Expat Life

How many expats are in Hohhot?
Good question. I get asked this all the time. My response is also a question….what do you mean by “foreigner?” Do you mean Westerners? Do you mean anyone who is not Asian? Do you mean anyone who is not holds a passport from a country other than China?

If one assumes we are counting all foreign passport holders my best guest is roughly 5000. Although in 11/2015 the clinic where all foreigners have to get their yearly health exams told me they processed “hao ji qian” (quite a few thousand)

Here is how I reached that number:

English Training schools: This number is hard to know because the number of these schools hiring foreigners is increasing rapidly. Also, there is some overlap since some of these schools hire part time teachers who would be counted in another category (students, perhaps). =a few hundred, possibly nearing 1000

University teachers: 10+ universities with 10ish teachers each. Some have more, some have less and we’re counting all foreign teachers (Japanese, German, Russian, English, Mongolian, etc)=a few hundred

University foreign students: 600-700 at Nei Da, plus Hong De, Shi Da, Gong Da, Nong da= roughly 1000??

Foreign workers other than teachers=I’m including Asian businessmen from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, etc.=a few hundred

Mongolians=several thousand. It’s my understanding they don’t need a visa if they leave every 30 days so they can just run to the border and back each month. I know there are many marriages where one spouse is from Outer Mongolia and there are many others here working. I know most wouldn’t count them as “foreigners” because of the cultural similarities and the language and because they don’t stick out that much, but for the purpose of this post we’re counting all non-Chinese citizens.

Again, this is nothing official, just my best guess.

There are also a large number of western businessmen who come through for the dairy or mining industry but they generally only arrive at their hotel, go out to the dairy or mining site, return to the hotel, and fly back out. From my experience working at the hotel they generally don’t have time to socialize.

There are also probably another few hundred Hohhot locals who have traveled abroad to gain citizenship to another country but who live in Hohhot currently. Since we’re counting foreign passport holders here, they’d be included in the count. 

What is the expat community like?

I wouldn’t yet say that there is an “expat community” in Hohhot. Mostly, the expats here are still largely unconnected to one another. Some have groups of friends, but those groups of friends may or may not know the other groups.

The other problem is even if they wanted to know each other, businessmen and university teachers work a business day-like schedule. The private training school teachers work evenings and weekends generally, meaning the two groups don’t often cross paths.


Are there frequent expat gatherings?

Pub Quiz Weekly on Tuesday night

Hohhot International Church meets on Sundays

Yes. But I’d say they only happen in small groups, not in big events where everyone is together. There are wechat groups that the expats use to connect with one another.

Many of the private school teachers hang out on Sunday evenings since Monday is generally a day off for many of them.

There are also many other events arranged by other groups and we’ll post that information when it’s provided to us. Also check out the forum for other events.

In the past, this website has partnered with the Air China Phoenix Hotel to host a monthly expat gathering. If you’d like to be included on the mailing list for such events, sign up below.

Sign up for the EXPAT EXCHANGE mailing list

What countries are represented?

Again, I don’t have any official statistics, but in my time here, I have known or known of people from the following countries: Mongolia, Japan, Russia, Korea, Finland, Czech Republic, Australia, UK, Poland, USA, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Denmark, South Africa, Togo, Nigeria, Liberia, Jamaica, Germany, Cambodia, Jordan, Pakistan, and Egypt.

How do foreigners connect with other foreigners?

I think mostly through introduction by a mutual friend, whether that friend be a foreigner or local. We hope this website and the EXPAT EXCHANGE can help expats in Hohhot connect with one another. Please check out the forum leave a comment on the blog if you’d like to connect or have questions.

There are also several wechat groups. You can follow me at hohhotjill and I can invite you to the groups.

Other things to know

1. If you’re coming here to study, you should learn what you can about your school. I have links to most of the universities with foreign students here.

If you’re coming to teach at a private school or at a university you should understand the terms of your contract clearly. Although I personally have never been a teacher, the most common complaint I hear is that the schools always want you to work more than is stated in the contract.

You should also understand China’s visa laws and policies and understand what kind of work is (or is not allowed) for your visa type.

2. Hohhot is cold. (understatement, right?) The winter is generally seven months long. The public central heating turns on November 15th and off April 15th. The climate is dry and generally there isn’t much snow or rain. You should be prepared with lots of warm clothes. However, most places indoors have more than adequate heating.

3. It’s my personal opinion that Hohhot is a city where you need to be able to speak at least basic Chinese in order to survive. You may be able to survive without it, but you will not thrive. As stated earlier, they expat community is still relatively small and the number of locals with a high level of English is not like in other larger cities in China. I always hear taxi drivers or shopkeepers tell me stories about the foreigners they meet who don’t speak Chinese and the ways they try to communicate with them.  You may be able to have a few classmates or co-workers as friends, but you will not be able to develop the social network needed for successful living here without some Chinese.

Previous posts about expat life in Hohhot

Field trips/Family Outings

Expat Life Posts

Getting a Driver’s License

Visa Information

More Visa Information

Buying Used Furniture

Buying Imported Grocery Items

Medical Care

cost of living in Hohhot

renting a car

Finding a House

top ten things we’ve experienced here

housing posts

finding a gym

10 Strange Things about Hohhot

sign up on expat mailing list

date ideas

Why I call Hohhot Home

My Dreams for Hohhot

books about Hohhot



  1. Chris says:

    Hi there, when will the expat exchange begin again?

  2. Margaret says:

    Hi, Can anybody tell me if The Hohhot International Church still meets on Sundays at 10am?

    I only arrived here on Tuesday 21st

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