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This article was made specifically for new teachers starting at China's (Shenzhen) International Personnel Training Center (CIPTC). However, all of the information should be useful regardless of where you will be in China and which company you work for (in fact, if your company doesn't do some of things, definitely bring it up to them).




  •  the process of taking in and fully understanding information or ideas.


                So, you’re finally going to make all of your friends jealous by dropping your mundane life and make that move across the world. Whether you’re uprooting from the familiar due to the lack of fulfillment and want to pull a Walter Mitty. Or maybe you have a deep burning desire to explore a culture unknown to you. Either way we’re happy for your decision. If you’ve never made the trip to Asia before (or, even left your home country) you might feel a slight sense of wonderment and anxiety for what it will be like to transition to life in a new country.

For those reading who do not already know, China is not like western countries, not even close. Sure, you’ll find plenty of amenities to cure those feelings of homesickness once you get here. And after a month or two you’ll feel like a real Shenzhenian, legally living and working in one of fastest growing cities in the world! There is a process to it though; they don’t give out that glorious title to any person who enters the Special Economical Zone. So, I suggest you take this time to do just a wee bit of research on both China and Shenzhen before you make the leap (not to mention your parents will feel better about your life decisions). At least read this guide highlighting the important things you need to know when first arriving to work in China, it might keep you from getting deported :)


In this quick guide I am going to outline the things you’ll be needing to complete in order to easily assimilate into your new Chinese home while offering tips that will make living here easier. We want you to enjoy China and your stay here so remember that it would be silly to have the same standards for it, as you do for your home country. Note: Some of the steps below don’t need to be in this exact order, however this is pretty darn efficient way of doing things so we recommend you do.


Steps for settling in:


1. The temporary housing

Once you make it across the border into mainland China you will most likely be placed into some kind of temporary housing for a week, sometimes two, while your permanent housing is being readied. This is usually in the form of hotel style living that is graciously paid in full by CIPTC. The hotels are modern and clean, where you’ll likely have another foreign teacher as a roommate. However, sometimes the lucky few will go straight into CIPTC’s provided apartments without having to stay at the hotel at all.  Not to say that the hotels are bad, on the contrary you’ll likely meet other ‘newbie’ teachers and build lasting friendships. It also gives you an opportunity to screen potential roommates. For the first two weeks, you’ll be going to the International Elite Building (Futain district) frequently to turn in your documents and attend the required Personal Development seminars.

Notes worth mentioning:

  • CIPTC works had to find proper accommodation for its teachers, but property in Shenzhen is $$$. Please be patient with them while they find new places for you to live. If you have preferences tell them early on.

  • If you’re not okay with the apartment you were placed in, talk to someone at CIPTC about moving out on your own; based on your contract they may be able to afford you a monthly housing allowance so you can find your own residence in the city.


2. Medical Check


Now, you should have already completed the Foreigner Medical Record Exam in your home country before coming to China and hopefully remembered to bring your results with you. After arriving and applying for your Temporary Residence Visa* you’ll undergo set of examinations by local physicians. This is redundant but necessary; the good news is that it is paid for by CIPTC, and is conducted in an extremely efficient manner lasting maybe an hour or two. A representative from CIPTC will personally bring you for this process; make sure to have: your passport, two passport sized photos, and the results of the previous Record Exam (just in case something comes up).


Notes worth mentioning:


  • They will be drawing samples of blood, so make sure to eat breakfast and also drink plenty of water for the urine analysis.

  • If you fail the local examination you may not be able to obtain the Temporary Residence Visa, which could lead to your contract with CIPTC being voided.



3. Chinese cellular phone

This is an absolute must because although Wi-fi is available in many places around the city (being super modern), you shouldn’t depend on it. CIPTC will need to contact you a lot within the first couple of months of arriving so you need to have a way to communicate. If you’re reading this guide while still living in your home country, I highly recommend you take your phone to the current carrier and have them “unlock the phone”. This allows other carriers and their SIM cards to be usable in the phone. If you cannot unlock the phone for some reason, you’ll need to get a new SIM card and phone while you’re here. There are three different carriers within China: Unicom, Mobile, Telecom. Most new teachers end up using Unicom but you’re free to choose whichever you want. The rates for data are unbelievably inexpensive and signal is… decent, for most of the time. To pay your monthly bill, or ‘top up’ (as it’s called here) you can either use WeChat pay or by going physically to the store.

Notes worth mentioning:

  • Try to go with a Chinese speaker to the cell phone provider so you understand what the rates are, how to pay the monthly bill, and other benefits that might be available.

  • Paying for data is not the same here as it is back home, and that’s actually a good thing. You can choose how much data (Gigs) you want per month, or you can get a lump sum and pay when you run out. There’s even some crazy plans where you pay daily for data and it accumulates over time.


4. Chinese bank account

One of the greatest things about working with CIPTC (in my opinion) is getting paid the correct amount, at the agreed upon date. If you take this for granted, do a quick Google search on ‘TEFL horror stories’ and you’ll understand why I personally appreciate the system that is being implemented. CIPTC does all of their banking through the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) so you’ll definitely need to open an account through them. If you prefer to bank with another company (like HSBC) feel free to do so, just know ahead of time you’ll need some documents from CIPTC to prove your legal working status within the country (more on that later). Opening an account is rather simple, you just need your passport, a Chinese phone number, your current address (hotel or apartment) and a piece of paper from CIPTC verifying you’re their employee. The fee to open an account is $5, in exchange you’ll be given a UnionPay debit card and an electronic keypad for online banking.


Notes worth mentioning:

  • Whenever you do move from the temporary housing, you will need to notify the bank of your change address.

  • Moving money out of the country is an astonishingly annoying thing to do. Just know ahead of time, remittance is going to cost you money; accept it. There are many ways to do so: Western Union, Bitcoin, Bank-to-bank transfer, having a HSBC account, or PayPal (check out, ).

  • Credit cards are very hard to come by, especially if you’re a laowai. If you ask to open up a line of credit after just moving to the country, you might get laughed at. Why would any bank open a line of credit to someone who has nothing keeping them from just taking off at any moment?

  • Your VISA, MasterCard, Discover, or Express debit/credit cards are all basically useless now so keep them in a safe place at home. The vast majority of establishments won’t take your old cards while in China. Just use them for pulling cash out of ATMs.


5. Police check-in

China welcomes you with open arms into their ever-evolving country so that you may bear witness to its thriving economy, rich culture, and friendly citizens. But do not let that fool you, they want to keep an eye on you. Accept that, although you are a guest, the local authorities prefer to be informed of your every move and whenever your profile changes. So, each time you move to a new residence, when you change from your Work (Z) visa to the Temporary Residence Visa, and anything similar: you need to check-in at the local police station. Upon entering the country, you filled out a yellow Arrival/Departure form; the back of it informs the reader that a check-in with the local police is required within 24 hours of entering. Now, if you were placed into temporary housing (Hotel 618), then the police check has already been performed for you when you first gave the front desk your passport. But once you move, you’ll need to update them at the police station nearest to your address. This is a 10-minute process that requires your passport, 2 passport sized photos, and CIPTC’s paper mentioning your current address and employment. 


Notes worth mentioning:

  • It’s important that you follow the national and local laws within this country, they are hosting you. You may have heard from others that you can get away with not checking in, however the repercussions of not following the laws will catch up to you eventually.

  • You might notice a smaller police station in your area, typically near busy street corners or where there is a lot of foot traffic, this is not the correct police station. If you cannot locate the one nearest to you, simply ask someone at CIPTC.



The above sums up everything you need to do when you first arrive here. Below are some handy nuggets of knowledge that will make everyday life in China easier. Everyone has to deal with these issues so we figured we might as well give you our personal knowledge so you don’t get as frustrated as we did.


WeChat – is the social media platform of China. Seriously, this country runs on WeChat. I recommend you download it before you get on the plane to come over here and start to play around with it yourself. You’ll notice it seems quite simple and almost basic compared to other apps like Twitter and Facebook, but don’t let it fool you. WeChat is  powerful force that everyone has installed on their phone with the ability to perform a myriad of things: calling, texting, video chats, moments (your wall), wallet, group chats, location sharing, and many other things I don’t even know about yet. The newest feature added is WeChat Wallet; once you have your Chinese bank account established, you’ll be able to link it to your WeChat to pay for virtually everything. Below is a link to a video describing some of the features.


Adding WeChat wallet to your WeChat app – If you downloaded WeChat onto your phone before you arrived in China then you will most likely not be able to find the Wallet option under the ‘Me’ page. The main reason for this seems to be that the programmers chose to hide this option for foreigners since, without a Chinese bank account its useless.  There is a way to force it to appear which will then allow you to enter your bank account information and have it linked it to your WeChat Wallet. You have two options to make this happen: have a friend with it already installed transfer you a ‘red packet’ with a small amount of money inside to force the Wallet option to appear. If you don’t have any friends you can always go to the nearest e-Bike and scan the QR code. This will first download the bike sharing app and will then ask you to setup an account with them using either WeChat or Alipay (another popular e-wallet application). Doing so will allow you to enter your bank account information which will then make the WeChat Wallet option appear. I recommend choosing this option if you actually want to use Mobike or other bike sharing service because it does require a (refundable) deposit of 300RMB.


With WeChat Wallet linked to your bank account you can literally (more or less) pay for anything with it. No need to carry around your wallet with you anymore because the vast majority of establishments take WeChat pay, even the less established establishments.


Notes worth mentioning:

  • When you first enter the bank information to link your account to WeChat Wallet the name registered under your Chinese bank account is in the same format as your passport: LASTFIRSTMIDDLE.

  • You can either pay by having your QR code scanned: in WeChat press the ‘+’ sign, then press ‘Money’. Or, you can scan someone else’s by: pressing the ‘+’ sign, then ‘Scan QR Code’ of the second party. The later will require you to enter your 6-digit pin before payment can be made.

  • You need to have internet connection to buy or pay using WeChat wallet.

  • Fun fact: if the backlight in your phone is too dim, then barcode scanners will not be able to read them. Make sure you have enough battery to have a bright screen when buying products!


Virtual Private Network (VPN) – if you’re a techie you probably already know what this is and why it might be necessary to have while in China. For everyone else, A VPN is an application on your computer/mobile that allows you to channel all of your internet browsing on a secure and (mostly) anonymous connection. A VPN is required to access western websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google (and associated websites), Youtube, Instagram, etc. China is particular about the ability to freely find information on the internet while in their country and censors certain sites with what is called, “the Great Firewall”. Now VPNs are a grey area in terms legality so use them at your own risk, and certainly do some research about them before you get here. Many expats and even locals will use VPNs for work purposes and have no legal ramifications for doing so, however we cannot condone illicit behavior so do so at your own risk.

EDIT: During July of 2017 China has announced they will begin cracking down on illegal usage of VPNs. For more information on the update see here


Notes worth mentioning:

  • Although there are many VPNs, not all of them will have the ability to break through the ‘Great Firewall’. If you’re purchasing the software in your home country, make sure and confirm that it will work. It seems VPNs like ExpressVPN, VyprVPN are the most popular amongst expats and are rather reliable.

  • The use of a VPN will slow down your internet speed (bandwidth), that’s just a consequence of using this sort of technology. If you’re a huge gamer, you’ll need to do some research on the best VPNs for gaming and streaming.



Below is a short list provided by other teachers that they wish they would have brought or done prior to arriving in China. Not all of them are necessary but it’s nice to have some input from people who have already gone through the motions.


Bedding – Although the apartment you’ll be living in is furniture, it will most likely not have linens already. If you are particular about your sleeping throne, feel free to bring whatever you can from home (assuming you can get it in your luggage). That being said, finding linens in Shenzhen is as easy as going to Vanguard (local supermarket) or simply checking out independent bedding stores. I purchased a full set when I first arrived (including two pillows) for around 200RMB.

Toiletries – Obviously, toilet paper exists in China, especially in a super modern Tier one city such as Shenzhen. But certain hygiene amenities such as toothpaste, deodorant, and facial creams are sometimes double the price you might find in your home country. If you use a particular brand, you should stock up so the first months you’ll be able to find an alternative here. For those of you with contacts or glasses (yes, you can find them here), I do recommend stocking up on contacts and also bringing copies of your prescriptions in case you lose them.

Month of money – This is rather important especially if you’re coming to China and are already strapped for cash. You need to bring about a month’s allowance to help you get by before you get your first pay check (the 8th of every month). Luckily housing is paid for: breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner are provided by your school, and the cost of eating out and groceries are inexpensive. If you find that your savings in dwindling and do not have enough money to get by, let CIPTC know and they might be able give you an advance or loan you some renmimbi.

Tell your you bank – if you’ve traveled before you know that if you do not mention to your bank you’re leaving the country, you might awkwardly get declined at every credit card machine. Let your bankers know that you’ll be leaving the country for year, and possibly visiting neighboring countries as well. Also, check to see if you can get some CNY before you head over here.

Teaching as soon as you get here – Semesters for Chinese public schools in Shenzhen starts February 13th and September 4th. Now, CIPTC tries their best to have teachers arrive in an orderly fashion with about a week or two before the semester starts. Sometimes however due to logistic issues like visas, documents, medical check, etc., teachers arrive a bit late and into the semester. If you are one of these people, know that you probably will not have a grace period before you start and that within the first 3-5 days you’ll be assigned a school. It’s best to make sure that when you’re obtaining all of the required documents, you give yourself plenty of time to arrive in China before the semester starts, otherwise consider waiting until the next semester.

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