Doctor X’s tips and hints for living in China and teaching ESL
Bring a decent laptop computer with you. I recommend bringing a Mac simply because you don’t have to worry about viruses. When you are teaching you will be using the computers in the classrooms. You will be using audio and visual material in your classrooms, such as YouTube videos and so on. You will use a USB stick. The computers in the classrooms are usually full of viruses because the students use them for various nefarious activities so as soon as you put the stick back into your Windows computer you get the viruses.
Your computer is your main window onto the world. Even if you have a TV in your apartment there is nothing to watch apart from CCTV news in English. So you will be watching movies and TV via the many ways you can, usually using torrents. You will also want to use your computer to contact friends and family so download SKYPE in your home country as the Chinese version of SKYPE is monitored and is often down.
MacBooks are pretty tough. The one I am currently writing on was purchased in 2011 with my redundancy money. I recently upgraded it in China to 8GB of ram and 500GB SSD drive. My computer has travelled.
Do not think buying hardware will be cheaper in China it is not – the price monopoly surrounds the planet. Only some peripherals might be cheaper.
You will want to be entertained during those long hours off and the long cold nights of winter. You might even have a TV in your apartment – but as the song goes there are 57 channels and nothing on. So you will have to learn how to torrent. Yes torrenting is illegal. But you are in China so why not enjoy those blockbuster movies before they are even in the cinema back home?
I use Extra Torrent and The Pirate Bay – you can find all your favourite TV shows and movies on these site every thing from Top Gear – TV shows are usually posted pretty quickly – to the latest Tom Cruise movie if thats your thing, plus music, books – even porn if thats what turns you on.
Extra Torrent – http://extratorrent.cc
The Pirate Bay – https://thepiratebay.org
You also have to download Vuze to handle the torrents. On the actual torrent page you click the Magnet link (It looks like a Magnet or Horseshoe) and the torrent automatically downloads the files into Vuze.
I use Vuze Bittorent Client to download the torrents – http://www.vuze.com
Make sure your Smartphone is unblocked back in your home country so that when you come to China you can buy a Sim card from China Mobile or China Unicom (Unicom is best for iPhone). I made the rookie mistake of thinking I could get my iPhone unblocked in China, I could not.
Your Smartphone is your lifesaver. Make sure you have maps APPS, so you don’t get lost. A translator APP so you can at least communicate on some level. Once you are here you can download the local taxi APP. You will need to learn a few words of Chinese to use it but it’s easy to get the hang of otherwise sometimes its difficult to get a cab without it. Download social media apps like WeChat and QQ which everybody uses in China. Remember you cannot use Twitter or Facebook here in China without a VPN so download the VPN to your phone too.
Why not buy a Smartphone in China? Buy a Huawei Smartphone here in China they are cheap and compete very well with the iPhone. I dumped my iPhone5 (for various reasons – poor battery life being one) for a Huawei Rio and I was very happy with it. 99% of the functions were in English so I had no problems at all. Be wary though, I upgraded to the Huawei P9 and the phone is now so smart it knows it’s in China and does not allow blocked social media apps to download. I have Facebook and instagram but twitter will not download from the Play store.
VPN: Virtual Personal Network.
To access Social Media, Facebook, the BBCiplayer, YouTube, Google (which are important for teaching) that are blocked by the Chinese government you need to download onto your phone and computer a VPN. The best VPN for China in my opinion is EXPRESSVPN you do have to pay for the service, but it is relatively cheap and works very well. I have used it for the five years I have been in China.
Use this link and you will get 30 days free extra service, as will I.
Just because you are young and a graduate doesn’t mean that you should turn up to teach in shorts, scraggy tee shirt and flip-flops like the rest of the herd. Set yourself apart from the rest of the drunks and dope heads and dress (and act) like a professional teacher. Teachers are held in high regard in China, they have a Teachers Day; your students will give you gifts. You will generate more respect from your colleagues and your students if you dress the part. So for males think about wearing decent shoes, trousers (not jeans – although I do wear jeans –good jeans – in the winter) and a long sleeved shirt (especially if you have tattoos as I do – tattoos are the mark of a low person or criminal in China). Some schools do have a dress code and will even stipulate that teachers wear a tie – check your contract. Personally I wear trousers, shirt, jacket if its chilly, decent shoes. If I am meeting parents then I will wear a suit and tie. Hint – get a suit made here at your local tailor costs about 1200yuan. For females similar formal/casual clothes are more appropriate too. Of course around the campus, where I live, in my free time I wear shorts and tee shirts with my tattoos on show – but that is my free time, not my professional time.
Where to find your job
There are lots of ESL job websites on the website. You could do worse than look at Dave’s ESL café – http://www.eslcafe.com to start with.
If you have not yet done a TEFL course which is usually a minimum requirement after the degree you can often find an online course cheap on Groupon – www.groupon.co.uk currently there is an accredited TEFL course for just £49 here: TEFLCOURSE
Make sure you have a CV or resume that you can post that in some way or other suggests that you have some teaching experience, even if it is a stretch of the imagination. If you do not have any teaching experience apart from the weekend class you took on your TEFL course then maybe you should think about how you can get some between now and turning up in China where you will be dropped in at the deep end and be expected to teach on that first day.