Frequently Asked Questions
You're going to have a lot of questions before you embark on your journey to China. The team at ESL Suite is here to help answer them all! From getting a work visa in China, what you should pack, to the best VPN for bypassing the "Great Firewall of China" - we've got you covered. Let us know if we've forgotten something - we'd be happy to answer any questions you might have
Before You Go
How do I get a Chinese working visa?
The HR department of your school will be able to help you with the step-by-step instructions for your visa application. For general information about the visa process, please refer to the visa page on our website.
Do I need any vaccinations before I come to China?
Normally schools don’t require teachers to take any vaccinations before arrival. If you want to take any type of vaccinations after arrival, school admin staff can take you to the local vaccination hospital.
How much is round-trip airfare to China?
The price varies depending on your departure/arrival city and the time of year you’re flying;. Round-trip tickets from North America, Australia or the UK usually in the range of $800-$1500. Most schools will reimburse you a fixed amount for airfare which is often at the end of the contract. That said, every school handles the flight a bit differently, so be sure to inquire with the school’s manager during the interview.
Are there any special things I should bring with me?
Foreigners are often surprised at how easy it is to find the things they want in China. Each city has big Western supermarkets like Wal-Mart and Carrefour - finding favorites from home like Oreos, Coke and even Starbucks is easy! Certain things such as deodorant, dental floss, razors and other personal hygiene items are sometimes difficult to find or a little expensive so it’s not a bad idea to prepare these before you come – you can pack them in your suitcase and check the bag on your flight to China.
Electricity adapters
The voltage here is 220V. Electricity plug adapters can be bought from the local supermarket at a reasonable price so there’s no need to bring one. If you plan on traveling around Asia, each country has a different voltage/outlet type – we advise you to bring a multi-use adapter if you plan on exploring some of China’s neighbors such as Japan, Korea or Vietnam.
Arriving in China
What kind of help will your school provide?
Help on arrival

When you arrive at the airport of your destination city, a school driver will be waiting with a name board. He will drive you to your apartment where the school’s HR staff will help you settle in.

Other general help

Most schools have an administrative assistant whose responsibility is to assist you and be on 24-hour call in case of an emergency. Need to buy a mobile phone? They’ll go with you to help out. Not sure how to get somewhere? They can write the address in Chinese so you can give it to your taxi driver. Want to book train or plane tickets for your holiday? They’ll be happy to help.
Day-to-day Life
Is it necessary to speak Chinese to live in China?
It’s not necessary but it certainly doesn’t hurt! That said, it’s fairly easy to learn basic phrases to use in day-to-day life; for more difficult situations, foreigners find out quickly that Chinese people are very friendly and are usually keen to offer help.
Can I study Mandarin while I’m working in China?
It’s a great idea to study Mandarin while you are living and working in China. There are many opportunities to study formally at a university or language center - otherwise, you can try and pick up key words and expressions from Chinese friends. Studying Chinese is a great way to learn more about Chinese culture and make new friends. Most ESL schools offer weekly Mandarin lessons as part of the compensation package.
What is the best way to get around in China?
Most Chinese cities have very modern public transportation systems. Traveling by taxi, bus and subway are all relatively cheap; taxi meters usually start at CNY 10 and bus fare usually costs CNY 2. Most of the big cities in China have convenient and cheap subways systems – it’s normally CNY 2 but a long trip may cost CNY 4 (about $.60!). Aside from these options, traveling by bicycle is an easy way to get around – a good, sturdy Chinese bicycle normally costs about CNY 300 (about $50).
Is China a safe place to live and work?
People generally find China to be very safe – there is some petty crime in big cities but violent crime is very low and incidences of violence involving foreigners is particularly rare. In the event of trouble, police stations are easy to find and local police have a good presence in most public spaces.
What happens if I get sick?
Schools in China are required to provide medical insurance for their foreign teachers. The coverage is comprehensive and will cover most of your medical expenses in the event of sickness. If you need to go to the hospital, the schools usually will send a local staff member to accompany you and help translate.
Your School and Contract
What are the schools like in China? What should I expect?
There are many different teaching opportunities in China – these include universities, private and public schools as well as ESL training centers. The environment varies at each but one thing that's consistent is the Chinese take education very seriously. Most people find the schools have a professional environment, are very clean and well organized. Other specifics such as contract length, teaching/admin hours, class sizes, school resources and opportunities for promotion vary from school to school. We suggest you inquire about these with the school manager during your interview.
How many holidays do I get?
There are 12 Chinese public holidays each year – your school will also give you additional paid annual leave days. Contracts vary with each school so we suggest you inquire about the annual leave days with the school you are interested in - this is often an important aspect for teachers when choosing between different schools.
What is the dress code during working hours?
As appearance is important in Chinese culture and education is highly respected, most schools have a professional dress code - it’s best to inquire with your school manager during the interview. Some schools provide a uniform, while others simply have a stated dress-code of ‘business casual’ or ‘business attire’.
Money
What’s the exchange rate for CNY (Chinese Yuan)?
The current exchange rate is about USD 1 = CNY 6.25 or GBP 1 = CNY 9.39. The Chinese Yuan has been steadily getting stronger over the past few years and the trend is expected to continue.
How do I get paid?
Most schools offer direct deposit and will deposit your monthly salary into your Chinese bank account on a specified date each month. The schools almost always pay teacher's salaries in the local currency, Chinese Yuan (CNY).
How can I transfer money to my foreign back account?
Western Union can be found easily and there are also international banks in each city. Transferring money is easy – you just need to bring your passport and there is often a service fee for international money transfers. It’s also wise to check with your bank at home to see if they charge a fee to accept a money transfer from China.
What's The Cost of Living in China?
What's The Cost of Living in China?
The cost of living is very low compared with the West – schools usually offer competitive wages and most teachers can save about half of their monthly pay. Typically $400-800 is more than enough to cover basic costs such as food, transportation, phone, utilities, daily necessities and entertainment. This varies depending on which city you choose and of course your own personal living habits and preferences. Generally speaking, most teachers are able to save about half of their salary - this can be about $5000-9000 after a one-year contract.
How much does the apartment rental cost?
The average cost for a one-bedroom apartment in China is about CNY 2000-3000, although it may be about 20% higher In big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, Likewise, the rent in smaller cities can be much lower. Price is often dictated by the location and facilities in the apartment. Often times your school will provide a flat for you or you will be given an apartment allowance – we suggest you inquire about each school’s policy during the interview process.
What is the average cost of utilities and food in China?
Internet

Computers and wireless internet are available at most of the schools – Wi-Fi is available in most apartments. Several popular websites, such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked, but they can be accessed using a VPN or proxy server. The internet cost is CNY 80-150/month depending which city you live in.

Utilities

Utility costs aren't particularly high - gas is usually about CNY 20 per month, water is approximately CNY 30. The cost for electricity is about CNY 100 (this will be higher during the summer months, especially if you love having the A/C on all day!) and heat in the winter is about CNY 300-400 per month during the colder months of October-March.

Food cost

In China you can eat tasty street food or at a small restaurant for just CNY 10-20! If you eat western food or go to a bigger restaurant the cost might be around CNY 50-200/meal. Beer and cigarettes are cheap. You can buy a local brand bottled beer for CNY 5-10 - cigarettes are usually CNY 8-20 for a pack.
Calling Home
Will my mobile phone still work?
You can use your mobile phone from home with a Chinese SIM card. The SIM card companies in China are China Unicom and China Mobile. The cost for both is similar: CNY 50-200/month depending on usage. There are also set packages like CNY 30, 50, 80 or 100/month which offer a set amount of unlimited calling/text messaging.
Can I use mobile or any land-line to call home?
Foreign mobile phones work in China and can also be used with Chinese domestic SIM cards. When calling home, we recommend using Skype - you can make free international calls when calling computer to computer via internet connection. It’s often very cheap to call a land-line and telephone (IP) cards can be bought that allow teachers to phone home using any land-line telephone.
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