Relocation Advice for New Teachers and Teaching Assistants 2009/2010
Introduction A very warm welcome to The British School of Beijing from all of us on the staff. We are looking forward to working with you next year and hope that the following information will be a helpful guide as you prepare for your move to China.
The School The school has 2 campuses, one in Sanlitun in the embassy district of ChaoYang and the other in Shunyi District which is a suburban villa district. You can have your personal mail sent to the following addresses (or to your residential address if you wish â€“ address for that later); The British School of Beijing The British School of Beijing No. 5 Xiliujie Sanlitun Road Shunyi Campus Chaoyang District 9 An Hua Street Beijing 100027 Shunyi District PR China Beijing 101300 PR China Tel: 00 (8610) 8532 3088 Fax: 00 (8610) 8532 3089 Tel: (8610) 8047 3588 Fax (8610) 8047 3599
What to Bring Clothing for Beijing Beijing has a varied climate. Summers are hot and humid, winters are very cold and dry so you may like to bear this in mind when packing. When you arrive in August you will need professional and casual clothing suitable for the hot weather. Most items of clothing can be purchased in Beijing at prices often cheaper than in the UK, although the quality is not always as good. The most notable exceptions are large UK sizes in shoes, clothing and underwear (including hosiery) and stylish swimwear so you may like to bring your own supply if these are items you will need. Tailoring is very cheap here so lots of members of staff have items tailor-made. School Dress Code For school the dress code is very professional. Men wear tailored trousers, dress shirts and ties. Women wear smart work-wear i.e. tailored tops or blouses with skirts or tailored trousers. Leather shoes are worn by all. Sports style clothing and footwear is not permitted (unless you are in part of the PE of course). Casual footwear (trainers, flip-flops etc) is not permitted at work. Hair, makeup and accessories are understated and business-like. In addition, you will need smart, professional work clothes for Parent Consultation Evenings, Open Days, Speech Day and Curriculum Evenings. Most male staff wear a suit and female staff wear a smart dress, trouser suit or separates with jacket for these more formal occasions. Our parent body are professional and welleducated people who have high expectations of their childrenâ€™s teachers, and our choice of dress needs to reflect this.
Attire for Social and Fun School Events
Throughout the year there are several events for which you may like to bring particular clothing: UN day: Staff and children wear clothing to represent their own or an adopted country. Book Week: Staff and children dress as a character from a book. Halloween: The usual Halloween fancy dress costumes are worn. Charity Balls and Dinners: Black tie events (dinner suits and dresses can be tailor-made locally). Speech Day (summer): Smart suits and dresses.
Cosmetics and toiletries
Most basic items can be found in Beijing but can be expensive or poor quality. You may wish to bring the following if you have a favourite brand. Suntan lotion Cosmetics Mosquito repellent Spray deodorant Baby/child medicines Nappy cream Colic drops Vicks Vapour Rub and Lemsip Travel sickness tablets Products for very dry skin/eczema Tampons Preferred painkillers (Tylenol etc) – particularly for babies and toddlers. Multi-vitamins etc Basic medicines (e.g. pain-killers, Imodium, anti-histamines, insect bite cream, antiseptic cream) Facial moisturiser (many here have skin whiteners in) Hair styling products
Food: In Beijing there are many excellent restaurants to suit all budgets, which serve international cuisine to local Chinese dishes (which can be ridiculously cheap!). It can often be cheaper to eat out than to cook. Weekly grocery shopping bills are about the same as in the UK if you shop at the convenient one-stop-shop western-style stores (ie Jeni-Lou’s, Carrefour) but less if you visit markets and local stores. Many Western food brands are available in the international supermarkets in Beijing. However some items that existing staff say they have missed include: English teabags (PG Tips, Tetley) Pickles Marmite Gravy granules So if you can’t live without these items you might like to squeeze them into your suitcase! Home delivery is available from most western supermarkets and many restaurants. www.localnoodles.com Electrical Items: Most electrical items can be bought locally and are usually cheaper than in the UK. However
you may like to bring a couple of universal plug adaptors to use when you first arrive. Computer equipment can easily be bought locally but the quality cannot be guaranteed. http://www.johnson.net.cn Staff who have brought a laptop with them as hand luggage have not had to pay import duty as long as its value is stated as less than the 5000RMB on the entry form.
Bedding and Household Items
Ikea is the most convenient store for newly arrived staff and we will organise a trip there for you in your first few days. Duvets, sheets, blankets and other bedding are all available here to buy, and indeed the basics for summer weather will be in your accommodation when you arrive. Specialist kitchen equipment (espresso makers, bread makers etc) can be expensive and/or poor quality however. Mobile Phones: Most staff bring their UK mobile with them and put in a China Mobile card for use here – check you are able to do this with your phone before you leave however. Pay-as-you-go cards can be purchased easily in supermarkets to add calling credit. Mobile calls are very inexpensive here. Many staff use the Skype web service to call home to loved ones overseas. Teaching Resources: You will find it useful to bring a few of your own teaching resources appropriate to the year group you will be teaching. Please email a member of staff in your year group team or HoS for advice. Photographs: You will need a number of passport photographs when you arrive for various forms and identification cards etc so it is worth bringing a stack of these (about 20). They can be done in Beijing but you may not want the hassle of organising this in your first few days. On a number of occasions throughout the year staff have been asked to provide photographs of themselves when they were younger both for curriculum and fun events, so if you have any available this may be worth bringing. The same applies to your children if you are bringing dependents with you.
Shipping Belongings Many staff bring a small amount of belongings with them to China, but often others (especially families) have a shipment sent from the UK as they wish to bring more out with them. The following are companies recommended by expats in China - Allied Pickfords, Santa Fe, Kings Movers International. We recommend that you secure the services of a door-to-door shipper as they will be able to get your belongings through Chinese customs with the minimum of fuss and inconvenience. Once teachers have their Expert’s Certificate (arranged by BSB within a few weeks of arriving) then arrangements can be made for customs clearance. Customs clearance without an Expert’s Certificate is often not possible, and so shipments should be timed to arrive here after staff have arrived, as storage in customs can be expensive. International shipping companies will be able to offer up-to-date and exact advice on shipping household items to China.
Health Precautions Although no inoculations are currently required for entry into China, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Tetanus, Rabies and Japanese Encephalitis (in May each year) vaccines are recommended. The school’s current health insurer, BUPA, does cover us for vaccinations however, but you may wish to play it safe and have all completed prior to your arrival. Please check with your local clinic for the most current recommendations as soon as possible to allow time for you to have the full course of injections if needed. This is not a malarial area, however there are mosquitoes. We recommend all staff use bottled water for cooking and drinking.
Teaching staff are covered by our school insurance plan, which is paid for by the school (dependents can be added by staff members for a fee). This BUPA medical insurance is fully comprehensive. Dentistry is not included but the local Chinese dentistry service is very good and is cheaper than the UK. Optometry is also not included but similarly you can have your eyes tested and glasses made here relatively cheaply. Pharmacies are well stocked but if you require regular medication it would be wise for you to bring it with you. Alternatively ask your doctor to write the generic name before you leave, as the brand name here may be different. Excellent western standard medical care with foreign trained/experienced doctors and specialists is available, and hospitals and clinics are located near both campuses (and elsewhere). www.unitedfamilyhospitals.com (hospital in Lido area and a full clinic and dentist in Shunyi) www.internationalsos.com (hospital and dentist near Sanlitun campus). We recommend that all teachers and TAS come to China with a credit card in their name for emergencies. Also a credit card allows staff to register at their local doctor’s office/hospital and use the school’s health insurance’s direct billing (the credit card details are taken when you first register and then if any aspect of your care isn’t covered by the insurance i.e. non-emergency dental bills or some out-patient prescriptions, then the amount is charged to your credit card). Without this credit card deposit a good deal of paperwork has to be completed making trips to the doctor more onerous.
When You Arrive You will be met at the airport and taken to your accommodation by bus. You have to visit the police station within 24 hours of your arrival in China in order to register your residence. This will be handled by the agent who picks you up, and will happen in the afternoon of your arrival, or the next morning, depending on your arrival time*. A welcome pack will be provided in your accommodation that will include bedding, towels, some basic kitchen items and local information. Also included will be useful contact details for your housing agents and school staff, should you have any queries or problems. Essential food items and bottled water will also be waiting for you, however you will need to go grocery shopping in the first day or so. We will organise for a member of staff to meet up with you and take you to Ikea and a local supermarket in the first day or so to get you stocked up and settled in. The first 3 days will be induction for new staff only and then the following week will be induction/training for all staff. (*NOTE: You should be aware that you have to register with the police every time that you come back to China, even if you leave the country for only a few days. Just let the agent have your passport(s), and she can sort this out without you being present, and with no charge to you. You should further be aware that any guests you have from abroad should also register with the police within 24 hours of arriving. It is normally unlikely that their papers with be examined by the police (a lot of old-timers do not bother with this, and our papers, and those of our guests have never been examined), but if your guests are found not to have the correct papers, they will be taken to a police station and held until the correct papers can be obtained. Since getting the correct documentation is so easy (again through the agent, for 50rmb per person), it seems silly to risk it. There is usually higher security throughout the country at sensitive times, such as when the Olympics were on, or at the time of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic in October last year.)
Accommodation The school will provide you with a modern, furnished apartment usually including a TV, washing machine, fridge/freezer etc. Rent will be paid by the school but staff are responsible for their own utilities (water, gas and telephone bill, etc – all can be paid through the management office of your housing compound). All accommodation is equipped with a private telephone line. However, to call overseas directly can be expensive. We advise using an IP card (which will be provided in your welcome pack on arrival in your accommodation) or using an internet based telephone service such as ‘Skype’. Internet services are available in all apartments but this may need to be arranged after arrival (talk to your housing agent in the first few days). In the meantime you can use the school facilities. Jinkalong supermarkets and Ikea will have any further household items that you may require.
Salary and Money Your salary will be transferred to a bank account of your choice. You can also choose to have a certain amount of your salary in local currency and the remainder transferred. You will be asked your preference shortly after arrival and this will remain in place for the academic year, after which you can then choose to alter these arrangements. Credit/debit cards can be used in an increasingly number of shops, restaurants and local hotel, but cash is still most widely used. Check banks for an up-to-date conversion for British pounds into RMB. Some UK banks won’t send replacement cards to China so check with your branch that you can conduct your personal banking easily from China (ie Lloyds won’t send cards to China, but Barclays does). Many staff use internet banking very successfully from China. How much do you need to live on? - this of course depends to a large extent on how extravagantly you live. You won’t be paying the rent on your accommodation, but you will have to pay the bills (see above), but these are very low. Eating out goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. You can get a Chinese meal for two for £6 between you, and then you can go to a beautiful restaurant or a hotel, and pay £40 each. Wine is very expensive here (in ordinary restaurants a bottle will start at £13), and of course this pushes the bill up. Beer is usually cheap. Spirits are expensive. Bars also vary considerably in price, and so your expenditure depends on where you go, and how often. The bottom line is that some single people live on less than ¥6,000 a month. In fact, many people who are paid this amount are able to save some of it in order to go travelling. Your day-to-day expenses are going to be in the region of ¥2,000 to ¥3,000 a month. What more you spend depends on you. For couples, if you doubled all the above amounts, you would have more than enough. For families with children and full-time ayis, after school sports etc the costs may be higher.
Local Transport Taxis are readily available and inexpensive. All taxis are metered and you pay what the meter says. Taxidrivers here are some of most honest we have encountered in our travels. They put the meter on straight away, and generally take you from A to B by the shortest route.
Many staff invest in a bicycle, which is a convenient mode of transport in Beijing. It is completely flat here, and most roads have bicycle lanes. People often ask if it worth bringing a bike over from the UK. It really is not, unless you have a very expensive model. You can pick up a ‘sit up and beg’ bicycle for £30, and £100 will buy you a very nice multi-geared model that you can use to fly round the city. You may have heard that bikes are always getting stolen whenever they are left anywhere. This is not true – just make sure you lock it! Buses are extremely cheap (about 8p for almost any journey), but for that reason are usually completely packed – sometimes dangerously so. The underground is also cheap, (16p for any journey), so it can be packed. In addition, the subway system is not extensive, so often there is a long walk either before or after the journey, but it is very clean, safe and reliable. At weekends a driver and car can be hired for family day trips and often staff get together and hire a school bus for cheap day trips into the beautiful countryside for hiking and picnics.
Owning a Car There are organisation here which can help you find, buy and licence a car should you wish to do so. A Chinese driver’s licence is required to drive here and a test must be taken to receive one. www.car-solution.com
House Help Lots of staff employee an ayi (pronounced eye-eee). Although not a necessity, she will be a real help for fulltime employees, and particularly those with children. An ayi will do the cleaning, washing, ironing, organise the payment of bills, care for and babysit children/teens and even cook. Some ayis speak some English and many have experience of caring for western children. Many foreign children’s (and adult’s) Chinese develops quickly as a result of speaking with their ayi. Most ayis are paid 10 -15RMB per hour (paid monthly in cash), depending on experience, duties and level of English. Ask in the staffroom and someone may have a recommendation. There are also agencies through which you can hire an ayi ie www.merryhome.com.cn but many take a hefty fee for doing so. Take time to find an ayi, get references if possible, train them well as they may not clean or cook or babysit “your way”, and do consider writing a simple contract to everyone is clear on the terms and conditions of employment.
Chinese Language Lessons Many staff take Mandarin lessons with either our Chinese staff or a local organisation. Learning some Chinese makes life much easier. Phrase books and booklets of bilingual direction (for taxis drivers) are especially useful. Online lessons are also available so you may be able to get started before you arrive! TAs have Chinese lessons at school twice weekly as part of their contract.
Going out There are plenty of bars in Beijing, but not many cafes. The bars are mostly located around certain areas. The Sanlitun area is one: The area around 3.3 has plenty of bars, many of which stay open late. There are
thousands of them to choose from, and your best bet is to pick a new one every weekend (or whatever) and try it. Look at www.thebeijinger.com and other English-language magazines and talk to your more experienced colleagues for ideas. There are probably more restaurants than bars in Beijing! You could be here for many years, and go to a different restaurant every night. There is every variety of restaurant here, and every kind of price. Amongst our favourites are: • Arabian 1001 - a bit kitsch, and you can see too much of the belly-dancing, but the food’s good, and so is the price $$ • Blue Sky - just up the Sanlitun Road from the school, this is a nice Chinese restaurant. Cheap, but the food’s excellent. The nut salad is a favourite. $ • Korean - just across the road from the Blue Sky. You sit at a table with a grill in the middle, and you cook your own meat and vegetables. There are salads, and savoury cakes. Cheap. $ • Westin Hotel - super posh, but for a boozy Sunday lunch it can’t be beaten. For around 350 Yuan per person, you can have all you can eat and drink. Considering a good bottle of wine can cost you 280 Yuan, this is excellent value. Lovely surroundings. $$$ • Chinese Restaurant at Phoenix - Cheap and Cheerful. With dishes in the 12 - 20 Yuan range, this will never stretch your wallet. Food’s good. $ • Alameda - possibly the best steak I have ever had. Set 2-course meal at 158 Yuan. Wine expensive. $$ • Dadong - Another posh place. It has the reputation of being the best Beijing Roast Duck restaurant in the city. Try it! $$$ • Serve the People - Thai restaurant just around the corner from the Sanlitun campus. Food can be hot. $$ In Shunyi, life is a little quieter but there are many restaurants and several bars which mean we don’t have to travel 20 mins into the city to have a good dinner or lunch out. Most restaurants have children’s playrooms or computers for the kids, but tend to be almost UK prices at time. Lots of places deliver meals for free. Good selection of places to eat (20 plus) which include these popular spots: • Hungry Horse – American style diner $$ • The Blue Frog – great pasta, burgers, cocktails and kids playroom $$$ • The Pomegranate – rustic bar with restaurant. Good for watching sports on TV and sitting in the sun in summertime. $$ • Zatar – Mideast fayre by a lovely lake. $$$ • Schindlers – good deck for summertime beers and great German food too. $$ • South Beauty – lovely Chinese restaurant with funky décor and great food. $$
• Little Italy – solidly good Italian fayre and good wine list. Deliver pizza. $$ • Lemon Tree – cheap and cheerful Chinese fayre in the local village. $ • The Orchard – super Sunday brunch (but open all week) and beautiful lakeside setting. $$$$ • Starbucks, Dominoes, MacDonalds and others too.$ We suggest you do the same with restaurants as with bars, i.e. pick a new one every now and then and go and try it. There are always concerts happening in the city, from Kylie Minogue to Chinese Opera, and almost everything in between. Again, the English-language magazines are your source for all information.
Sports In winter the staff ski and skate, in the spring and autumn hiking and biking is popular, and in the summer heat the pool is the place to be. Most interests are catered for here – from ice fishing to horse riding, and ballet to baseball. There are several football clubs (both 11- and 5-a-side), two rugby clubs, and a hockey and even a cricket club in the city. Many English speaking/expat groups and clubs meet in Beijing, They are easy to join and get in touch with. Swimming pools can be found easily, and there may be one in your compound/ development. There are many activities on offer for children too. DVDs are very cheap, as are CDs. The local English magazines are full of ideas for day and weekend trips and have all the contacts for interest groups. There are a number of gyms around the city, often in the compounds where staff have flats/houses. Phoenix City, for example, has its own gym and indoor pool, which you have to pay for (although some compounds include gym membership in the rent). We have joined another gym, California Fitness, in The Place (a square with some bars and shops down by the Central Business District), and this one is great (although it doesn’t have a pool), with lots of brand new machines, a large free-weights area, and great changing facilities (with sauna and solarium). I recommend it, but there are many others that may be just as good.
Travelling Around China and Beyond Favourite trips for staff have been Xi’an (terracotta warriors) and Ping Yao (ancient walled city) both by nighttrain or plane, visiting the panda and tiger reserves, and in the winter seeing the Ice Festival in Harbin. Travel within China and in the region can be booked locally through numerous travel agents ie www.elong.net. Favourite regional holiday spots include Japan, Thailand and India. We do ask however, that staff ensure that their return to Beijing is sufficiently early from holidays so that school is not inconvenienced by staff members’ unexpected late returns due to cancelled flights, lack of bus tickets etc. We recommend that staff aim to be back in Beijing at least 24 hours before school starts.
Term Dates For your information term dates for 2009-2010 are on the school website -www.britishschool.org.cn If you have any questions then please feel free to contact us;
Stuart Young KS2Co Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile (China): 137 1758 8499
Jane Smith HoP Email: email@example.com Mobile (China): 136 2105 7109
Teaching assistants both campuses Nicola Thompson TACo e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile (China): (86)135 2027 5910
We look forward to seeing you in China in August!