School Daze in China

Dear ISR, I just moved to China and have to tell you that this is my very first experience out of Australia and I’m in over my head. I came here expecting one thing and got another. Nothing is as the director said it would be at the conference. I feel super deceived and don’t know what to do.

My apartment is small and in a not-so-good part of town. No one around me speaks a word of English and they stare at me as if I were from another planet. Actually, I’m starting to feel like I am from another planet. The food is strange, the air stinks, my eyes hurt and I already know this isn’t going to be good for my allergies.

The director painted a picture of a garden spot–this is a hell hole. Now what? I’m sure my experience is not unique. I wish I had discovered your web site before I took this job. Has anyone at ISR been in this position? I could use some advice!

52 Responses to School Daze in China

  1. MDB says:

    Wow, I have been offered a job in Jiaxing University, and the Dean of the College where I teach warned me that standards of cleanliness in China are very different to the US. He said you could find bathrooms by following the foul smell from quite a distance. I was very disappointed to know that even in a college environment cleanliness is not up to par. The mildew in the faculty apartments and A/C systems would make me sick too, he added. I love Chinese people, and I would adjust fine to any culture, but that statement scared me away. I think that nothing that risks someone’s health is worth any money. I would leave.


    • BeenThere says:

      After reading all of the postings, anything I might add would probably be superfluous, but I too tried China twice, as I had friends who loved it, and both times were also a health disaster for me. I became very ill and the second time just had to leave to save my life.

      China is a worthwhile experience, and I still recommend trying it to people but understand fully the health concerns. As to the other issue, yes, all school heads will either lie, or be evasive. It is up to you to do as much research as you can before accepting an assignment anywhere.


  2. Sloane says:

    I think you should stay too. I have been in China for three years sofar and no I don’t like/love it. Why do I stay? I have a mortgage back home in the USA. In fact, I’m in Atlanta visiting family and checking on my property. I live in Anhui province. I will return this weekend to Shanghai. You can do a year.It won’t kill you. If you want to chat you can IM on yahoo at or Skype me at sistrunkqueen.


  3. Helen says:

    Perhaps you should read the latest meat scams in China which may change your viewpoint on whether or not staying in China for any length of time is a serious health issue.


  4. Alberto Martinez says:

    Those making fun of you haven´t either lived in China or haven´t ever enjoyed a blue sky and clean water. I spent two years teaching in Shanghai and the whole experience was horrible. No clean food, 300+ pollution points average, stinking water to bath… you name it. Oh, forgot to mention the Avian Flu outbreak and the 20,000 pigs floating in the Yangtze river. Forget about “interesting” experiences or focusing in teaching and getting used to it. That is BS. If you do not have a real financial need to be there, LEAVE. Your health is the most important thing and go back to your beautiful country. You deserve it.


  5. Helen says:

    I tried China stuck it out for one year by attempting to make the best of opportunities however I decided it was not for me and I am now back in the Middle East. The money is less here but I prefer to live here however I look on the past year as an adventure where I was able to travel and learn about another culture. My advice is try to stay for the year, travel to Beijing, Hong Kong and before you know it the year will be over. Good luck


  6. Anonymous says:

    If you are not happy then leave. You will be saving yourself and your students well being by not staying in a situation that makes you unhappy. If the director lied then you have NO obligation to stay at the school. Go home, chalk it up to experience and if you wish to go abroad again then this time research the school, the country and the culture.

    For those of you who feel that attacking someone who has little expat experience for being overwhelmed and asking for advice I would say that I hope you are not teachers. It is teachers like you who make it very difficult for new teachers abroad to settle into life in a foreign country. Instead of being “I completely embrace the culture, therefore I look down on you” jerks you might want to use some of your knowledge to help new teachers staff acclimatize to their new situation. That is if your not to busy bragging how well you speak the language and only hang out with the locals.


  7. Anonymous says:

    You were lied to. They all do it, but some do it better than others. That’s enough for me. If you want to go, then head for the hills and don’t look back. Life is too short to feel obligated to misery.


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes I would say get out as soon as possible. I have worked in many countries in Asia and also in Africa. Some jobs I have loved others I have stuck out for the money. Twice I have tried China, I worked in Harbin and also in Beijing. Both times were major disasters, it gets worse not better. I spent a fantastic 9 years in Indonesia and was also was very happy in Thailand. It is well worth finding somewhere you like and staying there. Don’t waste you time somewhere you hate when you were lied to in the first place. I now work in Malaysia and the school is great and most expat teachers are fairly happy.


    • Couldn´t stand it and left says:

      I agree. It always surprises me how some colleagues can advise to stick there and live the experience knowing how miserable your life can be under such living conditions. They make it look as if it was your duty or as if you were serving your country. Let´s nail this down: Being an international teacher is a job like any other and minimal comfort and health conditions must be there. Is it much to ask? Minimal quality life should be a must. I worked at SCIS in Shanghai and ended up running away after a few weeks. To me, breaking that contract was making a statement to the school and to the Chinese Government: “If you want us here, you´ve got to clean this mess for the sake of your country and the planet”


    • Anonymous says:

      I’ve had two jobs in China. In the first, the only lie I received was over accommodation. The working situation was appalling because I worked for a Canadian Principal with no experience who was blagging her way through everything. The Principal was also stealing from the school as well. Very unprofessional.
      The second I received a 100% correct appraisal of the situation. I would say it turned out better than I expected.
      The advantage I had was that I’d been visiting China for 6 years before I took the first job, so I knew the questions to ask.

      My advice is simple.
      Do your research.
      Write down your questions and answers.
      Repeat your questions and their responses by email and ask them to verify that they are correct.

      I used to live in Vienna and the number of times I was asked where the gondolas were by tourists of all nations was unbelievable.

      If you don’t do your research, you will always end up being sold short – especially your first time out of your own country.


  8. JB says:

    My husband and I are on our second year in China and believe me the first 6 months were pretty tough. The culture shock was hard and dealing with contractual issues on top of that made us really question if we were doing the right thing. Here is my advice:
    One, ignore the staring. It’s going to happen, but if you are out and about, they will get used to you and it will start to subside. Two, get out and walk around. Start with short walks just around your neighborhood to get to know the area and then start getting out further. Explore! We live in a pretty run down area, but ended up finding some really cool things. We found several small groceries with very friendly employees (of course no English, but hand gestures go a long way) and a very inexpensive restaurant that is now one of our favorite places to go. We also found a beautiful Buddist Temple, a few great parks, and other things. Expect people to say “Hello!” especially children. I don’t know where you are, but even in our area, which as very few foreigners, they are teaching children basic English. Three, ask for advice from your fellow teachers and especially the Chinese teachers. Where do they like to go? Ask them to show you around. You will find the Chinese people are very nice and helpful. Four, learn the bus system. Very helpful!!!! Finally, start learning the language. Even though we can only say a few things, it really helps.
    I will agree that China isn’t for everyone and we know we aren’t going to stay past our contract, but while we are here, we want to make it as memorable as possible.


  9. Civilized9272 says:

    Please give me a break, they don’t tell the truth about the school. Your living in a dodgy area of town and all you can get from the majority of these people is claptrap. Stay.. Go beyond the culture Shock…Live the Experience…..You’ll Feel Good about it later………I like people who have to be Politically Correct … If your not happy where you are their are many countries where Freedom is treasured and is one of the major legs of the chair of CIVILIZATION……….I have been offered jobs in China without me looking for them I have turned down every one of them…………..I will not help a nation of slaves to Carry Out their Masters Bidding ie The Chinese Government.. Sorry I’m not PC, if you don’t want to be there leave don’t waste your time in China there are other cultures as old as China’s culture where freedom abounds and the children will not end up serving their Communist Masters……………………………………….


    • katweasel says:

      Civilized9272 – I am not sure you are a teacher, as you do not seem to be very well informed about teaching and living in China. I have lived and worked in China for three years now, and have never taught ‘nation of slaves ‘ in fact many International schools are forbidden to admit local students. Secondly to even talk about students in such a manner is scary coming from a teacher.
      There are good and bad places to work, try to separate out your issues with the school they are the ones that should ultimately decide if you can ethically stay or not. Culture shock that is something you can work with. School issues – unlikely.


  10. StillLifeInMeYet! says:

    What can I add to much of this wise advice? Basically, in a 25 year teaching career, I have often been in places and situations which I didn’t enjoy, whether my circumstances were externally changed or I made poor choices. I found hanging in there for the duration (honestly, 12 months is not that long) has always helped me, because it said everything about my commitment, adaptability and resilience, building my reputation for my next placement.

    Recognising your loneliness and culture shock are the first steps to positive action: deal with the health in your home environment at least, courses, language clubs, regular social treats (Asia is renowned for great massages – is there somewhere you can give yourself a special weekly treat?), and of course blogs or a Dropbox for selected friends and family at home will help you. You are having a unique adventure; when nearly every inch of the globe has been explored, only anthropological immersion is left. Talk to your line managers and negotiate support, but I think if you pull out too soon, you may always regret having made that choice, because of what you will have learnt about who you are. Self-talk yourself into staying curious and open minded.

    Meanwhile, form an action plan. Will you stay in international teaching? Build a portfolio of every excursion, special lesson you’ve taught, every resource you develop from scratch. Back up your units, assessment tasks, parent letters you write – this collection will make your transition into your next school much easier. Join an international professional association linked to your subject or leadership position and save snippets of advice (resources or strategies for first days etc) because international teachers are isolated, and this connects you to current thinking in your profession. In many countries, these the membership fees are tax deductable – you owe it to yourself. Access free advertisements on sites such as TES and really research your next country… and school. Meanwhile, recognise your current experience is a baseline, and promise yourself you will not accept similar conditions in your next setting. You are on a learning curve, not just on ‘living in China’ but on your global career, and I assure you, it will be worth it.


  11. Dave says:

    My recommendation would be to ‘hang in there’, especially if the school and staff allow for good professional development. The first 6 months anywhere takes some time to adjust and you are bound to feel mixed emotions, especially where everything is so different. My wife and I had a similar experience when we arrived in Nanjing, China in 2003 for our very first venture into Asia. At interview, my then Director spoke very candidly about the city we would be living in, the challenges we would face day to day, and the isolation we would sometimes feel. This was particularly important for my wife to hear who accompanied me as a non-teaching spouse, with no real work opportunities. I guess we were lucky, as my Director was very honest and very supportive. We did our research and prepared ourselves for the experience as best we could. But nothing can prepare you for what life in China is actually like – the pollution, the smells, the staring, the communication challenges, the crazy taxi drivers, etc. You are taken out of your comfort zone in such a major way! Despite these challenges, both my wife and I look back now on that time in our lives with great fondness and appreciation. The friends we made, my colleagues at school, the students I taught, the excellent introduction and professional development I had to the IB, the supportive and close-knit school community, the opportunities to try things that were so different (everyday), and the amazing locals (who despite our communication challenges, were so accommodating and friendly) made our experience a very worthwhile and rewarding time in our lives.

    My advice to you would be to use your school community as a support (teachers, parents, expat groups) as all these people, at some stage, probably felt like you. Try something you would be too scared to try back home – some of my teaching colleagues and I started a (very bad) band and played at local pubs/bars. Try and meet up with some local Chinese, many of whom are eager to learn and speak English. Join a local gym (we played badminton (badly) with some of the local uni students). Use your holidays to get out of China and go and explore south east Asia, where you will find cleaner air and less pollution. Given that everything is so cheap in China, save money. Visit places like Beijing and Shanghai where you can get your fix of Western things every now and then. Learn a few key Mandarin phrases. Speak to others on staff about what they do outside of school. Get involved in the local community (via the school most likely) as part of a foundation/support group. Encourage family and friends to visit you.

    Your first international posting is always tricky. If you are new to teaching, use this opportunity to get involved in school life and learn as much as possible. If you stick at it, you’ll find every other international placement hereafter a breeze!


  12. Toinee W says:

    I went to Singapore in 1980, my first overseas assignment. Singapore is a very modern city and excellent accommodations and even a McDonalds! But in a few weeks I went to the principal and said I had to leave, I could not take it. He asked me if I could make it through the day and I said “Yes”. I did this for 3 months, which is how long “culture shock” usually lasts. After 3 months, I quit going to the principal and decided things weren’t really “bad”, just “different”. Since I was a single, white, round-eye, I got propositioned by every Chinese that I made eye contact with when walking in town. I got used to it. I even got used to elbowing my way onto the local buses. Even the little old ladies would elbow my out of the way and I learned to defend myself. Please give it 3 months to get over the culture and you will never regret it. I have lived in 3 different countries on three continents and none were “like home”, especially the Muslim country where I spent 5 years.


  13. Chris Jules says:

    It’s hit and miss in China. I got lucky and had a good school in Wuxi with good students and admin staff. I lived on campus. But I would give the school time to change your accommodation. You might need to give them a subtle ultimatum. Either I get better accomodation or I leave, but a bit more tactfully than that. Ask them to please look for something better asap & then get them to cancel the current lease . My ONLY gripe about Wuxi was the mosquitoes. They were vicious.


  14. Anonymous says:

    Its not a cancer diagnosis! Went to Manila in 1990 and felt same way as you did, stayed 12 years! You are lucky to be in the international situation, dont leave until you give it a fair chance as you might regret it as a lot have that left schools under emotional stress. dont trust your emotions, stick it out.


  15. Lin says:

    I left China after two years there and I really did hate living there. My school was in a smaller city, an hour from one of the main cities that has an expat population. The job was changed when I arrived and I told them that I was going to leave. The school did work out (they took my complaints very seriously) a compromise that worked out okay.

    I don’t know how rural your location is. Personally, I would not agree to work anywhere rural and many teachers are similar as rural schools have the hardest time finding teachers. But, the bus system is pretty good in most of China, find someone that can help explain it to you. China also changes at an incredible pace right now, within two years, the foreigner population in the city increased ten fold and there were more services offered in English.

    China is in some ways considered a hardship posting (generally if it’s a city that is unknown overseas.) This is a good thing to have on a cv as schools find that desirable. Teachers that are posted in these positions also become more close-knit and you may find a few lifelong friends.

    If you can stay, talk to the school about your thoughts on leaving and often they will try and keep you. Think of what they can do to make things better like better housing and perhaps providing transport to somewhere you can get groceries. Having a nice home and comfort foods there did help me keep my sanity. It may take a while, but you will also find Chinese food that you like, there are a few dishes I miss now.

    If you find yourself bored, figure out a self-improvement goal to do. Take an online class, work out or do whatever you can to come out with something more than you went in with. And travel (out of China) every chance you get. At least wait until the Mooncake Festival, you should have some time off then (but don’t get too excited about the mooncakes, they are generally awful.)


  16. L. says:

    Like you, I left my country (in Europe) for China a while ago and I happily lived there for 5 years. The first year, the culture shock was real but overall, I think I was more entertained and fascinated than frustrated by China and the Chinese. Furthermore, I also had to learn the American way, as it was my first time working for an International/American school.
    All in all, it allowed me to learn a great deal about my own culture and my biased perception of the world and how it should be. We often tell our students that they should learn how to unlearn, so that they can relearn. There’s no age to relearn, is there?


  17. Anonymous says:

    For the allergies go and buy the very best air purification system you can afford. Get one with a washable filter because then you can wash it each week. The air in your apartment will be improved a lot. I had to do this when I was in Seoul and it made such a big difference to me because then I was in clean air for at least 12 hours a day when home and sleeping.

    I am sorry you had such a bad experience. I suggest you spend some time reading ISR and sites like Dave’s ESL Cafe to get more of an idea of what the overseas teaching scene is for both licensed teachers and people who only do ESL.

    Do not beat yourself up too badly because even me, a very experienced international teacher, has gotten suckered into going to a terrible school.

    Basically when you go overseas you give up any employment rights you had in your home country. Things are never fair. Employers can hire and fire at will and the criteria for promotion may depend upon a supervisor’s whims.

    Keep your head down, do your job, create your own tranquil Island of Australia in your apartment. Ignore the rest of the crap. Find yourself a dependable taxi driver with a few words of English to make your life more pleasant. And get someone at the school to make you “dummy cards” where places you need to go are written in Chinese. See if your city has a branch of Internations which is a group of expats that get together socially and to share living information.

    If you feel your safety is in danger— get out. But if you job interview again do NOT mention this experience as many in the international community will brand you as someone who is unable to adapt and a whinger. This would be unfair because obviously your experience is horrendous! So keep this to yourself.

    Good luck!


    • BeenThere says:

      An air purification system? In China? Not likely, unless things have changed a lot since 2009, when I could not even get antibiotics for an infected tooth. If you can’t do the above, use a surgical mask when out (yes, it will increase the stares 10X). I did occasionally even see the Chinese using them.


    • Anonymous says:

      I think things must have changed since 2009. I worked in shanghai for two years and found that you could buy anything you could possibly want including air purifiers! China is a wonderful country and its inhabitants are very warm and friendly if you make the effort to get to know them. Accept that their country and culture is different and realize you are very lucky to have a profession that can give you these worldwide experiences. Sorry your school isn’t great but neither was mine and it was supposed to be the top school in shanghai. Just do your job and know it will get better after your culture shock ends.


    • BeenThere says:

      Oh Shanghai! You could buy RYE BREAD in Shanghai in 2007. I was in the hinterlands (Luoyang, Henan) in 2009 and it’s a whole other story.


  18. Colin says:

    It sounds like you have got a dodgy school but I don’t really see how it has anything to do with the Chinese. I lived in Beijing for a year and felt the whole experience was fantastic (pollution apart). I found the Chinese to be lovely people and yes, not speaking English was at times frustrating but its very arrogant to think that they should speak English. As for starring at you, what is the problem? You are different and I for one did not take this personally. As for the food, I do get the feeling that you should have researched the country better. They have different cultures and customs and until you are willing to accept that you shoudl return back to Australia. Saying that, a better school would and should improve your experience and you have my full sympathy in this regard but not on the culture issues. This is part of the fun of teaching abroad!! Good luck in whatever you decide


  19. Global Guy says:

    My first overseas post was to China many years ago. The best piece of advice I got, which turned out to be very accurate, was that you hit a wall when you arrive in China, but push through it and things will be ok and maybe good. Then at about 3 months you’ll hit another wall but push through that and the walls you have to push through get further apart. The next one is at 1 year or 2 years but by then you’re becoming a veteran international teacher.

    For me the kids and the financial rewards make it worth it for me to stay in China. The pollution has become much worse over the last 15 years but I’m still able to find reasons to stay.

    If you want a career as an international teacher it’s worth completing the contract of at least the year because schools want to know that the people they’re hiring can withstand the challenges of working overseas.


  20. Cheerful says:

    Many years ago I did the move from Australia to Germany. As similar as those folk look to the Aussies, they are very different. I hated it, but having studied expatriate expectations and expatriate experiences at uni, I decided to stick it out.
    There are PhDs written on the topic of going into a new culture – if you haven’t looked into it, check out the “W-curve” to start with. You will find it tough tough tough and yes, everything IS different. I am sure the neighbourhood you are staying in IS actually good (compared to others in the city) and much much much safer than most inner-Western suburbs of Sydney.

    Give it a try – imagine there is a documentary being filmed about your adventures and a camera follows your every move around. Imagine how you will be telling your mates back home about how you lived in China and how even the simplest things you did were very different from their lives back home.

    Agreed, Germany is a walk in the park compared to China, but have you ever tried to throw rubbish away in Germany? Heard of separating waste in 4 different bags? Refund on your bottles? Everyone staring and poking their fingers and not smiling?

    From a personal experience: I spent many years in Germany and moved only when I realised I needed a new challenge. I am now in a less-known Middle Eastern country and the first 6 months were awful – dirty streets, inefficient locals, inequality, everything is scary, etc etc etc. My reaction to internal discomfort? “This will pass”. In fact now, when friends come to visit and try to diss the city I live in, I find myself defending the way things are. Kinda like the Stockholm syndrome, only not. 🙂

    Embrase your experience, learn new things. Try to learn your “hellos” and “thank yous” in Mandarin and see the difference it makes in your interactions with the locals. Start a blog (anonymous if you wish), post some pics and describe your emotions to things – you will read this all a year late and laugh at it. Just think about it: the contract is not permanent, you are getting international experience, nothing will shock you when (or even “if” – it might be you fall in love with this place) you decide to move to another country (apart from lack of real proper Chinese meals).

    Good luck!


  21. Civilized9272 says:

    I would agree with everyone you should have done your research, before getting on the plane. Personally I would never go to China it is just to far from home and just too different.
    I live in Latin America. I would go to Europe, even Turkey but China’s culture is just very different the pollution could cause damage to my health and I don’t like huge cities which is what China is all about. Never mind that you have to hold your tongue and keep your opinions to yourself, sorry not me I’m used to countries that allow freedom of expression one of the legs on the chair of civilization. China is old and should be respected, but live there you MUST BE KIDDING.


  22. teacher in China says:

    I spent very recently six months in Tianjin. To address some issues posted by school dazed.
    1. Pollution in China should no surprise anyone – it is unbearable (there were days that we could not the Sun, even if Tianjin is located in a naturally foggy region), but everybody should know about it.
    2. Food in local supermarket (E mart) was adequate. Meat, fish, poultry, veggies, fruits were perfectly OK. Later, I was buying veggies and fruits in small stands located across the street from the school. Milk was very good. Yoghurt, even if described as “plain” was quite heavily sweetened. There was no trace of cottage cheese. Swiss is there, but it is rather expensive (imported). Rice, noodles, beans – great selection (of course). Cereals, as we know them, can be found only in shops specialised in imported foods – very expensive. The same applies to coffee. Bread – there is a chain “Paris baguette” – was quite good.
    3. Local people were quite friendly, even if nobody spoke any English and occasionally they would stare at me. I never felt that they were taking advantage of me selling produce in small stands. The same applies for taxi fares.
    4. School, accommodation etc. – I cannot comment on that one, as it wildly changes from school to school. My school was a bit worse that described in the interview: most kids could not speak any English and school’s equipment, IT etc. was quite mediocre. This resulted in extra work for me, but overall it was manageable. Accommodation was decent.
    5. China, in big cities, is quite expensive – but still one can make substantial savings.
    6. Follow Dorothy’s and Kathy’s advice – try to find brighter sides -like finding faculty members with similar interests, sightseeing, visiting places and so on.
    I hope that eventually this will work for you.


    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, I also found “Flavored Yoghurt: Plain” and you are right it’s incredibly sweet (and even by US standards which usually sends me into s diabetic coma at 30 metres). However, my all time favourite Chinese label was “Lettuce shoots dog” which would be a great headline for the National Enquirer or Sunday Sport but was sadly just a pack of lettuce leaves.

      To be honest, the one thing in China that’s was killing me inside was every translation into English. I’m over it now but it’s taken 5 years. I also learned the language so I can avoid the English as well.


  23. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to international schools where the truth can be a very dangerous thing!

    Give it til Christmas. If it’s the same then, bail.


  24. anonymoustoo says:

    The rule of thumb I live by is give it six months and it will get better. The staring will continue and some of the food will continue to be strange but that can also be something to celebrate. Eating flying ants in Africa was certainly strange but now it makes a wonderful story. The kids used to run away from us yelling mzungu or at us yelling superman-it was occasionally tiresome but also great fun. I know the temptation is to leave, thinking that as an adult why should you put up with this, but I think you would regret it in the end. Just my two cents.


  25. kathy2639 says:

    Stay the year. You are there for a reason. I learned a great deal about myself and how strong I was. Single mom with a two year old. I met some very wonderful people, but the first month I hid my head in the sand. Shanghai was big, dirty and a little scary. But, I would not trade what I experienced for the world. Trade those rose glasses for another pair and experience everything!


  26. Dorothy says:

    Give it a few months. Try not to compare e writhing to Australia. Try to start each day with the idea of what new experience can I learn from today. Focus on the students who are eager to learn and well behaved. Make friends with the other teachers who have been there a while and can show you the good things about the area. Try to stay positive and reassess at Christmas. Moving overseas needs an adjustment period. Good Luck!


  27. anonymous says:

    China is not for everyone ! If you don’t like it now… leave because it won’t get any better. It is not just the food, the culture is very “different” ! Recruiters are not always honest and will paint a very different picture to what things actually are. Weigh your priorities and what you are willig to sacrify and then make a decision.


    • trav45 says:

      Actually, that’s horrible advice! While I’m not very sympathetic to the “wow, they don’t speak English and the food is weird” mentality, and is there anyone in the developed world who doesn’t know China has a pollution problem? (Really?? DId you do any research?)

      Having said that, this is culture shock, pure and simple. Google “dealing with culture shock” and you’ll find pages of tips/advice. The thing is, if you gut it out, it eventually goes away and you can start enjoying your experience. I know too many people who came, felt miserable and gave in their notice, then regretted it by March when it was too late. Hang in there. Find friends to do things with. Start taking Chinese lessons. I’ve been in Beijing for a year now and absolutely love it–though, yes, the pollution could drive me away after a few years. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy China to the hilt!


  28. Anonymous says:

    What oh my lord , you went to China and nobody spoke English??? How very dare they!!! Oh hang on a minute , I did some very basic research and actually they dont speak English in China very much they speak something called Chinese …. in fact they confyuse it even further by calling it Cantonese and Manadrin ( the latter I though was some kind of small orange like fruit)!

    And what you think the food is strange and people stare at you??? Well well well this is not Sydney or Melbourne my friend Kangaroo burgers and crocodile kebabs are off the menu, get used to it. But you must have lived a very sheltered life if you think noodles are strange ,didnt you know Marco Polo brought spaghetti over from China??

    geenrally in Asia they will stare , and make comments about how you dont fit in, and the food will be different – you are not at home this is what it is all about going abroad.

    Perhaps had you done your research rather than chasing some half arsed dream you would not be in the position you are in. You have two choices , be an adult , suck it up and get on with your life there… you never know once you have got over your colonialist approach to living abroad and embrace the differences you may posibbly enjoy it .

    Or leave and never ever think of going abroad again because it is not ever going to be like home and if you cannot stand it now you never will.


    • Anonymous says:

      Oh that was a help.I agree her expectations were a bit unrealistic. Directors lie. You can tell when they’re lying, because their lips move. Being a jerk doesn’t help, interestingly enough. China can be its own special hell. I’m not overly fond of it myself. She didn’t say where she was, but if it’s a pretty big city, get out and around. Get together with other English speaking co workers. Search the ads and try to learn at least survival Chinese. I found the kids in my school very helpful. Chinese people stare. They all do it. They’re really pretty rude. That’s why I travel so much. You have an obligation now, so live up to it, but lesson learned. That, and don’t let people like this res ponder get to you.


    • Carol says:

      You are being VERY harsh to a new overseas teacher … obviously you missed the lesson on compassion. When you re-read your post do you see anywhere that it helped this individual who is looking for some constructive advise? I can only hope you are not teaching children.


    • Anonymous says:

      I completely and utterly agree. They have failed to include some constructive critisicm. If your eyes hurt, go to specsavers and buy some sunglasses, or if you feel extravegent why not buy some knock off Gucci glasses from the local market?!

      In all fairness though, whilst Chinese people do stare, this could just be down to the general culture. I would say that in most countries, it is human instinct to stare at something that doesnt quite fit in to everything else.

      Perhaps you should think about getting some language lessons. Many people from English speaking countries moan that those that come to work in their countries cant speak English and fail to integrate into society…..Perhaps this works both ways….


    • Reality check says:

      Your sarcasm does you little credit as if you did your research, you will find that China has the largest number of English language speakers in the World (this what you call very basic research).

      The Chinese do not call their language Cantonese and Manadarin (sic). These are English words.
      Never in Asia have I had anyone make comments about how I don’t fit in. I find people very friendly if reserved (polite is another way of thinking about this).

      Perhaps you should visit some areas of China where it is like living on a poisonous trash heap and the Chinese living there can’t wait to get out.

      You post is unhelpful and I suspect if you knew the reality of the situation more and not the picture postcards from Shanghai, you wouldn’t be so condescending or dismissive.


    • JM says:

      Perhaps some sarcasm is in order, of course the OP didn’t post which city/district they are in. Saying they’ve moved to China is about as useful as saying someone has moved to Europe.

      Have they moved to a small town in Romania or are they in the centre of London… China spans Arctic through to Tropics.

      Biggest misnomer is ‘let’s go out for Chinese food’ see above.

      In fact we do call it Mandarin or Cantonese in so many words.
      PuTong Hua (or ordinary language) and GuangDong Hua (or Canton Language). Of course there are many MANY regional dialects and strong accents.

      International schools are rarely built on poisonous rubbish heaps in China. In many cities, the local education authority forbids Chinese nationals to attend said international schools, so if they school’s locale is bad, expat parent will not send their children there.

      When I read the OP, indeed I was fairly dismissive about it. It stinks of someone who is bitching and moaning. For me personally China has been one of the safest places to live in terms of serious crime. You can easily walk through almost all major cities at the dead of night without worry. There are few countries that can boast this.

      However, now I’m feeling like I’ve just entered an argument on the internet… and you know what that mean =/


    • SCIS teacher says:

      Hi JM,

      You are talking about two radically different things: One is safety, (which you are right) and the other one is pollution and lack of good food. Granted, it is amazing how the Chinese have managed to keep such a large population of one of the largest countries in the world under such peaceful conditions. However, China lacks of good and clean food, period. I am not talking necessarily the dishes I am used to but the quality of the food to cook something yummy and healthy. I had a discussion with a colleague of mine and he was telling me that he would hork down anything as long as he feels his belly full. Not my case: To me eating is a pleasure and not finding quality food (regardless the price) was a torture. Breathing is the same thing. I noticed how some of the admin and teachers at my school were happily coming back from jogging with their nose black of smog. Not my case either, I feel concerned of pumping billions of dirt particles into my lungs. That is China. Safe and nice locals; yes… but super dirty and unhealthy . BTW my school is in Shanghai.


    • A teacher that quit because of an unacceptable life quiality in Shanghai says:

      To my Australian friend…

      If the Pope resigned ´cause he was uncomfortable… why shouldn´t you?

      Life is short. You do not need to pay any tolls or do any sacrifices. You do not need to “get used to a low quality life” either. NOBODY is going to thank you for that!

      Don´t be afraid about your recommendation letters either. EVERYBODY knows about how hard is it to enjoy living in China.

      Quit and enjoy life while you can! ; )


  29. Alia Parrish says:

    I second everything above, especially Anonymous. I went to China twice, feeling there was something wrong with me because I had friends who worked there for years and years. The staring and pollution, I can’t help you with, other than to say my health suffered greatly and was the reason I left. If, the pay is okay (you get paid on time and as promised) and you can find better living quarters (mine were unbelievable the second time around), I’d make the effort to try a little longer. It really all depends on your reasons for choosing to work overseas in the first place. No matter where you go, unless you are working in an international school (attached to an embassy, etc.) it never is quite like home.


  30. Anonymous says:

    Recruiters are sales people. They do not tell the truth. I went to China and ended up having to move 4 times with NO help from the school, they provided zero support and I knew within the first month that I would fulfill my contract but not stay longer. I was very disappointed in the admin. If you are in Shanghai it is a fun city, but it’s not for everyone. Good luck.


  31. Helen says:

    I understand exactly where you are coming from as I was working in Shanghai last year and experienced just what you are feeling. I managed to stick it out for the year by joining the gym and traveling during each break. You have two options as you stand, try to stay longer as you may ease more into the way of life or leave now cut your losses and look elsewhere. Good luck whatever you decide to do but as I found out China is not for everyone.


  32. second time around says:

    I got suckered into a school by a director that totally misrepresented the location and the school. When I look back on the incident I can really only blame myself in the end. The school was in Africa and all I had to have done was spend ten minutes to research and see the guy was simply saying anything he thought would get me to come to his school. I think I wanted to believe he was telling the truth when all along I had suspected differently.

    I took the job. Common sense would dictate that I at least do some homework on where I was agreeing to spend the next couple of years of my life. Sure, directors lie about their schools. I only met one guy that said, “hey listen, this place is awful, it’s hot and expensive and there is nothing to do.” I went and he was sort of right. At least he prepared me for the worst, which in the end wasn’t so bad because he had prepared me for the fact that it wasn’t going to be paradise. Actually I enjoyed my time there.

    Now that you have yourself in this mess in China I would suggest you try to drop your preconceived notions about how the place and school should be and open yourself up to the experience. I think we make ourselves most unhappy when reality doesn’t conform to our idea of what it should be and we go around constantly wishing it were and even trying to make it such.


  33. Anonymous says:

    I think you should leave.


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