The time has finally come. You’ve accepted a teaching position in China, completed the lengthy visa process, booked your flight, and you’re now waiting to depart and start your new adventure. Is there anything left to do? Well, kind of… In this blog post, we recommend the remaining things you should consider doing in order to help make your first few weeks in China go smoothly.
One of the main things that you need to do before boarding your flight to China is to download a VPN. That is of course if you want to access any website/apps that are affected by the ‘The Great Firewall of China’. Having a VPN is absolutely essential to access websites such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Netflix. Whilst you’ll also need a VPN to use apps such as Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. Downloading a VPN whilst inside China can be a little tricky, meaning it is essential you have this sorted before leaving your home country. For more information on VPNs and how they work, please check out our other blog post Using a VPN in China.
The VPN that we would recommend using in China is Astrill. Astrill is one of the most consistent VPNs in China and will be guaranteed to work for you when over there, regardless of the location you’re teaching in. You can download Astrill here!
When you first arrive in China you’ll need some money to get you through those first few days until your Chinese bank account is opened. The easiest way to do this is simple, use your home bank card at an ATM when you first arrive in China and take out some Yuan.
In order to ensure that your bank card works, and your bank doesn’t suspect fraud, get in contact with them via phone or email to let them know you’ll be using your card in China in the near future. Alternatively, if you’d prefer not to use your home bank card abroad, you can take some Yuan in cash with you to China. Again, contact your bank and they’ll be able to arrange this for you.
Within the first few days of arriving in China, your school will help you obtain a Chinese SIM card to use. In order for this SIM card to work, it’s extremely important that your mobile phone is unlocked! Your phone will typically be locked if it was purchased as part of a contract with one specific service provider in your home country. Getting it unlocked is very straightforward, you can go into most phone shops back home and they should be able to unlock your phone for you.
The majority of teachers heading to China will have accepted contracts that are either one or two years in length. When packing for this amount of time abroad it can be quite difficult deciding how many of your clothes and belongings to take. There’s no right or wrong answer to this, however, we generally recommend teachers pack conservatively, as you don’t need to take everything you own over to China with you. One big thing to take into consideration when packing is the location in China where you’ll be living. For example, if you’ve accepted a job in Shenzhen where the climate is humid for a large part of the year, you should look to take more summer clothing with you.
There are two things we recommend stocking up on before leaving for China:
Cosmetics – This is usually more applicable to female teachers. If there are specific brands of makeup, shampoo, or hygiene products that you use back home, stock up on these. You’ll of course be able to buy anything you need in China, but finding specific Western cosmetic brands can be challenging.
Medication – If you take any medication, then make sure you take enough to get you through the first couple of months in China. You’ll be able to get medication in China, but having a backup supply when you arrive means that you’re not in a rush to figure out what the Chinese version of your medication is called, and how to go about obtaining it.
In addition to the above, we’d advise taking a travel adaptor with you in your hand luggage. You can easily buy travel adaptors in China, but having one ready when you arrive is useful when it comes to charging your phone or laptop which may have drained during the flight over.
Download Essential Apps
In a previous blog post, we outlined the 5 Must-Have Apps When Moving to China. Out of all the essential apps, we’d strongly recommend making sure you have WeChat downloaded and an account created before flying to China. Doing so will make communicating with your school easy when you first arrive.
We’d also recommend having a solid maps app downloaded. If you have an iPhone then Apple Maps works well in China, but if not then we’d recommend downloading Maps.me as an alternative. Make sure you have a translation app, such as Google Translate, as this will be very helpful during those initial days. You can also download Didi (for taxis) and Alipay in advance, and someone from your school will usually show you how to use this once you’ve arrived, as well as recommend other useful apps to download.
Finally, it’s vitally important that you bring all of your visa documents (original and authenticated degree, TEFL and background check) to China with you. These documents will be used during the first couple of weeks in China when your school applies for your Residency Permit. If you forget to bring these then you’ll have to pay for a family member or friend back home to post these out for you, which obviously isn’t ideal.
If your school is based in Beijing or other locations that require you to post these documents over to China earlier in the visa process, then you don’t need to worry about this.