International Teacher Recruiters, Juraj Damjanic and Jennifer Beevers, give us some insight into what to pack for your year abroad in China.
If you are looking to start a new adventure, then watch the video below to learn more about living and working abroad with EF English First. Make sure you subscribe to the EF's YouTube channel so that you can stay up to date with any changes, as well as learn more about living and working in China.
First thing's first. Make sure you check the baggage weight limit for the airline you'll be flying to China with. Typically, you'll get two bags free at a limit of 50lbs or 30kg. You'll only need about 3-4 weeks' worth of clothes, and only pack the essentials! When you arrive in China, you can then stock up on other clothes and toiletries – sometimes for cheaper than in the west! Be sure to research the location you'll be living in and the weather of the month you'll be arriving in, and then pack accordingly.
If you're joining EF as a Kids and Teens teacher, you'll need to bring khaki pants and black shoes. The top part of your uniform will be provided by EF upon your arrival. You'll receive two summer short-sleeve navy polos with the EF logo on it. And for the winter/colder months, we'll supply you with two long-sleeve rugby shirts with a crisp white collar and the EF logo.
If you're joining EF as an Adults or Online teacher, please bring business casual outfits: that can include a dress shirt and pants/slacks for the mend and dress/skirt/slacks for the ladies. Adults and Online teachers don't need to dress super smart (ties and blazers are not necessary) but again, dresses, smart pants, and button down shirts are all acceptable.
It will be harder to find larger shoe sizes. Particularly around size 10 or 11 UK and up (about 43/44 European sizes) are hard to come by. If your shoe size is one we mentioned above, we recommend you bring a pair of sneakers, dress shoes, and sandals; one for every occasion. One alternative to having large shoe or clothing sizes is to get tailor made items. You can find a pattern off Instagram or Pinterest, show it to the tailor, and you can get everything from designer coats to velvet-lined jeans made here in China (and for a fraction of the price you'd pay back at home).
You will be able to find shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, brushes, and other daily essential toiletries in China. The Chinese equivalent of your neighborhood CVS, Walgreens or Boots will be Watsons, Mannings, or Miniso. You will also be initially staying in a Western-style hotel for two weeks, so take advantage of the free toiletries there!
Some things that are harder to find are 1) stick deodorant and 2) darker shades of foundation. You're able to easily find spray and roll on deodorant, but if you prefer the stick/crème kind or a particular brand like Old Spice, Secret, or Dove – you will not be able to find these. We've come across Arm and Hammer and Lady Speed Stick brands at western stores, but of course are quite expensive. Also, if you use a darker shade of foundation, these colors are not generally stocked, even at stores like MAC and Sephora in China. We recommend you bring a couple of bottles to last you at least 6 months in China. During your time overseas, you might befriend a fellow teacher from your home country and can always ask them to bring back another bottle or two if they're going back for a visit.
Something to be aware of when you come to China is the difference in voltage and electricity compared to your home country. We highly recommend that you buy and adaptor and converter so that you don't damage your expensive electronics such as hair straighteners/curlers and gaming systems. The plug sockets in China are different to the ones back at home; UK sockets are 3 pronged and US sockets are 2 pronged, with a tapered end. Whereas in China, there are 2 pronged sockets, but are a different size to the US one. Fret not, EF provides one adaptor in your welcome bag, but it's good to have a second backup, plus a converter.
EF also will provide a SIM card; just make sure you come to China with your smart phone already unlocked. The internet is also…different. If you'd like to access Google, social media sites with Facebook and Instagram, or streaming sites like Netflix, you'll need to download a VPN before arriving in China. Finally, we require you download the WeChat APP as you'll be added into a group with other teachers from around the world coming to China on the same intake date as yourself. WeChat is used to pay for things like your electricity bill, movie tickets, plane tickets, shared bike rentals, and above all – to communicate (either by messaging or video calling).
Over the counter medication are readily available in China. You will be able to find generic or equivalent doses of cough syrup, headache tablets, and general pain killers at your neighborhood pharmacy and/or a hospital. We highly recommend that you speak to your general physician about stocking up on your prescription if you need specific medication for the year.
Contraception is accessible in China, but if you're used to a specific brand, again, we recommend you speak with your medical professional to get six months to a year's supply of your prescription that your body is used to. If you're a glasses/contacts wearer, the good news is frames and prescriptions are easily found in China. In fact, it's quite cheap to buy “brand name” frames with your correct eye prescription. Lastly, vaccinations are not mandatory when coming to China, but there will be recommended ones. It's best you visit your country's government website or consult with your doctor.
Inform everyone that you're moving overseas - including your bank! Tell them that you'll be abroad for a year, otherwise if you use your credit and/or debit card abroad and you informed them, your bank will think there's fraudulent activity happening in your account and will then freeze it.
You will also want to have money on hand for when you arrive in China. We recommend having 2,500-3,000RMB (about 350-420USD) in cash on hand upon arrival. You will definitely need about 10,000RMB (about 1,430USD) available at your disposal (on a credit or debit card) in order to survive your first month in China as you won't be paid immediately when you arrive. If you arrive on the 1st -15th of the month, you'll get first pay check at the end of that same month. If you arrive on the 16th of the month or later, you'll get your first paycheck at the end of next month. That will be nice because in that paycheck, you'll receive about a month and a half worth of salary.
Lastly, our recruiters recommend that you bring home comforts with you to China, items that would wouldn't be able to purchase abroad or items that will make your house a home. For example, recruiter Jennifer brought frames with pictures of friends and family that she could decorate her apartment with. It instantly made her feel comfortable in her new environment.