Chinese Way of Life

October 25, 2010The Experience

The China Environment: Living and Teaching

China has been closed to the world for many years, with little exposure to foreigners. Their recent desire to expand and globalize has resulted in a thirst for progression in culture and language. Much of the school’s English curriculum revolves around the acquisition of a foreign teacher. Thus, if you were to withdraw after being accepted to teach at a particular institution, it would likely be left without a foreign teacher for the semester. Moreover, finding a replacement in only a few weeks’ time is extremely difficult. Therefore, we encourage you to plan carefully before making this commitment.

“You are entering an entirely different culture, one that views you as a representative of America itself.”

We are devoted to making your transition to living in China a smooth process, but be aware that you are entering an entirely different culture, one that views you as a representative of America itself. Though many of the schools have the same standard conditions and agreements, problems caused mainly from misunderstandings may occur. This can be a part of daily life in China. You are expected to deal with and resolve these issues professionally and diplomatically. If you are unsure of what you are entitled to, you may contact China Horizons at any time to seek advice. If you are dissatisfied with the results, we can intervene in solving the problem. You are not alone in China nor at the mercy of the school’s decision. Seldom have we encountered a school that is blatantly dishonest and unfair to a teacher. Rather, most problems arise because of cultural differences and lingual misunderstandings.

If a school leader does not understand you, he/she will rarely tell you so. The nod or smile you receive in response to your request may not signify understanding. You must always follow-up and re-explain your views to accomplish tasks. The schools, however, always go out of their way to try to please you. A foreign teacher is a celebrity at the school, and you could quite possibly be the first foreigner with whom the teachers and students have ever spoken.

The Demands of the Job

Teaching in China demands a high degree of flexibility, adaptability, and optimism. The Chinese culture differs greatly from western cultures, especially in the area of communication. For westerners this difference can be frustrating and annoying. We are acustomed to talking to the right person to get something done. In China, you may not ever be able to talk with that “right” person directly, but may have to go through the school’s established hierarchy to receive a satisfactory answer. After your first month, you will catch on to their way of life and know how things work. By the end of the experience, you will be a master at negotiations and bargaining; that is how you survive in China.

Being in another country, whether with a group or independently, can bring on deep feelings of loneliness. You should prepare yourself for this before your departure; plan activities and ideas to push you through that initial culture shock and longing for home, friends, and family. The best way to combat these emotions is to immerse yourself in the Chinese culture by constant interaction with your students and fellow teachers. Making friends in China is easy, and the relationships you develop will open up doors to new experiences and opportunities.

Learning the language is another key factor affecting the quality of your stay in China. Mandarin Chinese classes can be arranged with the school. Most of your fellow Chinese teachers are more than willing to provide you with cultural and language classes during your stay. You should expect to offer them a chance to practice English one-on-one with you in exchange. Being able to speak with the Chinese people in their own tongue allows you to understand their unique view of the world and enter their society more as a fellow resident than as an uninformed foreigner.