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.
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.
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?
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.
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
Shoe polish for the Cherry Reds
Toilet paper (moist) Apparently this is crucial when out and about around the Chinese City (you can buy)
6 migraine medicines
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)
Plymouth photo souvenir book – for students
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.
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.
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 mustget 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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 – http://www.eslcafe.com to start with.
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 – www.groupon.co.uk 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.