Shekou at a Glance

Shekou is located at the southeastern section of Guangdong Province on Shenzhen Bay in the Pearl River Estuary. About twenty years ago, Shekou (Snake’s Mouth) was just another a quiet fishing village and farming community. The area began the “great leap forward” in 1979 when the People’s Government declared Shenzhen County a Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Along with several other areas, Shenzhen County was designated for business joint ventures with foreign partners. (Other Special Economic Zones are in Zhuhai bordering Macau, Shantou in eastern Guangdong Province, Xiamen in Fujian Province and Hainan Island). (‘Joint venture’ translates literally from the Chinese as “Same bed, different dreams”.)
The creation of the SEZ, the establishment of China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone and arrival of the offshore oil industry ensured its rapid development in the 1980's and 1990’s. Major petroleum companies present in Shekou are British Petroleum, AGIP, Chevron, Texaco (CACT), Statoil, Devon and Phillips, as well as a variety of service related companies. Adding to the list of major international companies outside of the energy industry in the last few years are companies such as WalMart/Sam’s, Samsung, Compaq, IBM, Reebok, Daewoo, Carrefour and a variety of other manufacturing companies.
Shekou is divided into three areas: Shekou Industrial Zone, Chiwan Port, and Shekou Town, with China Merchants Holdings in charge of developing the Shekou Industrial Zone (SKIZ). The town is a blend of industrial complexes, office buildings, apartments, shops, residential areas, and hotels—including an attractive pedestrian zone of shops, bars and restaurants complete with a grounded cruise ship. Shenzhen/Shekou is a border town with Hong Kong, and its close proximity to Hong Kong means that it serves as the major gateway for trade between China and Hong Kong, and hence the rest of the world.
Access to the SEZ is restricted, and Chinese citizens require a special permit to enter the SEZ. As a result of the limited access and economic advantages, Chinese in the SEZ enjoy a standard of living considerably higher than the rest of the Mainland China.
Shekou is less congested and more laid-back than its nearest neighbors of Shenzhen, Hong Kong, or Guangzhou (Canton), and when compared to other cities in China, is definitely more Western and practically devoid of any outward signs of Chinese culture. Most people nod heads in agreement that this is not the “real” China: the Great Wall, Forbidden City and The Last Emperor China. It is the real China of the 21st century!

Daily Life In Shekou

Shekou is a pleasant place to live, with most of the available amenities within walking distance. One of Shekou’s attractions is its close proximity to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, where one can experience the frenzied, speed of light pace of a big city—then leave it all behind for a calmer life style.
Tip: There are two good maps worth buying upon arrival. One is the Tourist Map of Shekou and the other is the Shenzhen Tourist Map which covers the huge Shenzhen County area. Both are available (sometimes) at the Nan Hai Hotel’s kiosk in the Shopping Arcade

People and Language

The majority of the 15+ million people of Guangdong Province are Han Chinese, with a sprinkling of minority groups. Over 80% of the people now living in the Shenzhen Economic Zone hail from elsewhere. While the official language of China is Mandarin (Putonghua), most natives of Guangdong Province speak Cantonese or Hakka dialects although many have also had several years of Putonghua in school.
There are four pronunciation tones in Putonghua, as a Chinese word can have four different meanings depending on which tone is used. For instance, mai spoken in the third tone means “buy,” whereas mai pronounced in the fourth tone means “sell.” Cantonese is even more complex with its nine tones. Putonghua lessons are available in Shekou.
There are about 50,000 characters in the Chinese language. To read and understand newspapers adequately you need to know about 3,000 characters. The Chinese written language is ideographic whereby one, two or three characters represent a word. This creates the problem that the written character provides no clues as to pronunciation. Pinyin is the system developed to write Chinese in Roman letters, thereby aiding in pronunciation. Many cities, railway stations, airports, post places and street names both in Chinese characters and pinyin. Pinyin dictionaries are readily available in Hong Kong.
As you have might have deduced, learning Chinese is a daunting task. Apart from social obstacles such as differences in income levels, culture and lifestyles, one of the greatest barriers to communication and interaction with Chinese people is language. Fortunately in the Shenzhen/Shekou area, a great number speak English quite adequately. If all else fails, sign language and a pen and paper (for writing down the price) or calculator can help you get you by.


The southern part of China is sub-tropical and. May through August—the summer season—is hot, humid, and subject to monsoons and typhoons. This can mean overcast skies, rain, often with spectacular thunderstorms or fierce typhoons with high velocity wind and rainstorms. September through December, the tourist season, is less humid with mild temperatures. January and February are dry and chilly, sometimes surprisingly so. March and April signal that summer is imminent with rising humidity levels. Temperatures generally range from 55F (13C) in winter to 92F (31C) in summer, although there are exceptions.

Monetary System

The Bank of China issues Renminbi (RMB or ‘People’s Money’). Paper notes are issued in denominations of one, two, five, 10, 50, and 100 yuan; one, two and five jiao: and one, two and five fen. Coins are in denominations of one yuan; five jiao; and one, two and five fen. The official rate of the RMB is currently pegged at US$1=7.85 RMB.
Hong Kong dollars are occasionally used in the SEZ but are not used in other parts of China. Check the rate of exchange at the time of the transaction.
SIS aids teachers in establishing a multi-currency local bank account. This is a necessity for direct deposits of reimbursements for school-related expenses and professional development monies. You may request a portion of your salary be direct-deposited in this account. Most people find they can access sufficient cash from ATM machines with debit cards. ATM machines are also available for most popular credit cards.
Most major cards (American Express, Visa, Mastercard) are accepted in major Chinese cities and are widely accepted in Hong Kong. American Express commission charges to Hong Kong traders are higher than for other card companies. Cash gives you the best deals. Some expatriates arrange for their credit card companies to directly debit monthly billings to their home checking accounts rather than run the risk of extra charges in the event a statement or check is delayed in the mail.

National Holidays

The following local Chinese holidays are usually observed each year. The actual observance dates vary in length from year to year:
- New Year’s Day January 1
- Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) 1-5 days (Lunar Year varies, between
late January-mid February)
- Labor Day May 1
- National Day October 1