An Experience: Teaching English in China

China is perhaps the most popular destination for new TEFL teachers looking to use their newly gained qualification to travel and see the world. The reason for this is simple; China is enormous, full of people, full of schools and full of ESL jobs.With 2 years of post-graduate work experience, you can go out to China and land yourself a job (much as I did) and there begin your TEFL journey in one of the oldest and most fascinating cultures on the planet.

I can’t pretend to give a comprehensive rundown of any and everything you might see in the Middle Kingdom, in my time there I barely scratched the surface of one corner of this massive country.Even thinking of China as a country is a little misleading (for a European certainly), as it is more like a continent, hundreds of languages, ethnicities and a dizzying variety of culture, cuisine and history.

Despite China’s growing popularity with expats of all stripes, be they teachers, businesspeople or cultural travellers, the country still feels remarkably distant from the West. Even on the cosmopolitan ‘Gold’ Coast stretching either side of Shanghai, a foreigner is the recipient of stares, unsubtle photography and unabashedly forward and curious locals popping over to say ‘Hello’ and practise their English.

Inside the classroom, the curiosity doesn’t recede; be prepared to field all kinds of questions. Much is made of China’s isolationism, the Big Brother style battening down of the web, but young Chinese people are as connected as anyone, and the firewalls just increase their interest. I have been asked about English food, customs, holidays, idioms (always popular), dating rituals, attitudes towards animals, the environment, you name it.

All I can do in this short space is give a taste, and I hope I have; to borrow a cliché, you really have to see it for yourself. Go! Do it! Walk along the Great Wall, eat the brains of a pig and the feet of a chicken (don’t eat the feet of a chicken), learn how to speak the world’s most common language, you won’t regret it!