Frequently Asked Questions
Answers are provided below to questions we often hear. If you can’t find the answer to your question, please contact Teach @SCIS
Salary and Banking
The currency of China is the Renminbi (RMB). As of this printing, the exchange rate is 6. RMB to the U.S. dollar. The daily exchange rate can be obtained in the business section of The Shanghai Star or at any financial website. There are no restrictions on exchanging up to $500 US in China, though there are charges involved.
Due to banking laws in China, the school cannot directly pay employees U.S dollars cash in salary payments. The school will establish an account at ICBC (Industrial Commercial Bank of China) after all your residence and work permits are issued, normally a month or more after you arrive, into which your salary may be transferred. The employee may then withdraw cash from this account or transfer it to a foreign bank.
Teachers hired on overseas hired status will receive a displacement allowance of USD $1,000 on arrival. The school will pay this allowance in the Renminbi equivalent so that the teacher has some local currency for incidentals.
In addition to the displacement allowance, it would be helpful to have USD $2,000 to USD $3,000 available to meet expenses prior to your first salary payment (August) should you wish to buy additional furniture and other items of personal choice. The money should be in, cash, or an account upon which you can draw.
All teachers are paid in U.S. dollars over an eleven-month period, August–June. The pay date for each month is provided in a pay schedule at the beginning of the year and is generally the last working day of each month. Payment of salaries will be in RMB direct transfer into your ICBC (Industrial Commercial Bank of China) account. Once pay is transferred into the employee’s account, ongoing transfer to other
Most teachers maintain bank accounts in their home countries. The Business Office will not cash checks. Traveler’s checks can be problematic to cash and it is recommended that US dollars cash or RMB be the currency of choice.
Although China is basically a cash-oriented country, having a credit card with you will simplify life here, especially as you settle in. Many teachers have used credit cards to draw cash from ATMs as they wait for their local bank accounts to be established. A number of ATM cards work in Shanghai. Visa, Master Card, and American Express are accepted at hotels and most–not all–restaurants, department stores, and shopping centers. Buying airline tickets and other such purchases are also made easier. Some places, however, charge a 3-4 percent surcharge when paid by credit card. You should contact your bank your bank and place a “travel alert” on your card so that the bank does not suspend your access while overseas.
Taxes – China
The PRC charges an income tax on every expatriate salary at the rate of approximately 30%. SCIS bears the cost of this tax and pays the income tax for all teachers.
Taxes – Home Country
Depending upon your home country, you may have tax or reporting obligations in your home country. It is recommended that you make inquiries of your home country taxing authorities before departing for China to ensure you understand your home country tax status.
B. Ticketing and Arrival
C. Arranging Your Travel
Flight reservations must be made as far in advance as possible. Do not wait until you have received your travel allowance to book your flight(s). Reservations should be made at the time the contract is signed, or soon after. August is a month of peak demand for travel to East Asia. Remember, in most places you do not have to pay for your ticket when making reservations.
Your trip may include scheduled stopovers for personal or timetable reasons. SCIS does not cover the cost of personal stopovers, and you may be charged for excess luggage at each stopover. Check with your airline for baggage restrictions if you are breaking your travel for a stopover. You may find that, while you may check in two suitcases at your city of departure, if you stop over and check in again, your baggage allowance may be only 20 kg. per person and you may be required to pay excess baggage charges. Check this with your airlines.
D. Arriving Prior to the August Reporting Date
SCIS strongly discourages new staff from arriving in Shanghai or elsewhere in China prior to one week before the reported starting date. If you arrive early, the school cannot assist you in any way, and it may put you in violation of the immigration laws because of our processing limitations. (Sometimes, however, arrival a few days early is necessitated by flight bookings, and the school would rather have a teacher a few days early than a few days late.)
If a teacher enters China before the school has issued the necessary authorization, the teacher will have to leave the country later and re-enter after visiting a Chinese Embassy or Consulate outside of China (normally the Chinese Consulate in Hong Kong). Expenses for this trip will not be reimbursed, as the trip would not have been necessary had the teacher not entered China prior to the issuance of authorization.
If a teacher would like to travel in China before August and if the school is able to provide the visa in time, then that is fine, as long as the teacher understands that she or he will be entirely on her or his own upon arrival. SCIS will be unable to arrange airport pick-up or other assistance. The important thing to remember is that if a teacher makes travel plans prior to August, the teacher will be liable for the Hong Kong trip expenses if her or his visa is not ready, and there is a good probability that the visa will not be ready—this is something that is simply beyond the school’s control.
Getting Around, Children, Pets
Taxis are plentiful and comparatively cheap in Shanghai, although trips to distant parts of Shanghai or the airport can add up if taken frequently. Taxis can be hailed from the curb of most any street in Shanghai. They can also be ordered by telephone.
In Shanghai there is a relatively good underground subway system which provides access to the central portion of the metropolis. It is a fairly user-friendly system for English language speakers, and can be figured out with a little work.
A comprehensive network of bus routes provides access to all areas of the city, though not so user friendly for English speakers. Buses are a very popular source of transport for local citizens, and are extremely crowded, and can be very uncomfortable.
One of the best ways to get around is by bicycle or scooter. Bicycles can be purchased for little expense, and provide a great way to see many parts of the city that would be missed through other means of transport. Shanghai is virtually flat, so riding a bicycle does not require negotiating hills, however it does require negotiating dense vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
For those with school-age dependents, please complete a student application (includes a checklist of the information needed such as school records, immunization records, letters of recommendation, etc). SCIS has limited services for children with special needs and cannot enroll children with severe allergies. Dependent children must be able to pass the enrollment requirements as set by the admission committee. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible for enrolling your child.
Although pets are becoming increasingly more common in China, bringing pets is not recommended. Prospective teachers should state their intention to bring a pet with them prior to signing a contract. Teachers must recieve permission from the Superintendent of Schools prior to arrival. All teachers on school provided housing must submit a damage liability form and will be held responsible for any damage including wear and tear caused by the pet. A good resource for bringing pets to China can be found here: http://www.entershanghai.info
Staying healthy in China is mostly a case of taking common-sense precautions just as it is anywhere else in the world. However, these precautions may be a little different from those required in a temperate climate. To arrive healthy and stay healthy should be your goal. That being said, you will get sick from time to time. Most illnesses that our staff experience are easily treatable with over the counter medication. Western standard medical care is available in Shanghai from a few clinics. More serious illness or injury may require a trip to Hong Kong, where excellent medical care is available.
Overseas-hire teachers and some local hire teachers receive major medical coverage through the school’s medical service provider effective August 1st. Details of the coverage are available in the booklet each teacher will receive from the medical service provider in August.
A dental check-up is recommended before leaving home. There are a few good dentists in Shanghai, although these are expensive by developing nation standards. Orthodontic care is available in Shanghai.
Chinese Health Examination
New teachers are required, by the Chinese government, to undergo a basic medical examination after they arrive in Shanghai. This examination is part of the processing for residence status. Teachers may have a physical examination in their home country prior to arrival in China, however in most cases, the local authorities will require them to complete the examination after arrival anyway.
There are no required immunizations for China. Advice from home country physicians will vary, but you should probably check on the status of your routine vaccination and obtain immunization against typhoid (there is now an oral vaccine), tetanus, and Hepatitis A and B. Your doctor may have other recommendations.
If you require prescription medicines, you should bring a sufficient supply with you. Find out the generic name of the drugs in your medicine. China has a modern pharmaceutical industry, and most likely your prescription is available here, although it may have a different brand name. Prescription drugs arriving by mail can be assessed a heavy duty. Optical SCIS recommends that you have an eye examination before coming. If you require glasses, bring a spare pair and your prescription. Opticians and optical services are available here. Contact lens solution is also easily attainable in Shanghai.
SCIS provides 2-bedroom housing for all overseas-hired teachers for their first year of employment. Single teachers are provided with single housing.
Our schools have a strict NO-SMOKING policy, so we do not expect that this will be a consideration in housing arrangements. If you do smoke, you should do so in outside areas that will not affect others. Smoking is not allowed on the school campus.
Apartments will be ready for you when you arrive. All SCIS rental units and onsite housing will have basic furniture and major appliances. It is up to the teacher to spend the money to provide the “extras” that make the difference between a house and a home. The displacement allowance is provided partially to meet the extra costs of establishing a new home in Shanghai. There are beautiful furniture and decorating fabrics to be found in local department stores and markets.
After one year of employment, overseas-hired staff will go on a housing allowance and will be responsible for their move to their own residence. Staff may request to take over the school lease on a case-by-case basis. (effective w/ 2013-14 School Policy)
China has 220 volt/50 cycle electricity, but the power supply may be erratic, and sometimes appliances run a little “hot.” (Electricity in North America is 110 volt/60 cycle.) Transformers are available locally although can be difficult to find. Prices range from US$10 to US$50, depending on the size. It is best to leave 110 volt appliances behind and purchase those you need, such as a toaster or hair dryer, locally. Surge protectors are available locally and are advisable for protection of stereo equipment, TVs, and so forth).
For overseas hired staff, SCIS will pay teachers a supplemental utility allowance each month as outlined in the contract or will provide utilities. In most cases, with moderate conservation of utilities, this amount covers all costs. Although the school rents the apartment for staff, the individual staff members are responsible for their utilities. Staff members should be aware that sometimes accounting measures on utilities are not the best, depending on the apartment complex where you are living. Not receiving a regular bill does not absolve the staff member of their responsibility for utilities. Unpaid utilities will be deducted from the staff member’s salary when necessary to clear accounts with local utility companies. Staff members are urged to be aware of their use levels and watch their monthly statements closely.
SCIS faculty apartments are equipped with a phone. You should check to see whether your phone has IDD (International Direct Dial). If it does not, you can be connected, and then the school will pay the initial connection charge. IDD enables you to dial directly without going through the overseas operator. With IDD you can get an itemized bill each month. Most teacher’s also use a Skype account for making international calls via computer.
Computers & Network Devices
SCIS functions in a mixed PC/Mac environment. Most teachers are issued Macbook computers to use in the classroom or workplace. The SCIS network hosts a podcast server to publish video and audio online and teachers are expected to maintain a website or blog online for classroom use.
Teachers who own personal computers and smartphones (iPhones, Andriod phones etc) may use their device on campus. Campus technology coordinators will assist you to get your device online.
The school owns various computer peripherals (digital camera, projector, scanner, etc.), which are available for school-related projects by teachers. These items are not to be taken off campus unless the Campus Technology Coordinator has checked the item out to the requesting teacher. Faculty whom check out an item are responsible for the safety of their device. All faculty will receive in-service training for the use of school computer equipment.
Internet access is ubiquitous and affordable in Shanghai. ADSL broadband subscription start at approximately 120 rmb (15 USD) per month for a 4MB connection from China Unicom. All teachers are encouraged to create an account with one of the many Internet Service Providers for private use of the internet. Skype and other voice-over-internet technologies are popular for avoiding expensive phone bills.
Some websites and services may be blocked in China. Sites include Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The use of a VPN account can avoid the problem, but free services can be unreliable.
Many teachers prefer to use the school’s Internet connection to access their private e-mail account. While teachers are welcome to use the school network for personal e-mail, they are encouraged to refrain from checking during the day when classes are trying to use the school’s limited bandwidth.
SCIS’s computer resources are designed to directly support and improve the instructional program. It also functions to foster communication between and among SCIS employees. Etiquette and judgment must be used when distributing electronic information. The use of the Internet in school to solicit or sell goods or services or to access inappropriate web sites is strictly prohibited.
Located in the Yangtze River Delta in eastern China, Shanghai sits at the mouth of the Yangtze River in the middle portion of the Chinese coast. The municipality borders Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces to the west, and is bounded to the east by the East China Sea.
“Paris of China and Queen of the Orient;” city of quick riches, ill-gotten gains and fortunes lost on the tumble of dice; the domain of adventurers, swindlers, gamblers, drug runners, idle rich, dandies, tycoons, missionaries, gangsters and backstreet pimps; the city that plots revolution and dances as the revolution shoots its way into town – Shanghai was a dark memory during the long years of forgetting that the Communists visited upon their new China. Shanghai put away its dancing shoes in 1949. The masses began shuffling to a different tune – the dour strains of Marxist-Leninism and the wail of the factory siren and all through these years of oblivion the architects of this social experiment firmly wedged one foot against the door of Shanghai’s past until the effort started to tell. Today, Shanghai has reawakened and is busy snapping the dust off its cummerbund. The sun rises every day to a city typifying the huge disparities of modern China – monumental building projects push skywards, glinting department stores swing open doors to the stylish elite, while child beggars, prostitutes and impoverished souls congregate among the champagne corks and burst balloons of the night before. History is returning to haunt Shanghai and at the same time, to put it squarely back on the map. Shanghai is evolving at a pace so unmatched by any other Chinese city that even the morning ritual of flinging open one’s hotel curtains reveals new facets to the skyline and new sounds on the streets. Shanghai is racing towards the future and has little time for yesterday.
Shanghai has a population of around 20 million people, but that figure is deceptive since it takes into account the whole municipal area of 6100 sq. km. Nevertheless, the central core of some 220 sq. km. has more than 7.5 million people, which must rate as one of the highest population densities in China, if not the world.
Broadly, central Shanghai is divided into two areas: Pudong (east of the Huangpu River) and Puxi (west of the Huangpu River). There are four main areas of interest in the city: the Bund from Suzhou Creek to the Shanghai Harbor Passenger Terminal (Shiliupu Wharf); Nanjing Donglu (a very colorful neighborhood); Frenchtown, which includes Huaihai Zhong Lu and Ruijin Lu (an even more colorful neighborhood) and the Jade Buddha Temple and the side trip along Suzhou Creek. Near the Bund, is the famous Yu Gardens, with its beautifully crafted gardens and bazaar shopping surrounding the area.
Wikipedia: Shanghai – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai
One of my favorite parts about working in the SCIS community is its commitment to nurturing an appreciation for cultures, languages, backgrounds, and talents. Our students come from all over the world, and each are encouraged to develop multiple languages while honoring and appreciating their native tongue. From nursery and preschool all the way through grade 12, students are provided with opportunities to develop appreciation for all the cultures that surround them and to explore interests/talents in the arts, sciences, athletics and more. Students and teachers join together in learning to appreciate the differences that both enrich us individually as well as create bonds within our community at large.