Let’s assume that you have decided to teach English in China. The preparation stage is long, but rather straightforward. As you complete the following stages, make sure you are reading about Chinese culture and learning basic phrases in Chinese.
Step 1: Vaccinations
Track down your medical records and book an appointment with your GP or nurse. He or she will advise you as to which vaccinations you require. This will depend on the province where you are staying. Expect a few hepatitis jabs plus a three-day course of typhoid tablets as a minimum. A month-long course of hepatitis-B jabs is recommended but not essential.
Step 2: Physical examination
You will require a routine physical examination in order to apply for a visa. This must carry a doctor’s stamp (i.e. not just a signature). The entire physical examination costs a lot of money, but you may be able to persuade your doctor to skip the expensive parts (i.e. the chest X-ray).
NB: When you arrive in China you will have to submit to a second physical examination, in order to upgrade to a full residence permit.
Step 3: Visa
In order to work in China you will need a z-visa. Your language school should suplly all the paperwork. All you need to do is complete the forms and post them, together with your original passport, to a consulate. If you are British, you can apply to the consulates in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. This process can take anywhere between two weeks and a month.
NB: The z-visa is valid for a short time only. It will get you into China, but from there you will need to upgrade it to a full residence permit. Again, your language school should help with this.
Step 4: Money
The exchange rate is roughly 1GBP = 10RNB, which means your money will go further in China. Make sure you have some savings in your UK bank account before you leave. Once in China, you will be able to use your UK debit card to withdraw RNB. For security reasons, I don’t recommend taking a credit card. Nor do I recommend exchanging much currency before you leave.
Make sure you have the following information about your UK bank: (i) the postal address, (ii) your BIC number and (ii) your SWIFT number, otherwise known as your IBAN number. The best way of getting money out of China is to first entrust it to a Chinese national (because, as a foreigner, the amount you can take out is heavily capped). Transfer your money to a friend’s account and he/she will then transfer it into your UK account.
Step 5: What to take
Pack light. Things like guidebooks and dictionaries are too bulky and you can find the information online, anyway. China is a casual place so you won’t need formal clothes. But bear in mind that (i) clothes are expensive and (ii) the sizes are restrictive. Your medical supplies should include: (i) plasters, (ii) blister plasters, (iii) hand sanitizer; (iv) general antibiotic, (v) anti-diarrheal tablets, and (vi) mosquito repellent that contains 50% deet.
Moreover, consider taking the following: carrier bags, freezer bags, clothes hangers, elastic bands, paperclips and spare passport-sized photos of yourself. Make sure you also bring scanned copies of all of your documents. It’s also a good idea to invest in a money pouch. This ought to be small so you can conceal it under a layer of clothing.