Since its economic opening to the world, China has developed itself very rapidly. Westerners thus quickly realized that many opportunities could be seized in this country. Although it may be scary to leave its comfort zone and start all over again in this very different country, expatriates constitute an increasingly important part of the population in China.

Expats: who are they?

Though they were only 20,000 in 1980, they were already 220,000 in 2011. They still represent a small part of the total population today, but the market they constitute is growing. Whether they are motivated by money, the discovery of a foreign culture, running away from their country of origin, or for personal reasons…one thing is common to them all: they miss their country of origin!

Though we can leave our homeland to move to the other side of the world, it does not change our nature and we can miss some aspects of our country quickly. Although China is a very pleasant country to live in, it remains totally different from other Western countries and adaptation can sometimes be difficult for foreigners. That is why most expats are looking, more or less frequently, for products similar to what they might find in their home countries!

– Students:

More and more students are choosing China for their higher education. The country has good universities and a lot of partnerships with foreign universities, even some of the most prestigious ones. Most students stay for a short time (one or two semesters), but some choose to study their whole higher education there. China is also very accessible for low-budget students because life is much cheaper than in the West or other Asian countries (like Korea).

– Workers:

With a population of over 1.5 billion, market opportunities are endless! In addition, business-to-business partnerships have exploded and many foreign employees have been transferred to major Chinese cities by their companies.

However, as expats in China, life is not easy every day. Although the cities with the largest number of expatriates are relatively modern (because they have a Western influence), it can still be hard for expatriates to live in such a different country.

This is why it is very nice to find places in China where they can feel “at home”.

The main needs of expatriates are:

– Quality Western Food:

In most cities, Chinese people try to copy Western cuisine (pizza and hamburgers most of the times), but these are far from enough to satisfy the taste of expatriates. Restaurants with real imported products will delight expatriates as well as the Chinese upper class! Supermarkets with imported products or even real bakeries can also be perfect for this market!

– Organic products:

In China, the food scandals were numerous and frequent. Even the locals don’t always trust the Chinese products. Moreover, GMOs and other toxic products are massively used in agriculture. That’s why expatriate confidence in Chinese products is also not that high! In addition, for expatriate families raising children in China, this criterion can be very important. They will not mind spending a little bit of extra money to ensure the health of their toddlers.

– Medications:

The phobia of any expatriate in China is to go through the hospital box! Although traditional Chinese medicine is world-renowned, their modern medicine still leaves something to be desired. Very few foreigners trust Chinese medicines. So, of course, each time they come back to the country, expatriates fill up on drugs. But when the disease is severe and requires special treatment or antibiotics, they are rarely adequately equipped.

How to enter this market of expatriates?

china buying food supermarket

– Know where to go:

Shanghai is the city in China that counts the most expats. It should therefore be the most appropriate city for this market? In theory! Actually, the market is rather difficult to penetrate in this city because the competitors are very numerous. Expats from Shanghai have no issues to find Western products. Western supermarket and restaurant are common. However, this is more difficult for them to find that in second tier cities. For example, in Suzhou (a neighboring city of Shanghai that knows a great expansion) expatriates are more and more numerous. This type of market would thus be very promising in cities of this kind. The second-tier cities are very numerous in China and they are growing crazily quickly!

– Go to them rather than wait for them to come to you:

Expats get used to Chinese consumer habits quickly, which means: e-commerce! Indeed, the cities are big, the journeys in public transportations are long etc. But the delivery is very fast and the delivery costs are rather low. So if you want to implement your brand in China, you have to offer these services too. Especially through TaoBao, WeChat, or your own app!

If you need help to offer your products in China and need a professional digital marketing campaign to get visibility and credibility on your market, don’t hesitate to contact Gentlemen Marketing Agency !

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