By Sheree Hooker, private school teacher in Wuhan
My flight into Wuhan landed in the early hours of the morning after a gruelling seventeen hours. I was physically exhausted but still super excited to get my first glimpse of China. I was greeted at the airport with a colourful banner bearing my name and my school’s foreign teacher liaison who was called Candy. She pulled me into a hug and then flagged down a taxi.
As we pulled up outside three very tall blocks of apartments, she told me that this would be my new home. I was told that all three of the apartment blocks were owned by the same person and often let to teachers from my new school. Candy told me that our language centre tries to place foreign teachers in the same area to help newcomers settle in and encourage a community outside of the school.
I was told that I would be sharing my apartment with another foreign teacher employed by the same company. As I arrived late into the night, I wasn’t able to meet her when I first moved in but she left me a note welcoming me to China. The school provided me with a basic care package full of food and drink to help me settle into my new home.
Both my housemate and I had our own bedrooms and mine even had a small office space attached. We shared a bathroom which was complete with a shower and as our flat was located on the fifteenth floor, we were lucky enough to get a balcony as well. This was super handy when it came to drying our clothes in the summer and also great for watching China’s epic storms on turbulent evenings!
The apartment was fully furnished, complete with an air-conditioning unit, washing machine, drying rack, microwave and hob. I was a bit shocked that we didn’t have an oven, but it became quickly apparent that these are viewed as an extravagance unnecessary for Chinese cuisine. In all honesty, I never missed an oven as I rarely cooked at home during my time in China. Street food is super cheap and eating out is a good way of socialising.
We were responsible for our own housekeeping although there was the option to hire a cleaner at extra cost. Myself and my housemate personally felt that this wasn’t needed with two people to share the chores between so didn’t bother.
In terms of the payment arrangement for the accommodation, the school took care of everything for us and liaised with the landlord when required. We were told to call upon our foreign liaison Candy whenever we had issues with faulty appliances and I’m pleased to say she always helped us out when we asked. There was one occasion where the water was not draining properly from our washing machine. Candy had a look and arranged for a plumber to come out. As the call out time fell within a slot where both myself and my housemate had classes, Candy offered to go to the apartment and wait whilst he did the work. The plumber fixed the issue and Candy organised the payment for the repair to go to the school.
The tap water in China isn’t generally safe to drink unless boiled which was something that had initially concerned me, but we were provided with a water filter and office sized cooler bottles on request. One of these bottles usually lasted a couple of weeks between us and was very cheap to buy. Water deliveries were another thing organised on our behalf by Candy.
When new teachers arrived, and existing ones left, there was also the option to transfer apartments to be housed with teachers you particularly got on with. There was also the option of having your own private apartment although I believe this involved a financial contribution taken from your wages. I lived with the same housemate for my entire year in China, but I was aware that housing options were negotiable.
Working at a private school took a huge amount of stress out of the logistical side of moving to another country. From the second I arrived, everything regarding my accommodation was arranged on my behalf and this support continued throughout my time working there.