest child. Naturally, he is very worried for me and wishes I would just stay home. I will be sending him to your site to let him read for himself that it’s worth the trip and the time away from good ole US of A.



    • Paz says:


      How exciting that you are venturing out and have decided on China. It is an experience that will change you forever. I would be happy to talk to you or your family about concerns and reality of living and working in China. I completely understand your families worry as we also had worries and fears about what we were doing. However you are given one life to live and living it to its’ fullest is most important. The idea of being safe is has more to do with what we know that what is truly safe. Many more people are randomly killed in the USA than in any other country in the world. Once you realize that your/their fear comes from the unknown and not because of any actual experience or facts…then it is easier to overcome.

      I would be more than happy to help if you have any questions or concerns and the best of luck! Have fun.

  13. Jordan says:

    Thanks for this post! My wife and I are considering moving to China for a time and my first thought was about the safety of our three daughters.

    The other question I have is related to internet connection. Do you happen to know how reliable internet is in China?

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    We are a family of four: dad, mom, sister, brother, who decided to leave our job, home, and community to live life in China. After a year abroad we decided to become permanent nomads. We road school our children and try to enjoy every minute.

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