(Foreign Teachers at Jiangxi Normal University)
I’ve been teaching here in China for almost 2.5 years. I think I’ve experienced every shocking aspect of Chinese culture and life here. I’ve traveled to 26 countries. I know how to travel and best of all, I know how to adapt. I’m amazed at foreigners who come here who think they still live in the West and have the same privileges, rights and same laws to adhere to as in the West. Here are 8 morsels of advice for anyone coming to China to teach.
1. You don’t have the rights you have in your own country – You are a visitor here. You must have an invitation to come here. You will abide by the same laws as the Chinese must. You will have less rights than they do. Accept, adapt to it or, don’t come. I might add that it isn’t that hard to adapt to if you can act and conduct yourself maturely as a world traveler. You’d have to do the same in any country you visit.
2. If you hate Communists, stay home – If you hate communism and are vocal about it in the West, don’t come to China and think that you can continue that. Politics and government aren’t any of your business. If you come here to teach, then, teach. You are required by law to keep your opinions about government, religion and law to yourself.
3. Expect change (sometimes hourly) – This isn’t a big slam to Chinese people because they are used to it. But, please note that things here aren’t organized or scheduled much in advance. My impression of Chinese used to be that they were highly organized and disciplined people. In some ways, they are. But don’t expect it in scheduling or organization.
4. Expect to get stared at – Especially if you are in an area like I am in Henan Province. Let me give you some stats. Beijing has a population of about 22 million with more than 20,000 foreign teachers. Zhengzhou, where I live, has about 12.5 million people (a little more than half as many as Beijing or Shanghai) with about 600 foreign teachers. There are less 1,600 foreigners in this city. I can go for weeks and not see another foreigner. We stand out and people stare. If you don’t like getting stared at (it doesn’t bother me) then go to Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou.
5. Learn some basic Mandarin phrases – you need to know enough to get what you want in a restaurant and how to tell a taxi driver where to go. I have never had a problem in a taxi. I tell them cross streets where I want to go and I always get there. Only one taxi driver ever cheated me. He purposely drove slow to make his time clock run up the fare. I’ve taken taxis several hundred times. Just learn how to say where you want to go.
6. Get used to squat pot type toilets – It might sound quite primitive, but, there are squat pot type toilets nearly every where you go. Now you’ll likely have western toilets in your apartment or most hotels. But they still have, not only squat pot type toilets but toilet trenches. It can be disgusting and quite smelly. But it is how it is here. Also, take your own toilet paper. There won’t be any supplied in the toilet.
7. Learn the bus routes or get an e-bike – you might not want to buy an e-bike right away. You’ll spend no more than $650 for a good one. I’ve had two. They are very convenient and far better than taking the bus. I found that before I got an e-bike, I stayed sick a lot with colds. I’m confident I caught the colds from others on the crowded buses. Taxis are also cheap where I live. But I like the convenience of any e-bike. They cost almost nothing to maintain. I put mine in a underground parking garage at night. I can recharge it there. It costs me $4 a month to keep it there. Very cheap.
8. Be punctual and dependable – You’d be shocked at how many foreign teachers show up for classes late and just simply aren’t dependable. It’s an embarrassment for those of us who take what we’re doing here seriously.
I’m sure I can think of other things to share but that’s about it for now. I’ll share more as I think of them.
“Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.”
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(Credit: China Daily; Photo Credit: Jiangxi Normal University)