SDE International - Shenzhen

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Every job has its pros and cons. Even thrilling ones in faraway countries!

It’s helpful to know the good and bad of teaching in China before you board your international flight. This way, you’ll be more prepared to face the realities. Here’s what you can expect as an English teacher in China.

The Pros of Teaching in China

1. People are friendly
As soon as you step foot on school grounds, your Chinese students and coworkers will be excited to see you.Some of them have never seen a foreigner before! You will be greeted by waves, gifts delivered to your desk, and, if you teach young kids, endless hugs.People want to get to know you, so you’ll never be lonely in China.

2. Cost of living is low
Granted, cost of living varies depending on where you stay. Still, even in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, you’ll be delighted by how cheap a pair of shoes or a taxi ride is. Thanks to these low costs, you’ll have more money to spend on luxuries, put into a savings account, or travel.

3. You can travel Asia
China itself has endless destinations for travelers. Do you want to see pandas? Go to Chengdu. Do you want to go hiking? Visit the Yellow Mountains. And let’s not forget the Great Wall of China in Beijing!Beyond China, flights to nearby Asian countries are affordable. Flying from your home country to Asia can take a toll on your wallet. But once you’re there, you might as well take advantage of all the cheap deals and see as much of the continent as you can!

4. You can learn a new language
Once upon a time, the idea of studying Mandarin Chinese terrified me. A tonal language? With characters? And insane grammar rules? No way I could learn it!Of course, learning Mandarin ended up being one of my favorite parts of living in China. All you need is a kind language exchange partner or fun tutor. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking one of the most useful languages in global business.

The Cons of Teaching in China

1. Communicating is difficult
Unless you’re fluent in Mandarin right off the bat, you’re bound to run into some communication problems.Actually, even if you speak the language, you’ll occasionally struggle interacting with locals. Communication styles are vastly different in China than in Western countries.For example, saving face is crucial in China. So instead of giving you constructive criticism about your teaching style, fellow teachers might never say anything because they don’t want to embarrass you. As a result, you’d never know if you were doing something wrong!

2. It’s hard to discipline your students
The language barrier affects your relationship with students, too. Every once in a while, two students would break out into a fight during my class period. They would each try to tell me what was wrong, but I couldn’t understand enough Mandarin, and their English was limited.The result was that I usually had to punish both children. I always felt guilty, because one of them was probably innocent.

3. Health standards are different
I never got used to not having hand soap in public restrooms. Or to random passersby hocking loogies.Health standards are just different in China than in Western countries, and you have to learn to look past them if you want to stay sane. In restaurants, the waiter hands you a pot of steaming water for you to clean the utensils they provide you, because they know the silverware might not have been cleaned thoroughly beforehand.Just roll with it and use that steaming water.

4. Everyone stares at you
As I mentioned previously, many locals have never seen a foreigner before. Wherever you go, someone will stare.Don’t be offended! Staring is culturally acceptable in China. Just beware that it can get old after a few months.


SDE International - Shenzhen

New teaching jobs in China interviewing now, apply today!

About the Author:

Laura Grace Tarpley
Laura Grace Tarpley is a freelance writer and English teacher in Shenzhen, China. She enjoys tinkering with crossword puzzles, reading Bill Bryson books, and taking naps on her huge couch. Follow her travels on her Instagram and Twitter. Or you can check out her blog, Let’s Go, Tarpley!
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