Put simply, I love China, it is a country that has so much to offer, amazing food, wonderful sights, incredible career opportunities, interesting people and most of all it gives you the chance to experience a culture and country like no other. I moved to China in 2010, planning to say for six months, instead I stayed for six years. I lived in Yantai, a city on the coast of Shandong province, Pinglu, a remote town near Xian and in the great capital of Beijing. I spent time travelling through the incredible cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing, Suzhou, Xian, Qingdao, Guilin, and Nanning as well as exploring the countryside around these areas. I've spent time in the famous casinos of Macau and lived in Hong Kong for two years making frequent trips back to the mainland.
I taught English as a Foreign Language whilst in China, working in an international school, a Chinese public school, a private English language school run by a great guy from Northern Ireland before finishing up working in City University of Hong Kong. I gained a fantastic experience and learnt so much from colleagues both Chinese and foreign. The memories of the students I taught have stayed with me to this day and I cannot believe that some of them who were in Kindergarten will now almost be starting Secondary School. I will not bore you all with the memories but a few stand out such as having a room full of students shout back 'table' in a very Northern Irish accent, taking part in a game of tug of war with colleagues on a busy street in Beijing, judging English talent competitions, singing very badly in classrooms all over China and attempting not to lose twenty kindergarten students in an apple orchard in Yantai.
Yet China, like all countries, has its challenges and communication is probably the biggest hurdle many expats will face. Rather than letting it get you down the best thing to do is embrace the challenge. In Mandarin the word for mother and horse is very similar and at times brought a few laughs from the locals. Bartering in markets is great fun, especially when it ends in shouting and firing rather rude words at scarf sellers, but that is a story for another time. At times you might end up thinking it was chicken you were eating but not realised until later was actually snake or sea cucumber, whilst you may forgive yourself your stomach may not. Travelling also has its moments, having bought train tickets to Beijing but instead getting on the train to Xian, again having a whole carriage of travelers laughing hysterically at you. If your geography of China is any good you will realise the extent of that mistake...672 miles to be exact.
China offers an expat so much, from eating the best beef noodles out of a shack in Shanghai, seeing baby pandas and terracotta warriors, drinking baijiu with the locals, camping on the Great Wall, to the most epic karaoke nights ever! It can be stressful and rewarding in the space of five minutes and at times home sickness kicks in, especially when all you can think about is a good Irish fry. You can visit some of the most amazing cities in the world, experience endless fireworks at Chinese New Year, ride a train for 40 hours, marvel at dancing dragons and lions and lose yourself in a culture like no other. Thinking back on China from my office in London today I am filled with lasting memories of great friendships, wonderful adventures, hilarious situations mostly involving language barriers, spicy beans, amazing students and some of the best fashion I have ever seen! Whilst China might not be for everyone, don't rule it out straight away, it has plenty of teaching opportunities for teachers from all over the world! And you too could find yourself watching the sunrise from the Great Wall one day!
by Edvectus Recruitment Consultant, Hannah Brant