Things I have learned being in China

Many of you are considering coming to China to teach and some of you have already arrived but are having a few difficulties.  So, I thought I would write a blog about what I have learned in the 4 years I have been teaching and living in China.

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  • Don’t assume No Really don’t assume anything… the thinking in China is totally different than the states or other western countries.  So, if you assume they are going to think as you do… or organize as you do… or understand things like you do… you are in for a big disappointment.   Keep your expectations low, and you won’t be disappointed.
  • You cannot eat everything the locals eat.  There are many kinds of foods that the local people love to eat and some of them are just not good for the foreign stomach.  They have lived here all their lives so they have gain some immunities to somethings.   Some people can eat street food and some people cannot, some people can handle sometimes, dirty oil and most people cannot.  So, be careful what you eat, you don’t want to end up in a Chinese hospital.
  • Keep your patience.  China moves fast in many things but customer service is not one of their strong points.  Going to the bank to do something simple could take you the entire day; mailing a package could take you half the day (since they need to check what you are shipping) and you could wait 2 hours to get a seat at some restaurants and then wait another hour for you to receive your food.
  • Positive feedback.  Most places will give you all the negative feedback that you can stand but will rarely give you some positive feedback.   If they say nothing to you, then that is your positive feedback.  If you need to be motivated by your boss with words of encouragement then you better not work in China. You have to be your own positive motivation.
  • Causing a scene or badmouthing any locals only makes you seem like the “angry foreigner”.  Always keep your cool…. catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Chinese people do not like confrontation but if you make them lose face… they will get you back in other ways.
  • Stay flexible.  Things change rapidly and without notice in China… and the rules in one city could be different in another city, or province.  There is really no consistency.  So you have to be able to change on a dime and smile while you do it. (on the outside at least) .
  • Have to be “ON” all the time. Unfortunately, as a foreigner people will be trying to talk to you all the time, and you have to show a smile or a kind face to them, or again you are the “angry foreigner”  and things could become difficult for you.

These are a few things I have learned, there are many, many more… but I will stop here for now.  China can be an interesting and exciting place if you want it to be.   Just remember you cannot change China, you can only change how you react to China.  I get asked all the time.. how I could stay here for so long?…. and I can only say….. every day is an adventure and I have the patience of a saint.


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