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By Cody Hoffman
So, you’ve arrived in China, your VISA is good to go, you’ve got a teaching job lined up, and everything is more or less going smoothly considering you’re in a completely foreign and unfamiliar country. But there’s one big question on your mind – where are you going to live?
Before coming to China, finding accommodation can seem like an intimidating task. Should you begin looking before you arrive? Will you have to negotiate with a possibly shady rental agent on your own without knowing any Mandarin? The answer to both is: Probably not. The most likely situations are:

  • Your teaching agency will help you find an apartment
  • Your school will help you find an apartment
  • You will have to seek out a rental agency on your own, or find an apartment online
  • Your school will provide you with accommodation on-campus (or nearby)

Help Finding Accommodation

If you’ve come over with the help of a teaching agency, part of their job should be to help you find accommodation that you’re happy with, or accompany you to meet with an agent and help to translate. Many teaching agencies also offer to give you a housing allowance each month, in which case they will need a tax receipt each month called a “Fapiao”. The teaching agency will help you to find a landlord who is willing and able to obtain a fapiao, as some landlords do not provide them.
In my case, there was no rental agent involved – a specialist from my teaching agency took me to view an apartment where several other foreign teachers had been placed, and we ended up renting it directly through the apartment management. This was a fairly painless process, though our apartment is very basic. If we had said no to this apartment, we would have likely been connected to a rental agent who would show us other options. In any case, just know that you do have options, and you do not have to say yes to the first apartment that your teaching company or rental agent shows you. Even though you might be overwhelmed, tired and eager to not live out of a suitcase – remember that this will likely be your home for the year. Trust your judgement and don’t settle for somewhere that doesn’t feel right.
If you don’t work for a teaching company, then your school should assign you someone to help communicate with an agent and ensure that your needs are met. In the small chance that you do not have a colleague to assist you, there are various websites online through which you can find apartments directly through a landlord and avoid paying agency fees. Or, you can simply find a physical rental agency office in the neighbourhood that you are looking to live in. Be aware that there may not be someone there that speaks fluent English. Although translation apps can be helpful in this case, when you’re doing something as important as signing a rental contract and figuring out the terms, it’s a much better idea to ask a Chinese friend or colleague to help translate for you.
The plus side of finding an apartment off-campus is that you have freedom over where you live, what sort of amenities you want, and how much you’re willing to pay for rent. You might even prefer to be a bit further away from your school so that you can more easily separate work time from personal time.

Accommodation provided by the School

Sometimes a school will offer you accommodation on-campus or somewhere close-by. In this case, you will most likely not pay for your rent, but you may pay a small fee for utilities. Your apartment will likely be simple, but comfortable. One major upside to this option is that you’d be living very close to your work. This means no worries about commuting, and you can easily go home and relax during your two-hour lunch break! Some schools have a guard on duty 24 hours a day and you can come and go as you please. However, some schools do enforce a curfew and lock their gates after a certain hour. This could be a major deterrent if you’re looking to enjoy your city’s nightlife without the looming fear of being locked out. You also will likely need to sign in any guests that you bring over. Living on-campus can be a convenient and budget-friendly option. On the other hand, you may prefer the freedom that comes with choosing your own neighbourhood and apartment.
Finding an apartment in China may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Upon arriving, you will find that there are many options available and people who are willing to help. Before you know it, you’ll have found a new place to call home!
If you’re thinking of teaching in China and aren’t sure about where to locate, check out our article on coastal cities here: http://www.teachersforasia.com/teaching-in-coastal-china-cities-to-explore/. You can also find city guides in our “Spotlight on Series”for the major cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu, among others. There are also helpful articles to help you decide on the right type of teaching job for you – private academy or public school and teaching adults or children. Click on http://www.teachersforasia.com/category/news/ to find out more or email us at admin@teachersforasia.com and one of our recruitment team will be happy to advise you!

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