● Teaching Location: Fuzhou, China
● Type of Teaching Job: Kindergarten to mid-teens
● Student Age Group: 4-16
● Monthly Salary: 7,000 RMB to start (~$1,000 USD), 9,900 RMB by end of year (~1,400 USD)
● Monthly Rent: 2,000 RMB (~$290 USD) extra provided by company for apartment
● Living Arrangement: 2 bedroom shared apartment
● Monthly Savings: 5,000 RMB per month (~$720 USD) but dependent on individual
● Contract Bonuses: Airfare paid at six months and at end of contract
By Gayle Aggiss
For almost a year now I have been living and working in Fuzhou, China, a relatively small city in the southeast of that enormous country, at a company called York English. York pays a reasonable wage of 7000 rmb or 1000 USD to start and sets up a shared apartment for their teachers that they pay for. Their schools have classes for all age groups from Kindergarten to mid-teens based on a pre-determined curriculum that has room for some teacher creativity.
I have almost finished my contract now and am readying myself to go home. York has been a great company to work for, with chances to travel as well as save some money, and while the city itself is a little boring the opportunity to live and work in China cannot be undervalued. This year has been an adventure on a number of fronts and trying to distil that down into an easily communicable form is not an easy task, but a number of elements do stand out.
What I Like About Teaching English in China
One of my favourite things about working in China is how fundamentally different it is. Growing up in Australia, you are taught tolerance and that everyone is the same under the surface differences and then you go overseas and realise how untrue that really is. China and its people are incredibly different from Westerners in important and obvious ways, from their ways of interacting to what foods they will eat and that is amazing. Every day is an adventure because of the unexpected beliefs and practices and one of my favourite things to do is just sit and watch in a busy area, you never know what you’ll see but it will be strange to your very different sensibilities.
The company that I am working with here in China really is amazing. It is fairly small and so still feels very personal despite the fact that they now have several branches in the city. They are quick to help out whether you are new or have been here a while and always available to talk and provide support and solutions. They’re a really good company to work for in a foreign country where everything is unfamiliar and you frequently need help with things that would be second nature back home.
On a similar note, the students in China are amazing to teach. They’re shy at first, but once they’re comfortable with you are always happy to see you, affectionate and eager for your attention and approval. I enjoy all of my classes and that’s purely because the kids are incredibly hard working, but amazingly sweet at the same time.
What I Dislike About Teaching in China
On the negative side, the pollution in Chinese cities is really hard to take. Coming from relatively unpolluted Australia to huge cities where the pollution has turned the sky permanently grey is hard on my lungs and has given me a permanent, irritating cough. The dreariness of the sky is also a surprising side effect of the pollution, I miss the bright, clear, endless skies of Australia more than I ever thought I could.
Another thing I really hate is the spitting. I am aware that to Chinese people, this is a normal thing to do, but to me there is nothing more gross then seeing someone hawk phlegm onto the sidewalk or on the floor in shops and restaurants. Even worse are the bikes that pause at the side of the road so the driver can clear his nostrils into the gutter. I’m always slipping on the shiny little piles on the sidewalk and pushing down the urge to retch at the sound of the man spitting behind me as I walk.
Finally, and this is an issue that anyone travelling anywhere in Asia will probably have to deal with, is the differences in food hygiene standards. It’s not unusual here to see a cockroach running over your foot while you’re eating in a restaurant and people are perfectly happy to prepare my food without ever washing their hands. It’s a shock after being in Western countries, where there are fairly strict expectations of cleanliness in order for restaurants to remain open. Here, a restaurant that is just a little unclean is a marvellous treat.
That being said, the whole experience has been amazing. I have some amazing memories from China and they are the ones that I will keep close to me in the hard and the dark times as evidence of my strength and my courage. The lessons I have learned here, about myself and about the world, will be the ones I’ll cherish and build upon throughout the rest of my life. I will always be grateful to China, to the people I have met here and to myself for having the courage to get on the plane a year ago.
Contact Gayle Aggiss
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