Fantasy and Reality: My expat life in China
A few months ago I left home, seeking adventure in a mysterious and daunting land: China. With its long history, beautiful scenery and unique culture, I have been forever fascinated with this country. As many other expatriates, I came to China as an ESL teacher and totally fell in love with it after living here for just a couple of months. The students were hard-working, I had sufficient time for vacation and made a satisfactory salary. Besides all the excitement, I also found some things that were frustrating:
1)Before coming to China, the recruiter told me that the school I was going to work in the capital city of the province (I was supposed to work in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang). But, when I arrived, I found the campus was actually located much further from the capital, and the area was nothing like the pictures the recruiter sent me. I was mostly alone, I couldn’t find a lot of help from people on the street – haha, I often got that look that us laowai (foreign friend) get, that look that locals give us when they haven’t seen a lot of foreign faces, I felt like I was from Mars! I turned to Facebook to search for help, but discovered that almost every social media site was banned by the government.
2)Although my Chinese colleagues were extremely kind, and always made efforts to be friendly towards me, there was inevitably a gap between us because I had no Chinese language skills whatsoever. So, we couldn’t speak much, let alone hang out after school. My school is a public school, many of the staff does not speak English, and I think that’s part of the reason they kept a distance from me. Life as an expatriate was a little lonelier than I had imagined.
3)I love Chinese culture, and the Chinese food is really great! But, sometimes I was craving Western food! I reeeeeally wanted an authentic, juicy cheeseburger and couldn’t really find any Western food around town – with the exception of the McDonalds and KFC, which I was deftly afraid of.
I don’t know if I was the only person feeling this way, I’m still encountering a lot problems on a regular basis. But, I’m certainly getting a handle on things these days. Since I will be in China for a while, I feel like the longer I stay, the more experienced I will be and will keep updating my status here, in hopes of sharing experiences with other expats in China. If anyone is facing the same issues as me, feel free to contact me!
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, most of the foreigners I know have similar experiences regading the feelings of loneliness especially when they live in rather small cities that don't have big expats communities. Speaking Chinese helps in some extent but in my case is not enough.
I know a lot of expats in your position who came to China on the promise of going to a big city, then ended up in a smaller city, some in smaller villages further away as the only foreign teacher in the whole area never mind school! Gotta be careful.
Many foreigners here in China, take Chinese classes and try to learn the language. Some schools even offer free Chinese classes to foreigners. By learning the Spoken language, you can even get better opporuntities and even envy by local Chinese because u are speaking their language and will get respect!
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