What were your expectations prior to starting your role? How has the experience matched your expectations?
Before arriving in China, I had heard mixed stories about previous experiences but I arrived with an open mind, and it has not disappointed. Having never travelled to the country before, it was both daunting and exciting but the initial terror was washed away after the first few days. The local people are so friendly and welcoming that it is easy to make the place home. Although having studied a fair bit about the country during my degree, nothing could prepare me for the reality of the culture and lifestyle, although sometimes challenging (mostly when lost), it is always an adventure.
What do you like most about China?
Everyday is different; you are constantly meeting new people. You are in a country that is completely unlike anything you will have experienced before. Everyday is challenging but also exciting. You are surrounded by new people and new experiences and the travel opportunities are excellent. I love that I can try new foods every day and can catch a bus or metro for 2 RMB that takes me to a new and different part of the city and where I can safely just wander and explore.
What has taken a bit of getting used to?
The language is the most obvious difference and also challenge. I arrived knowing next to zero and it can at times be frustrating, I also found the pollution a real challenge and sometimes the sheer number of people in one place. The amount of people that can squeeze into a metro never ceases to amaze me! It still surprises me when the locals take photos of you, usually without permission, and being subject to stares still makes me feel a bit like a celebrity.
What’s your accommodation like?
I live in a excellent apartment, which has sky-high views. I share with two other teachers which is great because it means that I have someone to rant at after my day at work, and also exchange embarrassing kindergarten stories with. I also am completely aware that the apartment I live in is far nicer than anything I could comprehend affording in the UK!
How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?
I am fortunate enough to work in school with lots of other foreign teachers, and that my city has a comfortable expat community. The Chinese locals are friendly too and always willing to help and when you do become friends with them they are lovely and loyal, and always willing to make you great dinners!
What places have you visited whilst working? How did you travel?
I am based in the south so have spent a lot of time in Guangzhou, which is the capital of the south region. I also have managed to visit the terracotta warriors in Xi’an which was breathtaking. The best ways to travel are either by plane or a sleeper bus/train. I somehow always forget just how large a country it is and how long places can take to get to!
What is your favourite Chinese food?
DIM-SUM! Without a shadow of doubt. Its so quick, easy and delicious. I also appreciate the amount of eggplant that is served here. I am a vegetarian, and I will admit that it can be a challenge always finding food but everywhere you go you can find a BBQ stand that has cabbage and onions on the go and its cheap and tasty.
Do you manage to save any money each month? If so, how much on average?
I have been aiming to save 20 percent of my salary each month, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I use the money I save to travel as much as I can.
What piece of advice would you offer to future applicants?
Always be willing to try something new, be it riding a tandem bike, trying a new food or singing the wheels on the bus even if you are tone deaf. The Chinese are always thankful for someone putting in the effort and it can make the trip so much more exciting. I would also say that you might at times find it challenging, particularly early on. But, don’t get downbeat because the opportunity is always surprising and incredibly rewarding!