Living in China has always been at the back of my mind since I interned in Shanghai in 2009. During that summer I fell in love with the city, the people and the adventures; I knew I wanted to come back and call this city “home”. Deciding to move was the easy part, and actually making the move was much harder than I could have imagined. Boston was my home for the past 9 years. While it was hard to say goodbye, the excitement of the great unknown helped me to look forward. I was not able to secure a job before I moved but I took a leap of faith and came on a three month tourist visa. With three suitcases, I landed in Pudong International Airport and thus began the most exhilarating yet stressful first 90 days of my life! Whether you are teaching in China or moving here for other reasons, here are five tips on how I survived the first 3 months in China:
1.Make local friends- Start this as early as possible (during what we call the honeymoon phase), your new local friends are not only helpful when ordering food but more importantly can give you some everyday tips and warnings which will help the transition easier when you know what to expect. A couple weeks to a month into the move you will at some point become homesick (don’t try to be brave! everyone will be at some point) this is when you will try to find anything that reminds you of home including friends, food, language etc. Without a few local friends you will find yourself stuck in the expat community which will take away from the whole experience of moving abroad.
2.Learn how to haggle effectively- This is a hard skill to learn and I am still uncomfortable doing it but am improving every day! You can haggle or bargain at any of the small shops and street side vendors. Sometimes I think “it’s only a couple of US dollars I’ll just give them what they asked for”, but it does add up. If you are working in China, and not on an impressive expat package, my advice is to consciously think of the currency exchange as 1rmb to 1 home currency. This helps a lot with budgeting.
3.Be cautious of street food- I’m not saying avoid all street food as some of the best local cuisines can be found at these small shops and individual vendors. But during the first few weeks, as your stomach is slowly adjusting to the cuisine, pick places where you see a lot of locals eating or where you can see the kitchen.
4.Take the time to keep in touch with friends and family back home- When there is so much to do and see in China, it may be hard to find time for your friends and family back home. After the honeymoon phase when the culture shock hits you, most likely you will turn to your friends and family back home for support. Your expat friends in China, especially friends with jobs teaching English will come and go, this is just the nature of the expat community but it does get hard keeping track of all the time zones!
5.Most important of all, approach every experience with a positive attitude- A lot of things will not go as you planned. You have to keep in mind that you are in a different country with an entirely different culture. Things will not work the way you are used to back home and nor should they. Instead of trying to change the situation or the person, embrace them with a positive attitude and learn from these experiences. With a positive attitude you will no doubt have an amazing time here in China!
Teaching Nomad is an American owned and operated education Recruitment Company based in Shanghai, China. Our goal and purpose is to help great teachers find great teaching jobs. Year round, we have hundreds of teaching job vacancies. Whether your goal is to be an ESL teacher or teach in an international school, we have a teaching job for you. You can browse jobs online at www.teachingnomad.com/job-search for the latest job openings. Teaching Nomad is here to make teaching in China easier, so please feel free to reach out and contact us with any questions or enquiries!