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Surviving Day 1 - Shannon Naude

Day 1: You’re here. It’s real. You just moved to China!

That’s a scary thought, but it’s so exciting! Your first day will be wild. You have no idea where you are, where you’re going and most importantly you have no clue what anyone is saying.  Don’t fret, it’s all going to be okay:

Your first day in China is a whirlwind of a day. Here are a few tips to survive day one in Chengdu:

1.     Your welfare officer has got your back. Trust them.

Your welfare officer is your “Go-to guy” in China.

 ‘I lost my bank card; help!’

‘I’m locked out of my apartment; help!’

‘Please tell this person that I don’t want spicy noodles (hands phone to cashier)


I kid you not, these are all things I’ve said to my welfare officer in the past three months.


They will get someone to change your locks (it happens more often than you’d think;) they will send you a message to show the people at the bank/the shop or personally escort you there. However, your noodles will probably still be spicy; let’s face it, this is Chengdu.

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1.     You will be on your feet the entire day. Choose your shoes wisely.


2.     You will feel like you are signing your life away; it’s a SIM card how many signatures do they need? The answer is all of them. Just go with it; you’ll have your SIM, bank and transport cards soon enough.


3.     You will get frustrated about the fact you have no idea what is being said on your behalf. A 20 minute conversation will probably be relayed back to you in 2 sentences; ‘it’s strictly need to know’ but don’t worry, that’s all the information you need’ the end result of the 20 minute deliberation.


4.     You will probably find an apartment on day one. Look at all of your options first; then decide. If none of them are to your liking – say so. There will be more options. Once again, there will be a whole lot of incomprehensible conversations followed by ‘sign here.’ And again; just go with it. Your welfare officer has got your back and now you have a place to stay!


5.     You’ll probably pop in to your school, briefly, but it’s nice to see where you’ll be working. This is when you should take notes on what train or bus to take. If you can get yourself to school, you can do almost anything.


There’s a lot of names to remember so don’t worry that you will not remember them all.

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You will be popping in in the middle of the work day so if everyone is busy and just says hi and runs off; don’t take it personally.

There will be loads of advice coming your way; everyone just wants to help. It will feel like they’re just saying it, they don’t remember what it was like, they’ve been here so long they’ve forgotten. Give it a month and you’ll be telling the new guy that it’s going to be okay; and he’ll be silently rolling his eyes at you too. That’s a great feeling – no longer feeling like the new guy.

1.     A translator ‘A-P-P’ will save your life.

I use Microsoft translator – search it on your App Store (Apple, Windows or Android)

2.     You have probably been told about Chengdu and their spicy food; and possibly laughed it off but it’s no joke.

A useful phrase if you don’t like spicy food: ‘bu la’ means no spice. Give it a month; you’ll be wondering why your food is so bland and you won’t need that phrase anymore.

At the end of the day, you’ll have a SIM card, probably a place to stay, you’ll know how to get to school. You can order food by pointing at pictures and use your calculator to ask for a cost. There’s still a few things left to do; the medical and a bank card; but your welfare officer will get you sorted.

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