I cannot speak for the whole of China, but in the small town, I work nobody speaks English. It is crucial to have an offline translator in your phone and VPN installed prior to arrival. China has laws that ban using a VPN, therefore it borders on impossible to download it once you are here. It is a good practice to set up an email account that would not be Gmail, as it malfunctions. On a positive side - Skype and WhatsApp work relatively well here, even without using a VPN. Being far away from family, it is a tremendous advantage to be able to communicate with them on a regular basis.
Another point to be wary of is the difference in approach to medicine between here and home. Make sure you have taken some medication (specifically for digestion) and painkillers with you. Even though those products are available here, it's relatively hard to explain what you need, even to a proficient Chinese speaker, as they do not typically use the same medicines and may have never encountered them. Moreover, any bigger shoe sizes or clothes are hard to source here. Although eBay's Chinese equivalent (Taobao) has a wide range of items for sale, you would need a Chinese speaker to help you with the order, as the more comprehensive searches are only possible in Chinese.
As for the currency exchange, there is no need to take any large amount of Chinese currency with you, as the exchange rate here is more favourable than back home. And most importantly - only take registered taxis. There are a lot of illegitimate drivers that pretend to be taxis; they may try to extort money from you, not to mention they have a reputation for being dangerous, especially for women.
Other than that, you will find that the majority of Chinese people are kind, polite, helpful and display an air of somewhat nearly childish innocence. They wish you well, they are interested in you and will stop you on the street to have a photo taken with you. It happens occasionally that you will be videoed without your consent, this being both at work and outside it.
In my case, the workday does not start until late afternoon. That gives me plenty of time in the morning to prepare my lessons. I have no office hours, which has allowed my life-work balance to be very healthy.
I work 5 days a week and my working hours do not exceed 20 per week. I am never home later than 6:30 p.m. I have time to browse the nearby shops, try the cuisine and sightsee. Even the smallest town has an expat community and at least one pub you can go to in order to socialise and exchange experiences.
It really feels like being on a long holiday; I do what I love (and I love teaching) and I am rewarded for it in more ways than one.
With a certain degree of embarrassment, I have to admit that I held some stereotypes in my mind before arriving in China. I assumed the people would lack a sense of humour and ability to have fun. I assumed my boss would be harsh and demanding. That communism would leave no space for individualism. I also feared that in the classroom I would be met by a wall of silence. I was utterly wrong. The pupils are communicative, enthusiastic and love to have fun. There are small businesses being opened on a daily basis all around my area and my workplace is relaxed and pleasant.
First of all, the gift-giving culture. Since I have been here, I have received plenty of gifts from my boss, students, their parents, and my co-workers. This generosity is deeply rooted in Chinese peoples' belief that it is more honourable to be owed than to owe. Whenever I have expressed my liking of an item, I have been presented with it the very next day. Once I saw a pet axolotl in a fish tank in a restaurant and said it was beautiful. I was given to me by the owner and my boss gave me a tank and food for it. Even though it was very kind, I am now more careful in voicing my preferences.
In the same vein, the tipping culture is nonexistent here, thus giving a tip might offend the waitress, because then - she owes you. Also, it is customary to haggle, especially in the street markets. I found it hard and unnecessary at first, as everything is so cheap anyway. But I have to admit, it adds spice to my life and a peculiar sense of achievement if I manage to slice the price of an item by fifty percent. The longer I spend here though, the more I get accustomed to the way of life and the initial culture shock gradually diminishes. I would recommend coming to China to anyone; whether you are feeling adventurous and brave or unfulfilled and in a need of change.
At the end of the day when you pack your things to head overseas, keep an open mind and start the adventure of a lifetime.