What were your expectations prior to leaving the UK? How has the experience matched your expectations?
Aside from the obvious upheaval in regards to the food and language, upon leaving the UK I was really unsure what to expect. I’d heard vastly differing opinions from friends and family who’d visited China, ranging from those extolling its virtues, to those expressing downright contempt for the culture. I’m glad to say that my experience here so far has confounded those negative opinions, and resoundingly reinforced the positive.
What do you like most about China?
Despite common belief, the city where I’m working, Chengdu, is a highly languid, relaxed place. Although the sheer volume of people here mean it sometimes does get a touch busy, you’ll always see people standing around on the street chattering, playing dice games and drinking tea.
What has taken a bit of getting used to?
Mostly it’s been rather a smooth transition, but the only thing that has been a bit troubling is how complicated seemingly simple dealings can be. In the UK I’m used to things like opening a bank account and sending mail being done in a super speedy fashion. However, that’s only a minor thing and now after a month it hardly bothers me.
What’s your accommodation like?
My accommodation is great. I share with another teacher, and the flat contains a large living room, well planned kitchen and utility area and a great bathroom.
How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?
Many of my colleagues are Chinese, so I’ve been out for food and drinks with them several times. Initially most friends I made were ex-pats, as the majority of the bars I frequented were British. However, as my Chinese has improved I’ve begun making many more Chinese friends. Many Chinese people are really keen to meet British friends, and they tend to be very affable and friendly.
What have you found to be the major cultural differences? Have you made any cultural faux-pas?
A real difference here is that people eat very late compared to the UK. Restaurants, shops and cafes open until the early hours dealing all manner of tasty treats. I don’t think I’ve made any cultural faux-pas, but I have made a lot or errors, normally involving transport…
How have you accessed the internet?
I haven’t really missed Facebook so haven’t bothered with a VPN, so just in the regular way.
What is your favourite Chinese food?
Without a doubt chuan chuan.
Do you manage to save any money each month? If so, how much on average?
Around £400 a month.
What advantages may you have over other graduates when applying for future jobs?
The obvious advantage is that I’ve begun learning Mandarin, which is held in high esteem by many employers. Also, I think moving to a new country demonstrates an impressive self-belief in my ability to adapt to a new environment and flourish there.
What piece of advice would you offer to future applicants?
Really do try and learn Chinese as soon as possible: I’ve just completed my first week and it really has enriched my life here. I find that with a basic foundation I’m learning so much more in social situations, and it’s extremely helpful with meeting new people.