What is the climate like?
Hangzhou is a humid city, so the heat in the summer and cold in the winter is amplified by the moisture in the air. During the winter, it will snow occasionally, but the snow never stays around for long. The summers are very hot, especially August. Spring and autumn are comfortable and lengthy seasons.
How cold is the winter?
Though the thermometer might not look so intimidating, the chill in Hangzhou is inescapable. Daytime highs hover just above the freezing point and nighttime lows drop just below. Buildings are not insulated so they are not kept as warm as you may be used to. It is common to wear winter coats indoors here. The winter lasts from mid-November until mid-March. It is recommended that you bring a warm winter coat, gloves, hat, and plenty of warm clothes that can layer easily.
Will my apartment have heat?
Yes. But it will be in the form of a small air conditioner. Since buildings are not insulated, it is difficult to retain heat in your apartment. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to stay warm but you may want to invest in some slippers and a thick sweater.
What is the best way to get around the city?
Hangzhou has a good public transportation system and it is about to get even better once the subway system opens in 2012. However, unless you speak Chinese or know your stop, taking the bus might be difficult. All of the routes are posted in Chinese and there are no English announcements.
The city is very bike-friendly and it is inexpensive to purchase or rent a bicycle. There are bike lanes along nearly every major road. Take caution on a bicycle though, the lanes are open to electric bikes and scooters and the occasional car – traffic rules are interpreted only as guidelines, so always be mindful of what and who is around you.
Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive compared to Western countries. You’ll recognize them as the cars with silver and green or turquoise. Downtown rates start at 10RMB and rarely exceed 40RMB within the downtown district. The taxis are metered, so bargaining isn’t necessary unless you feel like your driver got lost.
Available taxis will have a green light showing on the dashboard, sometimes the green lights are quite rare. The drivers switch shifts between 3 and 5 p.m. so it is next to impossible to get a ride.
Are there other foreigners? How do I meet them?
Yes, there are plenty of foreigners in Hangzhou. A large portion of the city’s foreign teachers live in Xiasha, the district where ZJETP is located so you’ll meet people going about your daily routines at the university. Foreigners are hiding everywhere in the city center. Visit www.morehangzhou.com or www.hangzhouexpat.com to meet fellow foreigners or to learn about events in the city. A weekend out to one of the city’s many bars, clubs or western-inspired restaurants will give you a great chance to meet plenty of expats.
What is the food like?
Hangzhou is home to one of China’s distinct regional cuisines. The food isn’t very spicy and the dishes utilize a lot of vegetables. Hangzhou has a number of signature dishes that Chinese friends will have to introduce you to!
Local markets provide fresh vegetables and fruits but make sure you thoroughly wash and clean them before taking a bite.
Dumplings, noodles, and tomato with egg are very popular and inexpensive dishes found in Hangzhou.
How much are living expenses?
Almost any budget can be accommodated in Hangzhou. If you don’t want to spend very much money, it is easy to get meals from small street cafes for 4-10RMB. Grocery shopping in markets and small stores will also save money. Living on $5 per day is certainly feasible.
Western products demand western prices. Eating out at a western restaurant or shopping at import grocery stores will cost as much as they do back home. The same goes for bars; alcohol (aside from domestic beer and wine) will cost more or less the same as back home.
Where do I shop? Do I bargain?
Local markets and small stores will be least expensive – get ready to bargain though. There is certainly a laowai (foreigner) price, so it’s helpful to talk with other shoppers to learn what they’re paying. Hangzhou has a number of markets for almost anything you could want to buy, visit the two listed websites to find out more information.
China loves big box stores, so expect to find a lot of Wal-Mart knockoffs. The stores are large and multi-storied. You will be able to buy anything you could imagine there, but you will be required to pay the listed price, no bargaining allowed. Some popular chains include Wu Mart (Wu Mei), Vanguard, and Century Mart.
Hangzhou has many major western chains, including H&M, Zara, and a number of major luxury brands. The city also has Starbucks, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, McDonald’s, and KFC (which people in Hangzhou love). Many of these popular brands and restaurants can be found around West Lake.
Do people speak English? Are signs in English?
Though many people might know some English, often they might be too shy to utilize it. It’s incredibly helpful to know a handful of survival phrases in Chinese before arriving. Street signs are in characters and Pinyin. English is more prevalent the closer you are to West Lake.
How safe is the city?
Very safe. There is little violent crime in Hangzhou. Just like any city, you need to be mindful of your belongings, especially on buses or in highly crowded areas.
FAQ on the job
Do I need experience in teaching or an ESL or TOEFL certificate?
Though experience or a certificate is helpful, the only qualification you need is a Bachelor’s degree.
How many students will I be teaching?
Most likely you will be teaching four or five sections of students. Each section will have between 30-60 students.
What course subjects will I teach?
Since you are a native English speaker, you will most likely teach Oral English courses. You may also teach a writing course or a specific type of communication, like Negotiations. You will be given textbooks for the course and will have some assistance in developing a course goal.
How many years have my students studied English?
In the Chinese education system, it is mandatory for students to study English from at least middle school onward. Your students will have studied the language for a minimum of five years, but many have not had opportunities to practice it conversationally.
Will I have a teaching assistant?
No, you will conduct classes on your own. However, you will have an adviser who will assist you with exams, paperwork, and classroom management issues. They will also review your performance throughout the semester.
Do I need to prepare a syllabus and/or lesson plans?
Yes. You will be responsible for developing a syllabus and individual lesson plans. Your adviser will assist you with it.
Will I have access to technology in the classroom?
Yes. PowerPoint presentations are strongly recommended for each lesson and every classroom is equipped with the necessary technology.
Is my supervisor in the International Department or in the educational department?
Officially both departments will oversee you. Please be aware that communication you have with one department will not be shared with the other department. For example, if you need to take sick leave, you will need to let both departments know.