Stephen, a Vice-Principal at an International School in Beijing, speaks about his experience of living and working in the city....

I moved to Beijing last August after spending 5 lovely years in Abu Dhabi. When I landed I was warmly greeted at the airport by a member of the school's leadership team and escorted back to my hotel. It wasn't quite the 5 star luxury of Abu Dhabi, but the hotel was close to my school and very comfortable. The weekend breakfasts were exceptional!

Moving abroad is a daunting exercise at the best of times, and moving to the other side of the world, not knowing anyone at all, makes the experience that bit more exciting and frightening. My first interactions with my staff were hugely positive. Everyone was friendly and supportive. After a quick meet and greet of my staff, my fantastic HR team swept me away to look at apartments. Within 24 hours I had found a nice little 2 bed apartment, 5 minutes’ walk from my school and although a little above my housing allowance, it was worth it. 

School life has been overall positive. I have gained a huge amount of experience. Being able to live in a new country and immerse myself in a new culture is always a valuable thing to do. Our students are so well behaved and I have found the parents to be extremely friendly, generous and helpful. Good communication is the key, as well as building your relationships and learning how to use WeChat! The school day is considerably longer here in Beijing and the students work hard. Parents do have high expectations! They pay high fees so they have every right to!

WeChat is something you will become familiar with straight away. It is used for phone calls, text messages, ordering taxis, making payments and a whole lot more. It is WhatsApp, Skype and Paypal all rolled into one! It is a must for getting around and you should definitely research it before arriving so that you hit the ground running.

I have had some amazing experiences so far in Beijing; from camping at the Great Wall on a school field trip to touring around Tiananmen Square, there is so much to do and see. The palaces and parks are beautiful. With regards to the pollution, if the air quality index goes above 200, students are not allowed outside for recess times. With regards to pollution, you can help this by buying (if not already in your apartment) purifying machines for your apartment. Also, it helps to wear your mask if it goes above 120 when outside.

Social life is really good here. Sanlitun is the hot spot where there are lots of shops, bars and restaurants. There are lots of clubs and I joined the Irish club as a member of the GAA team. They have tournaments all round Asia and have lots of social events. Making friends is easy here if you make the effort and go out and join a club. Several of my friends are into hiking, biking and other such clubs. You won't be stuck for things to do, just go out and explore. Make the most of the move and experience new things.

The cost of living here is quite low compared to Abu Dhabi and if you eat local and drink local/Asian drinks, you can save considerably. Of course imported food and drink is quite a bit more expensive. 

Overall, there are many benefits to living in China and I have no regrets about coming here and would definitely recommend it!