I’m Yohan from Toronto, Canada and I’m the grade 4 teacher in the GIA program at Huamei International School. I’ve been teaching here for almost a full school year and I’ve been living in China for nearly 4 years now. I thought I would share my thoughts on living in China in case you wanted to get another expat’s perspective.
I’d like to start off by being totally honest. I never in my life intended or thought I would ever live or work in China. Actually I can confidently say that as a pretty average Canadian I was pretty sure I would never live in China because of all the negative stories I had seen or read in the news.
“Well, then how did that all change?” you might be wondering. I’ll try to keep it short! I actually started my overseas teaching adventure in the super fun and insane city of Seoul, South Korea and during my month-long winter vacation, at my teaching job there, I decided, “Why the heck not swing by China and see it for myself?”.
In the past I had seen evidence of the media being really biased in reporting and I was truly curious to see if this was the case.
I bought my tickets, made a no-research-itinerary of 3 cities in 3 weeks and I tried to comfort my mom who was on the verge of crying because I was going to travel solo in a country that only had negative press. (Luckily I had watched youtube videos of people that were perfectly happy traveling here so I knew I was safe.) After travelling to Shanghai, Guilin and Guangzhou I was totally shocked at how helpful and sincerely welcoming people were, how clean many things were (for example, the subways are 1000 times cleaner here in China than back home in Toronto!) and I was mostly shocked by how it was almost nothing like how I imagined China would be. Needless to say I had an awesome time and I made the decision that year to find a job in China.
Teaching in China has been an unforgettable experience so far. Just as our cultures are different, the way the Chinese educate students, in some aspects, can be quite different than the way we do it back in Canada so, I think there is a lot we can learn from each other. Chinese students on average are really hard working and have some awesome ideas but, sometimes I feel like they have too much homework and not enough free time. That’s why when we use project-based or group-based learning, in class, a lot of students get really excited because it’s a chance for them to be creative and collaborative with their peers. It’s also amazing to see how much trust educators give their kids here, in China. Whereas in the West we get a little bit too ‘micromanagey’ at times with every little conflict. In China, a lot of teachers let kids handle disputes on their own even if it gets a little bit physical. It was really a culture-shock for me as a teacher to see that but, after being here for a few years I can definitely see how important it is to let kids be kids and trust them to solve some of their own problems.
All in all I’ve been really happy with life here. If you choose to make the leap, there will definitely be things that will bother you here and seem really inappropriate but, I think that’s normal whenever you go especially when the culture is so vastly different. Also, I think it’s kind of a love-it-or-hate-it kind of country because of how big and how old the country and culture are. If you’re up for an adventure this is a perfect place for you to explore and try new things. If you are more into eating Western food at every meal and only doing things you have done back home you can definitely find that too in Guangzhou. There is something for everyone here.
Wherever you decide to go I hope you have a great time,