Country info and advice - China
The following comments are from teachers who have worked, or are currently working, in China. If you are a teacher and have some advice about China, please share here.
The Chinese people are very
different from Westerners. Their sense of business is very different too. They
are all about "give me some money and I will see what I can do." But they can
also be very nice and caring and gentle. Just watch your back! The place is also
very dirty. If you can get past the spitting in restaurants, smoking everywhere
(including hospitals), going to the toilet everywhere, then you will be fine. I
have been here for more than a year, and I love it. All I can say, is if you get
culture shock, hang in there. It really isn't as bad as it seems. Get to know
lots of foreigners, as they will be your new family. And once again, watch your
back with the school you work for. Enjoy yourself and have fun!
Liz 14 November 2005
If you're not used to roughing
it, get work in a city like Dalian, Shanghai or Beijing. It's really beautiful.
Another reasonably modern and safe city is Anshan. Be prepared for a fair bit of
pollution, a lack of modesty and hygiene (except for Dalian) and (in the smaller
cities) very friendly, curious locals. Overall the Chinese experience is
wonderful. Try and get with a well-established reputable foreign language school and ask for
contact with other teachers within that
school before you go. I really enjoyed my 3 month trip to China but I'm not sure
how I would have faired any longer than that :) Pre-study in the Chinese
language is invaluable during your time here. Good luck if you decide to come to China!
Emma 27 November 2005
I often work with students from varied ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. With growing minority
populations in most parts of the country, it is important for teachers to work
effectively with a diverse student population. Accordingly, some schools offer
training to help teachers enhance their awareness and understanding of different
cultures. Teachers may also include multicultural programming in their lesson
plans, to address the needs of all students, regardless of their cultural
Most kindergarten teachers still teach two kindergarten classes a day. I work the traditional 10-month school year with a 2-month vacation during the summer. During the vacation break, those on the 10-month schedule and teach in summer sessions, take other jobs, travel, or pursue personal interests. Those wishing to find work can go about the task in a number of ways. Firstly you can begin before you actually move to China by using the internet to search for suitable vacancies or potential employers. You can also contact local and Chinese, as I do, employment agencies and present them with your CV and covering letter which should details the types of work you're qualified for and are seeking. Once you move to China you can also make use of the Chinese employment service agency where you'll find details of jobs available, training courses you're eligible for etc.
Once you move you can remain living in China for up to three months so long as you have a valid 10 year passport and are from one of the EEA countries as previously mentioned. After your three months are up, if you wish to remain living and working in china you have to apply for your residency permit. With all your permissions in place you're free to continue working in china or seeking employment. If you become resident and fully employed in China you will have to pay income tax and for this you will need a tax number which you can get from the local tax office.
Moses 27 November 2005
Read River Town by Peter Hessler. His story is from 1996 and is a different region but I found
things are very similar throughout China. Chinese is a hard language but it
would really help to know a little of the language. The kids are great but very
loud in a group. Materials might be more plentiful in an International school,
however in the regular schools they are very limited. Bring some things of your
own. I haven't found any inexpensive colored paper here. Bring a laptop if at
all possible. We don't have a computer for our use at the school. Printers are
inexpensive but computers that work come from the US, thus they are no bargain.
Bring some warm clothes even in the subtropical areas - the humidity makes it
very cool and central heating is rare. The people are the same as worldwide -
some are kind and some are inconsiderate. The pollution is a definite problem so stay in the country if you can't deal with it.
Paula 28 November 2005
Chatting with students is easy, but getting them to speak fluently is another matter. After four years of
teaching in China, I have come up with some useful techniques for practical
teaching that really make a difference. Go to www.teacherjoe.us/teachers.html
and send email if you have any questions or comments.
Joe 19 December 2005
My advice is for those who are intending to teach at a state middle school away from the coastal cities. I'm a
New Zealander and have found winters very cold - bring thick socks and thermals.
A few basic medications come in handy - nurofen, aspirin, vicks etc! When you
first arrive bring some local currency - I couldn't access ATM's with my cards.
If you are a reader stock up on novels or whatever as English books are few and
far between. Classes are big - sixty plus - resources are few so bring some
simple music tapes - most schools don't have CD players. Also search out some
English texts that have games and other classroom
activities - they will come in very handy. Make sure you know what the
school wants of you as a teacher. The Chinese English teachers are very good at
teaching the subject but are not good at getting the students to use it. I only
try to "Activate" the language they already have been taught. You will often be
referred to as "The oral English Teacher" at the middle school level and that is
usually what they want you to do. Just remember China is not a Western country -
be prepared to adapt and be VERY flexible and you will have a wonderful experience.
John 19 December 2005
China is a wonderful country and the people are nice also. I have lived and taught here for over four years.
Much business is done by relationships, who you know not what you know. Leave
your own country's idealisms behind and you will do fine. Learn the people and
culture. Do not try and impose your couture on others. One other thing, carry
wet wipes and toilet paper at all times. If you teach, chose your terms, a short
contract, say 4 to 6 months. This allows you time to look around and see how you
like the location, school etc. Enjoy yourself and have a safe trip: andyesl.com
Andy 8 January 2006
I went to China in 1994 for six months to teach English. I just wish I had taken more American English
material as much of the books there were from England with British spelling. I
was at a private school which treated me very well. The kids were receptive to
everything I threw at them. Be sure to bring enough things from home to take
care of you for your time there. Also phone calls were very costly, but times
have changed so maybe not now. Relax and just be a good American and I'm sure you'll be treated fairly.
Dori 17 April 2006
Learn some Chinese and keep on studying once you're there especially if you travel alone and travel to smaller
places. Not knowing the language can frustrate you and keep in mind that Chinese
people are never in a hurry. A very very laid back and relaxed attitude is what
you need and that is a personal thing. My advice is only useful if you have the
attitude to implement it. Don't visit hookers. HIV rate is pretty high here.
Don't drink the bai jiu but try the jinjiu.
Remember: don't want things done right away and be very patient.
Rampan 19 April 2006
I have been in China for 3 years. I would like to point out that if you are looking for an apartment. Take
your time and get some help. I see too many get an apartment right away and it
is too expensive. Remember you are the foreigner and they think we are all rich!
Guys be careful on dating the chinese women. They get attached really fast and
serious. Unless you understand this you need to tell them of your intentions and
still they will want to get married. They are not like foreign women. The
hygiene here is terrible! Some don't bath for weeks they only wash. The people
with money have a better habit of hygiene. Wash your hands regularly! Enjoy all
the history and sites while you are here. Buy some books like The Mandarin
Phrasebook, it is a great help with some Chinese translation and information.
It's one of the best ones I have found so far. And I have a few!... enjoy yourself!
Pam 19 February 2007
My wife, son, and I have been living and working in China for at least 7 years now, 6 years in Tianjin (near
Beijing), and 1 year in Taiwan. A VERY important skill is being able to
communicate in Chinese. If you come here and you can't, you'll most likely be
constantly cheated in one way or another. Plus, you'll be so frustrated all the
time from not knowing what's going on around you. Actually, that can have it's
good side, because when you DO understand what the people around you are saying,
you might end up at the police station for punching someone in the face.
(Believe it or not, I haven't done that, yet)
If you're overweight or black, be prepared for the impolite treatment you will also most likely receive. George is one of our black African friends. He told us that he is treated rudely all the time. And he is studying medicine and working at an intern in one of the hospitals here.
Be prepared for dirt, pollution, and a severe lack of personal hygeine. If you hate pollution, stay away from all of the big cities. And dirt is EVERYWHERE! You must get used to the spitting. They spit everywhere, even on the restaurant floors. Hospitals are very unsanitary. Cockroaches crawl around on the operating and delivery tables. No lie. Wash your hands all the time and carry wet wipes and toilet paper with you. It's a terrible thing to get stuck in a Chinese toilet with no toilet paper. And don't be surprised if you see someone whip their pants down and start peeing on the sidewalk.
Bring winter underwear. In the northern part of China, winters are usually dry, windy, and very cold. The wind cuts through the bone. In the mid section of China, winters are very cool and wet. The cool dampness sinks into your bones.
The Chinese think that foreigners are rich, especially Americans. Whatever price they tell you, cut it down by 60 to 70% and offer them that.
Chinese don't have the work ethics some of us Westerners have been brought up with, so you can't expect too much out of them. They might do the job and they might not. They might do it right and they might not. And they typically don't want to assume any responsibility for anything that might go wrong or has gone wrong. They are also not in a hurry, so if you are, you're going to be angry again. They don't know how to wait in lines, so don't get to upset about that. If you know Chinese, you can openly talk to them about how to stand in line and wait your turn.
They typically don't have the idea that lying, cheating, and stealing are wrong. So, if you have a very high standard in these areas, you're going to be upset again.
Be careful of taxi drivers taking you around Robin Hood's barn to get you somewhere. If they give you trouble, get out your notebook and pencil and start writing down his/her license plate number and other information. Tell him/her that you're going to call the police and that usually takes care of that.
When renting an apartment off of campus, PLEASE remember these things: First, you MUST find the local police department in the location where you are moving and notify them that you are moving there, in writing. Then move. Then you have 10 days to take your rental contract, passport, and 2 photos to that same police station and REGISTER. This is Chinese law and if you do not do this, they will bite your bottom good.
When renting an apartment off campus, check with local Chinese friends to see what kind of rent you should really be paying. They will try to charge you twice what other people pay and make SURE to have a Chinese friend help you with the contract. The landlord should pay the tax on the rent. Don't let them bully you around. If you use a real estate company to help you, again, be careful. We even went to an internationally-known real estate agency here to get help finding an apartment. We thought, "Oh, look, we know that agency! It's from America!" The name was from America, but that was all. The people there cheated us terribly and even cheated our landlord terribly. Several months later, we found out that the Tianjin branch CEO had that branch owner thrown in prison here because they were cheating so many people.
Be VERY leary of job placement agencies that are not under the direct control of the local government. It is common knowledge here that many of the private ones are run by crooks and hooligans. Some of them offer services such as creating false education credentials to making fake passports.
Also, take the monthly salary and figure out what the amount is per class. If the school is supplying you with an apartment and you are a bonafied ESL/EFL teacher, don't accept anything less than 80 yuan per class. If you are getting your own private apartment and you are a bonafied ESL/EFL teacher, don't accept anything less than 100 to 120 yuan per class. These amounts should be even higher for cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and ShenZhen. And stay away from any schools that try to make you teach more than 20 to 25 classes per week, plus sit in the office, plus do extra-curricular activites, etc, etc. and only offer you 4,000 to 5,000 yuan per month... unless you want to be their dog.
HIV is a big, (supposed-to-be-a-secret) problem here. Beware.
Well, I've said all that I've said, but, let me tell you one more thing... China has to be experienced to be believed. I'm sure there isn't another place on earth like it. If there is, we're all in trouble. :-)
Oh, did I mention that the food is wonderful!!!?
DingBat 1 March 2007
I'd like to suggest a valuable resource for this page on living and teaching in China. The name of the website
is Middle Kingdom Life and it is a not-for-profit educational website
offering the comprehensive Foreign Teachers' Guide to Living and Teaching in
China located at middlekingdomlife.com. The guide is the culmination of
over two year's worth of work and it is updated frequently. I believe anyone who
is thinking about teaching English in China will find it to be very useful.
Greg 13 July 2009
Sure, you could read all the negative comments about China and decide it's not for you, that you wouldn't
cope with the spitting or smoking or the food, or that maybe Japan or Korea
might be a better choice as they're more developed. You could decide that you
think you'll give teaching a try next year, that this year you'll concentrate on
some other things, and so you'll stay at home, stay in your boring job,
daydreaming about doing something exciting. Orrrrrrr you could decide to just
take a chance. Save up a little money first, do a teaching qualification (4
weeks max), get online and research the history, language and culture of China,
and then make that dream become reality by flying out here and becoming one of
the few people that can say I lived in China. Who knows, like me, you might come
here for just one year, but fall in love with the place, end up staying much
longer, and see your life change in so many wonderful directions. All I'm saying is give it a try!
PJ Senior 28 September 2009
Living in Beijing now for 5 years, it's been a great adventure so far. Lots of history, lots of surprises,
and a very different culture and people. My advice to anyone looking to come
here for 1 years is to buy an electric bike. It's been a lifesaver getting to
and from classes without passing through the horrendous Beijing traffic. It is
also a great way to see and experience the city. Beijing has a lot of dedicated
electric bike lanes, but i'm not sure about the other big cities. I thought
electric biking through Beijing was so practical that I wanted to share it with
newcomers, so I started Beijing Electric Bike Tours. It's a great way to
familiarize yourself with Beijing in a half day or full day tour. All the
historical sites on a fun, comfortable, environmentally-friendly electric bike. www.bjebiketours.com
Nathan 4 June 2011
Chinese people can seem horrible and cannot offer real friendship, it is very selfish, the way people
act towards each other is the hardest thing about living in China. People push
to get in a lift before you get out, students in uni will just ignore you and
play with their phones, people do not wash very often and use soap and people
worship money a lot. Also student do not know how to think and be creative they
are used to just being told what to do and think, you will need to bring your
own teaching materials! The second hardest thing is the fake and unsafe food.
You only have to read about china outrages online or milk, re-used cooking oil
baby food stories ect. or even hit and run stories to see lack of law also good
in China are not cheap there is high tax here and a high amount of violence it
is not a real crime to fight here, you only get 5 days in jail for serious
fights, or you just pay 500 some compensation. they love fighting. But if you
can get used to ignoring locals and being more of a clown than an english
teacher you will can find a lot of work, but anyone that stays here for along
time must really hate their own country because most Chinese want to leave.
James 26 October 2011
You should take my advice and avoid this place at all costs. Luoding is disgusting. If you see anyone smiling
then take a photo. What you will see is lots of people spitting everywhere and
cooking dogs on the road. They hate foreigners and you will be treated as such.
In fact they hate everyone. Many shopkeepers will refuse to serve you just
because you are a foreigner. The streets are full of rubbish and human waste.
The choice of food is minimal. Pork, duck, dogs, cats, bats and that's all. If
you value personal hygiene then this place is not for you. You will have great
difficulties trying to purchase soap at the supermarket because the vast
majority do not sell it. I walked 4 km to a supermarket that sells soap, passing
6 other supermarkets along the way that do not sell it. Forget about coffee,
deodorant and chocolate!!
Winter is cold and your room is very cold. There is no heating. The water and electricity are constantly off and the internet is even worse. You will be supplied with a computer from the 1990's and if you have problems with the computer, and you will, then the computer technician will come to help you. He will arrive at your room with a very large screwdriver and a cloned copy of windows xp, apparently a large screwdriver and a window xp disc fixes everything. He will then sit in front of your computer not knowing what to do and just hit right click refresh, right click refresh, right click fresh for the next 20 minutes. They are obsessed with right click refresh.
Redskippy 12 November 2011
Shanghai is a pretty good place to live. It's very modern and you can get pretty much everything you
want/need these days. (I just bought vegan cream cheese of all things.) Chinese
people are generally friendly and polite, but they do have some habits that can
be off-putting for people who aren't used to adapting to other cultures
(spitting, children defecating in public, etc.). You just have to remember that
in their culture, keeping mucus in is considered a bad thing, and the average
Chinese is horrified at the concept of making their infant wear a diaper and sit
in his own poop.
Avoid the language schools if you're actually qualified and have experience as they'll work you to the bone and pay you like crap.. Try to get work in one of the international schools as they pay better and expect fewer hours.
Be prepared to bargain for everything, including your rent. But keep an open mind. Remember that you make a lot of money in comparison to the average local. Spending your time being paranoid about paying a bit extra for fake Gucci glasses will just lead to unnecessary resentment.
Taxi drivers in Shanghai are super honest, but they don't always know where they are going. It is best to have the address in Chinese printed out if you don't know how to give directions.
Learn the language. Just learning the basics will make your life so much easier. Talk to taxi drivers--they love giving impromptu lessons in pronunciation and tones. Also, make a Chinese friend as soon as possible. They will be an invaluable resource with translating for you at first and eventually becoming your conversation teacher. Chinese are proud of their language, and will happily speak it with foreigners who want to practice even if their own English is quite good.
Get a vpn so you can visit all the blocked websites.
Bring your own deodorant and hair care products. The good brands are quite expensive here and the deodorant doesn't work.
Kat 14 Feb 2012
My advice...never work in a Chinese high school! The buildings have no heating or air-con, the pay is low and toilets are
not fit for animals. Open pipe with no privacy, and the person next to you can
see your head and you will want to stand up stream or you will see his stuff
sliver past as you squat and that is in shanghai.
The students will want you to tell them the question, then write it for them, then they will want you to tell them the the answer and write it for them, they cannot think and are very lazy and are about as talkative as a fish.
What did you do last weekend? Nothing. Where did you go? I stayed at home. What did you do at home? Nothing. Nothing? Yer nothing i slept? What are your dreams? I have none? If you could visit any place in the world where world you go? I would go home and sleep.
They will suck the life out of you the are so rude ignorant and boring. As soon as i finish my contract i am gone! and once you have contract if they do not give you a reference letter you cannot work in China again.
The social life in Shanghai is like that of an Arab country there is no social life or nightlife except hostess bars - brothels with fake whiskey.
Jesse 7 March 2012
China is interesting but you have to have a very think skin. Chinese people are very rude and very selfish. Everything here is about face, even marriage is not about love. It's sad because this country is very beautiful and the people are friendly.
If you work in a university, do not work for less than 6000. 5000 is just for the advert but you can ask for more. It is normal to negotiate here, and ask about salary in the first interview. You never fail an interview in China unless you are black.
Don't teach 25 hours a week anywhere in China for less than 10,000. High schools pay 15,000 but it's hell. You just stand up and give a speech, like a dancing monkey.
Paul 10 Aug 2013
Agreed with the majority of the above! Currently teaching in Baoji, Shaanxi Province and I absolutely love it.
Starting with the negatives, my main issue is how disorganised Chinese schools can be, and many teachers lack communication (I teach in four different kindergartens and the situation is generally the same in each); schedules will change last minute and if kids aren't improving nobody will take responsibility and try to blame everyone else. The kids themselves however are fantastic. They are very quick learners and all love to participate in any activity which is great to see - at such a young age I would expect learning English from scratch to be a very daunting experience but they all try extremely hard. Another negative is the lack of personal hygiene; people will urinate in the streets, spit on pavements, smoke in restaurants, and it is strongly advised to carry a packet of tissues or roll of toilet paper everywhere you go, as these are rarely provided in public toilets! Nevertheless, as negative as the above may seem, it is all a part of China's endearing culture and you will quickly grow accustomed to their quirks.
Baoji is a smaller Chinese city relatively close to Xian so we as Brits definitely have celebrity status. There are less than 10 of us westerners living in the city. Although most of the locals are polite, there is little concept of what is socially acceptable; one Chinese teacher for instance said to my friend 'you are so fat!' (he isn't, but not hard to be larger than the locals with their tiny frames), and, as many will agree, a lot of things are simply to keep up appearances. For example, although me and my friend do not start teaching until 9am, we are required to arrive at each kindergarten at 7.30am just to greet parents as they bring their children to school. Locals are also obsessed with marriage and having babies; this is the be-all and end-all. I am single and locals are very keen to 'find me a Chinese husband'.
If experiencing a completely different culture is for you, and you are resilient and tolerant of a lot of last-minute changes and chaos, then China is definitely the place to be! Beautiful architecture, fantastic food, and interesting locals. Highly recommended.
Jen 14 Nov 2013
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