General Info

China has one of the oldest histories in the world. Its history can be dated back to the Xia Dynasty in B.C 21st Century. Its modern time started in 1840, when western power invaded Chinese territory during the Opium War. China has changed since then. Followed by the domestic corruption and foreign invading, many rebellious groups including Dr. Sun Yet-Sen formed to end the monarchical system that had been in place in China for more than 2,000 years by founding the provisional government of the Republic of China. Not for long period, the influence of the October Revolution in Russia, China's May 4th Movement arose. In the period of anti-imperialist and anti-feudal system, the Marxism-Leninism idea has won the popularity of the people under the leader Mao, ZeTong in the 1921. Democratic party has forced to retreat to Taiwan and China has ruled by the communist party since then.

Despite the per capital of income is low, China's GDP has quadrupled since the economy reform in 1978. China's economy has maintained rapid growth at average annually 11.7% GDP, while the inflation has steadily declined. It dropped steadily from over 21 percent in January 1995 to below one percent by September 1997. Foreign trade has contributed 30.5 billion in global trade surplus, along with large foreign investment inflows also helped push official foreign exchange reserves to over $134 billion by the end of September 1997. Due to rapid growth of economy, the unemployment rate has increased over 8% (estimated actual rate) during past decade. It is unavoidable for the unemployment rate and income disparity to occur during its early stages of economy grow. The average per capita of income is in US$750. Deng, Shaoping's economy reforms have lifted more than 130 million people out of poverty line in 1995.

China is the third largest country in the world after Russia, and Canada. It is about the same size as U.S. Total area is 9,596,960 sq km bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam. Its border countries including Afghanistan 76 km, Bhutan 470 km, Burma 2,185 km, Hong Kong 30 km, India 3,380 km, Kazakhstan 1,533 km, North Korea 1,416 km, Kyrgyzstan 858 km, Laos 423 km, Macau 0.34 km, Mongolia 4,673 km, Nepal 1,236 km, Pakistan 523 km, Russia (northeast) 3,605 km, Russia (northwest) 40 km, Tajikistan 414 km, and Vietnam 1,281 km. Its terrain is mostly mountains, high plateaus, deserts in west; plains, deltas, and hills in east.

The climate in China varies throughout the country, mostly is dominated by the monsoon. It is generally warm and humid in south while east, central, north and northeast are relatively dry, mostly subtropical in south and subarid in the north. In the southeastern near the Nanling Mountains, rains are plenty and the temperature is high all year round. Raining season occurred from June to September with occasional typhoons. Winter is extremely cold and dry in the northern part of China while summer can be really hot and humid in south Temperature varies from region to region, it could be below minus 15 degree C (5 degree F) in the winder, while over 100 degree F in summer.

Go to the top


For more than 1.2 billions people (one-fifth of world population) reside in china, it is most populous area with only 7% arable land in the world. Annual report 12 million new born add to the population. Followed by the one-child policy implemented in 1979, the sex disparity has occurred with ratio of 117 boys born comparing to 100 girls, it is way above the international norm of 106 boys for every 100 girls. Chinese age-old preference for boys is being exacerbated, also by modern technology, which can detect the sex of a child early in pregnancy. China government has aimed to control the population grow within 1.4 billion by 2010 and 1.6 billion at the middle of next century. More than 90% of people in China are descendants of Han, and about 6 to 8% of population are ethnic groups of 55 minority nationalities (MinZu). Overall, literacy rate is 84.1% with illiteracy population 116.3 millions estimated in 2002.

The Chinese religious belief system has a guardian deity for almost every aspect of human life. Notably Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, and Matsu Goddess of the Sea, all had their origins on the Chinese mainland. Religion in China is influenced by three major schools of thought: Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. While Confucianism is a major philosophy and Buddhism originated in India, and Taoism is truly a Chinese religion. Regardless of their origin, all three major religions are ancient and when practiced today are deeply intertwined in China's communist ideology. A large proportion of ethnic minorities (about 90 millions) belong to some religions, mainly Islam and Buddhism. There are five officially recognized religions including Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism. For each faith there is a government-affiliated association to monitor and supervise its activities. Membership in many faiths is growing rapidly; however, while the Government generally does not seek to suppress this growth outright, it tries to control and regulate religious groups to prevent the rise of groups or sources of authority outside the control of the Government and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

There are 202 dialects listed under Chinese languages system, of those, 201 are living languages and one extinct. Chinese has seven major language groups of which the Mandarin chinese is the most spoken language in China as "common language-putonhwa". The Mandarin group consists of a wide range of dialects in the northern, central, and western regions. The Cantonese dialects are spoken in Hong Kong, Guangdong, Southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, parts of Hainan, Macau, and in many overseas settlements. The Hakka (Kejia) languages are spoken in Guangdong, southwestern Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Hainan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, many overseas Chinese communities, and in pockets throughout Southeast Asia. Most of the inhabitants of the south central region, in Hunan use the Xiang dialects, also known as Hunanese. The Min dialects are spoken in most of Fujian, large areas of Taiwan and Hainan, parts of Eastern Guangdong and the Leizhou Bandao Peninsula, and in areas of Southeast Asia. Most of the people living in Jiangxi, eastern part of Hunan, and the southeastern corner of Hubei use the Gan dialects. The majority of the inhabitants of Zhejiang, as well as people living in southern areas of Jiangsu and Anhui, speak the Wu dialects. The Wu dialects share marginal mutual intelligibility with the Mandarin and Gan dialects. Most of people can speak basic English in China.

Go to the top


Most of schools will provide accommodation near school if not within campus for teachers. The standard of living has improved over last decade, but do not expect all the comforts back at home. There are three types of housing in China, Foreign Diplomatic Housing Apartment Complexes, villa home or Chinese housing. The first two are more close to western standard of living, thus they are more expensive than the traditional Chinese housing. Most of apartments have one or two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and bathroom. Chinese apartments usually furnished. Typical drawbacks include unreliable plumbing and wiring, some places don't run hot water 24 hours. You can have Chinese real estate agent to help with apartments hunting, the commission usually is half to one month of the rent. Normally the landlord will ask for two to six months advance rent payments as well as security deposit. Beware some landlords will ask for rents paid in U.S. dollars. Knowing what you are getting into before you sign the contract. Built in closet is uncommon, mostly are wardrobes. Floors are usually concrete, although some apartments (specially provide for foreign teachers) have carpet and linoleum. The living condition can be varied throughout the country depending on where you are located.

Keep in mind that 80 percent of public toilets in China are traditional asian style (squat) and do not have toilet papers, also water is unsafe (always have hand sanitizer and tissue with you). Sometimes you even have to pay for using restroom in a rural area.

Electricity & Water
Electricity in China runs on 220V, 50 cycles AC. Two-pin sockets and some three-pin sockets are in use. Most of the hotels have a socket in the bathroom for using both 110V and 220V. While outside of the bathroom, only 220V socket is provided. Tap water is not safe in China, people usually boil the water or you can simply buy bottled mineral water for around 3 yuan.

Paying Bills
Paying utility bills can be hassle in China. Utility company do not mail monthly invoices to subscribers, instead, users have to collect and pay their bills at designated utility offices. However, in major cities, China Construction Bank has provided automatic transfer payment services for monthly phone, rental, and utility bills. In addition to that, China Merchants Bank provides phone payments services as well. Often, tenants simply give their bills along with payment to their landlords. This is the easiest method. You are charged according to how much you use.

The commonly use currency in China is Renminbi - RMB which is issued by the People's Bank of China. Travelers check and foreign currency can be exchanged at hotels, banks and airports. Major credit cards are accepted in the major retail stores or department stores, however, it is not always accepted for the purchase of rail and air tickets. Traveler's checks may be cashed at some tourist-oriented businesses or at the international tourist hotels. It is good idea to keep your currency exchange receipts for the future reference when you exchange the currency from RMB to your country's currency. Also, keep in mind Foreigners may only carry RMB 6000 yuan at the time of their entrance into or departure from the country.

Business Hours
Normally working hours are from 8a.m to 5p.m with one hour lunch break. Most of government offices or schools do not open on Saturday and Sunday while hospital, postal offices, banks, monuments or museums usually open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Many restaurants are close relatively late, around 11p.m. or 12 a.m. weekend is even longer. Lots of 24-7 Convenient stores can be seen in the major cities.

Go to the top


Adjusting to a total different cultural environment is not easy, so be prepared to get sick here if you have low immune system. So expect it, it won't be so depressing. You will almost certainly get sick several times over your first few months in China. This is due to several reasons. First, you're in a new place and your body is adjusting to all sorts of new conditions. Second, no matter how you try to avoid it, you will probably eat something that disagrees with you. Third, if you are going to be a teacher of kindergarten or elementary school, you'll be exposed to dozens of children everyday, carrying germs and viruses that are new to your immune system. Fourth, air pollution is severe in China, so it will take some time to build up the proper defenses. This happens to new teachers all the time in China. Don't worry - you will get better. If you need medicine, in major cities like Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, there are all kinds of small pharmacies, with both Western and Chinese medicines. There are also some larger chain-stores (like Wastons) that are like "drug stores" or "chemist's" back home. Some of prescription drugs are quite difficult to get in the smaller cities, you might arrange to have them sent from your country regularly while in China.

Common Problems
Most of regions in China are hot and humid in summer. Your skin might feel irritated with all the dirty and polluted air. There are several steps that can be taken to avoid these problems. Frequent bathing, making sure to thoroughly dry yourself after bathing and the use of baby powder or other drying powders can significantly decrease the risk of these kinds of irritation. Medicinal creams of various sorts are also commonly available for combating these irritation should they occur. Be careful with your health, take care of colds when you get them, and if you smoke, quit or cut down. Throat irritations are also common as teachers depend heavily on, and sometimes over-use their voices.

Everyone has their own ideas about the use and efficacy of vitamins and other food supplements. In general though, it probably can't hurt, and the use of vitamins may help you fight off colds and generally stay healthier in this new environment where your body will be under new stresses. If you take vitamins, or plan to take vitamins while here, it's not a bad idea to stock up before coming. Suggested vitamins are C, E and zinc for general maintenance of the immune system, and Echidnae for fighting off colds and flu when they threaten. Other vitamins are a matter of personal choice, and it may be worthwhile doing some of your own research on this subject.

Western Toiletries
Pharmacies and western toiletries are available in big cities, but the brands are quite limited. Sanitary towels, tampons, infusion shampoo and conditioner are not widely available in China. Here, they have Renu, Pantene, and Herbal Essence, etc. If you are brand specific, it is good idea to pack some before the trip and also more cost efficiency. Other items to consider: dental floss, deodorant, hair products, facial cream, anti-bacterial gel, bug spray with feet (Cutters or Off) and anti-itch cream (lots of mosquitoes). Medicine (Tylenol, cold medication, anti-diarrhea, Cipro, cough syrup, etc).

Medical Exam
To obtain an employment certificate, you will have to take a medical exam at the government assigned hospitals or clinics with the hospital's stamps on the Physical Examination Record for Foreigner form. Most of the times, the employer will take you to the exam. The residency status medical exam includes a check for sexually transmitted diseases, a chest X-ray, a vision exam, an EDG and a general health Q&A. Blood is drawn using a disposable syringe, unwrapped in front of you.

No special vaccinations are required. However, inoculations for Hepatitis A and B, Tetnus/DT, and Cholera are recommended. If you do not have enough time to get all of the injections before coming to China, you can either bring the vaccine for the remaining injections with you and have a doctor here administer it or get them here for less money, just make sure gamma globulin you get is imported. Talk to your doctor regarding transportation and storage of the vaccine.

Go to the top


Dress Code
The dress code for teaching is quite casual, but there are certain basic requirements that must be met. Teachers cannot wear shorts or open toed shoes while teaching. Any long pants, including jeans are fine, though cotton pants would be much more comfortable in the hot weather. Skirts (for women) are acceptable as long as they are not too short. T-shirts are also acceptable. The overall image of the teachers should be clean and presentable at all times, so pants or shirts with holes in them are not acceptable.

The clothes in China are smaller than those in western country. The clothes are cheap here but if you have a large build, you may have trouble finding clothes in your size. A size XL T-shirt in China is smaller than a large in Canada or the U.S. It's easy to buy shoes because they're cheap in China, but it is difficult to find size 11 or larger.

Go to the top


Historically, pork(zhurou)was the most popular meat, followed by chicken (jirou)and beef(niurou). Fish is also popular. A host of culinary exotica makes its way onto tables in China , including tortoise, sea snails, snakes, bear paws, cicadas, scorpions, and rats. If you are presented with a menu exclusively in Chinese, one way to avoid these is to look at the prices; exotic food tends to be more expensive. Dog meat (gourou)is also eaten, especially in the colder winter months.

Vegetable and Fruit
Vegetables were traditionally served in greater abundance than meat for economic reasons, although this is changing. Popular vegetables include Chinese cabbage, spinach and potatoes. Apples, oranges and tangerines, bananas, pears, watermelons, and grapes are seasonal. Tofu is eaten for its versatility and as a meat substitute. Rice accompanies most meals, usually in small bowls. Peanuts are often served at the start of a meal and feature in a range of dishes. Watermelon seeds are also widely eaten, and pistachios and cashew nuts can be found in most shops and supermarket.

Fast food chain has strong foothold in China, those stores including, McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Domino's Pizza, and Pizza Hut. Prices are relatively cheap than those in Western countries but quite expensive compared to Chinese food alternatives. Up market diners will find a number of good steakhouse, Thai, Italian, Mexican and French restaurants.

Many traditional markets still can be seen in the streets. The produce and meat are relatively fresh, but sometimes, the price can be more expensive than those in supermarkets. Some supermarkets even carry imported meats, cheeses and wines. There are few amount of western foods grocery stores in China, there you can find most kinds of western foods, such as spaghetti, cream soup, etc.

Those enjoy different kind of cousins will find a bounty of dishes to discover. From cafeteria-style 'lunch box' eateries and dumpling and noodle shops to night markets and street vendors featuring all manners of nutrition. The choices are plentiful.

Many vegetarian restaurants can be found on the streets. It serves all kind of vegetables but most of them are Chinese flavor oriented. The price is variance over the places and location. But do not worry, you will find your favorite veggie either in the traditional market or supermarket. In the food stands you can find tofu, bean and other vegetarian centric-meals abound. For most vegetarians currently living in China, the words 'bu yao rou' (I don't want meat) are a daily utterance. One warning for those who are strict in their avoidance of meat: many restaurants use pork lard in place of vegetable oil when frying. Strict vegetarians can find completely animal-product free food at vegetarian restaurants, which are easily distinguished by the inverted swastika displayed out front.

Regional Cuisine
Four groups divide the major atlas of cuisines: northern, southern, eastern and western. Beijing and Shandong typify northern cooking, embracing salty flavors and wheat-based staples. Pork-filled dumpling, dipped in soy sauce and rice vinegar, are enormously popular, as are noodles and stead bread. The most famous Beijing dish is Peking duck. A rich preparation of oily duck flesh, plum sauce, and onion, which you eat, rolled into a wafer-thin pancake.

Stir-frying is the hallmark of southern Cantonese cooling, along with boiling and steaming. Lightly fried dim sum snacks and pastries are wheeled around restaurants, served on plates and steamers. Chaozhou cuisine, another southern style, is sweet and based on seafood.

Eastern cooking is typified by Shanghai cuisine, reveling in soups and seafood. Quite oily. Sichuan , the heartland of western Chinese cooking, introduces a galaxy of searing dishes. In Sichuan cooking, an idiosyncratic herb called chuancai numbs the mouth, while the rest of the herbs and spices blister the taste buds. Famous Sichuan dishes include suancaiyu, a pickled vegetable and fish soup.

Go to the top


Keeping in touch with the folks back home is not a problem, as long as they're on-line. Internet cafe is a very popular place for the people who love internet or PC games but do not have own computer. Many internet cafes have high speed broadband connection and latest software. At a department store or China Telecom office you can surf the net, send and receive email for an hourly fee. For those do not feel like to fight with traffic or like to have privacy while surfing the net, can purchase PC with fairly amount of money in the computer mall at the provincial capital or larger cities. It is also good idea to bring your own laptop with you to China, but keep in mind, parts and maintenance for some laptops are not easily available in China, and sometimes not available at all.

Standard telephone connections and DSL or ISDN lines are also available in major cities. China telecom, the state monopoly telephone system, offers standard phone connections for about 6 yuan per hour plus local telephone charge, so total costs usually come to about 10 yuan per hour. ISDN service has two options, you can run 64 kb/s for 2 yuan per hour plus local phone charge (normally 8 mao-8 cents/min) or 128 kb/s for the same internet fee but the local phone charge is double. The rate is cheaper in the nights and holiday. The charge is varied among providers and regions. In either case, there will be set-up and installation fees on top of this. The installation and set up fee is around RMB 2000 for ISDN. 1000 yuan is deposit and is refundable when the account is close. The set up fee for phone connection can be ranged from RMB 200 to 1500. Recently, with the privatization of much of the telecommunications industry in China, competing companies have been sprouting up that offer various package deals for Internet access. A little bit of research once you arrive will allow you to find the best deal.

Oversea Calls
On the private phone, directly dialing is available as "00-(country code)-(area code)-(telephone number)". You can also use IC or IDD 200 cards to make directly international calls at the private and public phones. The rate is cheaper during holiday and off peak time, usually before 7 a.m. for 9 yuan per minute to most of countries, otherwise it normally costs 18 yuan. The rates do vary from country to country, you can find out the current rates in the city main post office. AT&T USA Direct Service is also available from most of public phones in China by dialing 10811. You can simply pick up the handset of most public phone and dial the access number with no need to insert a phone card or coin, wait a few seconds and you will be connected to AT&T USA Direct Service. Use your AT&T calling card or call collect - easy and fast.

Domestic Long Distance
These calls may be made on private phones or pay phones directly, or through the telephone bureau.

Public Pay Phones
Most public telephones in China are IC telephones. Generally IC telephone cards are available in amount of 20 RMB, 30 RMB, 50 RMB and 100 RMB. The rate for local call is 0.20 RMB/3 minutes while a call exceeding 3 minutes is charged 0.10 RMB per 6 seconds for the extra. Long distance call rate varies according to the distance. Emergency calls 112 (weather), 119(fire), 120 (hospital), 110 (police) are free and require no phone cards. IC card is solely issued by China Telecom.

Cell Phones
The rate for cell phone tends to be expensive in China. Only 13 percent of population have cell phones. Also the company charges both incoming and outgoing calls. The standard rate is RMB 0.30 per minute. You can also purchase GSM SIM card with no requirement for any document for RMB 100 and prepaid charging card in amount of 50 RMB and 100 RMB are available in post offices, stores and newsstands.

Go to the top


In major cities, buses, trains, subway, and taxis are available everywhere. There are 6 types of trains in China, some are for long distance travel while the others are recommended for traveling within the cities. Train tickets can be purchased at the hotel, ticket boxes, the office of planning & coordination, or travel agencies near the train station. Bus is good choice to get around within the city, information sheet for bus services can be picked up at the hotel, or bus station. Subway is good alternative, there are two lines, a belt line and east-west line. The fare is 2 yuan for each station and the trains arrive every 10 minutes. If you prefer taxi, make sure the taxi has a meter system and it is turned on and off appropriately because the taxi drivers tend to overcharge the fare.

Go to the top

Avoid Such Items

Some items are restricted to bring to China, such as, gun, arms, imitation arms, ammunition, explosives of all kinds, dealy poison of all kinds, handcuffs, drugs, meat, plants, food or medicines that come from epidemic-stricken areas or those easy to spread the disease. Some forms of media that are detrimetal to the political, economic, cultural and ethic of China, may not bring to China as well.

Go to the top