China is a vast land of different languages, cultures and cuisine. It can be daunting, but uniquely satisfying to live in. To help ease yourself into life as an expat, here are a few tips.
Choose your accommodation wisely
If you’re teaching English in rural China, this won’t apply, but if you’re living in the big city, commuting can take up a much of your day. Do yourself a favour and pick an apartment close to your work which will save you both time and money. Of course, many of the TEFL placements include accommodation, in which case, these will always be located close to your school.
Pick weather dependent clothes
China’s climate varies wildly from the frozen north and cities like Harbin to the tropical island of Hainan which is akin to the humidity and heart of South East Asia. Before you pack, check out the weather for the region you’ll be living, but be mindful it can be vastly different when you travel to other parts of the country.
Open a Chinese bank account as quickly as possible
Getting a local bank account applies to anywhere you’re going to be living and working. In many cases you’ll get your salary much quicker than if it was sent to a foreign account, you’ll save yourself a ton of exchange rate fees and if you lose your card, it’s a lot simpler to get a new one than have it shipped over from home, which can take weeks. Though it’s reasonably high, keep in mind that there are limits to how much money you can take from an ATM in a day.
Don’t miss your favourite programs, foreign news or social media
Much of China’s internet is censored and blocked. The Great Firewall of China stops the usage of many websites including Facebook, Twitter, BBC, Gmail and YouTube. If you want to keep up-to-date with local news, watch your favourite programs or send messages to friends back home, you’ll need to get a Virtual Private Network. VPNs are typically paid services, but bypass any local restrictions, allowing you to use any web services available. Just check to make sure they include China.
Remember English isn’t widely spoken
English still isn’t widely spoken in China, nor are the signs written in English. By becoming a TEFL teacher in China, you’re here to help change that, but for the time being, it’s good to know at least a few phrases in the local language. 70% of the Chinese population speak Mandarin or dialects of Mandarin, but there are actually 8 different linguist groups as well as hundreds of variations. You won’t be able to know everything, but a few words make all the difference.
Unlock your phone before you arrive
Unless you’re still living in the dark ages, you’re going to need your phone in China. It’s much simpler and sometimes cheaper to have your phone unlocked at home before you travel. When you arrive, grab yourself a SIM that you can top up with minutes and data and you are good to go.
Ready to go and explore this fascinating country? Check out our TEFL internships to find out more.