Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated November 16, 2018
By Mike Cairnduff

You’ve landed in China and all you can think about is dropping your suitcase and getting out there and exploring.

Hold it right there! There are seven things you must do immediately after arriving in China.

1. Take care

Take care of your family and friends by letting them know that you’ve arrived safely. They’ll really appreciate hearing your voice or receiving your message.

Take care of yourself by resting after your long-haul flight and drinking plenty of bottled water. Your body will thank you for it!

When you unpack, make sure you put any valuable belongings in a safe place, such as a lockable desk or cabinet.

And remember to always lock your door when you leave your apartment.

2. Make arrangements with your school

As a foreign teacher working in China, you’ll need to register with the public security bureau (PSB) – a government office which acts as the local police station.

Your school should take you to the nearest PSB as soon as you arrive. Many schools do this straight after picking you up from the airport.

Keep your passport handy, as your details will be noted by PSB personnel.

Your school should also organize your medical check (a government requirement) and help you open a bank account so you can receive your salary.

Ask your school for a copy of your timetable so you can start preparing for classes.

3. Settle into your new home

After arriving in China, introduce yourself to your neighbors just as you would in your own country.

If your apartment is located on campus it’s quite likely your neighbors will be foreign teachers, so you won’t need to test out your pronunciation of “ni hao” just yet!

If your apartment is located on the school campus, you'll likely have other foreign teachers as neighbors.

Typical school campus in Zhejiang province, China.

Get your address written in Chinese characters and keep it on you at all times. It will be a god-send when you are out traveling and need to give your tax driver instructions to take you back to your apartment.

You can also provide your address to your loved ones back home in case they want to mail you a package full of treats.

Check that your apartment has everything you need. Hot water in the bathroom and adequate temperature control (heating and cooling, depending on the location) are arguably the most important things to check for.


4. Get connected

If your school provides unlimited internet as part of its offering, plug the internet cable in your room into your electronic device.

Get your school contact to show you how to connect to the internet as there may be a few steps involved. Keep a record of any login details you require.

If you’re thinking of keeping your existing phone network carrier while in China, think again! It could cost you a small fortune to make and receive calls, as well as send text messages.

It’s best to set up a pre-paid phone account. Again, your school contact can help you with this.

Don’t worry if your phone is locked to a network back home – you can easily buy a new phone in China.

5. Go shopping

Going shopping the minute you arrive shouldn’t involve spending loads of money on things you don’t need (unless you’ve got money to burn!). Instead, it should involve buying a few staples at your nearest supermarket.

It’s also worth checking out other local shops and services, like the bakery, pharmacy, hair salon and post office.

Try to find the closest ATMs to your apartment. Don’t worry if you can’t find your own bank’s ATMs as fees for using other banks’ ATMs are low.

6. Get recommendations

The locals will know the best places to eat, drink and shop, so use their knowledge to your advantage.

Unless you a have a good command of the Chinese language, finding a particular style of restaurant or food you’re after is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Ask around for something that suits your tastebuds.

Ask locals for recommendations of some good food places.

Get recommendations from locals on where to eat.

As you’ll be relying a lot on public transport, make sure you find out how it works.

Ask your school contact where the nearest stop or station is, where it can take you, how much it costs, how to pay, and so on.

7. Explore your school

Last but not least, explore your new ‘workplace’.

Take a tour of the campus and locate the international relations department, canteen, library, and if you intend on keeping fit, the gym.

If you’re teaching at a small center, your tour might simply involve a trip to the staff room!

Determine how you’re going to get from your apartment to your school. Can you walk there, or will you need to take public transport?

Most importantly, drop by the classrooms you’ll be teaching in. After all, this is where you’ll be spending a lot of your time!

What are your tips for settling in to China quickly? Have your say below.

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