Patricia Coogan


What were your expectations prior to starting your role? How has the experience matched your expectations?

I had expected the children to be very well disciplined here, pertaining to the stereotypes which are very true. Students here are so lovely and it is very easy to create friendships with students. Of course there are some students that go against the stereotype but that was also expected.

What do you like most about China?

I really enjoy both the food and speaking mandarin. I am in Sichuan, so sichuanese food is very different to the usual cantonese food i had at home. It is very spicy because of the sichuan pepper local to sichuan. Although i hated it when i first arrive, i now cannot imagine food without the slightest hint of spice. Also the food is really cheap which is a bonus, though not to my weight. I also get private tutor lessons from a person who has become a very close friend to me. Speaking mandarin on a daily basis gives me a lot of pride, especially when the person i’m speaking to doesn’t expect it.

What has taken a bit of getting used to?

The driving habits here. Although they’re often impatient the taxi and bus drivers are great at getting you from A to B, although they drive faster and swervier than they do at home in England.

What’s your accommodation like?

I have been really lucky with my accommodation as it has a balcony and views from every room that spans out quite a distance. It is often really beautiful watching the sunrise in the morning! Also, as part of my contract, the company pays for the water, electricity and rent making it so easy to save money.

How have you got to know people socially (both Chinese and other ex-pats)?

I recently joined a dance studio as i have always enjoyed it, and so am starting to make a lot of chinese friends there as I am the only foreigner. Also there are a lot of people who like to practice their english, and so I am often making friends with people wherever I go. Either at the bus stop, the airport or even Starbucks. I have made some expat friends mostly in the bars as that’s where the majority tend to congregate. Most of the bars and clubs in Chengdu are expat-owned so it’s very easy meeting expats here.

What have you found to be the major cultural differences? Have you made any cultural faux-pas?  

Apart from the driving, there tends to be a huge openness with things you might consider to be shocking at home. For example, there’s a lot of spitting, in buses (albeit in bins), and on the streets. Also when it comes to tipping, people can take it offensively as it suggests they have no money. I may have once or twice forgotten this and offered too much. However, some people will take a tip unwaveringly, so it entirely depends on the person.

What places have you visited whilst working? How did you travel?

I visited Beijing when i got here as that was where my training course was situated.

I visited Chongqing by high speed train during the New years which was beautiful as thousands of people released balloons at midnight.

I visited a couple of places during Spring festival. I took a bus to Xiling Snowy Mountain, then took another bus to a small ancient town museum called Anren. Then took another bus to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha. Finally I flew to Shanghai for the end of Spring Festival. Travelling is really cheap and easy, though sometimes very long as China is huge.)

What is your favourite Chinese food?

There are so many, but most of the street food in Chengdu makes the top of the list. Any kind of bing (wrap) is great and varies between cities. The bbq here is really good too! You can normally find people with street carts down side roads selling a ariety of meats and veg covered in the sichuan spice, although you can get it witout that too.

Do you manage to save any money each month? If so, how much on average?

Up until Spring festival i had managed to save between 2000-3000 a month. It’s really easy to save as everything is so cheap!

What piece of advice would you offer to future applicants?

Make sure the company you work for has a solid admin representative as there are times when we’ve needed help but didn’t know who to go to. Also be prepared for the pollution if you’re in a large city which can often be shocking (6 months in and I still pretend it’s fog).


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