We asked a few SIE teachers: Why China?
So you’re thinking of moving abroad and have been looking over the countless possibilities of new places to call home! There are several different factors to consider when you are looking for your new place of work and life. This article will focus on why I chose China and the things that I have enjoyed about my China experience so far. Most articles about TEFL’ing in China focus on the savings potential ($$$). And yes, while the salaries are quite high here, and the cost of living is relatively low, I’d like to focus on a few less talked about benefits of teaching in China.
When you come to China, presumably from a Western side of the world, there is an undeniable culture shock! You can learn about a whole new culture, their traditions and their beliefs. As a teacher here, you will experience the Chinese holidays, and they can certainly be a spectacle! Whether it be a school wide dramatic or musical performance on Children’s Day, or the parents coming in with various homemade foods and treats for you on Teachers Day, there is always something going on here. The schools often embrace Western holidays into their lessons as well, but it is a big benefit to experience the Chinese traditions (yes, the red packets are real and very meaningful here!) You will have long weekends due to holiday Mondays or Fridays, and be sure to ask why this is! Living in China provides you with a great opportunity to learn about how the other side of the world observes and celebrates their own holidays, and what is most important to them!
This also provides you with the opportunity to learn a brand new language. I grew up in Central Canada, a bilingual country. However, although I speak very little French (my nation’s second language), it was a mandatory language taught to us throughout our school years. I always found it fascinating to be able to switch back and forth between two languages, and found those who were fluently bilingual to be especially impressive. The same experience is happening to me here in China, though I am far from fluent, I have learned a few key phrases and terms, and am using them throughout my day to day life. However, many of my peers have put a great deal of effort into learning the language and, over the years, have become somewhat fluent! This is such a special skill to develop, not only does it enhance your own knowledge and capability, it allows you to interact with the society on a much more local-friendly level. It also makes your day to day life easier when talking with taxi drivers, store clerks, or shop assistants. I have found that even learning a few key words or phrases can make a great difference in your comfort and confidence here in China, and what a great opportunity to learn a new skill that you can show off to your friends and family back home!
When you come to live in China, particularly Shenzhen, you are opening yourself up to a whole new playing field of travel opportunities. When I lived in England, I used those years as a chance to travel Europe – something not so easily done from Toronto! However, it was much more inexpensive and convenient to travel Europe when I was calling London home, rather than flying back to Toronto each time. The same theory applies to my time here in China, my partner and I have been able to see parts of Asia we likely would never have explored if it weren’t for us working here! We have spent a month in Thailand and Sri Lanka respectively, and then had countless other adventures across China and Southeast Asia (Taiwan, Macao, Hong Kong, the list goes on and on!). As it goes, these travel opportunities would have been much more expensive and out of the way if we were flying from our home countries, but using Shenzhen as our base camp has made Asia so much more accessible to us. So if you are someone who likes to travel, which I can only assume to be true as you read this article, and wondering why China? Well, adventure is at your fingertips!
To be completely honest, I had never even heard of Shenzhen before I applied to live here, much less other little villages and cities nearby. However, since moving here, I have been to so many small local historic villages, as well as visiting some local sky high city skylines! I have found relaxation in hot springs I didn’t know existed, taken boat tours on rivers I never heard of, and am living in a multi-functional and varied city I never knew was home to so many! Especially coming from North America, a great deal of my geographic knowledge pertained to the Western world, primarily the “touristy highlights”. We learn about the Statue of Liberty, the CN Tower, the London Eye. And yes, China has the Great Wall (a must see, of course), but the biggest appeal for me is the little secrets and hidden gems you will find on local day trips or meals with locals. Though Shenzhen may not be part of our education in North America, there is so much to discover and learn here, I am having experiences I never dreamed of, in places I wouldn’t have known existed if I didn’t take this leap!
The idea of moving all the way around the world to China may seem intimidating, and it may seem easier to go somewhere a little closer to home, but the leap is worth it! There is so much to discover here – so many nooks and crannies full of history and tradition, you often cannot walk more than 20 minutes without finding a historical village, bridge, or park. I encourage you to take a risk and give China a chance, it just may surprise you!