As you plan your trip to come teach English in China, we know you’ve likely got tons of questions running through your mind. One of the questions I hear most often from potential teachers is what the experience is like coming to China and what they should be aware of while preparing to come over.
We’re always happy to answer these questions, but I think it’s even better if we can let some of the teachers we’ve helped get jobs in China speak for themselves.
That’s why we started this conducting an ESL teacher interview with our teachers, so you can get a feel for what it’s really like directly from teachers we’ve placed in jobs in China. These are their unedited opinions. Enjoy and feel free to ask the teacher questions in the comments!
First off, tell us your name, age, and where you’re from:
My name is Chris Wright, I’m 42 and I’m from Phoenix, Arizona.
What made you want to come teach in China?
I’ve always been interested in Asian cultures, and I’ve read that China was a location where teachers were usually happy and well paid.
Is this your first time teaching/living overseas?
I am a History and Science High School teacher in the states and taught there for 8 years. I’ve never taught overseas though. I’ve traveled, but never lived abroad before.
What was your experience like getting over to China?
To be honest, it was kind of hectic. I came a little late in the school year and there was a rush to get me into the classroom. But once I was here the school was great about trying to get me settled.
Was there anything that surprised you during the process of getting over to China?
The visa process was fairly painful. Very little happens quickly or simply here, especially when it comes to government bureaucracy.
What has been the most surprising part about living in China so far?
How my attitude changed about it over time. When I first got here I was not a happy camper. I did not like China!! It took a little over a month, maybe two, to grow on me, but man did it grow on me then!! I love it here now!!
What do you like best about living in China?
I never have a boring day. Everyday is interesting. I’m always learning something new, seeing something new, or doing something new. I like the feeling of being one of only a few, or sometimes the only, foreign person somewhere. I like the feeling of not being in Kansas anymore. Sometimes it’s like being on another planet, and I usually dig that.
What has been the most rewarding part of being an expat?
Always being challenged to grow. I find my attitude and perspective on a dizzying number of topics evolve and expand daily. It really helps to understand people everywhere when you begin to understand a people so different than yourself. You see how we are different, but also how much we are the same. It’s an insight into humanity, and that’s very rewarding.
What has been the most challenging part of being an expat so far?
The list is long. Even though I am quite content here now, and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon, it’s been rough too. Here are a few of my favorite things:
1. Children relieving themselves in the streets
2. Being stared at, really stared at, sometimes physically touched, like people just discovered bigfoot or saw an ancient Emperor come back from the grave. It’s kinda funny, but it gets annoying too.
3. The lack of western products.
4. Hospitals and “Traditional Chinese Medicine”.
5. People who cut in line.
6. Oh dear God!!! The SLOW internet!!!
7. And of course, missing family.There’s more, but these are all more than manageable. It’s just part of the deal, one I don’t come close to regretting.
Have you found it easy to make new friends in China?
At first no. There isn’t many people who speak English where I am and those who speak some are too shy, or afraid of losing “face”, to try to speak to me in case they make a mistake. But as time went on, and I began to understand the country and people better, I met them halfway and I have many good friends now.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to come teach in China?
Be flexible. If you can’t do that, don’t come. Things work differently here. There is a saying everyone uses when things go wrong, your frustrated, confused and want to compare everything to home: THIS IS CHINA, abbreviate to T.I.C. It’s a phrase used to remind us where we are, and to stop expecting it to not be what it is. Use the differences as a positive where you can, and be patient. What you think China is and how you feel about it will almost definitely change over time. Give it a chance. It’s not for everybody, for sure. But you if you have a sense of adventure, and want to make some money and either save or have fun, then it’s worth a try. I’m very glad I came.