If you’re about to move to China to teach, you may be worried about finding a place to live, communicating with those who speak a different language and getting medical help if you’re sick or injured. The list of things you’re worried about may be endless but with every challenge comes an opportunity to overcome it and gain confidence.
English teacher Erica Connolly, who works for online essay portal, AussieWritings, says, “Open communication and flexibility can remedy many challenges that you may face. If you arrive on your first day with an open mind and positive attitude, you will be setting yourself up for success.” ‘To find out more about AussieWritings.com, log on to their website.
Be open to making friends
At first, everything will be exciting and different, but after a few weeks, you may find yourself feeling homesick as the novelty wears off. The reality of daily life sets in, and you need to think about establishing new relationships.You may wonder if you will ever establish a social network like the one you had at home.
Ask yourself whether you’ve been too busy settling in to make any time to go out with others. Perhaps you have met some people, but you haven’t spent any time with them. Unless you spend time with others, you won’t establish close relationships.
The relationships you establish during this time may be the most amazing life-long ones, and the sooner you make them, the less headaches you will have living in China. You are going through an experience that alters your perceptions, and you may form deep ties with those going through the same things as you.
Bond with expats
The most obvious group to link up with is other people from your country who are foreigners in China, just like you. You will be experiencing similar anxieties that you can bond over. Without a support group like this, your life will be more stressful. It’s difficult to deal with all the unfamiliar issues on your own, and no amount of deep breathing will eliminate the stress.
New expats in China may complain about China when they get together with other new expats and talk about how difficult life can be. This is likely to affect your opinion about the country and add to your homesick feelings. Rather relate to expats who have been living in China for some years, have already dealt with all the problems you may encounter and can help you to settle in and negotiate any difficulties. There is no shortage of expat communities you can join in China.
Just don’t develop a cocoon of expats around you that insulate you from experiencing the amazing local culture right under your nose. Drinking frequently and generally being irresponsible with other expats can prevent you from achieving your financial goals and from forming friendships with the locals.
Relate to Chinese co-workers
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when living in a new country is to surround yourself with expats and avoid reaching out to locals.
A good way to start relating to locals is by becoming close to those around you at work or at school. They usually want to relate to you just as much as you want to relate to them. Through them, you can begin to understand more about the Chinese culture and what their daily life entails. Having Chinese friends will help you to solve problems in minutes that could take you days or weeks to figure out on your own.
Colleagues will be able to help you with big issues, like finding a suitable apartment, and smaller ones such as the best and cheapest places to eat. Apartments are regularly rented out, and you will usually have no difficulty finding one if you get some help from a colleague.
Ask local teachers for help
Navigating any new workplace is difficult, but in a foreign country, adjusting is more difficult. Perhaps your paycheck hasn’t arrived on time, and you don’t know what to do. You may show up to a class or a meeting to find out it has been canceled. You soon find out that the Chinese are more flexible when it comes to time. You will need to be flexible too and ready for things to change at the last minute without any warning.
You can learn a great deal about how to act in your workplace by observation. See how others react to situations and learn to expect the unexpected. There is usually a homeroom teacher you can ask for help. The homeroom teacher will usually have an intimate knowledge of students and can give you some valuable tips. Local teachers are a great resource if you’re struggling and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask them for help.
Immerse yourself in the culture
Bradley Harmison, an expat, confessed, “I was shocked by men and women spitting out bones onto the tables in restaurants.” You are likely to experience culture shock when you first start living in China as it is so different from home.
English teacher Greg Barnes says “Be honest and friendly, and the Chinese people will welcome you with open arms. If you try to speak a few words in their language, they really appreciate it.” Chinese people are famous for their hospitality, and you may find the parents of your students inviting you for a meal.
Of course, the way you interact with Chinese people will vary, depending on the region where you’re working. In the large cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, there are so many foreigners that you probably won’t get a second glance. With some basic English, a little Mandarin and some body language you can do more than survive. In provincial cities, you are likely to get some stares and people are likely not to understand you because there are so many different dialects.
The longer you live in China, the more the culture and history of the place will blow you away. Try to travel as much as possible because there is so much to see. The country is very culturally diverse, and each little town or village has its own dialect, culture, and cuisine. There’s a colorful life out there, and once you have got over the culture shock, you can enjoy being part of it.
Eat the local food
Expat Peter Williams had a bad experience when one of his friends invited him to join a group of Chinese people he had invited out for a meal. This friend calculated at the end of the evening what everyone should contribute. He was branded a cheapskate and given the cold shoulder by his Chinese friends.
In China, the one who does the inviting pays the bill for everyone. Splitting the bill is a foreign concept.This shows how important it is to become familiar with various important aspects of Chinese culture if you don’t want to give offense.
If you try to keep eating Western food every day, expats advise that you will be out of money very fast. They say you can eat out every day if you’re eating Chinese food. Some expats enjoy Chinese food and find it far superior to the Chinese takeaways they get in their own countries.
Join language exchanges and clubs
Teaching locals language skills is a great option for networking. Some locals are eager to work on their conversational English. They can help you with the local language too – often in a casual setting like a restaurant. You never know who you will meet or what contacts these locals may have to introduce you to.
Many of us are already familiar with Meetup.com that operates worldwide. It allows you to meet up with people who are interested in the same things as you, including hiking, wine tasting, bike riding and much more.Whatever you enjoy doing, you’re likely to find that someone has created a Meetup group close enough to join.
Hash House Harriers is a running club that operates in many international cities. It’s a way for joggers to meet up with other joggers and socialize together over a beer or two.
Become a volunteer
There are always organizations that need help and volunteering provides a way to see another side of the country and to experience a deeper connection with the society you’re living in. Perhaps you can volunteer to give some classes in a low-income school or help out at a local orphanage.
Make sure you have a mobile phone
In China, your mobile phone will be all important, so you must make sure you have one when you arrive. Make sure that your phone is not locked into one service provider or this could be a problem in China.
WeChat will probably be the single most important app in your life in China. If you have an Android phone, download WeChat before you leave because you won’t be able to access the Google Play store in China.
The mobile phone is king in China. If you order food on your phone, it will probably arrive within the hour and other orders, like electronics or clothing, are likely to be received the same day. You can buy train and plane tickets or order taxis. You can learn Chinese and even watch your favorite TV shows from back home.
Use Online resources
There are many forums where you can make contact with other expats in China. You can share advice about teaching, the best places to live, expat events and clubs as well as the cost of living in China.
To sum it up
If you’re finding yourself in need of change, you should definitely consider China.Face the experience with a positive attitude, and you will gain the most from it. People who don’t like China may complain about the pollution, the noise, the traffic, etc.
People who love it will tell you amazing stories from their teaching and their travels. They fall in love with China a little more every day with every city they visit, every new food they try and every national holiday they experience. They know that teaching and living abroad is a unique experience and they make the most of it.
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