What were your expectations prior to starting your role? How has the experience matched your expectations?
I expected my working week to be very long, with little time to explore the local area outside of the working hours. However, I couldn’t be more wrong. We work much fewer hours than I thought we would, and all of our weekday classes are in the evening, giving the us the morning and early afternoon to do what we want.
In terms of the actual teaching, I expected that we would have to plan all of our lessons ourselves. This isn’t the case, as we are given all of the resources to conduct our lessons, we just need to take a little time out to get it typed up on the computer.
What do you like most about China?
I like the excitement and buzz that hangs around every street. I wake up every day not knowing what I will see, or hear on my way to work, or on our days off. The food is fantastic. We already have our favourite dishes, and even if we want to try something new, then there is so much street food, at a really cheap price.
What has taken a bit of getting used to?
There are a few cultural things which have taken a bit of getting used to. The first is the stares from local people. Because we are a little way out of the city, foreigners are very hard to come by, which means that the local people will often point and be shocked by us. Also, people regularly take photos of us in public, which is very frustrating.
What’s your accommodation like?
Our accommodation is much better than I anticipated. Me and my brother share a two bedroom apartment, with a large living area, bathroom, and kitchen. The bedrooms are super big, and there would even be room for family or friends to come and stay with us. We only have one stove in the kitchen, but we eat out for most of our meals, so this isn’t really a problem.
How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?
We have already made great friends at work with the other foreign teachers, and we regularly go out for food, and drinks after work. It has been harder for us to go out socially with the local staff, as most of them have families that they must get to after work, but they have all been very supportive if we need anything.
What have you found to be the major cultural differences? Have you made any cultural faux-pas?
There seems to be a lot less organisation, and common decency. Especially on the roads, which can be very scary. We have already seen/been involved in three traffic collisions while in taxis, because of a lack of organisation.
Also, it is frustrating when we queue up for something, and people just push in front of us.
What places have you visited whilst working? How did you travel?
We have been to Shanghai several times, as we have a friend there, and that is a really cool place. Also, we have travelled to Nanjing, which was historical and very interesting. Both of these places we travelled to on the train, which was very easy to organise.
We have also booked to go to Vietnam for spring festival.
What is your favourite Chinese food?
My favourite food is sweet sour pork (which I have around three times a week!). There is also a fantastic Muslim restaurant right by our school, which sells really good food at super prices.
Do you manage to save any money each month? If so, how much on average?
So far, not an awful lot. Because we are new, we have had to buy a lot of things to get us started, like a rice cooker and a soft mattress. However, I am confident in being able to save money, and still eat out regularly, and socialise with friends.
What piece of advice would you offer to future applicants?
My advice would be to learn as much language as you can before you come, especially your numbers. I regret not spending as much time as I should on the basics of the language, which made it extra hard for the first few weeks that we were here.
My other piece of advice is to do as much research, and don’t bring any preconceptions. China is a wonderful place!
Do you have any feedback on how Opportunity China can improve its service for teachers?
I don’t have any feedback, and I would have no hesitations in recommending Opportunity China to anyone!