I took up the position of international teacher with EF in September 2019 after I completed my postgraduate studies in Ireland. I had been planning on coming since March that year. It was a long road of paperwork and document verification which culminated in me flying to Shanghai on September 3rd from Dublin Ireland via a short stopover in Beijing. The first thing even before I had arrived on Chinese soil was the language.
As expected, all EF staff and new teachers you meet when you arrive in the hotel speak English, however I found after we get our own accommodation you begin to notice the language and culture difference. I found in my first week living on my own a struggle when going to get groceries, finding the easiest way to travel and communicating with the uncles at my gate. For me the best thing with regards shopping was to learn some very simple Chinese, enough to hold conversation in a shop, such as hello, thank you, please, how much. The Shanghai metro map is a hugely important tool for navigating the city particularly in your first few months. You can pin your housing location and also your center which makes it extremely easy to find your way home from anywhere. It is important to note that all metro stations and ticket machines are both in English as well as Mandarin making it easy for new teachers.
WeChat is a very popular social media and payment app in China. You can message friends, have group conversations, access the news, order food, access Didi a ride hailing app and even make payments. WeChat becomes part of your daily life here in China.
It is advised to bring some money with you when you arrive as depending on when you arrive you may not be paid for a month. EF helps setting up a bank account, but I would advise having either some cash or access to money on a card enough to get over the initial struggle. After you have set up your bank account you can then use the payment app Alipay which similar to WeChat above allows you to pay for almost anything, order food, bike sharing, ride hailing and even online shopping through Taobao. With regards sending money home this can be an issue for people. I personally have sent money home through my bank, Bank of China. It is important to note with the bank that you can in person send money to your account in your home country, however you need many documents and I would advise bringing a Chinese friend or a local teacher. There are also international bank charges which apply. If you want to find out other methods of sending money home, I would advise checking online as there are many more available.
When I arrived, I had a plan to see a lot of places in my first few months, one thing to remember is that due to the visa process in China you will be without your passport for two months. What I did was see as much as I could in Shanghai and also visit surrounding places such as the ancient water town, Zhujiajiao. This a quaint beautiful water town near the end of line 17 of the metro. It is a very pretty place, which I would recommend going in the first couple of months. For me it was a well needed break from the hustle and bustle of the city, and it gave me more of an insight into Chinese life.
All in all, be prepared for a drastic change in your life when you move here. Shanghai is a beautiful bustling multicultural city with many things to do. Don’t come with a closed mind, be open to try new experiences and ready to embrace a different and fun lifestyle. I would highly recommend moving to China.