Contributor: Derek Harkness, Living and working in China since 2006.
Jiangnan University in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province
Second tier cities are far from boring. A city like Wuxi is a nice place to live. It has all the facilities you need and for the occasional western luxury, you can easily travel to a nearby large city to buy a small supply.
In fact, I would say the quality of life in a second tier city can be higher than in a first tier city like Shanghai and Beijing. The cost of living is very much lower. House rents, restaurants and so on will all be much cheaper. You will be able to live it up quite handsomely and probably have money left over for savings.
Pollution will be lower than in Beijing. The smaller city will mean that travelling around and getting out of the city, in to the country side is a easy task.
You won’t be lonely either. Second tier cities will have a small but significant community of foreigners. It might take a little time for find them but once you do, and make sure you ask for their phone number early on meeting them, you will have mates to hang out with.
Hangzhou, a tier 2 city
Nanchang, a tier 3 city
You will soon make Chinese friends too. Unlike Beijing and Shanghai, where foreigners are found everywhere, in second tier cities you will be more of a curiosity People will be approaching you, wanting to make friends, on an almost daily basis. Most just want to practice their English a get a free lesson but some will truly become good friends with you on a long term basis.