What are the kinds of transport available to me in Beijing?
Beijing has very modern public transportation systems. Traveling by taxi, bus and subway are all relatively cheap; taxi meters usually start at CNY 13 and bus fare usually costs CNY 2. The subway system in Beijing is amazing. It can take you practically anywhere you want in the city. It’s normally CNY 3 but a long trip may cost CNY 5/6. Aside from these options, traveling by bicycle is an easy way to get around – a good, sturdy Chinese bicycle normally costs about CNY 500.
How much money should I bring with me?
It is advisable to bring enough money to see you through at least your first month here in Beijing. A good amount to bring would be 10,000 yuan, as this will cover most of the initial start-up costs such phones, electricity, wifi, etc. as well as food and entertainment.
Will I receive teacher training when I get there?
Yes, all our foreign teachers go through a ten-day training process, where new teachers will learn about the books and courses we teach at Aihua, how to plan your lessons, student discipline, etc. Our trainers are seasoned teachers, and will guide new teachers throughout the term with weekly training sessions.
Will I be paying bills in Beijing?
Yes, but probably not the way you are used to. Phones can be topped up with credit using a phone card, which can be purchased at most local stores and phone shops. Electricity, gas, and water are all topped up using a card (one for each). For example, to top up electricity, you will go to the local electricity supply grid with your card and the amount of money you wish to put on it (200 yuan usually lasts 2-3 months). A member of staff will help you top it up, go home, place the card in the card slot of the electric meter box, and that’s it! Same goes for water and gas in most apartments.
Will my phone work when I get to Beijing?
Most phones will work once you arrive in Beijing. It is advisable to bring a phone that is unlocked to accept other networks. Soon after you arrive, you will be brought to buy a SIM card with a Chinese member of staff. This SIM card will be used for the duration of your stay in China, and you can top it up quite easily at most local stores and phone stores.
Do I need a VPN?
If you wish to regularly access most western social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Gmail, etc. you will need a VPN, as these sites are blocked within China. It would be ideal to purchase and install a VPN on your phone and laptop before arriving in China. However, make sure that the VPN will work in China before purchasing it, as some VPN providers may not work.
Do I need to learn Mandarin Chinese to live in Beijing?
It’s not necessary but it can definitely help in a lot of day to day situations. 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. Our school offers free Chinese lessons for all our foreign teachers, and have proven very helpful for many of our current teachers. Private tutors are also easy to come by while you are here!
How will I get from the airport to my new apartment?
When you arrive at the airport in Beijing, a school driver and school representative will be waiting with a name board. You will be driven straight away to your apartment where the school’s HR staff will help you settle in.
Will I need to open a bank account, and how will I get paid?
The school will help the teacher to open a bank account at International Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) upon arrival, and payment will be made to this account on the last day of each month.
What side of the road do they drive on in Beijing, and how is road safety in Beijing?
They drive on the right hand side of the road. Pedestrians and bicyclists should exercise caution when crossing roads in Beijing, as traffic lights are sometimes ignored by a minority of motorists.
How many bicycles are there in Beijing?
9 million and counting…
How will I teach Chinese students if I don’t speak Chinese?
At Aihua, every foreign teacher will work alongside a local Chinese teacher, who will help with any difficulties in the classroom. They will also help you to assign homework and communicate with your students’ parents.
How can I use electrical appliances, and do I need to bring an adapter?
Many electrical outlets are versatile, accommodating many types of electrical plugs. Exercise care in your use of electrical outlets. Your electrical device may have a plug that fits in the electrical outlet, but your device may be damaged by the electricity if it is not designed to use 220 volts. New laptop computers and new mobile phone chargers from the larger manufacturers are likely to be able to work with Chinese electrical outlets. If you cannot use your mobile phone charger you can probably buy one (likely less than 50 RMB) at a local mobile phone store. Because our outlets can accommodate so many types of plugs, care must be exercised when inserting the plug in the outlet to ensure the contacts are firmly in place. Straight two-pin rectangular (US and Japan style) and cylindrical plugs (German and European style) and triangular 3-pin plugs (heavy-duty appliance style) can be used.
Where is Aihua’s school located?
Aihua has 8 different school centres, all located fairly close to where our foreign teachers live.
What holidays are available during the school term?
Teachers are entitled to 2 weeks of holiday time. This must be applied for and taken at the discretion of the school between the school’s two long terms. The teacher will also have days off on Chinese public holidays. (11 days at present.) These holidays are:
New Year – 1 day
Tomb Sweeping Day – 1 day
May Day – 1 day
Mid-Autumn Festival – 1 day
National Day – 3 days
Dragon Boat Day – 1 day
Chinese New Year – 3 days
When can I take time off?
Teachers are entitled to 2 weeks of holiday time. This must be applied for and taken at the discretion of the school between the school’s two long terms.
What about Chinese restrooms? How are they and where can I find them?
You can easily find free public toilets on the street, in office buildings, shopping centers, supermarkets, hotels and fast food restaurants. Most restrooms contain Asian style toilets, but some may have western style toilets or a combination of both styles. Some Asian style restrooms do not supply toilet paper so visitors are encouraged to have a personal supply with them if using these facilities. Hand washing is encouraged after visits to the restrooms and usually soap will be supplied; however, visitors may find it convenient to carry a small supply of hand washing chemical which may be purchased in small bottles or small “wet-nap” towels.
Are there any scams I need to watch out for?
Teahouse scams are also notorious in Beijing. If anyone approaches you on the streets, and ask you to come to a coffee or teahouse and practice their English, politely refuse. These people more often than not entice people to a teahouse, and then charge extremely high prices for even a small cup of tea.
Be careful when getting taxis, especially the black cabs, as these are not metered and usually charge a higher than average rate (unless your bargaining skills are good!). Look for the standard metered green and yellow cabs instead.
What should I know about drinking water in Beijing?
People should drink bottled water which is available at most stores and restaurants and hotels throughout Beijing. Drinking water in Beijing is usually provided from a water cooler and is typically purified mineral water. Tap water must be boiled before drinking. Bottled water from smaller bottles or water coolers should be used in schools, private residences and public facilities.
How can I use the postal service?
It is quiet cheap to send post home via China Post. You can send postcards, letters, parcels and express mail to any place in the world via China Post (with the green logo), FedEx or China Air Express. However, the process can sometimes be a little confusing, and so you may need some basic Chinese, or a Chinese person to translate. Parcels should not be wrapped before they are taken to the post office since the contents must be examined before the parcel may be mailed. Some items will not be posted, such as liquids and fragile items such as glass. If you have a fragile, breakable item to post, it is advisable to use a courier (DHL, TNT, FedEx) which is more expensive but safe and reliable.
How good is the healthcare service in Beijing?
There are no GPs to go to in Beijing. If you are sick and require medical attention, you will usually go to the local Chinese hospital to see the doctor. These hospitals differ from western style hospitals in that they have facilities and doctors to tend to whatever sickness you have. Pharmacy, X-rays, physical therapy, etc., these are all available. If you need to go to the hospital, the schools usually will send a local staff member to accompany you and help translate.
Should I bring any medicine?
It’s best to bring some cold medicine such as Lemsip, Panadol, Ibuprofen, etc. as it is hard to get some western brands of medicine over here.
Is there anything I should bring that I can’t find in Beijing?
Foreigners are often surprised at how easy it is to find the things they want in China. We have a Carrefour and BHG supermarket (Western style supermarket) in our area. You can find favorites from home like Oreos, Coke and even Starbucks easily! Certain Western brands 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.