Travel, Teach, Live in China
Last time I told you about some of the things you should know before coming to China. I want to continue with this just for a little bit. You should have medical insurance, but in the event that you do not, and you get ill while teaching you should know that the school is responsible for paying you 50% of the cost. Anything that is offered to a Chinese teacher must include you as well; it is in Chinese law listed with their government offices. Sometimes the school will not tell you these things, so I suggest you look for some Chinese websites, do a search, to read up on it all. Still, if you do get ill, the hospitals are not so bad, just very crowded, and it is best to find the main hospital because they are more likely to have English speakers.
A few other things you should know, in reference to things the Chinese teachers are given and you should be given as well. During the Spring Festival, they get travel pay, so should you, normally this is around 1200 RMB, please ask about this because if you don't get this, it will go somewhere or to someone. This applies if you have a 12-month contract, and you should also get travel pay during the summer break. Most schools will offer to reimburse your flight to China, again check the amount and do a conversion in your currency to see if it is an acceptable amount.
Normally if you have a 12-month contract, I would say request this reimbursement after your first semester teaching. If you have a 6-month contract or less, I would suggest that you get their agreement to reimburse you upon arrival. I say this because on more then one-occasion teachers have been given the run-around and never get that reimbursement. Not all schools are this unscrupulous, but it is not uncommon to run into this problem. One friend could not get her travel reimbursement because she refused to sign for another year with the school, even though she had fulfilled the original contract. The problem is that you really have no place to go to make a complaint, there are really no laws or legislation to protect your interests.
Ok, let's get back to issues before you accept a job. If you take a job, you should have the work visa before you come. Some schools will tell you it is okay to come on a visitor visa then change, this isn't true, and you are told this when schools cannot actually get the visa for some reason. Some schools do not have the authority to obtain your visa, or they are not approved by the Chinese official department.
So, what do they do?
Well, some rely on their relationships with friends who work at other schools. For example, language school A cannot get the visa, but they have a friend at University B who will apply for a visa for the teacher at school A. The other way that some schools get teachers is the method used in part 1, they ask the University or other school to loan them the teacher for a class or two during the week. They pay school A for the teacher, school A loans you out as part of the contractual hours, but gives you none of the money they have collected from school B. Get it?
So, in the event that you believe someone, and actually go to China without the work visa do not be surprised when they tell you that you must make a trip to HK (at your own expense) and await the visa...so out of the country, apply for the visa, then once you have it come back in. China has changed their rules, they no longer want people to come on a tourist visa and then change it while inside the country. Also, please note that you will be the one paying for all of this. Passports, Teacher Visa or Certification Cards. Even if you have the working visa, you must get the Certificate Card (it looks like a passport book). Normally the school takes your passport and relevant documents to the main Province office to get this, and you will go to the local Police station to get other 'stamps'. It is common for them to have your passport for a week maybe two, but never let them keep it.
Do not let your school or anyone else keep your passport, if they give you some excuse, and a month goes by you need to ask questions and find out where it is. If you have not been given the Teacher Visa/Certificate, ask the school why. You must have this to teach legally in China, and the schools know this. If the school cannot or does not get this for you, then something is not right. Again, if you are new, find other Foreign teachers to ask them what to do. You must also have a physical, it is a simple physical, nothing extreme but you should negotiate with your school that this expense is theirs, not yours. A lot of schools just take it out of your salary without your permission, so get all of this in the contract. The point is, why should you pay for a physical, which is mandatory to teach, when they want you to teach for them...they should pay this. You do have to have this, they check to see if you have any diseases or major illness. Even if you had a physical in your country they will still put you through this.
Now, moving on to other issues to be aware of. Salary or wages. You normally get paid once a month, sometimes you can negotiate being paid every 2 weeks, but negotiate this and get it in the contract. Many schools offer housing on campus, usually this is a private flat, but it depends on availability. Most language schools, primary schools offer housing allowance. Try to find out the average cost of a 1 bedroom flat in the area you are moving to before you accept the amount they offer, it should be sufficient to cover the rent and help pay the bills. Ask the school if they pay any of the bills, both for housing they offer or if they give you housing allowance. Sometimes even if you have a flat on campus you end up paying some of the bills.....silly right? You need to ask, again get details in your contract. If you are given housing allowance, ask if they help you find the apartment. You cannot legally sign a contract to rent a flat, a Chinese person must sign.
Now for even more strange information. Keep in mind that the minute the owner knows a Foreigner wants to rent, a few things can happen. First, they will want you to pay a year in advance. Then they will ask for an unreasonable amount for deposit, in the event that the year rental advance wasn't unreasonable enough. Please do not give them that much money. Refuse to give a year of rental, if the owner will not negotiate then you need to find another flat. I refused this, and negotiated 3 months rent in advance, deposit was half a month's rent, and signed only a 6-month contract. If you give them all the money, things in your flat mysteriously never get fixed. Still, the school should be sorting ALL of this for you, negotiating your terms, not theirs. You have to understand that sometimes people negotiate things that you do not know, mostly because they have some sort of friendship, so demand that the contract be in Chinese and English. Save copies of both, and when you have a moment, let a different Chinese friend read through the contract. For some strange reason, because you are the Foreigner, some owners think they have the right to your furniture when you leave the flat....seriously, and I have seen them do some questionable things.
Again, the school should be sorting all of this for you...just be aware of the agreements being made, most are at your expense in some way. Make sure you know how much you are paying for any bills, like water, gas and electric, and other incidentals like building maintenance. Now, just a friendly piece of advice, if the school arranges your flat for you, as opposed to giving you an allowance, make sure you understand everything that is included and what you have to pay for. Also, if the flat is dirty or the furniture inside needs replacement, either request that they clean the flat before you move in, and replace the furniture. They hesitate to do anything, and normally (unlike western countries) the owners do not clean the flats prior to renting to someone. Please note that when I say 'request', that doesn't mean to demand, ask them in a friendly manner or they will think you are too difficult. Please don't lose your temper in front of them, always stay calm.
The other thing you should get clear is transportation. If you are teaching at a language school, they sometimes loan you out to, or have you teach at several different places. Get the details on how you will travel to the other schools, and ask for a travel allowance. Many foreigners get bicycles or scooters, electric scooters do not need to be registered and are convenient, although it does take a little time to get comfortable driving in the traffic...but well worth it. A word about teaching with other schools while under contract. Some Foreign teachers try to pick up hours teaching for other schools or tutoring outside the school they have a contract with. Here we have a small problem.
If the school arranges this for you, firstly they take the profit and pay you a normal wage. Secondly they seem to think this is ok, but they get a bit upset if they find out you have arranged this yourself. You can figure out for yourself why. Ok that end Part 2 of Teaching In China, next in Part 3, I will discuss more legal issues, and continue with living and working in China. You can download the articles form www.5keysgroupllc.com/consultants.html [http://www.5keysgroupllc.com/consultants.html]. Tama McGibbon @ All Rights reserved.