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'China, or There and Back Again'

Discussion in 'The Teachers Lounge' started by DigitalGypsy, 30 Jan 2017.

  1. DigitalGypsy

    DigitalGypsy Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    (Wasn't sure where to post this so I dropped it here, hope that's OK)

    Calling on all the China veterans here for some information, advice, and direction :smile

    Apologies if I'm dragging up old questions or rehashing past conversations, I selfishly want to gather all the necessary information in one cocktail where I can survey it and make a decision based on the collective input.

    So, been thinking a lot about China based on conversations I've been privy to on here the past while. I started jotting down some questions and was hoping some of the lovely folk on here might help me out and offer some valuable info. I'll cut to the chase and list them off then:


    What kind of budget would I need to get over there and setup? Housing deposit, first month living costs etc?

    What is the luggage allowance on the way over? Is it costly to bring a second suitcase? What about posting stuff over? Did you pay for your flight and have it reimbursed by your school later?

    What's the visa prices like compared to Thailand?

    Are utility bills expensive?

    What about renting apartments? Do they come furnished? What are furniture and appliances prices like? What about typical apartment sizes? Are they generally clean, modern?

    Driving in China: is it doable? Is it safe? What about on a scooter or motorcycle? Is it easy to get on the road, purchase a bike, and so on?

    What are the clothing requirements of the schools? Is it shirt, tie, black trousers and shoes? What about day to day clothing? Is anywhere 'shorts' weather - or do I need to buy warmer clothes? What are the prices like in terms of clothing, and the variety and sizes, are they western friendly? Is it easy to buy formal clothing over there?

    How much clothes did you guys take, and what kind of clothing did you pack?

    Is China cheap, expensive, or does it offer good value in general?

    Did you have your own health or travel insurance going over, or did you just rely on the school?

    Does accommodation come with heating as well as air-con?

    Where or how do you do your laundry?

    What's the food situation like? Is food readily available at all hours of the day? Is it reasonably priced? What's it like compared to Thailand and its affordable and easy dining options?

    Are toiletries available as they are in Thailand? (I find all roll-on here crap except for one...) Does Boots operate in China these days?

    What about foreign food? Pricey? What about tea, milk, bread? I drink a lot of green tea and oolong, are they cheap in price? What's the standard of the bread and milk?

    Is the water drinkable?

    What about smartphone web packages - are they the same as Thailand? Reasonably priced?

    And transport? How does that compare in terms of prices: taxis, trains etc.

    What are the prices like for visiting dentists, doctors, hospitals and so on?

    Movie theaters? Malls and department stores? Are they similar to Thailand, or of a lower standard?

    Did you bring an iron or buy one there?

    How did you find the language barrier?

    Is crime an issue? Have you had any problems there? Have you seen any violence or ever felt threatened?
    What about scams? Racism?

    How do you find the Chinese culture in comparison to Thai? Are the people open, honest, trustworthy, up front in general etc?

    Are they fickle about appearance like some institutions are here, in other words do they base everything on superficial aesthetics on first meeting? Do they have the same attitude towards age (preferring the 19 year old half-wit teacher with zero life experience because it'll brighten up the Facebook page...)

    I noticed that some of you mentioned that your partner followed you over after a period of time. Why, if I may ask, did you choose this option over going together at the same time? On reflection was it better to do it this way, or would you do it differently again, if you could?

    What do you know now about the overall experience that you wish you had known from the start? What, if anything, would you change?

    What's the best piece of advice you could give someone thinking of going there to teach?

    And finally: could you sum up your China experience in three words? Sell it to me, convince me, or deter me.

    That's all I got for now, hope you don't mind me carpet-bombing you all with questions, and thanks in advance for any feedback and advice, I appreciate your altruism and informational generosity :thai wai

    DG
     
    Last edited: 30 Jan 2017
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  2. Internationalteacher

    Internationalteacher AKA phuketbound

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    That is a lot of questions which is okay! I don't think I can answer all of them, but I can answer the ones that I know and relate to me. A lot of your answers may vary depending on where you are located in China. A big city is different in some regards to a perfecture mid-sized city. A lot of the answers depend on what type of school you are going to - public, private, university and what is included in your contract. I'll pick one at a time if that is alright.


    I came over with a private health insurance that I purchased in Canada. I would pay up front at private clinics for services and get reimbursed once I made a claim to my insurance. My second year, I got an insurance card from my employer which covers everything, but dental. So, when I go to a walk-in clinic, I get the visit covered, plus all medications. I also get full coverage for death and accident. Check with your school. I know of people that have not had health insurance included in their contract or only offer it in the second year. Contracts and benefits vary a lot in China depending on the school.

    On the health note after thinking about the answer I gave you....
    Public Chinese hospitals are cheap, but the quality is shit. Many people say they would only get an operation done back home. There are some hospitals that are recommended in the big cities for foreigners to drop in, and the private international clinics are costly and again vary with quality. I find Chinese doctors are strictly by the book.All of that rote learning coming into play. I find the quality of care here is not the greatest. However, you often don't have to wait for operations, tests, etc.


    I'll answer more soon.

    .
     
    Last edited: 30 Jan 2017
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  3. Internationalteacher

    Internationalteacher AKA phuketbound

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    Most apartments come with a apt. sized washer. There are no dryers here. Perhaps you can buy one, but none of us have one. We all hang our clothes to dry. Iron's are easy to get here as are ironing boards.
    The language barrier is a big one. Even in a place like Beijing, not many people speak English. You would get even less people speaking English in smaller towns. Best of learn some Mandarin before you come over. I wish I had. Even in places where you might expect people to speak English like train stations, airports, etc. are hard to find. I carry some language apps to help, and do a lot of pointing to get what I want. I usually visit the same places (creature of habit), where I know I can get by.
     
  4. fred flintstone

    fred flintstone Well-Known Member

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    Start with getting your paper work in order. It'll take some time.
     
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  5. gungchang

    gungchang Well-Known Member

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    You need to be more specific. China is huge, and what's true for me in Inner Mongolia is not going to be true for Beijing or Shanghai or anywhere near Hong Kong.

    In my case, everything is provided. We have a very nice apartment on campus. Utilities bills are lower than Bangkok. Heating is a few hundred dollars per month and the landlady pays for it. We're north of the river and all buildings have central heat here.

    We got screwed by both my wife's friend and my last employer prior to departing Thailand and turned up nearly destitute, and we survived.

    Paperwork took longer than expected. Then there was another hiccup but the troops rallied and got past that hurdle. Then I forgot about the problem with my documents and nearly came to grief again. But, we're still here and I have a third contract. Still, I'd expect the unexpected, especially if your school hasn't dealt with lots of foreign experts.

    Oh, yes, Trump is popular here. Not universally, but he is known. If you're a Hillary fan, you might want to crawl into your safe place and keep your mouth shut.

    You would also do well to remember that the Chinese are a very proud people.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Internationalteacher

    Internationalteacher AKA phuketbound

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    No, I can't sum it up in three words, but I'll tell you that you need to really find a good school where you research, like the contract, and speak to current/former employees. Coming to China has been an experience unlike no other. You will have to adapt and be super flexible. Between, the spitting on the streets, crowds, pollution, insane traffic, you will have an experience unlike no other. It is a matter of perspective, but ask yourself why you want to come to China. You'll make money and experience history, culture and an economy that is booming like crazy.
     
  7. DigitalGypsy

    DigitalGypsy Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the posts all, I really appreciate it. I'll add a bit more when I get a chance. As for being more specific: I'm starting from square one, and long in advance of any move. I have no specific area in mind as I don't know too much about the teaching geography. I'm thinking next year or early 2019 as a moving date. Just trying to get my head around the logistics of it at this point so I can prepare everything slowly and in great detail. The OCD aspect of my personality delights in reading reams of small print, travel blogs, kindle books, forum posts etc etc. All info is music to my ears

    As for motives: the main one is to make bank so I can create better prospects for my future and that of my family. By that I mean a bigger cash buffer in the bank, some money to invests, more varied teaching experience, travel and cultural experience, and so on. I'm committed to teaching as a life choice so I've got the rest of my days to dedicate to it. I aim to keep upskilling steadily throughout that time too.

    If anyone has any travel hacks for the nomadic pedagogue please feel free to share them too. What kind of luggage do you guys use on the road? What are the essentials that I'd need to bring for a minimum 2 year stint there? Any 'MacGyver' tips?

    DG
     
  8. DigitalGypsy

    DigitalGypsy Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Just one more thing:

    If I did go, and it all blew up in my face (for example it didn't work out at the school, or they let me down etc etc) is it possible to rescue things once there? By that I mean can you land and easily find a job from within China itself? Or are there complications that go with that?

    DG
     
  9. Internationalteacher

    Internationalteacher AKA phuketbound

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    That is a big question mark and one you will seriously have to consider first off. There are many jobs in China both in the big cities and in smaller towns. Smaller towns have pros and cons as do big cities. I believe it is easier to start in a bigger city. I have no desire to go to a smaller town, but I've had many job offers in those places. If you want a bit of western conveniences and expats, then I'd say stay in places like Guangzhou, Shenzen, Beijing, or Shanghai. I had friends in Shenzen that moved to Beijing as they said it was too small. South of Shanghai you get tropical weather, so if you are liking Thai weather then look there.

    If you want four seasons check from Shanghai and up where it gets colder as you move up. Places like Harbin are absolutely freezing -20-30 c. There are tons of jobs in China, so you have to find a place/area and look for jobs there.
     
  10. DigitalGypsy

    DigitalGypsy Thread Starter Well-Known Member

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    Hey IT,

    I was thinking big city to start with, and I like what I see of Shanghai - it kinda seems 'Tokyo-esque' to me, and I've been there and loved it.

    DG
     
  11. Internationalteacher

    Internationalteacher AKA phuketbound

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    Shanghai is great, but again you have to figure out what type of school you want to work at. There are many schools (language schools) that pay pretty crappy imo. I would not work there for less than 20,000 rmb per month. From what I know, the rents have creeped up in the last few years. Shanghai is booming like crazy and I believe it is the second or third highest place to live in Asia now.
     
  12. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Well-Known Member

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    More than anything else this is critical advice: get your highest level of academic award notarised, legalised and then certificated; I used a notary public in the UK as I am a Brit and my academic credentials are British and so they were authenticated by the Chinese embassy in London too; I did this all from Thailand by email and courier. It appears the authorities in China love that Chinese certification added to your documents. It looks like this and basically a copy of your credential is attached to the affidavit and apostille

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This is an expensive business.

    Then get police clearance from Thailand and if necessary from your home country. You may do the belts-and-braces gig here and get these notarised, legalised and certificated too. Ouch!

    Note: a good employer will refund the cost of these expensive procedures. So keep the receipts.

    Once you have these documents you are good to go. The next problem however is the age old one of the school wanting you to enter on a tourist or some sort of visa other than the Z. I did this and it worked out ok but you need to be careful, very careful. I think the best advice, especially if you have all the supporting documentation duly authenticated etc, is to insist on entering on a Z visa. Whatever you do, do not release your documents until you are in China at your new place of employment; do not courier them or anything as the job offer may fall through and you may never get original certificates or the authenticated ones back.

    Everything else depends on what you can negotiate with an employer. Some provide accommodation some don't; some will provide health insurance; my employer paid for my flight, my notarisation, 20 kg of excess baggage etc. But I would suggest you confirm in writing what will be covered.

    One final piece of pre-employment advice is get WeChat and instal it on your phone.

    China is great value for money.

    In summary get your papers sorted and then start applying for jobs and be careful!
     
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  13. Internationalteacher

    Internationalteacher AKA phuketbound

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    Many good schools will help you along the way with what you need to get a Z visa. Better yet, most good schools will pay for getting a z visa. You'd be stupid to come over on a tourist visa. You cannot start getting your visa papers together until you have a job. And if you aren't coming until 2018 or 2019 then it is too early.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
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  14. fred flintstone

    fred flintstone Well-Known Member

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    Huh uh....the diploma and nat'l background check both have to be authenticated from the Chinese embassy which will take a month or 2 or three. The school can't help with that.

    Seeing how the op's never been, I'd recommend going on a tourist visa to have a look around and get a feel for the place. But get the papers authenticated first and have them handy in case you decide to look for work.
     
  15. portnoy58

    portnoy58 Well-Known Member

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    There's no Boots in China yet but my experience is there's little difficulty getting what you need. Shopping is great fun. Plenty of supermarkets and smaller fresh food markets too. Once you feel confident the online world is a complete Mecca, sites like jd.com and taobao.com are mind blowing especially when some of them are delivering on the same day the order is received. Get yourself a bank account and a debit card once you have residence and off you go; unionpay is the equivalent of visa/mastercard. Of the supermarkets/stores my favourite is Metro especially its excellent range of imported foodstuffs. There seem to be shopping malls springing up everywhere with most of the names and brands you'll already know.

    You'll need a four season wardrobe. Most of this you can get in China cheaply but I did treat myself to some Marks and Spencer Japanese heat technology thermal underwear - worth every penny and very comfortable plus Mrs P likes them! Unfortunately Marks has now closed its China operation so if you are back in the UK stock up. A lot of Chinese buildings, including the school, are very cold in the winter so you really need to dress for the conditions.

    China is quite challenging to negotiate without the language but it is fun - I jumped 'blind' on the various buses that stop outside my apartment and followed where I went on the GPS map on my phone. A flat rate of 2¥ a ride, about 10 ฿. I have my address on my phone in Chinese but in fact I can now say it and remarkably the driver gets me there and is happy for me to pay him using WeChat Money. A colleague reminds me to have my address written on a card just in case my battery goes - good idea. Never encountered a problem on my sorties, people are generally friendly, never met any hostility. Clearly it is virtually impossible to have a meaningful conversation but ...

    Worth remembering that outside of the big centres like Shanghai and Beijing most of China is less than 30 years old - so the infrastructure and everything else has been planned. At times it can be a bit bland and same-same.

    You'll find Thailand is an excellent preparation for China - if you can hack it here you'll be ok in China. I find China a lot more easy going in fact ....
     
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