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Life in Beijing - what's it really like?

Hi guys,

I may have an opportunity to relocate to Beijing, but I wanted to get some idea of what it was like to live in Beijing as I have heard both +ve and -ve stories. It would really help me if you could answer some of these questions that I have.
1) How much minimum in USD would you need to be paid to have a comfortable life? (the pay pkg does not include housing)
2) What's the average rental for a fully-furnished (Western style) 2 bedroom apartment in the city centre?
3) How bad is the air quality? I regularly run outdoors and would loth to have to give this up.
4) How difficult is it to rent apartments? Or would it be easier for my employer to rent on my behalf?
5) How long does it take to get a Residence Permit and what if any are the travel restrictions?
6) Food and water safety - how do you stay safe?

Much thanks

Beijing Forum