Lesson 1: Manage your frustration
If you came from a place with an easier transition – any big expat city really – then China brings frustration to a whole new level. Other than Hong Kong, most Chinese citizens do not speak English, there are ever-changing bureaucratic regulations to stay up on, and even taking a cab is a challenge when drivers regularly reject you or change the fare.
In my first few weeks in China, I would often plan a wonderful day out to explore and end up coming home early, tired and angry.
But there’s so much to love in China and so much to see. Instead of getting frustrated, China has taught me to redirect my frustration into patient curiosity. Instead of a cab driver ripping me off and getting angry, I try to find a clever way to win the situation without letting my temper rise – that might mean using my few words of Mandarin to say childish things like “No,” “I don’t like,” or “Too expensive.” Sometimes it also means just accepting the circumstances you’re in, moving on, and laughing.
Given the frustrations above, you need life hacks to navigate without losing your mind. There are now apps that you can speak into in English, and Mandarin comes out of your phone (and the other way as well). Google Translate can translate Mandarin characters with enough accuracy to understand the context, and there are apps for finding your way around the subway, bargaining at the markets, renting bicycles, paying at stores, and of course for learning the language.
Owning and mastering a smart phone makes your life exponentially easier. Staying up to date on blogs that showcase apps, or reading expat newspapers giving tips and tricks, is a worthwhile use of your time. And when you find out something, share it! On Facebook, in the workplace, wherever. I’ve found that many of my hacks are new to the people who have been here for a while because they just found a different way to deal with their needs.
Lesson 3: Explore your country
China has to be one of the greatest countries to travel in. The Gobi desert, the Yellow Mountain, the Tibetan Plateau, and the Mongolian Steppe are so vastly different and so worth your time and energy. Not to mention the monuments in Beijing, the water towns outside Shanghai, the walled city and warriors of Xi’an, and the pandas of Chengdu. Did you know that James Cameron’s movie Avatar was inspired by the landscape of Zhangjijie? China is seriously beautiful and my list could go on and on.
To truly understand and appreciate China, you need to explore. Meet the Muslim cultures in the Northwest and the Buddhists in the Southwest. Visit ice castles in the North East or go to beaches in the South East. Eat Sichuan Hotpot in Chengdu or eat roasted Scorpion in Beijing. The landscape changes, the food changes, the people change, and your perspective on China will change.
Lesson 4: Don’t always listen to what you hear about a country
I know our first source of information on a new home is to talk to those before us. I also understand the irony of this lesson as I write a blogpost telling you what it’s like to live in China. But here me out: your experience will be different – often in a good way.
I was told, and believed, that China was crowded, polluted, pushy, and dirty. To me, none of those claims stacked up to the level I expected. Is China crowded? Yes. But not if you know where and how to avoid the crowds. I regularly am walking in downtown Shanghai thinking to myself, this sure doesn’t feel like the most populated city on Earth. Is China polluted? Yes. But my home has an air purifier, and in Shanghai from Spring to Fall, the air is similar more to a big city like LA or New York. Are the Chinese pushy? At times. But you can predict those times like when you’re boarding or exiting a plane. The rest of the time, the Chinese are thoughtful and observant. Is China dirty? It can be. But it’s much cleaner than you would imagine, particularly in the cities.
Lesson 5: Love where you live
After moving from the glitz and glam of Dubai, Shanghai felt like a downgrade. It felt like we had lost the amazing lifestyle and the ease of living we were so fortunate to have in the UAE. That thinking held us back for several months and stunted our adjustment. A year later, we’ve finally formed a new appreciation for our new home. We’ve bought locally made furniture, hired a local to help with our housework, explored the alleys and temples of small towns, tried 1000’s of local dishes, met locals in our neighborhood, and fallen in love with the uniqueness of China. In one year, we have stories that can last a lifetime and I know after summer break we will be longing to return.
This article was submitted by a guest contributor living in Shanghai, Chinacontinue reading
The journey to work is indeed an important one. The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been. So let’s share what we know!
One of our members, who works at the Xian Hi-Tech International School (Xian, China), described his way to work there as follows:
The road to XHIS…….
This is going to sound terribly stereotypical but one of the many reasons I love living in Shaanxi province is the potatoes! Now can you guess where I come from? I will tell you later. My journey to work each day is a very short one, but my journey to Xi’an has been a long one. I hope you enjoy reading about it.
My name is Brian Lalor and I am in my third year at Xi’an Hi-Tech International School, in Shaanxi province in China. We are a two programme IB world school and are working towards offering three of the four excellent IB programmes. Our school is small at present with only 270 students but we are at capacity and have an exciting move to a new purpose-built campus coming up in August 2017.
Each morning I get up and travel about four minutes to school! I know, the shortest ever commute, right? Our school is situated in residential area and all of our teachers’ apartments are located around the school. We are about 30 minutes from the city center in the southern suburbs. I ride my bicycle to school each day, that is why my journey is so short.
On my journey to school I pass through the morning market. Here local vendors sell fruit, vegetables, nuts and breads for very reasonable prices. One of the wonderful advantages to living in Xi’an is the potential to save money. It is much easier to live here when compared to other big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. Our school pays for our apartment, flights, international health insurance and gives us a monthly allowance for living overseas. Before coming to Xi’an I worked in Ha Noi for nine years, and in Jakarta before that. Each city has its own advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantages living in Xi’an are the standard of healthcare and the bad pollution in Winter.
Some of the wonders Xi’an has to offer are as follows. We are literally just a short 25-minute car ride to the beautiful Qin Ling Mountains which provides us with a great way to escape the heat in summer and some lovely snowy landscapes in winter. Another highly attractive feature unique to this city, is its amazing millenary history, with archaeological sites found literally in every part of town, with the city wall being one of its main attractions. And who hasn’t heard of the world-famous “Terra Cota Warriors”. Xi’an was once the ancient capital of China so as you can imagine there are lots to see in and around the community.
If you have not guessed it I am born and bread Irish. Oh those lovely potatoes! The food here is incredible and you could literally have a potato dish, every day of the week. Some noodles are even made out of potato here!
This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member.
What to know more what it is like to visit and live in China? Out of a total of 165 international schools there are 110 that have had comments submitted on them. Here are just a few:
Beijing BISS International School (Beijing, China) – 36 Comments
Beijing City International School (Beijing, China) – 31 Comments
Beijing International Bilingual Academy (Beijing, China) – 35 Comments
International School of Beijing (Beijing, China) – 25 Comments
Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (Beijing, China) – 95 Comments
Western Academy Beijing (Beijing, China) – 43 Comments
Changchun American International School (Changchun, China) – 50 Comments
QSI International School of Dongguan (Dongguan, China) – 64 Comments
Guangdong Country Garden School (Foshan, China) – 48 Comments
Guangzhou Huamei International School (Guangzhou, China) – 48 Comments
Harbin No. 9 High School International Division (Songbei Campus) (Harbin, China) – 45 Comments
American International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 24 Comments
Canadian International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 69 Comments
Creative Secondary School (Hong Kong, China) – 39 Comments
Hong Kong Academy (Hong Kong, China) – 34 Comments
Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China) – 104 Comments
Canadian International School Kunshan (Kunshan, China) – 28 Comments
Kang Chiao International School (Kunshan, China) – 41 Comments
Access International Academy (Ningbo) (Ningbo, China) – 48 Comments
British International School Shanghai – Puxi (Shanghai, China) – 35 Comments
Concordia International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China) – 86 Comments
Shanghai American School – Puxi (Shanghai, China) – 39 Comments
Shanghai Community International School (Shanghai, China) – 33 Comments
Shanghai Rego International School (CLOSED) (Shanghai, China) – 74 Comments
Shanghai United International School (Shanghai, China) – 40 Comments
Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 204 Comments
Yew Chung International School (Shanghai) (Shanghai, China) – 27 Comments
Buena Vista Concordia International School (Shenzhen, China) – 39 Comments
International School of Nanshan Shenzhen (Shenzhen, China) – 26 Comments
QSI International School of Shekou (Shenzhen, China) – 20 Comments
Suzhou Singapore International School (Suzhou, China) – 47 Comments
Wellington College International Tianjin (Tianjin, China) – 54 Comments
EtonHouse International Schools, Wuxi (Wuxi, China) – 49 Comments
Xian Hi-Tech International School (Xian, China) – 54 Comments
Zhuhai International School (Zhuhai, China) – 59 Comments
So what is your journey to the international school you work at? Earn one year free of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’. Email us here if you are interested.continue reading
Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?
Our 34th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Chris Chow Fun – A Foodie Hipster’s Journey to the Far East” Check out the blog entries of this international school educator who currently works at Western Academy of Beijing (30 Total Comments on our website) in China.
A few entries that we would like to highlight:
“I know this has been done before, but everyone has their own unique experiences when attending international job fairs, so I figured I’d share some tips, based on MY experience at the Search Associates fair in Cambridge in February 2012. It was my first job fair, I was single, and I didn’t have a stable, full-time job in the States, so if you’ve been to fairs in the past, are married, and/or love your current position, things will most likely be very different for you.…”
Well this type of sharing, about the intense experience of attending an international school recruitment fair, is always welcome and very needed in our international school community.
It is great to mention that a single person’s experience would most likely be very different from a teaching couple’s experience. And all the other factors as well that differentiate us from each other.
Want to learn even more about the international school fair experience? We have a blog series about the 9 Lessons Learned Regarding Intl School Hiring Fairs. Check it out here.
“Well, I just sold my 61″ Samsung TV, and surprisingly…I’m okay with it.
Inevitably, when accepting an international teaching assignment, we (international educators) are also implicitly agreeing to put our present lives, everything that is safe and comfortable and “normal,” aside indefinitely to begin a whole new life in a place where we don’t know anyone and hardly anyone speaks our language. It’s like jumping off a cliff into the dark, hoping there’s water below, but not being 100% positive it’s there. You can hear the waves crashing beneath you, and you’ll probably be alright because you’ve jumped into water before, but it was nothing like this.
And it’s scary as hell.
I feel fortunate that I do not have a house to sell, a dog to euthanize (just kidding), or children that need to say goodbye to all of their friends, like a lot of my counterparts do. I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now. Though I have very little here that’s holding me back, I do have a lot of “things” that I have grown to love, which I will not be able to bring to China with me…”
Getting ready for your first move abroad is a stressful one, yet also very exciting. When you have lived in your home country for such a long time, you tend to acquire many, many things. A big tv is great, and almost an expectation when living in the United States, but once you move abroad you might just find you don’t need a big tv anymore.
There are many things that you would like to bring with you to your first assignment, but of course you can’t bring everything (even if you get a really nice shipping allowance). It is nice to know ahead of time though if you actually should have brought something that you had. Luckily we have a topic in the Benefits Information section of our school profile pages. The topic is: What are some things that you need to buy/pay for when you first arrive at the school that you didn’t know about beforehand? Currently, we have 46 total comments submitted in that section topic.
Want to work for an international school in Beijing like this blogger? Currently, we have 23 international schools listed in this city on International School Community. Here are a few that have had comments and information submitted on their profiles:
There are so many international schools to work at in Beijing! How do these schools stand out from each other?
The school campus seems to be next to some beautiful parks.
An interesting concept of the use of c0-prinicpals, one being an expat and one being a Chinese National.
They also provide the same for the classrooms apparently, by having co-teachers there are well (well at least in the primary school section). How great to teach in two languages side by side! It would be interesting to see more videos of what that might actually look like in a classroom lesson.
The school also has what seems to be an extensive music programme, giving the students opportunities to try out a variety of instruments at a young age.
It is important that an international school value and affirm the local language of the country they are in. It would seem as if Yew Chung International School of Beijing is doing just that by including an extensive Mandarin Chinese programme.
Overall the campus facilities look quite nice!
Currently on www.internationalschoolcommunity.com we have 131 international schools listed in China with 30 of them being in the city of Beijing. The number of comments and information that have been submitted for each school is listed to the right the link to each school. Here are a just a few of them:
• Beijing City International School (31 Comments)
• International School of Beijing (15 Comments)
• Western Academy Beijing (30 Comments)
• Harrow International School (Beijing) (8 Comments)
• Tsinghua International School (Beijing) (36 Comments)
• Beijing International Bilingual Academy (11 Comments)
• Beijing National Day School (12 Comments)
If you know about what it is like working at one of these international schools in Beijing, log-on today and submit your own comments and information. If you submit more than 30 comments and information, then you can get 1 year of premium access to International School Community for free!continue reading
Are you interested in reading about the numerous international schools in China?
Then you might want to check out the “International School!” website.
China is one of the countries where the economy is booming. As a result, the number of international schools there is also booming. Many teachers are finding themselves taking a chance on China and having a great time working at an international there. Many of the international schools there offer some excellent benefits, thus making the choice to live and work an easy one.
China has so much to offer too in terms of culture and travel. With an endless list of interesting places to visit, international schools teachers will never get bored when wanting to explore the country.
Some people think the language there (Mandarin Chinese) is too difficult to learn and acquire, but after working in China for two years myself, I met and worked with many expats there that had become very highly proficient.
The International School website has many different sections to it.
“Mr. Kai said that the nationalities of the students in his ACS schools are of more than 69 countries. Fitzmaurice from Nord Anglia said that all the children studying in the three schools in China received one lesson of Chinese mandarin once a week from the first beginning, so that when they leave they can reach the proficient level although they may not speak Chinese quite fluently…(more)”
“The international schools for foreigners’ children are set in the name of middle school, primary school or kindergarten. The courses offered, the teaching materials and the teaching plans are determined by the school itself. Generally, the system is the same as that in the founder’s motherland, or the popular IB system, and even the school can set its system by itself.
The NCCT in China provides the authentication service for the international schools. The international schools which are set for more than three years can apply for authentication voluntarily. And each time of authentication is valid for 5 years. The international schools receiving this authentication means that the graduation certificates conferred by the international schools are directly acknowledged by China’s official.
Western Academy of Beijing is the first one to get this authentication and this authentication system is first proposed by Western Academy of Beijing…(more).
There are also separate pages for the 3 different sections at international schools (Primary, Middle School, and Secondary). In each section, you can find the following information: the latest news from international schools in that section, highlighted articles, the latest news that is recommended to read, a list of recommended international schools, articles about the perspective of the students in that section, a FAQ section, a section about when there are Open Days at various international schools, etc.
Currently there are 106 different international schools listed in China on www.internationalschoolcommunity.com. The cities with the most international schools listed on our website are:
• Hong Kong (22)
American International School (Hong Kong) (22 Comments)
Hong Kong Academy Primary School (14 Comments)
International Christian School (Hong Kong) (11 Comments)
Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong (11 Comments)
• Shanghai (18)
Concordia International School (Shanghai) (15 Comments)
Shanghai Community Int’l School (10 Comments)
Shanghai Rego International School (72 Comments)
Western International School of Shanghai (27 Comments)
Take a look at the numerous comments and information that have been submitted about these international schools in China!