It’s the start of the school year, meaning thousands of new teachers have just arrived in China to start their teaching jobs – especially those working in international and public schools. Beginning a new job can be really exciting yet nerve-wracking at the best of times, let alone when doing so on the other side of the world! It’s therefore so important to really throw yourself in to life at school, explore your amazing surroundings, meet a huge range of new people and, of course, eat a wide variety delicious food!
This week’s blog gives some top tips for settling in to teaching in China during your first few weeks.
Explore your new city!
Explore your new surroundings with the help of one of the many user friendly and English language Map applications in China.
The Great Firewall of China has blocked access to the go-to Western app, Googlemaps. Luckily useful alternatives include applemaps for ios users (in China it has full functionality in your city, including public transport times and live traffic updates, applemaps works a lot better in China than at home!). Another useful app to use as an alternative if you aren’t a member of the apple family is OSM Maps, which has great online functionality, but also the ability to store maps and use GPS offline, to help you get around the city if you run out of data.
If you intend to head out of the city for a weekend trip to see the surrounding areas over the weekend, download the Trip (formerly CTrip) app, and book your train or flight transport online. You can also book hotels for accommodation as well. As a top tip, if you have a Chinese friend, ask them to help you use the Chinese language app as tickets and reservations are cheaper than on the English language version!
Accept Invitations from Colleagues and New Friends
Forging a network of friends, both expats and Chinese, is vital to really enjoying your time in China. Being sociable and outgoing is not something that comes naturally to everyone, so you’ve really got to grab the bull by the horns and find your courage. Expat and local communities in China are incredibly friendly and welcoming, and it’s one of the easiest places in the world to make friends, especially in the expat community where everyone else has been in your position before. So if your school arranges a dinner or Chinese co-workers suggest meeting after work, accept the invite and join in. There’s also ample opportunity to join a sport team, gym or language exchange, all great ways to be social and meet others living in your city.
Embrace the AMAZING Food!
OK, so you might want to take it easy during your first few days in the country and stay away from any food which is too different to what you’re used to while your body adapts – but after this initial ease in then you’ll be able to fully embrace the Chinese food culture, which is absolutely amazing! This is a matter that some teachers can be cautious of, worried about hygiene and ingredients, but just by using common sense you’ll get a feel for which stalls or restaurants to stay clear of, and local colleagues will have their recommendations. Think a standard day of picking up a Taiwan Wrap for RMB5 for breakfast on the way to school, a big cooked lunch of rice with meat or vegetable dishes (see typical Chinese school lunch in the photo above), and a bowl of steaming noodles dinner for RMB10 – with a few snacks like Youtiao (think a giant long Donut) and a packet of rice crackers thrown in along the way!
When you’re fed up of the local food then you’ll not find it hard to get Italian, fast food or snacks like potato chips, western chocolate and ice-cream. You can even have McDonalds or KFC delivered to your apartment through their dedicated English language apps!
Set Up your VPN
So as above we’re not suggesting that you spend all day watching Netflix and chatting to friends at home on social media, however these ‘home comforts’ really can lift your mood when you need a moment of ‘me-time’ and want to share your amazing experience.
It’s really important to download and install a VPN on you laptop, tablet and mobile phone before you head out to China. You’ll need one to access website like Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, and Google service and certain news websites.
Ask for Help!
Finally, it’s important that if you’re struggling with anything at all that you just ask for help. Generally, Chinese colleagues will go out of their way to ensure that you are happy, settled and supported – however they may not know that you are finding something difficult or could benefit from assistance. Politely asking will never be frowned on, and will ensure anything is quickly resolved.
You can also contact your Coordinator at Opportunity China for advice, guidance or just to discuss anything that you’re unsure of.