What do you like most about China?
I like being able to practice the language all the time, and the generally positive attitude of locals. Ningbo is a fantastic city to live in with a good mix of scenic spots, conveniences, and night life.
How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?
I already had friends in Ningbo before arriving, and I met a lot of new people through them. I’ve also got in touch with the other LZYE teachers, and become good friends with many of them.
What has taken a bit of getting used to?
Climate and food, of course- I had China belly briefly (everyone seems to get ill for a short while when they first move out). My language was already fairly good, but it had to get a lot better before I could really use it for daily jobs. The biggest thing is Chinese attitudes to communication, which is often very poor (or maybe just when dealing with foreigners). New classes would turn up unexpectedly, and I wasn’t told about holidays or days off in advance.
What have you found to be the major cultural differences? Have you made any cultural faux-pas?
Chinese culture is different from Western in many ways, some of which I prefer and some of which are a nuisance. Chinese people are very friendly and always keen to start up conversation with foreigners, which makes meeting new people very easy and enjoyable.
Chinese culture generally seems to be very last-minute: people will arrange social gatherings and business meetings just a few hours beforehand, which often makes things difficult for me, having arranged to do something else with Western friends days in advance.
What places have you visited whilst working? How did you travel?
Beijing and Shanghai, both to visit friends. I got to Shanghai on the high-speed train, and to Beijing by plane. Both were well-priced, convenient, and pleasant enough journeys.
How have you accessed the internet?
Wifi in the flat, coffee shops, and occasionally the centres I worked at. I use a VPN (Astrill) to access Facebook and other blocked sites. I pay about $60 for a one-year subscription, and am very happy with the service.
What is your favourite Chinese food?
Noodle soup. I love noodle soup! I also really enjoy the street food, especially barbecue skewers.
Do you manage to save any money each month? If so, how much on average?
I put aside 20% of my earnings every month (when I was working for LZYE, this was 1,800RMB), which left me plenty for food and luxuries.
What advantages may you have over other graduates when applying for future jobs?
Excellent Chinese, a strong knowledge of Ningbo and Shanghai, and a lot of experience working and living abroad. I’ve also become very adaptive, as the last-minute approach to scheduling in China has forced me to revise plans a lot.
What piece of advice would you offer to future applicants?
Learn the language- it really helps, and makes it a lot more fun as you find out about opportunities for travel and events. Network as much as possible, both with Chinese and with expats.