Tag Archives: Teach in Beijing

Traveling and Exploring Your New Home

My Different Life

If I had to sum up my time in China with one word – It would be different! Different from the life I had experienced before; different from the life I had in Africa and different in every place you visit in such a vast country. The sheer size of China makes it almost inevitable that things will not be the same as you travel around its many provinces, but nothing could quite prepare me for the unique, strange and exciting things I would come across in my Chinese adventure.

I was based in Beijing throughout my year teaching English in China, I was lucky that I could travel within and outside the highly populated country extensively. Beijing is a city that is truly at odds with itself. Travelling into the old parts of the city (known locally as the Hutongs) you feel as if you have transported into a distant past. The almost impossibly narrow streets wind their way around the city like an ancient maze; but hidden amongst these cobbled paths are a range of trendy micro-breweries and coffee shops that reveal your first taste of how modernized and western China has allowed itself to be amongst its truly Eastern façade. The range of European designer stores and super cars driving around the CBD shows this ‘new’ China even more; but the past is unescapable here and a visit to the iconic Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and The Great Wall reminds you exactly where you are!Disneyland Hong Kong

One of the first places I visited upon reaching Beijing was of course, The Great Wall of China. There are many different places within Beijing you can go to to experience the Great Wall… I say experience because its not just a place for iconic selfies which appeal to modern tourists but also to actually climb and stop at intervals to enjoy the rich views which consist of nature at its best…trees, hills, sunrises and sunsets. Many tourists don’t know of the various “Great Wall” options and opt to visit the insanely busy “Badaling”; I visited the more beautiful (scenically) and quieter “Mutianyu”.

The other mega city in mainland China is Shanghai, another place that shows the differing sides of China. While Beijing might be the political capital of China; Shanghai is definitely the fashion, social and modern cultural hub. The way the Bund River winds through the city with its unique architecture on either side, is reminiscent of any modern European city. A walk down the riverbank is enough for you to forget exactly which country you are in; though you are soon reminded as soon as you get a whiff of the street markets serving traditional Chinese street food; which do consist of body parts in animals you would rather forget existed, citywide. A 20 minute bullet train ride took me to a smaller, quieter part of China called Suzhou. I woke up to the beautiful serene sight of Jinji lake and spent my days walking around, visiting parks and temples and taking boat rides in Jinji lake exploring other parts of the land and forests. I spent my nights visiting bars and restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed this solo trip.

My Amazing Hong Kong Trip

Disneyland Resort Hong Kong

Taking a short trip of the mainland brings you to Hong Kong and Macau which I enjoyed with a guy I was dating at the time. It is the playground of the rich and hopeful souls trying their luck on the tables of Las Vegas style Casino that line the main strip. While Macau is a place to chance your luck; Hong Kong is a place to celebrate it. It is a spectacular sight to see some of the most powerful financial institutions and hotels in the world line up against the backdrop of the night’s sky. A short trip across the harbor there is an absolute must for anybody traveling to this part of the world.

During my time in China I have had battles with taxi drivers; difficulties with ordering the simplest of items and times. Not one to give up though, I learnt how to navigate my way through the city and jump into taxis and learn the very basic words and phrases to get around and order food!  Being able to order Pizza to my home was a triumphant moment for me!I have also had a unique insight into real Chinese life. I got to know the people and its culture and the many delights it has to offer; this includes their love for “hello kitty”, selfies and occasionally eating a pigs brain in their traditional dish called “Hotpot”. My experience in China is something I will treasure and something I will always take with me in my adventures to come. Apply English teaching jobs

Apartment Hunting in Beijing

Bring More Money

I moved to Beijing to teach English since Jan, 2017 and one of the most challenging parts of moving to a new country is finding a place to live, especially if you don’t speak the language. Beyond that, some cities and countries have different customs when it comes to paying rent than what is common in the USA. In the United States, it is customary to pay a deposit equal to one month’s rent as well as the first month’s rent. Often, you will be expected to pay last month’s rent as well, so the equivalent of about 3 months up front.

Paying Rent in China

In Beijing, China (and I imagine it’s similar for the rest of the country) it is customary to pay three month’s rent at a time, which means that when you rent an apartment, you are expected to pay a deposit, and three month’s rent at once. If you go through an agency, you will have to pay an agency fee as well which is usually equal to one month’s rent, so that’s up to five month’s rent up front when you first move.

My ApartmentOf course, I wasn’t aware of that when I first moved which caused a lot of anxiety when I first got to China.  I wasn’t sure I had enough money since it would be a little over a month before I received my first pay check. As it turned out, there are landlords that are willing to be flexible, but you have to hunt for them.

Agents can be helpful with that if you are willing to pay the agency fee, which my new roommate and I opted to do as we found more agents able to speak some English than landlords. We got very lucky that some agents were willing to postpone payment for the agency fee and found us landlords who were willing to be paid on a monthly basis. This may have been because it was close to Chinese New Year, and agents were desperate to get their commissions before rental prices rose again, but either way, it was helpful to us.

Helpful Agents Are a Blessing

The agents that we ended up getting a lease with were wonderful. They found us a few places within our price range and spent the day taking us around the neighborhood to see them. This was made a lot more exciting by the fact that they took us around the city on their motorbikes, which allowed us a chance to see the neighborhoods in a way we wouldn’t have just riding the subway. I wish I had had a Go-Pro camera to record the motorbike trip as it was the highlight of apartment hunting, but I do have some good pictures of the neighborhood we settled in.

Finding Our Place

Living roomThey showed us two apartments and one traditional style Chinese hutong, all within the same price range. We ended up deciding on the hutong as it was the best commuting distance to both of our centers (about an hour each with public transportation, which in Beijing is about as good as you can expect), and the landlord dropped the price from 8,000 RMB a month to 7,500 RMB. It’s a cute and comfortable little place that we’re happy with, even with the lack of a proper couch. The previous tenant also left behind several useful things, like our shoe rack, food shelves, cubbies, and a full set of Harry Potter books for our enjoyment!

It took a few days to get completely settled in, and after a few months I can say I probably won’t want to live in this apartment forever, but it will be comfortable enough for one year. If I decide to stay in China longer, I now know I will have to save up enough money to pay up to five month’s rent in advance, and then I will have more options open to me. However, I do really like the area that I live in, as there are lots of places to eat and there are not as many skyscrapers so it does not feel so metropolitan all the time. As much as I enjoy big city living, I like that my apartment and neighborhood allows me to feel like I am actually living abroad, rather than in just any other large city.