Travelling becomes a little scarier if you begin to think about what could go wrong with your health, especially to a country that has only recently developed. What if there’s an accident? What if I catch a cold? If you have a medical condition, there’s a lot more to consider. Can you find necessary medication? Will you be able to communicate with a doctor?
China has a long history of traditional medicine, and most modern western medicines are also available. Pharmacies are pretty common and easily identifiable. I regularly purchase allergy medication, pain killers and other essentials on my own, with only my phone translator to assist. For more complex needs and trips to the hospital, EF provides employees with Aetna insurance and a Chinese member of staff can provide translation assistance. Even having a residence permit requires yearly check-ups in most provinces.
If you’re considering living and working in China, your research has probably brought up the air quality — or a well-meaning loved one did. You may have seen photos of a few Chinese people wearing masks, with thick smog blocking out the background of the city. That can’t be healthy!
China is a huge country with many cities and not all cities have problems with air quality. Even a city that does will have more “good days” than bad, and things are improving all of the time. If air quality is a concern, you can find information about most cities’ ratings and what to expect, to help choose where to live. On top of that many indoor spaces (including most EF schools!) will have air purifiers and you can buy masks and other accessories to protect yourself. And, if lots of people are wearing masks, the air might still be clean; there just might be a flu going around, so they’re protecting themselves.
You’ll be coming to China to teach English — but you don’t know any Chinese! How can you get around if you don’t speak the language? What will you tell a taxi? How can you order food? How can you buy things?
Restaurants often have picture menus, public transportation often has English labels in addition to Mandarin, and a salesperson can use their fingers to tell you your total (although, be careful—their hand signals are different from 5-10). Memorizing a how to say the names of the places you go most often isn’t difficult, and a Chinese co-worker will often be happy to help perfect your pronunciation so taxi drivers can understand you. Phone apps are useful and valuable, especially for basic things. Not only can you use a translator app to ask about where eggs might be, but finding a quick picture of what you need, having a pinned location, or saving written forms of phrases you use most frequently can make almost anything possible.
You’ll be so far away from your family and friends! They will miss you or forget about you! How can you keep in touch? Isn’t a lot of the internet blocked in China?
While some Western websites are inaccessible, China has its own social media that can be accessed in other countries. Most notable is WeChat, which supports text and image chat as well as audio and video calls. Some apps and sites from the West are still accessible, like Skype, while a VPN can help you reach Facebook and Twitter. Your friends and family also have the opportunity to visit you, which is a huge bonus.
Don’t Know Anyone There
You’ll be a stranger in a strange land. You won’t know anyone. How will you meet people? What will you do to be social?
It’s so easy to meet people in China! Your coworkers, Chinese and foreign alike, are excited to have you join them. Most schools arrange welcome meals to introduce you. There’s also regular social activities and sometimes even for multiple schools so you can meet people you won’t see every day. Your coworkers are also a bridge to the other foreigners in the city, which can be vibrant and diverse. Chinese people are also very friendly and eager to broaden their circle of friends. Helping each other with your native languages is a good way to start a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be the sole basis of your friendships! You can meet people the same ways you would back home, by looking for people with similar interests, hanging out a coffee shop or even at the bar!
Is there any reason left NOT to come to China?
Teach English, travel and work abroad with EF English First
Christine is fascinated by a good story and constantly seeks to find new ones, whether it’s by reading books, playing video games or simply listening to the stories other people tell. She sometimes makes up her own, but they’re never quite as interesting as the ones she stumbles upon. She currently hunts for stories, and shares them with others, in a “small” Chinese city of about 1 million people.
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