My China Experience So Far - Martin Hubisz
Teaching in China can be a life changing experience!
Of course, it’s not for everyone, but if you are the adventurous individualist, looking for a sudden 180-degree turn in his or her life, a change in their everyday routine, someone who wants to sign up for an exciting discovery of a completely different world then China is the place to go!
The beginnings are always hard and I won’t tell you that it’s easy for everyone to adjust quickly to the completely new environment. There’s no real British food here, you won’t buy any normal ham or a sausage, and cheese is more expensive than back at home, that’s true. But don’t forget that at the local marketplace you can buy vegetables and fruits that you have never seen before, eat dishes your palate has never tasted before and every day live your life to the fullest without being worried about how much it’s going to cost.
That’s I think one of the best things about teaching here, when you work in Hunan province, you’re paid around £450 every month which is almost three times more than what the local Chinese teachers earn. All this money is free of tax and the school provides you with totally free private apartment (no rent, gas or electricity bills), so you’ll really have more money here than you’ll be able to spend!
The second greatest thing is the general flexibility and easygoingness about almost any aspect of living and working in China. Every case might be a little different, but generally you can expect to have a lot of freedom to prepare your class plan. Sometimes you should concentrate on revising and practising the material your students covered with their Chinese English teachers, and sometimes you’ll be free to design your classes the way you think is most suitable and best for your students. I and my girlfriend teach at middle school and I have 15 classes (each 45 minutes) every week and she has only 10. That means that we teach 2 or 3 hours every day and then we’re free to spend the rest of the day the way we like it most; hanging out with our Chinese friends!
And that would be the third best aspect about teaching here, the overwhelming friendliness, smiles, hellos, and the fact that everyone wants to be your friend. You go into a bar, they buy you a beer. You walk down the street when it’s rainy, they give you their own umbrella. You order one pizza and you get free wine. J Being a foreigner in China is one of the coolest things on Earth! You can make friends with the speed of light, they will always be eager to hang out with you, travel with you to other cities, and show you the best restaurants and most interesting sightseeing spots. They’ll bargain for you at the shops and assist you when buying more expensive gadgets online (yesterday I bought the newest original Kindle for about £50!!!).
The best advice I could ever give you is to make as many friends with the locals as possible – China will keep surprising you with every day of your stay and then every day can bring a new series of unexpected events adventure and will make you fall in love with this country over and over again.
Another best thing in China is the weather. Today it’s the 2nd of November and I go to school wearing sandals, shorts and my favourite T-shirt. It’s already November and outside it’s still 25 degrees and sunny. And another best thing are the holidays! No matter if you’re teaching at a middle school or university, you’ll get around 50-70 days of paid holidays. That means that when you have Thursday and Friday off, you can catch a high-speed train to Shanghai after your classes on Wednesday, pay £25 for the ticket for a train that goes 150 mph and will cover the 1200 miles in 8 hours, or get another train to Hong Kong for the train that goes 220 mph and be there in 3 hours (600 miles) for £30! And if you want the real Chinese experience then you can travel with the ordinary trains which go 75 mph and charge you £1 for every 70 miles.
China is almost as big as the whole Europe, full of breathtaking places worth visiting. We like it so much that we’re actually thinking about staying here a few more years to keep discovering this amazing country, its language and culture, and most of all, its beautiful people! Every time we travel, we use CouchSurfing, stay together with the locals and hang out together. Last week we were in Guilin and stayed with the most enthusiastic Chinese couch surfer we’ve met so far. J There’s more! At her place we made friends with a French couple who are cycling on a tandem bike throughout the entire globe!
And yes, there are some challenges we have to face every day as well; the biggest one would be the size of each class. On average there are 50 students in each class at an ordinary middle school in China, so sometimes the order and discipline can be a big issue. But it really depends on the class, if you let the kids bug you then they will keep giving you a hard time and be loud and naughty J In that case you need to get in touch with their class tutor or invent an effective form of punishment yourself. On the whole, however, as long as you keep your class interesting and engaging, they will adore you, enjoy your class, and appreciate your effort, all of which will make it the most rewarding job ever. At the university it’s a little similar; you teach smaller groups (10-40 students per class), students are much more engaging and always eager to participate in a discussion and always interested in any topic you would bring up in the class.
If you’re worried about the lack of freedom and internet restrictions you can relax now. Even though Facebook is blocked, you can always access it through a VPN or through a special Proxy program that is entirely free of charge but functions only while browsing in China. Before you come here, make sure you’ll download the newest Freegate. And if you’re thinking about stacking up in DVDs you don’t have to bother. They have a massive high-definition network TV called PPTV that is absolutely free, and if you don’t mind Chinese subtitles at the bottom of your screen (good for learning Mandarin!), then you can watch any season of just about any American TV series you can think of! Skype also works generally fine, the connection is generally strong enough to have a video conference with your family in Britain.
Just to give you a rough idea about how much you can spend every month on food: when you’re cooking by yourself then an average meat eater would spend not more than £200-250 a month, if you’re vegetarian then the costs will drop to £100-150. If you eat out then I guess it depends on where and what you want to eat. The local version of McDonalds sells chicken burgers that are so big you won’t eat more than 3 at a time and pay £0.50 for each, a big bowl of tortellini (big dumplings with only meat inside) will cost you £0.35 and a huge bowl only £0.55 (but it’s big enough for two!). There are always some nice, modern and clean restaurants as well in the area, which would generally charge £1 for a 3 or 4 course meal.
When you travel then your expenditure obviously changes significantly depending on what kind of transport and accommodation you choose. Generally it’s easy to find CouchSurfing friends with nice, clean and safe apartments all over China. They are very enthusiastic and happy to invite and host English speakers from all over the world, nowadays it’s even common to stay for free at private English language schools where in exchange for their hospitality, bed/private room, free dinner and beer you’d be expected to hang out 2 hours in the evening with the students. We did that as well and it was fantastic! CouchSurfing is actually the best way to discover the real China because you always get the first hand experience and an honest answer to just about any question you can possibly ask. Chinese are always frank and very straightforward, like to complain about this and that but on the whole they love their country more than anything in the world and like to show you around and tell how proud they are about the beauty of the countryside, the progress, booming economy and the bright future that awaits them.
China is full of surprises just like those I mentioned above. If you’re a brave backpacker, someone curious and eager to learn more about China then this may be your dream job and you can have the time of your life, just like us!