Moving to a new country is a big deal, and the feeling of excitement is usually equalled by a feeling of nervousness. With a language barrier to overcome and a unique culture, China is a completely different place from what most Western people are used to, and for some teachers who are moving to China for the first time, this can be daunting. Most ex-pats’ first few weeks in the country can be an absolute rollercoaster. Fortunately, the majority of good schools that employ English teachers help their new staff navigate through these first few weeks and quickly get settled.

In this blog post, we explain exactly what to expect during your first few weeks in China.

Airport Pickup & Hotel

When you first land in China someone from your school will be waiting to pick you up from the airport and give you a warm welcome. You’ll then be driven to a hotel where you can get some well-needed rest after your long flight. The hotel that you’ll be in will usually have been booked for around one week by your school and is where you’ll stay whilst you get yourself set up with everything.

Getting Cash & Sim Card

One of the first things you’ll do on your first day is withdraw some cash to get you through your first couple of weeks until your Chinese bank account is opened. Most ATMs in China will accept visa cards, and the withdrawal fees aren’t usually high. Another essential on your first full day in China is to go and get yourself a SIM card sorted. This is also relatively straightforward to do, and someone from your school will take you to a phone shop to do this. You can pay the vendor in cash and the sim card will come with credit already on it, which should last you for the first few weeks until you have your bank account set up.

Apartment Hunting

Some schools do provide their staff with accommodation, but for the majority of teachers in China, during your first few days, you’ll need to set up some apartment viewings. Your school will usually be a big help here, and will not only provide you with the contact details of agents but they can also be actively involved in arranging viewings that are tailored to your accommodation preferences. Some teachers may have viewings already arranged before landing in China, and some teachers may use different methods, such as social media, to connect with other teachers and arrange apartment viewings that way.

Once you have viewings arranged, the most important task during your first week will be to look around and get an apartment secured. Again, your school will usually be a big help here and will send a member of staff to look at apartments with you – either to help with language translation or to just give an informed opinion, since they’ll know the area and general cost of living. Once you’ve found an apartment that you like then you’ll agree to a move-in date, which will usually be within a few days and you’ll be required to pay your deposit.

Introduction To Your School

At some point in your first week, between getting over jet lag, apartment hunting, and sorting out other essentials, you’ll likely be taken to your new school, where you’ll be shown around and introduced to other teachers. You may well be introduced to other teachers who are new arrivals and are currently going through similar new experiences to you. This is great as it connects you with friends to socialise and explore with during your first few weeks in China. Although the first few weeks can be manic, it’s worth going and checking out the nightlife as well as a few sights during the free time that you have.

Setup Bank Account

Within your first two weeks, a Chinese speaker from your school will take you to a recommended bank and will help you set up your Chinese bank account. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be able to link your bank account to WeChat and Alipay – which we discuss in 5 Must-Have Apps When Moving to China – meaning you’ll be able to pay for everything (rent, food, phone credit, etc) using your Chinese account via these apps. This means you’ll no longer need to withdraw cash using your card from back home.

Move Into Your Apartment

Around a week to ten days into your time in China, you’ll check out of the hotel that was provided by your school and you’ll move into your new apartment. Typically, the agent who helped you find the right apartment for you will also assist you during your move-in day. Upon moving in you’ll be given any necessary tours or instructions regarding your apartment and building and you’ll pay your first month’s rent. You’ll then be able to spend the next couple of days purchasing any living essentials that are not provided and making your new apartment homely.

A requirement for everyone living in China is that they must register their address with the local police. Within a few days of moving into your new apartment, you’ll need to go to the police station and show them your housing contract, visa, and passport. A Chinese speaker from your school will come and help you do this.

Start Work!

Around two weeks into your time in China, after you’ve had a chance to get over the jet lag, find and move into an apartment, explore your surroundings and get slightly accustomed to life in a new country, you’ll start to work at your new school. The type of school you’re teaching in will determine what your first few weeks of work look like.

Medical & Final Visa Tasks

Once you officially start working your school will begin the process of transferring your Z Visa (Chinese Z Visa Guide), which is only valid for 30 days after you enter China, into your residency permit. This means that for the first couple of weeks after starting work you’ll be required to undertake a couple of tasks. The first of which will be getting a medical check completed. This can be quite an unusual experience, but someone from your school will go to the hospital with you and help you get this done. It’s typically over within an hour and your school will cover all of the costs.

In addition to this, you’ll at some point be required to go to the visa office, to show your ID and get your residency permit application officially submitted. Again, someone from your school will go with you, translate, and make this experience as stress-free as possible.

To conclude, your first few weeks after arriving in China are likely to be quite hectic! It’s certainly a very exciting time, as you’re meeting new people, experiencing a new culture for the first time, and deciding on a place to live. But, as a result of the jet lag, the language barrier, and the fact you’ve just moved away from home, it can be nervy. The main thing to remember during these first few weeks is that soon you’ll be settled into life in China, and you’ll be doing the thing that you came to the country to do – teach English and explore an amazing country!