Life in China - Adapting to Life in China - Continued | Aston Recruiting
Life in China - Adapting to Life in China - Continued
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Adapting to Life in China - Part 2

Datong Teacher Apartment BuildingOutside of Aston schools there aren't many places where smoking isn't allowed. Don't be surprised if you see people smoking in restaurants or even in elevators. Most men in China smoke and it's considered polite to offer cigarettes when meeting.

Chinese buildings do not have elevators if they are 7 floors or less. There are few rules governing access so if your apartment is on the 7th floor expect to get some exercise every day. In many cities apartment blocks have a security guard/night watchman, and as with the vast majority of China are very safe. Note that in the city of Xi’an many of the apartment buildings are locked as early as 11pm, while in the rest of China you will have independent and unlimited access 24 hours a day.

While most apartments are well appointed the exterior of the buildings and the stairwells are not considered important. It's a little disconcerting when you first arrive and see dirty stairwells but don't think the apartments are comparable. Household trash is often left in the stairwell for the maintenance person to collect or you may just drop it on the corner on your way out.

For regular communication with home, most people rely on the Internet which is available everywhere. With the advent of SKYPE and other similar online communication programs, staying in touch with family and friends back home is basically free and extremely convenient. The old IP card system is a thing of the past.

Aston Schools do their best to help you adjust to living in China and there is always someone around the school available to show you the best areas for shopping, sightseeing, or relaxing. Still, there are several points that you should keep in mind:

What you do on your own time is your business but the social rules and laws of China DO apply to you. Just as in the west, the company is not responsible for you if you break the law or get in trouble. We'll help if we can but don't expect to be treated with kid gloves by the police if you are doing something the Chinese consider unacceptable.

You have to change your own light bulbs. If you need directions to a store to buy light bulbs then we're happy to help but sorry, actually screwing it into the socket and throwing away the old bulb is something we think you can do on your own. (Please don't laugh, this has happened a few times.)

The heating for most Chinese apartments is mediocre to say the least. Forget airtight windows and warm toasty floors, winters in China can be cold. Get used to wearing a sweater at home. Remember that everywhere in the southern half of the country lacks central heating, meaning that temperatures will be similar inside and out.

Yantai Teacher Apartment BuildingSpeaking of utilities here is a rundown of what to expect:

Our teachers currently have utility bills ranging from 70 RMB to 500 RMB depending on their lifestyles. If you run AC consistently during the summer and electric space heaters during the winter, you can expect a relatively high power bill. If you rely on public heating (the steam heat provided by the state) in the winter and an electric fan during the summer, you'll obviously spend less on power.

Winter - Almost all apartments in China north of the Yellow River use radiators which are controlled by the apartment block from a central source fired up on November 15 and turned off on May 5. There are no thermostats in the apartments and the heat will be on for a few hours in the morning and late afternoon. Further south many apartments do not have this type of central heat so the apartments can get cold in winter. While the local population is used to this arrangement foreigners who are used to climate controlled environments may find the weather hard to handle.

Summer - Some apartments have AC and some (older ones) do not. Just as it is with heaters, ACs are expensive to run. A utility bill can go from 20 RMB to 200 RMB very quickly so if you have one in your apartment use it sparingly.

Datong Teacher Apartment LivingroomYear-Round - Be prepared to receive "different" treatment as a foreigner in China. For example, you must register with the police upon arrival. You'll also receive a higher salary, better housing facilities, and have more individual freedom than the average Chinese citizen. Students are aware of this, and extreme tact is necessary when dealing with these issues. The public activities you engage in are very high profile so people notice, remember, and comment on everything you might do. Making a spectacle of yourself is generally a bad idea anywhere, but in China it can have serious repercussions for you and can affect every foreigner in your city. This doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy yourself, only that you should be aware of those around you and their customs as you are in fact a guest in their country.


While the general tone of this page might lean toward the more negative aspects of what you can expect to find in China, keep in mind that the purpose of this page is to prepare you for all the elements of life here. You'll need very little preparation for the good parts, they'll pop up all around you, serendipitous surprises that will make your China experience one that you will find nowhere else on earth - one that you will appreciate and leave you with great stories to tell when you get home.

For more information on teaching in China please email one of our recruiters. Click on their names below to send an email, or speak to them on Skype now if they are online by clicking on the Skype link

Karl Shine
Eugene Joubert
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