Cultural integration in China may be the Holy Grail for many expats who head over to teach, live, and experience the country for a while. Although not impossible, reaching for ultimate integration is a highly challenging task and, if anything, it may just happen after years (if not decades) in the country.
Adapting to the local culture as a foreigner may be a more realistic aim, especially if you’re heading to China to teach for the very first time. Give yourself some time to adjust to the culture-shock, follow Western International School of Shanghai’s ten tips to help you adapt to Chinese culture, and you’re guaranteed to be on the right path.
1. Learn a little about Chinese culture and history before you even arrive
Alright, cram-studying China’s entire cultural history before you arrive might be impossible. After all, this is the longest-living culture in the world! Yet what you can do and what helps expats better assimilate in China is getting a general overview of how the country has evolved over the last few centuries. Knowing how China got to where it’s at now means you’ll understand the country’s sensitive subjects (leave the Free Tibet T-shirt at home, please), and that will help you behave in a more culturally appropriate way. Moreover, learning about China beforehand will help blunt that dreaded culture-shock!
2. Leave your preconceived notions about China at home and pack only an open mind
It’s fair to say that everything you think you know about China has been influenced by foreign media. To this end, the most important thing you shouldn’t forget to pack is an open mind. Nothing about this beautiful country and its immensely hospitable people has ever been rightly depicted abroad, so take that as the single most invaluable tip.
The very best way to integrate into Chinese culture, as an expat, is to know the real story.
3. Learn (at least some) of the language
Taking Mandarin lessons is the most important “first step” to finding your place in Chinese culture, and this is one thing you can start doing before you even travel. Linguistic fluency takes many (many) years, yet even just getting a grasp of the basics (like appropriate greetings) will go a long way to helping you assimilate in your new home. Being able to chit-chat in Mandarin and the local dialect of wherever you happen to be (there are thousands!) will earn you respect from colleagues and locals you meet, and this will, in turn, help you with the next tip.
If you’re bringing children over, international Schools in China will ensure that they learn Mandarin as part of their curriculum too, allowing them to really fit in and make friends across cultural lines.
4. Understand the Chinese culture of “saving face”
Showing up a colleague and even your boss in front of others may be acceptable in some countries, but it certainly isn’t in China. Saving face and protecting one’s reputation is critical in the local culture. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to navigate your way through social and work situations much better. For example, a teacher who wants to resign because they just don’t get along with their colleagues may simply cite ‘personal reasons’ for leaving. The fastest way to ruin any relationship with local Chinese is to embarrass or criticize them in any way, especially in public.
5. Find your voice: assertiveness and confidence are key
China is no place for a wallflower, and if there’s ever a teaching destination that downright demands assertiveness, this would have to be it. To outsiders, Chinese locals may come off as blunt or rude, but in reality, they live in a fast-paced world that requires very little fluffing about. So get with the program, be ready to stand up for yourself when the need arises (with your employer or landlord, for example), and don’t let anyone walk all over you or be a pushover.
Respectful assertiveness (back to #4) is the name of the game and, if you can find that much-coveted balance, you’ll do just fine in China.
6. Show respect to elders
Respecting your elders is immensely important in the local culture. You’ll soon discover that, in China, the polite form of you (nín) is even used within the family unit – not only for older aunties and grandparents but also among siblings of varying ages. Usually, titles are preferred to first names so, when in doubt, always ask a local friend how you should refer to people before you’re even introduced to them.
Oh! That brings us to our next point…
7. Make local friends and don’t get stuck in an expat bubble
It’s far too easy to get stuck in an expat bubble in China, a country whose culture can be overwhelmingly foreign for so many expats. But fight that urge and immerse yourself in local social groups instead, and you’ll benefit from endless rewards. Your first local contacts will undoubtedly be work colleagues, and this is an amazing chance to make new friends immediately. Understand the ‘give and take’ of Chinese social etiquette (they invite you out for a restaurant meal, so why not cook them a dish from your country at home?), and you may just cement some of the most rewarding and valuable friendships of all.
8. Hugs and kisses are frowned upon – keep your hands to yourself!
In local Chinese culture, public displays of affection aren’t often seen even among couples, let alone friends. Don’t embarrass your new local friends by giving them a hug or kiss on the cheek! Once friendships are cemented, of course, the Chinese can be just as affectionate as other cultures, but you do need to let them call the shots on this one.
9. Skip the Western restaurant chains and eat like a local instead
Not only will this save you some pretty pennies, but it’ll also show you how outstanding real Chinese cuisine is. Not sure how to choose a hole in the wall on your next lunch out in town? Ask that new local friend to show you their favorite haunt, enjoy what is bound to be an awesome meal and, to show your appreciation, pay for their meal. That’s a 3-in-1 win!
10. Find your own local family!
Marrying a Chinese local to better assimilate into the culture may be a bit drastic, we admit, yet accepting that invitation to visit a new friend’s family would be just perfect. Many big-city dwellers come from small rural villages, and they often return home on special holidays, like Chinese New Year. It isn’t uncommon for a new foreign friend to be invited to come along, and this is one invite you’ll never want to turn down. The unique experience will likely be an absolute highlight for you and, who knows, you may gain a new local family of your own. Moving to China and trying to integrate into the local culture may seem like an impossible task to foreigners. But it needn’t be! Simply follow some tried-and-true tips from those who’ve come before you, and you’ll soon feel right at home.
This article was submitted by Western International School in Shanghai. Check out more about this school by clicking on the following links: https://www.wiss.cn/welcome/work-at-wiss/ https://www.wiss.cn/welcome/our-team/post=8128&action=editcontinue reading
One time in Bangkok, I was walking around the streets by myself in the heat of the summer. By accident, I tripped and fell down on the sidewalk. After I got myself up, something felt extremely wrong. I walked around for a bit, but I didn’t know what was wrong and I started to panic.
I found a taxi and decided to have him take me to my hotel. At first, the driver said a price for the taxi ride. I would have paid whatever, but I immediately started crying. The taxi driver immediately lowered the price (I originally got the tourist price I guess) and became very worried for me.
I got to the hotel, but then immediately realized that I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. I got into another taxi and arrived at a local hospital in Bangkok. When I first got in, they helped me immediately (remember I’m still on my own and don’t know how to speak Thai). The nurses put me on a gurney, and then started to proceed opening my backpack. I got stressed about that and was getting confused. I found out later that they were putting my valuable things into a safe place. How nice! But the nurses didn’t speak English, so there wasn’t a way of knowing what was going on when it was happening.
I was seen quite quickly by a doctor or maybe even two doctors. The problem was that I had a dislocated shoulder (first time it happened to me). They put it back in its place. And even though I was drugged a bit, I had to be on my way. I sincerely thanked them all I hope, but years later I had thought to send a thank you note to that hospital for such a kind and helpful experience there.
After searching the keyword ‘hospital‘ using our Comments Search function on our website (premium access required), we found 210 comments. Here are 9 of them that give some insight into the hospital experience in different countries around the world.
“They are just now implementing a level of international health insurance so will have more information about that later. The current uses the local system which is all in Lithuanian so can make it difficult to get seen as you have to go to an assigned doctor (who speaks little English) and to an assigned hospital. It is very difficult without knowing Lithuanian.”
“Health insurance is great and comprehensive. You’ll be provided with a list of fully covered hospitals and dentists and those that are co-pay. The hospitals are great. I’ve not had any bad experiences.
When I had a dental emergency I paid up front and was able to claim it all back.”
“The insurance is quite good in Maracaibo and in the USA. The doctors are trained, but hospitals are not equipped to serve patients right now. The price for medical care has increased by 10 fold in one year. It is a terrible situation for Venezuelans and foreigners who get sick.”
“Albert Einstein Israelite hospital is considered one of the best in South America and is located in the same neighborhood as the school.”
“Health insurance works ok. Most hospitals for foreigners have a direct billing accord with the insurance. More hospitals are getting built at the moment and there a few very decent expat hospitals but they are also money making machines. Local hospitals are ok but can be a very different experience.”
“Insurance is great. That said, most go to Bangkok or Singapore for yearly check ups and anything requiring a knife. Used a local hospital for PT and found it very ineffective. Okay for stitches or advice on passing a kidney stone. Super cheap MRI and X-rays. AISD has a on-site clinic that most use for colds, flu, dengue, vaccinations, etc.”
“Local hospitals [in Bangkok] vary – government hospitals usually have good doctors working off their government college loans; private hospitals are quite flash and many have decent reputations. International hospitals can be quite pricey, and while their reputation may sound great they can sometimes not provide the same value for service as the private and government hospitals.”
“School covers AETNA insurance. It is worldwide coverage EXCLUDING the USA. Local hospital is conveniently located near school. HR and Operations is very helpful to support new employees on any medical issues, even accompanying to the hospital if needed to support translation. You can generally find hospital staff who speak fluent English. Signage is bilingual. All health providers are located under the roof of the “hospital“”
“We currently have international insurance through Clements. I’ve been very happy with them. When my child was in the hospital, all that was required from me was a quick call and then they negotiated the payment with the hospital‘s accounting office. Doctor’s fees are quite reasonable in Japan, so for most charges, I pay cash and then have the reimbursements put through to my USA bank account. I am able to make my claims through an app on my phone and it is wonderful and quick. Reimbursements usually come within 2 weeks or so.”continue reading
You may not have heard of Cixi – it’s a city close to Ningbo and not far from Shanghai (about 1 ½ hours by fast train, 2 hours by car) – but it’s a really interesting place. It is at the centre of the ‘Golden Triangle’, the area between Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo, and it ranks in the top ten of the richest county-level cities in China and is considered to be one of the happiest. Maybe there is a link there! Or it could be to do with there being no pollution and lots of blue skies!
We have a new school opening in Cixi at the beginning of September 2018, and we think it is going to be quite different from both traditional Chinese schools and international schools. Let me explain……
The name of the school is Cixi Wengu Foreign Language School, and it is aiming to provide all that’s best about the Chinese National Curriculum, but to combine that with some of the best features of international education. Chinese parents have become very discerning – they have a clear idea of what they are want for their children and what they want includes access to foreign languages, especially English, and exposure to a dynamic, international-style education. At the same time, they want the best features of the traditional education (like they experienced as children) to be maintained.
In Cixi, we intend to provide both. We are recruiting (would you be interested?) qualified foreign primary teachers who will work alongside their Chinese colleagues. For some of the time the foreign teachers will lead lessons, with the Chinese teachers supporting, for the rest of the time their positions will be reversed. We fully recognize the challenge this will present, particularly in relation to the communication and professional understanding that will be necessary for it to work well. We also recognize that it will have to be a gradual process of introduction, as both children and teachers get used to a new way of working.
We anticipate the school will open with four classes of grade 1 students, and a grade will be added each year. This, we feel, is a manageable way of introducing this new way of working, and it should allow plenty of time to consolidate everyone’s understanding and practice.
For a foreign teacher, it will certainly present new challenges. For that reason, we are offering our teachers salaries and benefits more like Beijing and Shanghai than like other second tier cities. What is it they say about offering peanuts and getting……….? For our plan to work, we will need really high quality teachers who are up for the challenge of being part of something new and who are flexible enough to embrace this new way of working.
Initially the school will be operating in a separate wing of the enormous kindergarten next door – this will be until our amazing new buildings are completed. The pictures attached will, I hope, give an indication of the quality of the facilities we will enjoy.
This article was submitted to us by Roger Fisher, one of the recruiters for a new school in Cixi, China.
If you have any comments / questions about any of this, if you have worked in a school offering a similar way of working, or if you fancy being part of what we are planning, do please get in touch using firstname.lastname@example.org reading
Choosing a place to teach English can be an overwhelming feeling. With so many things to consider from salary ranges, local languages, social scene, and quality of the job; one will have to take a lot of time to filter their preferences down to a few choices. Fortunately, we took the time to compile a list of some of the top cities to Teach English.
Shanghai is the largest city in the world by population and the financial hub of China. And the teaching English opportunities are reflected in the market. There’s a surplus of jobs ranging from online, primary schools, International schools, and training centers. Shanghai has a population of around 25 million people and 1% of it is expats, being 250K people, so you’ll be able to meet plenty of foreigners in similar or different walks of life. Nightlife in Shanghai is globally recognized as one of the most vibrant and beautiful scenes. If you’re looking for a chicer look, you can head down to The Bund or if you want to bar hop, Yongkang Lu is popular with expats. Nearby cities such as Hangzhou, Suzhou or Nanjing are just train rides away. These cities provide a more historic view into China’s history as well as some time outside the big city. Shanghai is also very close to South Korea with flight times below two hours. Salaries range from $1,500 to $2,700 USD each month, with the cost of living; you’ll be able to save a large amount.
Shenzhen is an up and coming city in China but don’t let that discourage you. Shenzhen is the 2nd largest trading hub in China behind Shanghai so there’s ton of development and expansion. With close proximity to Hong Kong and Macau, this is a traveler’s dream situation. Teaching English jobs available range from training centers to international schools, so no matter your preferences, there’s a position right for you. Shenzhen has a sub-tropical climate so the weather will be pleasant most times of the year and no sight of snow. Don’t forget you can go to any number of beaches in the city. Salaries range from $1,300 to $2,600 on average. For football (soccer) lovers, Shenzhen has two clubs: Shenzhen F.C. and Shenzhen Renren F.C. Due to the architecture and relaxed laws, skate boarders around the world travel there.
Dubai is one of the most competitive ESL markets and for good reason. Teaching English in Dubai offers top-tier packages for their teachers. Offers may include high salaries ($2,500- $5,000) monthly, paid housing, insurance and travel allowances. Dubai is in the dessert so no worries about cold weather and the landscape will be at your disposal. The outdoors will have plenty of adventures to enjoy from sand boarding, sky diving, jet skis, and boat riding. Traveling to neighboring places such as Abu Dhabi, Muscat, and Saudi Arabia will be a hop skip away.
Jobs in Teaching jobs in Riyadh will include universities, international schools, language institutes with teaching hours averaging 25 hours each week. Riyadh as well with other Middle-eastern countries is tax-free. Salaries range from $2,500-$5,000 USD monthly. Most schools will provide housing for you in addition to your cash compensation so your saving potential rises greatly. Foreigners and other expats will generally live within designated complexes so you’ll be amongst others new to the country. Employee contracts will range between 2-3 years so you’ll have job security and ample time to save more money.
Seoul is known for its technology community and nightlife atmosphere. Samsung is headquartered in Seoul and has a huge influence on the tech scene. Also, there’s WIFI everywhere from the metro, parks, and more. With a huge expat population there will be plenty of local and foreign people to befriend. Also, don’t forget there are daily flights to fly directly to Japan, China, and Thailand. Salary ranges average about $2,000 USD with accommodations including flight and housing allowances or reimbursement. Your choices will include public or private schools. Seoul is known for its party culture and is internationally recognized for it. The metropolitan area includes about 23 million people. Baseball is the country’s nation sport so you’ll be able to attend a game in the season and it’s a big event. K-Pop is internationally known for its musical influence not only in South Korea but also throughout eastern and southeast Asia. Make sure to attend a concert to discover what the buzz is all about. Make sure to try Korean BBQ, as it’s an international recognized cuisine. And for you ravers out there, Ultra Music Festival Korea comes to Seoul annually bringing some of the top artists in the EDM realm for a weekend of music, friends, and good vibes.
Busan is the 2nd largest city in South Korea with a population around 3.5 million. In Busan, the outdoors will be your best friend. If you choose to teach English in Busan, you’ll have your choice of beaches to visit daily. Busan attracts tourists, expats, and travelers globally for its 6 beautiful beaches, just to name a few: Dadaepo Beach, Songdo Beach, and Gwangalli Beach. Busan also hosts the Busan International Film Festival, which is one of the most popular film festivals in Asia. Busan is the Baseball capital of South Korea and has the Sajik Baseball Stadium. Salaries average about $2,000 USD. Most schools will pay for your travel and housing so you’ll be able to save anywhere from $500/month based on your saving and traveling habits.
In addition, you can hike Geumjeong Mountain if you’re up for a challenge with a well worth view. Just like Seoul, Busan has a huge expat population so meeting people in a similar experience will be easy.
Off the course of the Mainland rests Taiwan, a small island full for culture, history and teaching English opportunities. With a population of 7.8 million people, Taipei has Mainland China to its west, Japan to its east, and the Philippines to its south. Taipei has a huge expat population whether they are fellow English teachers or students studying Chinese at one of the local universities. The tropical climate and surplus of beaches easily at disposal makes every single day a vacation. Dabajian Mountain is a hiker’s favorite so give it a try. To get a breathtaking view and Instagram porn, make sure to go to the top of Taipei 101 formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, which was the world’s tallest building from 2004 – 2009. Taipei is the capital of Taiwan but with a thorough public transportation system, buses and trains, you’ll be able to reach all ends of the island with ease. Don’t forget about the clean air. Teaching English in Taipei usually requires 25 hours of teaching time while having an average salary of $2000 USD. Given the lost cost of living, you’ll be able to save more than $500 USD each month.
This article was submitted by guest author Teaching Nomad. They are an American owned and operated education recruitment company based in Shanghai, China. Their goal and purpose is to help great teachers find great teaching jobs. Year round, they have hundreds of teaching job vacancies. Whether your goal is to be an ESL teacher or teach in an international school, they have a teaching job for you. You can browse jobs online here for the latest job openings. Teaching Nomad makes finding a job teaching in China easier, so please feel free to reach out and contact them with any questions or inquiries!continue reading
Around the world, there are cities that have more than one international school. Many times there is an American school, a British School, and an international school that uses an international curriculum.
Some cities, though, have MANY international schools! When that is the case, how do the comments about each school compare to each other?
This blog series looks at comparing some of these comments, all coming from international schools in the same city.
Currently, we have 49 schools listed in Bangkok on International School Community.
Schools with the most submitted comments:
Bangkok Patana School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 17 Comments
Concordian International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 23 Comments
KIS International School (Bangkok) (Bangkok, Thailand) – 61 Comments
NIST International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 65 Comments
Ruamrudee International School Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand) – 21 Comments
Wells International School (Thailand) (Bangkok, Thailand) – 18 Comments
Recent things they have taken on
“In 2012 the school implemented the Literacy by Design program for K3 – Grade 4, and the IB Diploma Programme in 2013. It also began scheduling more consistent weekly professional development meetings in 2013, including WASC focus and home group sessions, and grade-level meetings. As of 2012, it joined EARCOS and now regularly sends its staff to the annual conferences.” – Wells International School (Thailand)
“The ELD team just attended the ELLSA conference in Bangkok.” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok
“In 2014 the school will be launching the Professional Development Hub, which is intended to be a central location for teachers in the Southeast Asian region to receive professional development.” – NIST International School
“The school is well-known for IB standards as quite a few of the teachers are IB Examiners and moderators. The Head of School is also on the Board of the IBO worldwide. Currently they are participating in a pilot study for the MYP.” – KIS International School (Bangkok)
Expectations of staff
“Teachers are assigned a maximum of 25 contact periods (45 minutes each) per week, while department heads have a maximum of 20. Minimum expectations include curriculum mapping on Atlas, and personal daily or weekly lesson plans that are attached to the maps. Weekly professional development is mandatory. Staff are encouraged, though not required, to take on extra-curricular classes or activities.” – Wells International School (Thailand)
“Expectations are high but lots of support.” – Concordian International School
“(Sorry, as admin it’s hard for me to comment, but teachers seem to work hard, but get non-contact time).” – KIS International School (Bangkok)
“High expectations, but with exceptional support and resources. Teachers are expected to participate in 2 extra curricular activities each year, which is quite manageable.” – NIST International School
Kinds of teachers that work there
“Approximately 30% of staff are from the United States, while the rest are a mix of over a dozen nationalities. While the school will hire inexperienced teachers in special circumstances, prospective hires should expect to be turned away if they don’t have a degree in education (or their subject areas at the secondary level) and a few years of experience. Nearly 70% of the teaching staff has master’s degrees.” – Wells International School (Thailand)
“Most teachers are from USA (there around 180 in total). A few are from the UK and Thailand.” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok
“All teaching staff are fully qualified. Most are British, with some Australians, South Africans and Filipina. turnover is high. Last year 40% left. Most leave due to the lowish salary rather than because they are unhappy with the school.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School
“Ruamrudee does have a housing allowance – B20,000, but it is part of the actual salary, so it’s taxed at 30%. So, effectively, the allowance is B14,000 – enough for a small local house/apartment.” – Ruamrudee International School Bangkok
“There is a housing allowance which is sufficient to rent a small studio. There is no extra for married teachers.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School
“Around 40000 Baht a month for singles and 60000 Baht for teaching couples.” – NIST International School
“Small housing allowance.” – KIS International School (Bangkok)
(These are just 4 of the 65 different comments topics that on each school profile page on our website.)
If you work at an international school in Bangkok, share what you know. Consider becoming a Mayor for unlimited premium membership!continue reading