Category Archives: Uncategorized

Renting an Apartment in China

Renting an apartment in China is actually a lot simplier than in a lot of Western countries. Typically, they will not bother with references or proof of employment. It’s as simple as agreeing on a price, signing the contract, then paying the deposit, agent free, and first month of rent. However, complications can occur, so it’s good to have a detailed understanding of the whole process, which I will provide here.

Apartments in China

Apartments in China

Firstly, when you find an apartment to rent, you need to pay 2 month’s deposit, 1 month in advance, and half a month as commission to the agent (the owner pays the other half). That’s a total cost of three and a half month’s rent upfront, so do make sure you have enough money. To live in a nice apartment (60sqm) in a safe, convenient location in a first-tier city (e.g. Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou), you’ll be paying at least 4,000RMB a month. Unfortunately, rents and property prices have skyrocketed in recent times, but salaries have not. If you don’t mind living 20 or 30 minutes from the CBD, you can find a nice enough place for around 2,500RMB in a first tier city. Second and third tier cities are a lot cheaper. You will probably want an apartment with a western style toilet as opposed to the more common squat toilet, this can really retrict your search especially in second and third tier cities where the majority of apartments have squat toilets.


Most new-arrivals use property agents introduced to them by their employer. Some agents will find any excuse to rush you into renting an apartment as quickly as possible and will only show you particular buildings. Continue reading

China Work Visa Requirements

The basic requirements for a Chinese work visa for teaching, as of 2014, are as follows:

  • Bachelor degree
  • TEFL Certificate
  • 2 years relevant work experience
  • Reference from your most recent employer (with company stamp)
  • Age between 18-65

You need to meet these requirements in order to get an official invitation from the State Administration of Foreign Experts (SAFEA).

If You Don’t Meet The Requirements for a Chinese Work Visa

Here I will discuss commonly used method of those who do not meet the requirements. Some such methods are legal, whilst others are illegal and for education purposes only.

It’s worth noting that even if your application gets rejected by SAFEA in one province, they’ll tell you the reason and you may still apply in another province and get accepted, so you do have more than one chance. The enforcement of policies is inconsistent between different cities and provinces. Big cities such as Shanghai are very strict, whereas rural regions are a lot more flexible.

1. Without A Bachelor Degree

You can do some short-term, cultural exchange work on an F-visa where a degree is not required. On this visa, you can get paid for your expenses but you are not allowed to receive a salary. This means they may cover your expenses of living in China, but they cannot actually pay you a salary for services rendered. In previous years, people without degrees would simply keep renewing their F-visa – this is no longer possible.

Many people want to work in China long-term, and do not have the time and money to pursue a degree from a reputable academic institution. Such people sometimes turn to unaccredited educational institutions which offer degrees over the Internet. These “degree mills”, as they are known, hand out degrees for little more than a payment. There are numerous accounts of people who have used degree mills, subsequently gaining employment and being granted a work visa. However, in 2014 there has been a major crackdown and teachers who had been previously granted a visa based on a questionable degree certificates are now being sent home.

2. TEFL Certificate

If you don’t have a TEFL certificate, you can do a 2 week accredited course online and you will have no problem. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and for those who are pressed for time and money, I would highly recommend it. Online courses are sometimes criticized for their lack of a classroom component. Ironically, this criticism almost always comes from people who have done a course which has classroom component! In practice, the missing classroom component is quickly compensated for after you get some experience – this is understood and recognized by most employers.

If you want a more highly regarded qualification, you can do a CELTA. The CELTA is rather expensive and a lot more intense than an online course. It has a classroom component and will better prepare you for teaching. Some large language centers prefer a teacher who has a CELTA, so it may give you a bit of an edge in job hunting. If you’re on a budget but still want a well-recognized TEFL certificate, the Trinity’s Cert. TESOL is equivalent to the CELTA and a lot cheaper.

3. 2 Years Of Relevant Work Experience

Without two years of experience you can’t get a work permit. If you’re not a teacher in your home country this can seem like a tough obstacle to overcome. A great way to deal with this is to volunteer as a teaching assistant / tutor. You could volunteer to work part-time at a local school or language center. For example, you may find a local language center and do a couple of hours there each Saturday afternoon. Simply explain to them at the beginning that you’d love to help out at their center and get some teaching experience.

In practice, there are a large number of ESL teachers who don’t put in the effort to get experience and instead put fake work experience on their CV. This is fraud and not recommended.

4. Letter of Reference

All you need is a letter from an educational company, on the company stationary with signature and company stamp (very important), saying that you did some teaching and performed well. The best way to do this would be to do some work at a center or school for a few months and get them to write a letter of reference for you.

The Pitfalls of Going to Hospital in China

chinese hospitalEntering a Chinese hospital is entering a money-making machine designed to extract money from the sick. They see your illness as nothing more than an opportunity to make money. Treatment is directed according to how much they can profit rather than how useful (or even harmful) it is for the patient. For practically any illness, no matter how minor, the doctor will prescribe around five different medicines including antibiotics. If your symptoms are more than mild, they will try to put you on a drip. A minor ailment can turn into an expensive and time consuming misadventure. This madness is due to the Chinese medical system and the ridiculously low consultation fees doctors are paid due to government controls. Doctors are typically paid less than 1 USD per consultation, barely even a living and not enough to support a family in modern China. So doctors need to make money through kickbacks, usually taking the form of superfluous antibiotics, IV’s and diagnostics. It is overt corruption and few Chinese people seem to question it. Therefore, it’s not about to change anytime soon, and if you’re living in China you need to know how to deal with it. Here I’ll explain how to see a doctor without getting cheated. Continue reading

Why China’s New Rich are Uncivilized

uncivilized behaviourWhen I first visited Hong Kong it was during the height of the financial crisis. The economy was on a downward spiral and cash was tight. You can imagine how astonished I was to see long queues outside of several high-end retail outlets, such as LV and Gucci. Upon closer inspection, I noticed many of these ladies had large cases with them and were speaking mandarin, but local Hong Kong people speak Cantonese, not Mandarin. It was obvious that these were mainland Chinese ladies (know as “taitai”, part of China’s new rich) visiting Hong Kong on a mission to shop. Continue reading

Guide to Buying Electronics in China – 5 Things you need to know

buying electronics in china

typical computer market in China

As a computer enthusiast one of the coolest things about living in China is the availability of cheap electronics. I quickly dived in and started buying USB gadgets, external hard-drives and everything I thought I needed. I soon got a nasty surprise when some of these products didn’t work as expected (or didn’t work at all). I discovered that buying electronics in China can be a minefield, but with a bit of knowledge you can save yourself a lot of trouble. Here are the 5 things you need to know when buying electronics in China.

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The Great Gender Imbalance of China

China's future

China’s future

Everyone has heard of China’s single Child policy, but not everyone has seen what the resulting gender imbalance looks like in reality. During my recent visits to the supermarket, I made a point of comparing the number of baby boys to baby girls. I was astonished that every time I observed at least 80% boys! I couldn’t believe that China’s gender imbalance could be so extreme, so I asked a number of friends who live nearby. They confirmed what I had seen – a ridiculously disproportionate number of boys. Of course such an extreme proportion is not representative of the whole of China; the official statistic from 2012 is 117.7 newborn boys for every 100 girls, which is still high. Lets now look at exactly WHY there are so many boys, and why the city in which I live appears to have many more than then natural average. Continue reading