My husband and I are a big fan of two things: making big, life-altering changes in our lives, and making lists to do so. Our decision to move to china came on the heels of our wedding (our flight out is exactly 5 weeks after we returned from our honeymoon).
Once we put our efforts towards making this change, things happened very fast. This worked very well for us, as we are not the type of people to waste time once we’ve made a decision. However, if you think you might need more time, be sure to keep this in mind when you begin the process.
1. Get a Job
Getting a job in China should be your first step, and many foreigners start as English teachers for a reason. Many of these jobs in China have a variety of benefits to help you in your move, including airfare reimbursement, work visas, holiday pay, apartment, working hours, salary, and possibly others. These benefits will vary and be completely dependent on the company you choose to work with. (Subscribe to read the upcoming ‘How to Get a Job in China’ for more details.)
Once you’ve chosen a job, stay in close contact, and don’t ever be afraid to ask questions. We were delighted to find that our new boss was incredibly helpful, brutally honest, and willing to answer every question I have pelted her with over the past couple weeks. The key here is once you are hired, your company will want your transition to be as easy as possible, so don’t be afraid to voice your concerns.
2. Financial: banking, bills, & budgeting
Examine your bank account. In china, you will be getting a Chinese bank account, and there will likely be few opportunities to use your local debit or credit card. When I asked my bank about inactivity fees, they told me I would have to use my card to withdraw money at least 10 times a month(either on the phone or in person – online transactions do not count) or I would be charged a fee. While this was never an issue before, this would be a serious problem when I stop using my card for daily transactions. Look for a bank account that has inactivity fees you can work with…or better yet, no inactivity fees at all. My new bank account requires any activity over a six-month period…and deposits count.
If you have any bills you intend to continue paying while abroad (such as loans), total up your monthly amount and keep that number saved with your budget. If you have those bills coming out of your account automatically, you need to make sure you are depositing enough into your home country’s account for those transactions to go through.
This step will depend completely on the company you will be working for, so be sure to ask them what they need from you, and what you need to do on your own time to get the visa together.
Since we are moving to China quickly, we are getting our tourist visa first, then completing our work visa and residence permit after a few months.
Yes, moving to a country where they don’t speak your local language is both daunting and scary, but you can get by on expression and universal gestures alone.
If you do wish to start learning Mandarin Chinese (which I recommend – this is the best opportunity to become fluent in another language), first decide your language goals. Do you want to be able to communicate? Are you looking to find a (non-teaching) job that requires Mandarin after a few years?
As far as learning software is concerned, I recommend starting off with Rocket Languages: Chinese. Not only does it teach the language, it will supplement that with grammar, culture, and even basic Chinese characters. Best of all, it is an affordable price (and you’ll want to save up the bulk of your money for the plane tickets anyway).
5. Leaving home
Remember, when you first go to China, you will be moving there with about one backpack and one suitcase (unless you are willing to spring for the cost of a second checked luggage). Look around your home. It is likely you own a lot more things than that, and some tough decisions will have to be made.
My husband and I broke our stuff into five categories:
- Items to bring to China: Clothes, toothbrush, notebooks…there are many articles out there detailing items you should bring to China.
- Items to sell: This includes items that are worth a bit of money, but cannot be put into a suitcase (for us, it was our desktop computer, Xbox, and television).
- Items to give away to friends or donate: We plan to show our friends everything we wish to donate, and give them “free rein” to take anything they want. Everything else goes to Goodwill, or another donation center.
- Items to get rid of (trash): This includes those items you still own, but that aren’t in good enough condition to donate.
- Items to put into storage: This includes large decor pieces, books, and one-of-a-kind sentimental items.
You should be getting close to leaving now! Remember to pay your last bills (such as rent) and cancel services (such as internet).
Don’t forget to tell your friends and family! This can be done at anytime during the process, when you are comfortable with your community knowing the fact you are “leaving”, possibly for years. Remember, the term “Facebook official” was coined for a reason. Once its been announced on there, everyone and their mother will find out. Use this power carefully.
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