Packing for China 2013

This is the second post about packing. I have already posted about packing in 2011 but as you will find out I did bail out of China after 6  months or so because of various reasons – which you can read about in the book.

This then is a blog post from 2013 – I will add commentary about the contents of my packing – such as was it worth it or not.

I’ve started to pack for China. It seems I’ve had a stroke of good luck in that my airline ticket bought online via  gives me 30 kilos of checked in baggage as oppose to the 20 kilo the airline advertise. I have checked this with the agent and have had an email from them confirming it, I will be ringing Cathay Pacific tomorrow to double check. This is simply because if I end up 10 kilos overweight I’ll be charged $600 excess baggage!

Anyway the 30 kilos gives me a bit more scope than the 20 kilos I had to pack last time.

In 2011 this was pretty much my final packing list:
Running shoes – needed
Black shoes for work – needed
Running shorts – Lycra – you can buy shorts here
Running shirt – long sleeves – you can buy shirts here
Fred  Perry Polo Shirt – didn’t wear too much
Waxed type Jacket – still using it
Black and White Kefeya Scarf – not used so much
Casual Rugby style shirts x 2 – 1long sleeve and 1 short sleeve – long sleeve good for winter.
Track suit bottoms  – new and thick and warm x1 – needed to lounge around in.
University of Plymouth Hoodie – parting gift from my job – I asked for it, and they are warm and good quality – good for the winter.
Large Bath sheet – smaller ones can be purchased in China but not bath sheets – You can buy decent sized towels in the supermarkets.
1 pair black jeans – you can buy jeans here I’m a 36/38 inch waist no problems
1 pair Khaki Chinos – as above
4 cotton shirts –  for work etc – Shirts are a problem the biggest chinese size XXL is too tight for me. Im usually an XL in the UK.
2 x thermal vests and 2 x thermal long johns – I’m told that there is no heating in Chinese schools – my school is OK but yours might not be – I wear the vests more often than the long johns.
6 pairs underpants (M&S of course) – I buy underpants in Miniso a sort of Japanese £1 shop.
10 pairs of socks (1 pair a month huh?) – socks – you can buy socks
1 woolly hat (courtesy of Matilda, she bought it in Marrakesh)
1 woolly bobble hat – you can buy hats
1 pair thick socks – useful.
Running trousers (Lycra) not to useful.

That’s it in terms of clothes

Also in the suitcase is:

A bag with 6 underarm deodorants – reduced from 10 – apparently you cant get deodorant in China!  – You can get deodorant but its few and far between and sometimes expensive. I still bring it.

Plus 5 small bottles of shaving oil. – I buy a big bottle off eBay.

Various prescription medicines, 3 Ventolin and 3 of the steroid puffers.  3 packs of Imodium (just in case!), about 12 of my migraine drugs (but hopefully will not need) – Yes bring your prescription drugs.  From this list I can buy ventolin over the counter. Haven’t seen Imodium (go to the £1 shop) and a big NO to my migraine drugs.

cliploc bags x 2 boxes for teacher in china. 2 x large bars of chocolate requested by teacher in china.

Swiss Army penknife. – Useful anywhere. It has a corkscrew, a bottle opener and a tin opener (Tin openers are hard to find in China – bring one)

At the moment my bag is pushing about 23 kilos and is looking pretty full with all this stuff (not including the dog, she’s going on her own flight, i’m couriering her stuff)

My stuff for China
So in no particular order here we go again: – This is my 2013 list.
Running shoes _ yes
Black shoes for work Yes

Running shorts – Lycra – my choice
Running shirt – long sleeves – my choice
Polo Shirt x 2
Waxed type Jacket – still wearing it.
Black and White Kefeya Scarf – why do I still have it?

Yellow Indian Scarf – I like scarfs
Casual Rugby style shirts x 2 – 1long sleeve and 1 short sleeve – as above long sleeve good for winter.
Track suit bottoms  – new and thick and warm x1 – be snuggly in your apartment.
Bath towel – Why you idiot?
2 x blue jeans – Ok
7 cotton shirts –  for work etc 5 x long sleeve formal 2 x short sleeve casual – yes – OK
2 x thermal vests and 2 x thermal long johns – there is no heating in Chinese schools – again I mainly wear the vests in the winter.
6 pairs underpants – yes
7 pairs of socks – yes.

2 x ankle socks for running – just me.
1 woolly hat
1 woolly bobble hat – yes for the winter.
2 x pair thick socks – for the winter.
Running trousers (Lycra) – just me.
8 ties – all from Charity shops – all silk – 0.99p each.
Lumberjack style hat (bought in china last time)
1 x pair of gloves – yes – but you can buy gloves here
1 x neck scarf – you can buy scarfs here too
Long sleeve top – Ok for winter
Polo neck top – long sleeve – it was fleecy so good for winter.
White England Nike rugby top – of course.
Linen Suit – Yes from M&S a boon in the summer.
Trousers (work) – yes
Grey work jacket – yes
Micro fleece – yes.
Swimming shorts – yes – but you can but them here
Hiking boots – worn a lot especially during the winter in the classrooms and a boon when travelling.

That’s it in terms of clothes

Also in the suitcase is – to be listed when I’m sure I’ve got what I need. So that’s a first attempt at getting what I think I need/want. Theres a couple of other items I could take if I want, but I have to decide do I really want them as, after all, I will have to bring most of this back and I may not get 30 kilos of baggage allowance next time.

I’ve still got 7 kilos in my backpack and a computer case to go yet as well and I more week top sort it out as me and snooks are off on the 20th August.

Part two – adding more stuff.

Dark Suit – a business type suit – I wear it when meeting parents etc.
Wash bag with razor, toothbrush, small toothpaste, small bottle Calvin Klein One and other bits n pieces – of course.
Bigger wash bag holding various medicines including 20 lemsips (gold dust in China), some anti Beijing tummy remedy, migraine medicine, anadin, anti indigestion medicine etc.
3 brown puffers (cenil modulate) – Ive not been using it.
4 blue ventolin – buy over the counter.
Canvas bag (present)
Shoe brushes x 2 – useful
3 x pairs of insoles – very useful for my flat feet.
small canvas artwork 6 x 6 inches – gift
2 x filters (for friends hot tub) -gift
4 x anti perspirent roll ons, – adding to the above
When I started to repack, the bag was weighing in at about 26 kilos. So I have reduced this by removing all the packaging from various medicines, removed a glass bottle of cough medicine ( I might regret this), the short sleeved rugby shirt, removed the bath towel, I can buy one in China, removed gloves, removed scarf and anything in superfluous packaging i.e., took shoes out of shoe bag.
Computer Bag carry on
Spare dog lead
Neoprene knee brace
Office folder containing papers, certificates etc
Hair clay
Olbas Oil 10ml – very useful if you have a cold to clear blocked sinuses and steam your tubes.
Kindle – now got the app on my smartphone
Google Nexus tablet – in a drawer I don’t use it
Hanky (cotton) – useful when you have a cold.
Notebooks x 2 – why?
Spare mobile phone – yes very useful – have a UK sim in it so your bank and text you your security numbers.
Glasses x 3 (reading) – you can buy glasses cheap in China if you find the right places.
Business cards
8 x USB memory sticks – did I really need that many?
Oxford School Thesaurus – Why when its online?
Apple Mac Book in case – Of course – I am still using this computer.
Dr Dre Headphones – yes.
Dogs papers – yes
Lead and Harness – yes.
This is about 7 kilos at the moment, it might be too heavy, the airline only stipulates a computer case or briefcase.
Back pack carry on
2 x electrical plug adaptors – useful until you get local stuff for your electronics
Camera – of course
All Charging leads for gadgets – deffo
Camera lens wrapped in scarf – yes
2 bags sweets for friends kids
spare glasses and sun glasses – yes
spare razor blades (1 pack) – you can buy them here – they are just as expensive.
moist toilet tissue = why?
Head torch (wind up) – yes useful.
anadin – very useful – its my headache remedy of choice. I bring lots
3 x Typhoo tea packs (I know coals to Newcastle etc – but you can’t beat a good cuppa, even in China!) – The most important thing in my bag.
This is about 5 kilos at the moment and can be 7 kilos as my carry on bag.
I have a waist belt as well which will have another pack of moist toilet tissue (a boon in China believe me) – I’m lying you can buy it here.
my sunglasses which I can wear around my neck when boarding,
my small camera which I can wear on my belt when boarding – dropped it – got it fixed and never used it again – my smart phone is better.
I also will carry an overcoat with stuff in the pockets.
Plus of course I will be wearing shirt, trousers, jacket, probably my fleece, doc martens etc.
Before leaving 
 I added a pair of shorts that were always going to be on the list but I had been wearing them and they were then in the wash.  Ive also added a fleece and a rain jacket but these two items are in my carry on at the moment. I’ve decanted my medicine out of the glass bottle that I rejected yesterday and put it into two 100ml plastic bottles. I’ve added some more teabags and a few bits and pieces such as Snookys  Ducky, two balls, plus tomorrow, I’ll have to add her lead, collar and harness as she is not allowed them on the plane she’s going on. But nothing else significant so the main bag is up to about 25 kilos. I think thats about it, Im happy with that.
My bags


Hints and Tips


I have mentioned in all of the blogs that most of the contracts in China come with Health Insurance.  Obviously most, if not all of the part time, illegal, cash in hand work does not come with health insurance.

I guess, like me, most of you will probably Google looking for ex-pat health insurance policies of your own. If you have already done that you know that it’s prohibitively expensive, especially if you are coming to China on a 6000rmb per month contract.  A quick look on a comparison site for a male aged 40 provides quotes starting as low as 303rmb ($49) per month for a basic service to 6165rmb ($997) per month for an all singing and dancing service.

I have heard that some people have come to China with ‘Backpacker’ health insurance.  Another quick search on Google based on a 40 yr old male and you will find backpacking insurance policies ranging from around  £250 to £701 for a years cover.

Personally I am more than happy with the insurance policy provided by my employer, and in general this is there to provide me with emergency care should I need it.  For the run of the mill day to day health issues the local hospital is good enough, and cheap enough.

If you are ill, ill enough to want to see a doctor, you need to ask your school to have someone take you.  You will be taken to the local hospital, for that is where, surprise surprise, the doctors are. Once there the process is simple.  You see a receptionist, tell them what your problem is, they direct you to the room with the type of doctor you need – you do not see a generalist GP.  For example, I came down with a urinary infection.  I was taken to the hospital, and once there I saw a doctor who ‘specialised’ in urinary problems.  I was sent to give blood and urine samples, the results were ready in less than 20 minutes, I saw the doctor again.  He prescribed antibiotics and a complementary Chinese herbal medicine.  It cost me about £12 (120rmb) I think, if I remember correctly.

After my crash I had a CAT scan, no waiting, it cost £6 (60rmb) I think, I was concussed at that time.  Of course my friend was also in hospital with a broken leg. The actual conditions might not have been wonderful but the treatment was good.  His NHS doctor, when he went back to the UK to recover, was complementary about the work.

Of course many of the gap year graduates, and others have sampled the Chinese health system after falling off bikes, getting sports injuries and so on, and I have never heard any complaints. I have faith in the Chinese system and do not have any insurance other than that which is linked to my contract.


I have no problems with Chinese dentists either.  We, most of the teachers I know, use a Chinese dentist called Lillian.  The manager of the bar we used recommended us to her, Lillian was her cousin.  When ‘Andy’ came off the back of my bike he landed on his teeth. So his front upper teeth were smashed – as well as breaking his leg. Lillian fixed his front teeth and put temporary caps on them. I believe it cost about 600rmb (£60 approx) they lasted 3 years before they fell out, and needed a more permanent fix.

I have had work done by Lillian with no pain to both my jaw and my wallet – unlike in the UK.  Lillian also saved a tooth that dentists in the UK wanted to take out. She put a porcelain crown on it. This cost me 800rmb (£80 approx). She also tells me if it comes off and I lose it she will replace it for half price. I recently saw her because of toothache. It seems my ‘baby teeth’ (we call them wisdom teeth) are on the move.  She took an x-ray, and prescribed some antibiotics – it cost me a couple of quid.

So how to find a good dentist or a good hospital? Ask your colleagues for recommendations. Don’t do what a lot of the entitled do, which is, use the local international hospital or the international clinics, which abound, because if you do you will also be paying international prices.  The point was made when a doctor from the international hospital in Nanjing who generously looked after ‘Mike’ (re my bike crash – keep up) told him that even the International Hospital used the orthopaedic surgeons in the Chinese hospital he was in because they were the best.


My advice is to bring your favourite over the counter drugs with you in particular bring those which you might use at home to ease a cold or the flu.  Remember you will be working in a school – the place will be full of bugs and viruses, especially in the winter. I bring Lemsips  – the powders and the day care capsules – these are like gold dust in China, especially if people know you have them and they have the sniffles. I am partial to bringing Anadin Extra for when I have a headache, as these seem to work for me. I bring Ibuprofen, but you can buy this in China. I also bring a codeine based cough medicine – pholcodeine linctus – for when I have a cold/cough that drops onto my chest.  I have looked and I can’t find anything similar here, and I know this works for me. Also useful is Olbas Oil for steaming that jammed up head and blocked sinuses  – I’ve not seen this in China either.


If you are older I recommend that you have the flu jab here in China. Like the UK you cannot get the jab until late September/October. This is something to do with them having to decide which strain of the flu will be dominant this year I think.  It costs 100rmb. When you get here, at first, you will be taken for another medical so your employer can apply for your resident’s visa.  This should be the place where you will get the flu jab. Check it out whilst you are there.

If you take regular medication ask your doctor for a big prescription. My doctor told me the biggest he could give me was three months supply.  Fortunately the Omeprazole the doctor prescribed for reflux is available over the counter here.  Plus after leaving my job in the UK I no longer get stress-induced heartburn – a little bit of beer induced reflux – occasionally.

There is a whole raft of drugs available over the counter here that is only available on prescription in the UK, everything from antibiotics to Viagra if you need it. If you know what drugs your doctor prescribes for you, then the likelihood is that you can get them here. Although I cannot get the migraine medication (Maxalt Melt 10mg oral lyophilisates) the doctor prescribes and the ones I use now are out of date since January 2014 – they still work though, and like my reflux, since I left work I hardly have a migraine now. But this summer I will get another 3 months supply.  I also buy Prednisolone, which is the steroid the doctor prescribes for me when I have an infected chest after a cold or flu.  So I can get the same antibiotics and the same steroid that my doctor prescribes in the UK over the counter for pennies to be honest and they work.  Use the pharmacies on the main streets you will see some of them are chain stores. If you stick to these big stores you will not get fakes.

Interestingly if you go to buy Tylenol– the US flu remedy in China you need to show your passport – something to do with the methamphetamine you can produce from it. Blooming good stuff though if you need to teach through a cold or flu.

Re illegal drugs – they are available, but do you really want to spend time in a Chinese prison?  Just say no.  Take note: In China, sentencing for drug trafficking could include capital punishment. For example, the seizure of 50 grams or more of heroin or crystal methamphetamine could result in the use of the death penalty by the Government.

It’s not pretty – be warned.

Just as a final note I recently asked my students to write a pros and cons essay about the death penalty – the majority were in favour!

Death 2

Hints and Tips – Technology

Hints and tips by Doctor X

Kindle: If you like to read then you need to bring a kindle or other reading device. Purchases from the kindle store download quickly and have been no problem in the five years I have been in China. I now use the kindle app on my smartphone. Bookstores in China barely carry English language books. If they do they are mainly those classics that are out of copyright, Dickens, Austen, some of the American authors, Verne and so on.   In Nanjing I have only found one bar that has a book exchange – Blue Sky – The Aussie Bar on Shanghai Lu.


Other Electronic Devices

If you are going to buy electronic devices buy them before you come to China.  Computers, Tablets, Kindle, Smartphone’s are all of a similar price here to those back home. Also if you do wait to buy in China the operating system is in, wait for it, Chinese. Some may have an option to change the language but do you want to take that chance? You might get a good deal in Hong Kong if you have a stop over there.

Personally I dumped my iPhone 5 and purchased a Huawei Rio. Huawei is the major competitor to Apple in China. It was fine until I broke it. I upgraded to a Huawei P9 which is great BUT it is so smart that it does block some of the apps we like to use. Twitter is blocked for instance – although I can still use Facebook. Google maps do not work.


Peripheries such as USB sticks, External Hard drives, Headphones, Cables and so on are cheaper here so there is no problem there – just watch out for fakes.

I also purchased a printer/scanner, a Canon (around 400RMB or £40 approx) simply because at my school (and at the other college and training school I have worked at) there is not a communal printer networked to your computer like you might have been used to at home. At my school there is a print room.  You take your stick to the print room, use their computer (all in Chinese) to print one copy of what you need, then you give the women the instructions for how many copies you need. You have to do this in good time, like the day before you need them, because they are printing for the whole school.  Or you print a copy off using the one printer in the teacher’s office that is attached to another teachers machine. So if he/she is not at their desk and their computer is locked then you are stuffed till they come back.


It was easier to purchase my own printer, so I can do the single sheet printing (I still use the print room for bulk) at my leisure and the scanning of any teaching material I might want to use.

English Grammar for Dummies. 2nd Ed.  You will find a free downloadable pdf of the book here. 


Chapter 3 – On the scrapheap and packing for the trip to China

It was made official I was on the scrapheap. My voluntary redundancy from the university was confirmed. I had been getting a bit worried as time was moving on and the agency in China had started to talk about getting visa’s and airplane tickets, and seminars in Beijing.

photo (4)-2

I couldn’t believe I had been at the Plymouth University for twenty-four years. That’s a long time.

Packing for China – the final 20 kilo

In no particular order and with some explanation… plus an afterthought did I need it or could I have bought it in China?

Running shoes
Black shoes for work
Running shorts – Lycra – can buy in China
Running shirt – long sleeves – can buy in China (unless large size)
Fred  Perry Polo Shirt
Waxed type Jacket
Black and White Kefeya Scarf
Casual Rugby style shirts x 2 – 1long sleeve and 1 short sleeve
Track suit bottoms  – new and thick and warm x1 – can buy
University of Plymouth Hoodie – parting gift from my job – I asked for it, and they are warm and good quality
Large Bath sheet – smaller ones can be purchased in China but not bath sheets
1 pair black jeans – can buy H&M or Uniqlo
1 pair Khaki Chinos – can buy H&M or Uniqlo
4 cotton shirts –  for work etc – can buy H&M or Uniqlo unless large size (can be made)
2 x thermal vests and 2 x thermal long johns – I’m told that there is no heating in Chinese schools
6 pairs underpants (M&S of course) – can buy look out for Mini So stores
10 pairs of socks (1 pair a month huh?) -can buy look out for Mini So stores
1 woolly hat (courtesy of Darling Daughter, she bought it in Marrakesh)
1 woolly bobble hat – can buy
1 pair thick socks – can buy
Running trousers (Lycra) – can buy

That’s it in terms of clothes

Also in the suitcase is:

A bag with 6 underarm deodorants (from the £1 shop) – reduced from 10 – apparently you can’t get deodorant in China! You can buy it’s rare and expensive – Find a Mini So shop

Plus 5 small bottles of shaving oil.

Various prescription medicines, 3 Ventolin and 3 of the steroid puffers.  3 packs of Imodium (just in case!), about 12 of my migraine drugs (but hopefully will not need) cliploc bags x 2 boxes for teacher in china. 2 x large bars of chocolate requested by teacher in china.

Swiss Army penknife.

                                             Unfortunately Snooks couldn’t fit as she’s 5.5 kilos….and this wasn’t posed she got in my suitcase – she’s been following me around like a shadow for the past week – I think she knows…..
Im also allowed 7 kilos in my carry on cabin bag and I can take my laptop bag on with me.
My carry on allowance is 7 kilo. I’m using a backpack and have just about squeezed 7 kilo of stuff in.

This is it:

From the bottom up:

Canvas tote bag with a big plastic bag of PG Tips in it! Talk about coals to Newcastle – I’m taking tea to China! – Very important – you cannot get decent tea.
Waterproof jacket
Clean shirt – Ben Sherman
Micro fleece – can buy
Multi coloured fleece –  can buy in Uniqlo
Rough Guide to China
Recharging cables for kindle, camera and new mobile phone (you can get the plugs and peripherals everywhere)

In the front pocket:
First aid kit
Berocca vitamins
Ventolin pump
Shoe polish for the Cherry Reds

1 brush
Neoprene knee brace
Reading/computer glasses

And in the top pocket

Toilet paper (moist) Apparently this is crucial when out and about around the Chinese City (you can buy)
6 migraine medicines
Brown inhaler
Mini torch
Lemsips x 10 (gold dust take more)
Anadia extra (take more) (Also think about your favourite cold remedy and Olbas oil for steaming your chest)

And in my Laptop bag which is also pushing 5 kilo

Photos (to show students)
Spare glasses x 1
Spare sun glasses x 1
4 x teaching books
2 x 100 index cards – useless
Mac book pro and charger (technology is priced the same as UK in China)
Note book
Plymouth photo souvenir book – for students
Business cards
Ventolin (be prepared – I was a scout after all)
and Brown inhaler
pen pencil etc

So that’s it apart from the clothes I’ll be wearing,

I am planning on wearing during the trip, blue jeans, shirt, Dr Martens shoes, black jacket – and the crombie overcoat I’ll have to carry.
It’s not much is it for 10 months away?
Nanjing College of Information Technology

Tips and Hints if you want to come to China to teach.

Tips and Hints if you are a RADicle who wants to come to China to teach.


Teabags: If you are a Brit and you like a cuppa tea then I would bring teabags.  Ironically you cannot buy decent ‘black’ tea in China unless you have a thing for that abomination they call Lipton’s English Breakfast tea. You will be here for ten months so you need at least 300 tea bags maybe more if you have a couple of cups a day monkey on your back.  Green tea is OK and you get a taste for it. But after a hard 45 minutes teaching I like to get back to my apartment for a cuppa and a digestive. Don’t worry you can buy McVities digestives and Hobnobs here so dunk on. British tea is available on Taobao an online store at a premium price because they are imported.  You need to befriend a Chinese colleague who will purchase them for you. But they are light enough to stuff in your suitcase to save the hassle of doing that.

Nuff said


Tampons: In most of the big cities it is possible to buy tampons at the larger supermarkets and a chemist (not a pharmacy) called Watsons. However, they are not that popular in China, and will be difficult to find if you are in a smaller town of city, and if you do find them there is little or no choice.  A female American friend had regular supplies sent to her from the U.S.  You might have to bring a supply with you until you sort out what the situation is where you are.  Tampons are available on Taobao an online store.  You need to befriend a Chinese colleague who will purchase them for you. (This is because its all in Chinese and your Chinese bank card, when you get one, needs to be set up for online banking – this is all a hassle, I use a Chinese friend for all my purchases – not tampons btw)

This is in my local Auchan supermarket – its a French supermarket these are all that I could see but the second picture shows that the whole rack of shelving on the left side is for Sanitary products, namely towels. The trolley is halfway down the rack.


Condoms: Sex happens in China. You need to be safe.  You can buy condoms in China but do you want to trust Chinese condoms called Jizzbon? Durex are also available.  However, the fact of the matter is that Western men are physically different from Chinese men, if you catch my drift. You might want to think about buying a box or two of your favourite brand to bring with you.


Also think about this. If you get a Chinese woman pregnant she must get married. If she has the baby out of wedlock then that child becomes a none person. If will not have an ID card that means it has no access to health services or to the education system – it has no future. More realistically, if the pregnant woman does not have a husband then the Party or the Police will forcibly take her for an abortion. 

Bring condoms.

Clothing: If you are a big guy or gal you will find it difficult to buy clothes to fit you here in China. I am a western L who occasionally drifts into an XL/XXL. A Chinese XL does not fit. A Chinese XXL is tight. There are no XXXL’s that I have seen. There are two stores where the sizing is western – H&M and Uniqlo their XL shirts are OK, sometimes they are a bit tight, they do not do XXL.  The trousers and shorts are good too, I am a 36 waist and they are fine.

Find out where your local tailor is an have your clothes made to measure. It’s often cheaper than buying in the stores. I recently had a favourite tweed work jacket copied by my local tailor it cost me 800RMB (£80 approx). I had him copy a favourite Ben Sherman short sleeve summer shirt x 2 for 120 RMB each (about £12). I’ve also had two Linen two piece summer suits made also for 800RMB each.

My other tip for UK teachers is go to Primark buy a couple of work shirts (£8 each) and Tee shirts, even trousers there. They last for a year, then dump them and buy new when you are back in the UK. One of the problems with Nanjing is the humidity. When I get back from my summer break in the UK unless I have protected my shoes, clothes etc every thing gets covered in mould – even if Ive only been away for 3 weeks with no AC on in the apartment.

Doctor X’s tips and hints for living in China. No.1.

Doctor X’s tips and hints for living in China and teaching ESL


Bring a decent laptop computer with you. I recommend bringing a Mac simply because you don’t have to worry about viruses.  When you are teaching you will be using the computers in the classrooms.  You will be using audio and visual material in your classrooms, such as YouTube videos and so on.  You will use a USB stick. The computers in the classrooms are usually full of viruses because the students use them for various nefarious activities so as soon as you put the stick back into your Windows computer you get the viruses.

My classroom computer not working -again

Your computer is your main window onto the world. Even if you have a TV in your apartment there is nothing to watch apart from CCTV news in English. So you will be watching movies and TV via the many ways you can, usually using torrents. You will also want to use your computer to contact friends and family so download SKYPE in your home country as the Chinese version of SKYPE is monitored and is often down.

MacBooks are pretty tough. The one I am currently writing on was purchased in 2011 with my redundancy money. I recently upgraded it in China to 8GB of ram and 500GB SSD drive. My computer has travelled.

My trusty 2011 MacBook Pro

Do not think buying hardware will be cheaper in China it is not – the price monopoly surrounds the planet.  Only some peripherals might be cheaper.


You will want to be entertained during those long hours off and the long cold nights of winter. You might even have a TV in your apartment – but as the song goes there are 57 channels and nothing on. So you will have to learn how to torrent. Yes torrenting is illegal.  But you are in China so why not enjoy those blockbuster movies before they are even in the cinema back home?

Watching Paterson the Movie

I use Extra Torrent and The Pirate Bay – you can find all your favourite TV shows and movies on these site every thing from Top Gear – TV shows are usually posted pretty quickly – to the latest Tom Cruise movie if thats your thing, plus music, books – even porn if thats what turns you on.

Extra Torrent –

The Pirate Bay –

You also have to download Vuze to handle the torrents. On the actual torrent page you click the Magnet link (It looks like a Magnet  or Horseshoe) and the torrent automatically downloads the files into Vuze.

I use Vuze Bittorent Client to download the torrents –


Make sure your Smartphone is unblocked back in your home country so that when you come to China you can buy a Sim card from China Mobile or China Unicom (Unicom is best for iPhone). I made the rookie mistake of thinking I could get my iPhone unblocked in China, I could not.

Your Smartphone is your lifesaver. Make sure you have maps APPS, so you don’t get lost. A translator APP so you can at least communicate on some level.  Once you are here you can download the local taxi APP. You will need to learn a few words of Chinese to use it but it’s easy to get the hang of otherwise sometimes its difficult to get a cab without it. Download social media apps like WeChat and QQ which everybody uses in China. Remember you cannot use Twitter or Facebook here in China without a VPN so download the VPN to your phone too.

Smart Phone

Why not buy a Smartphone in China? Buy a Huawei Smartphone  here in China they are cheap and compete very well with the iPhone. I dumped my iPhone5 (for various reasons – poor battery life being one) for a Huawei Rio and I was very happy with it.  99% of the functions were in English so I had no problems at all. Be wary though, I upgraded to the Huawei P9 and the phone is now so smart it knows it’s in China and does not allow blocked social media apps to download. I have Facebook and instagram but twitter will not download from the Play store.

VPN: Virtual Personal Network.

To access Social Media, Facebook, the BBCiplayer, YouTube, Google (which are important for teaching) that are blocked by the Chinese government you need to download onto your phone and computer a VPN. The best VPN for China in my opinion is EXPRESSVPN you do have to pay for the service, but it is relatively cheap and works very well. I have used it for the five years I have been in China.

Use this link and you will get 30 days free extra service, as will I.



Just because you are young and a graduate doesn’t mean that you should turn up to teach in shorts, scraggy tee shirt and flip-flops like the rest of the herd. Set yourself apart from the rest of the drunks and dope heads and dress (and act) like a professional teacher. Teachers are held in high regard in China, they have a Teachers Day; your students will give you gifts.  You will generate more respect from your colleagues and your students if you dress the part. So for males think about wearing decent shoes, trousers (not jeans – although I do wear jeans –good jeans – in the winter) and a long sleeved shirt (especially if you have tattoos as I do – tattoos are the mark of a low person or criminal in China). Some schools do have a dress code and will even stipulate that teachers wear a tie – check your contract.  Personally I wear trousers, shirt, jacket if its chilly, decent shoes. If I am meeting parents then I will wear a suit and tie.  Hint – get a suit made here at your local tailor costs about 1200yuan. For females similar formal/casual clothes are more appropriate too.  Of course around the campus, where I live, in my free time I wear shorts and tee shirts with my tattoos on show – but that is my free time, not my professional time.

Where to find your job

There are lots of ESL job websites on the website.  You could do worse than look at Dave’s ESL café –  to start with.

TEFL Course

If you have not yet done a TEFL course which is usually a minimum requirement after the degree you can often find an online course cheap on Groupon –  currently there is an accredited TEFL course for just £49 here: TEFLCOURSE


Make sure you have a CV or resume that you can post that in some way or other suggests that you have some teaching experience, even if it is a stretch of the imagination.  If you do not have any teaching experience apart from the weekend class you took on your TEFL course then maybe you should think about how you can get some between now and turning up in China where you will be dropped in at the deep end and be expected to teach on that first day.