Moving to China to teach English will bring about an array of unique experiences. One of the most incredible things about moving overseas is discovering more about the world and ourselves. We spoke to several teachers at Houhai English about the significant lessons learned after living in China.
Chantelle Smith, South Africa
I'm from South Africa and have been living in China since 2012. I've learned to look at the correct side of the road when crossing the street, especially when coming from a country that drives the opposite way! Also, make friends that can help translate for you. Translating apps aren't always practical. I have also learned always to be friendly, say thank you, and be extra welcoming. You never know whose day you may make. Sometimes, you are the first foreigner locals will see. If they are staring at you in China, it's just because they haven't seen someone who looks like you. I always stay friendly and welcoming, especially in smaller cities, like Huzhou. I've also gained a lot of respect for Chinese students. They go out of their way to do extra work even though their workload is so high. I've also learned to be humble and giving to all my Chinese colleagues. Appreciate who you work with, and gifts are always a plus! Lastly, I've learned always to try street food! I've had fantastic street food in China, which can be even tastier than restaurants.
Kimberly Balk, USA
Since living in China, I've learned not to be afraid to ask for help. I worked at a public school previously, and I was the only foreigner. Whenever I had a small problem, like where to get medicine, I would ask for help, and they graciously helped me out a lot! Asking for help saved me in multiple situations. Also, don't get discouraged or put yourself down once in China. You will have some challenges to face, but it's a great once-in-a-lifetime experience. Living and teaching in China will be something you'll remember for the rest of your life. Also, make sure to learn about the culture here. Many things are a bit different here in China but matter a lot. For example, if you need to go to a business dinner, there are many rules to consider, like where you sit, table manners, and drinking manners. There's a lot to know. Also, it's vital to learn small amounts of Chinese!
Claudia Ababio, USA
I've picked up a better appreciation for language since moving to China. I came to China to teach English, but I had no idea how important language is as a communication tool. Basic things you take for granted at home, like communicating, will become a great challenge abroad. Since I've learned more Chinese, it has opened up a whole new world here. I've been able to travel a lot more because of my Chinese abilities. People may be stand-offish when they see I'm a foreigner, but they immediately open up once I speak Chinese. My experience of learning Chinese has also helped me see and understand how the students experience learning English. I can see the struggles they have and can relate. Once they get to know more English, they will think differently, travel more, and communicate with others. Teaching English taught me how important language is.
Isaac Kaunda, U.K
There is a concealed beauty in starting something, knowing it will inevitably end. Everything is fleeting and rapid but no less precious. Learn to live in the moment. After all, the best way to pay for a moment is to enjoy it.
Brad M., U.K.
I have been living in Beijing since October 2011, and there are so many positive things about living here: Beijing is the safest city I have ever lived in. The transport facilities are reliable. There are many beautiful parks and landmarks here, my personal favorite being the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. Teaching in China has been a learning experience! I learned very early always to ask questions to ensure and improve communication. At my first company, I was told, "you need to open a bank account." Naively, I opened one without asking which bank the school used. I expected the school to tell me. They didn't! As a teacher, you should keep improving, learn new skills, and have a sense of humor. One student said to me, "Teacher Brad, my granny saw you - she said you are old!"
Alfred Brewington, USA
One of the biggest lessons I learned while living in China is never attempting to learn Chinese by yourself. When I visited a restaurant in my community for the first time, the waitress was very kind and wanted to communicate with me, but I could not due to my lack of Chinese. So I decided to learn how to say "excuse me miss" in Chinese, which is common in other Asian countries I visited in the past. On my next visit to that restaurant, I applied what I learned and said "xiaojie" to the waitress several times. She gave me evil and confused look.
When one of my Chinese colleagues asked me how my Chinese is improving, I told her about my restaurant experience. She gave me a look of surprise and said to me that "xiaojie" is a bad word! At that moment, I realized my mistake and learned to study Chinese with a local friend.
Kelvin Chau, CANADA
In China, you depend on your phone to do things like ordering food, travel, and access buildings using the health kit code. Getting settled can be difficult, but Houhai English helps you with these things, including setting up a bank account and the apps you need for basic living. My experience in Beijing has been unique. The money, food, and people are all great.
Moving abroad isn't quite feasible for many. However, if it is a workable transition for you, we highly encourage taking the leap! Lessons learned living abroad will be something you cherish for a lifetime.