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Teaching English overseas is growing in popularity. And China is routinely at the top of travelers’ lists. Keep reading China: What You Need to Know Before You Go to learn our insider tips for life in the Middle Kingdom.
Moving to a foreign country can be a daunting prospect, and there are few more challenging places than China. Though it comes with its difficulties, it’s also one of the best destinations for those looking to teach English abroad. A little preparation can go a long way. So, with that in mind, here some of the things you should expect when you head off to start your career in the mystical Middle Kingdom.
Most locals shy away from talking politics. Those who are happy to discuss it are likely to hold wildly different views to you on the Chinese Communist Party. The inner workings and intricacies of Chinese politics are fascinating and often misunderstood. However, living in China is an excellent opportunity to learn about the red politics of the East. Instead of trying to convince the locals of the benefits of the Western liberal model, listen and try to understand the often genuine appreciation of the Chinese government.
Coming from a highly-regulated developed country, living in China and dealing with the haphazard approach to regulations and safety can be a somewhat perturbing – particularly the pollution problem. Come the winter months, smog clouds large urban areas including Beijing and sometimes Shanghai. However, masks and air purifiers significantly reduce the impact of the poor air quality. Also, severely polluted days are few and far between. The government has also made good progress in cleaning up the air over the past few years and it remains one of their top priorities.
Learning the local language is always a key part of assimilating when you move to a foreign country. But when you’re living in China, acquiring survival Mandarin is a necessity. English is poorly spoken, even in the capital, Beijing. So getting the basics down will make your life in China a whole lot easier. While enrolling in a class or getting a tutor is preferable, Duolingo and Hello Chinese are two apps that will give you enough knowledge to order food, direct taxis and perform other perfunctory daily tasks.
When you’re looking for an answer to a simple question, don’t expect a prompt response. Due to the over hierarchical culture, there is a reticence for anybody to take responsibility which can be extremely frustrating. To get an issue resolved you will probably have to push your contact. But it’s imperative to never, ever get angry. Displays of anger in China are seen as extremely offensive and will not be understood as they are at home. Take a deep breath and keep respectfully pushing your query.
For the most part, accessing the internet is trouble-free with the help of a good VPN (virtual private network). However, during politically sensitive times such as large state celebrations and ostentatious government meetings, those pesky communist officials manage to block VPNs. It can be frustrating not having unfettered access to Facebook, Netflix, and the Western news outlets. However, these strict periods only happen once or twice a year and rarely last more than a few days. Rather than getting angry, treat yourself to a digital detox. You can take the opportunity to read that book which has been languishing on your shelf!
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