So you want to know if you’re ready for teaching English abroad in China? Well, let me tell you it will be a roller coaster. So how did I get this privilege you ask? Well, it all began with the boomers.
The Boomers Did It!!!
I have a degree in Comparative Literature studies from Serbia for Christ’s sake! In case you don’t know about the situation in Serbia, it is an economically ravaged country where unemployment levels are off the charts! After college with no jobs in sight, I was a bit of a nuisance to my family. I guess I had partially blamed them for the degradation of society. It is unfair, I admit. Needless to say, my father and grandma were fed up with my antics. Then again, they might have been partially to blame for my attitude. They had basically lead me down the same path every boomer parent lead half of my generation.
Work or Die!
It was this point in my life that I began the trials that all Post-Graduates must undertake: Finding Work. I guess you could call me somewhat of a disillusioned millennial at this point. I wanted to make something for myself in this world. But things aren’t set up the way they used to be. Voting is useless. My vote means nothing. This is the way the motherland is literally blackmailing me into submission. How can I make a difference? Thea only option I have left here is to work. Work or die.
There’s nothing left for the college graduates
I spent some time at my mother’s place trying to find a job. Eventually, I had an interview at a nearby warehouse. It was embarrassing to apply for a job that requires carrying wooden boxes. It’s like my college education was worthless. The annual salary alone wasn’t even enough to color my college debt.
Take your job and shove it
The guy asked me to say something about myself and my motivation for the work. I was totally not ecstatic enough about taking this menial work, and it probably showed during my interview. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
I tried applying for some other jobs and had 2 more interviews. The first guy I interviewed with I couldn’t even understand because he was an immigrant and spoke poor Serbian.
The second dude tried to explain how I’ll pay penalties if I don’t get the day’s job done in 8 hours. It must have been a joke because the job he was asking me to do was impossible to do it in 8 hours and the salary he offered was not even enough to cover rent. I’ve never heard of paying penalties on a job in my life. That would have meant that I would be working for him and also paying him.
Who fell for the University trap? Millenials.
I had basically wasted 6 years of my life acquiring that degree and now the only thing it did for me was that it gave me rational grounds for not wanting to work for a boss 8 hours a day. That was exactly what I had to do though so the joke was on me.
There were 2 things I said I’d never do: be a waiter or work at a call center. That was where I draw the line. The problem was, I really was not qualified for anything else.
Opting For Teaching English Abroad in China over These current State of Affairs:
I decided I would take a job teaching English abroad in China. The only things University had taught me to do were to speak and think. I could do it in English, but hey… so can one half of the world. Luckily it’s mostly people on the western hemisphere of the globe. In other words, I found jobs for English teachers. In China.
One of my “friends”, we’ll just call him Christian, worked there teaching English abroad for a year before they threw him in prison for working without a license. He gets deported back to Serbia after some jail-time but returned to China just a couple of months later.
What’s it like in Serbia?
My mind was going in a constant loop of: “I have to get out of here, I have to leave this place.”
The country is economically f***ed and that f***ed up the culture as well. People drift through the streets without a single sane idea in their minds with this deranged-zombie look on their faces. Half of the citizens are old and demented and the other half are young, sedated, violent and stupid. No one has any perspective or role to play in this society. Boomers grew roots in their chairs in their little towers of power and no one let millennials take their rightful place in the society which resulted in my generation’s quiet desperation.
Boomers weren’t that happy either. They were all used up and neurotic as f**k. Half of them have gone seriously senile, but hey… they still held on to their positions, because who needs Millenials telling them what to do?
Your basic boomer would come home after work, eat, turn on the TV and fall to sleep instantly (input random fight with their spouse anywhere). On the weekends they complained about the pain in their backs and talked about other people’s woes to make their own sad lives look right pink. It was a pitiful thing to watch.
The only ones who’re having a good time in this f***ing country are the criminals. They have it all figured out. Steal from people, smile and wave. Rave, rinse, repeat.
I had to f***ing leave the place.
Escape from Serbia: On the road to China
The salary in China was a good $1000 clean savings each month. The job was to teach kids English… I mean, how bad can it be?
They offered me a 40 square foot apartment near the school and shit.
Having fun with kids and doing tai chi with white-bearded Daoists beneath the old temples in serene pastorals… that’s how I imagined it.
After having an online interview, I borrowed some money for the ticket and I got on board the plane.
Landing Abroad in China
You know how arrivals at airports look clean and tidy and everything smells nice, beautiful people in suits and ties come to greet you, offer you their services and direct you?
Well, it doesn’t happen in China.
First of all, the arrivals department at the Airport in Hangzhou is grey and stone-cold. Instead of beautiful people in suits, you are greeted by the military, immigration policy, and doctors in masks.
Luckily I had no business with the docs. They separated people coming from the Middle East and Africa into quarantines and did some checks on them. I don’t know what that was about… I mean, how are they going to assess if you’re carrying deadly diseases in 5 minutes?
Welcome Paperwork In China
The only thing they bid you with upon arrival is a F**K YOU card written in Chinese. That card is a form that you need to fill out. You need to state where are you staying, why did you come and when are you leaving. They allowed Serbian citizens a 30 days visa-free residence permit. Probably because Serbia was a communists’ country as well until recently.
I asked the female police officer for a pen and she yelled something in Chinese at me. That’s what they all do. They don’t give the slightest f**k about whether you speak the same language or not. They just talk to you in Chinese and then they get all fired up because you can’t understand them.
I didn’t know the address where I was supposed to stay because Christian didn’t want to give it to me. He was scared that the police could find out where he is and imprison him again.
Oh yea, I forgot to mention. The whole thing was technically illegal
According to China’s laws, only native speakers are allowed to teach English there. The private English schools hire you as a manager or something and have you teach their kids English instead. They do it to save money because native speakers charge their services twice as much as foreign English teachers do.
So, if inspection catches you teaching English, you get fined and do some minor jail time. Minor if you’re lucky. Anything can happen there. I mean they have an expression that distinguishes written law from spoken law. That should speak for itself.
I didn’t know which address to write on their little paper and I got scared that they were gonna deport me because my story wasn’t exactly bulletproof.
Dazed and Confused in a Foreign Land
I was so angry with Christian because he didn’t give me enough information. We were supposed to work together with and he was the one to connect me with the school’s HR. However, It became more clear that I’d been hoodwinked. I tried to contact the managers of the school, but you can’t catch wi-fi at Chinese airports because if your sim card is not Chinese you’re screwed! My acquaintance forgot to mention that as well, along with a bunch of other things.
I somehow got through the security check only to find out that I was marooned at the airport without wi-fi and without the slightest idea about where I should go. All I wrote in the address part was “Ningbo hotel”. Ningbo was the closest city to the village where I was supposed to teach.
No one waited for me at the airport because the school’s policy matched their country’s policy. FOK YU.
How to Speak English in Chinese
The deal was that I catch the train to a station in the middle of nowhere and then they were supposed to pick me up and drive me to the village where the school was at. I had to use pantomime to explain to the cab driver that he should get me to the north railway where the choo-choo train is at. I had to do the choo-choo part and “impersonate” the train. People in China usually don’t understand a single word of English… I’m serious. The cab driver didn’t know the meaning of “yes” and “no”.
Escape from the Airport
He drove me for like an hour or so and all I could do was pray that he’s driving me to the right location. It took me almost 3 hours to get the ticket and get on board the train. I had to ask 150 people for directions and half of them took photographs of me and laughed to my face. The other half probably thought I was a beggar or something. That’s on me – I hadn’t shaved for a while. I almost didn’t make it in time for the last train and I almost spent the night in the subway.
Meeting my superiors
I called my managers and told them that I got off the train at the designated place. They came 40 minutes later and picked me up. They drove me through fields of rice into a village that was 100 miles away from the village where we agreed that I should live and work.
The Middle of Nowhere, China
Ok, it was a misunderstanding. This village was a lot smaller and… it was desolate. I mean they had people and food you never want to try all around, but… not a single bar, nor anything fun. They drove good cars though. That’s as far as the western culture got to them.
An Unexpected & Unwelcome Roommate
Another misunderstanding: Remember the apartment that they promised me? Our agreement was written AND oral. The whole job was illegal and the very purpose of the agreement was to deceive workers so that they have something against you.
So yeah… they didn’t find me an apartment so I had to live with Christian. I eventually asked them about that and they showed me a 15 SQ Ft apartment that they said they could rent for me. I chose to live with Christian because his apartment was bigger… it was across 7 fields of rice though, nowhere near the school.
The Beginning of My Career Teaching English Abroad in China
My jet lag lasted for a month, about as much as my employment there….Notice how the headline says “living”? Yeah, it’s living… a living irony if anyone asks me. No one asked me a darn thing in China though. Instead of “living” let’s just call it what it really is – “working”.
To be honest, it’s not much of work either. I don’t want to sound like a spoiled brat… it’s not hard nor is it physically or mentally challenging. It’s dull work, stupid and pointless as well. That’s what makes it more than hard (and not in a good way) if you have any brains to offer.
The job was teaching kids English for 4 to 6 hours daily. The rest you HAVE to spend in a classroom because they aren’t going to pay you to waltz around and do nothing. Does that make any sense? They call that the office hours to make it sound like you have an office or like you do something meaningful. Do you know what you’re doing during those office hours? You sit around in a classroom and do nothing.
Keep Busy or Go To The Chinese Gulags
If you enquire about the point of it all, they just give you something to do. Draw on the board, “prepare” for the class, make lesson plans with scientific terms in them to make them look serious… People at that school are trippin’. It’s like they think they’re working for NASA no matter what they do. They like big, complicated, scientific words.
Their country is rich, but their people, the majority of them, are poor in every sense of the word, especially culturally.
I am a big fan of their tradition, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, martial arts and all… China had a lot to offer in terms of culture… before socialists decided to piss all over it.
Using Magic To teach Toddlers: Total Physical Response
The kids were too young to really learn anything. Some of them are 3 years old and they don’t yet even speak Chinese well enough so how was I going to teach them English? You can’t. Yet you’re expected to. How? Total Physical Response or TPR.
TPR is an acronym made to make it sound complex. It means total physical response. Total physical response means you have to make a clown out of yourself and make weird faces, emphasized movements like a Teletubby no matter what you say and do.
The total physical response to my ass. They’re trying to elevate clown business to the level of science so they make everything sound complex and sophisticated. Total physical response… sheesh. I think I’m gonna puke.
So the point of TPR is for you to move around a lot and show instead of telling. You have a Chinese teaching assistant who speaks some English and is not allowed to translate what you say to Chinese.
That’s why you have to jump, fart, burp, squirm, wiggle, run, kneel, roll around and stuff… to portray what you wanna say to those kids.
The kids were very cute by the way. They’re the only thing I miss there. You could say that being a teacher is a decent and meaningful calling. Well, there are a couple of problems concerning that status.
The Trick to Teaching English Abroad in China (TO CHILDREN)
Now imagine the word green. Green’s not that hard to portray. If anything, you can point towards a few green things and they’ll get the picture (50% of them won’t though because they’re too small and they just don’t give a f**k). Now imagine “explaining” the concept of respect to them? You can bow down and yell respect as much as you want… They’re just gonna think you’re bowing.
The thing is, kids so young want to play and run around. Half of them don’t yet have the cognitive capacities or attention spans long enough to follow you, no matter how funny and prone to farting you might be… By the way, they don’t consider farting funny, it’s a normal thing to do there.
So yeah… I witnessed my colleague repeat “we’re collecting raindrops together” and “Jane is a good helper” to 3-year-old kids for 30 minutes. You think they understood a thing? I don’t.
You’re there to make the school a brand. You’re there to smile and entertain while their kids are made to sit down, listen to you and repeat what you say. In that regard, their schooling is the same as in any other part of the world. The fact that the kids don’t understand you doesn’t even make a big difference.
Never Question The Curriculum
Managers were going around with a big bag of pants and teaching kids to say “they are pants.” Not only that, but they were also forcing us all to say that. That’s what’s written in their students’ books so… they are pants. If you said “these are pants,” then you’d be incorrect because the book knows all.
Small Chinese Villager Politics Keep You On Your Toes
The only advantage of small towns and villages there is that they’re even more corrupted so your bosses are likely to have relatives in the police. That’s why you don’t have to be afraid that they’re gonna waltz in your class and arrest you for working without a license.
Of course, that means that you depend on the goodwill and honesty of said bosses. They are in the position to bring the police down on your ass as soon as they decide that they’re done with you and that they don’t want to pay you. As for their honesty… I don’t know if there’s a Chinese word for that.
What is Chinese Food Like In Communist China?
You can opt for rice, rice in oil, rice in grease, GMO fruit that tastes like plastic, rotten meat, and sugar. The guys in fast food dinners make food on rusty old pans in the middle of the street and they literally cough in your food. Literally.
Toilets in China
I literally shat in a hole in their school every single day. Need I say that it reeked of urine?
Grease Is A Staple Of the Chinese Everything
They must think that oil, grease, and sugar work to disinfect because they put those things in abnormal quantities everywhere… in food, on tables, on their clothes, etc.
What the village was like
It was pretty dull. There were no sceneries. Only dirty streets, headlights, fast food diners and dusty 18th-century workshops with dirty carbonated facades. The tallest building there had two floors. All of the windows on all of the buildings there are barred. I asked why. They said because of the robbers but nobody owned anything of value anyway.
I saw a 5-floor building with barred windows on the fifth floor in a place nearby. I asked if the robbers can fly and then they told me that apparently Chinese people are prone to suicide so… it’s not profitable for the state to lose its cheap workforce. Enter bars on windows.
I still think it’s not a good explanation. I think bars are there to send a subliminal message that their state keeps them safe by keeping them imprisoned. Yeah, their state doesn’t even let them kill themselves, but there’s a trick to make the authorities kill you. All you need to do is to be open-minded or smoke a joint (I don’t say that those two correlate in any way).
Pooping In The Street Is Normal
Now, as for being open-minded and liberal, they will piss in the middle of the street, take a dump in the park, spit on floors in restaurants (I sh*t you not, it’s not even out of the ordinary). They will also burp a lot. That’s actually cool until it really becomes gross…even to me and I do it in Serbia all the time so as to defy the norm.
Wanna have sex in China? Not in the villages and towns you won’t. All the girls are married mothers in their twenties. They’re housewives and businesswomen. They just took the worst features of right conservatism and left-liberalism and mixed them together.
None of the western apps or websites work there. The Great Fire-Wall of China forbids that. I asked them how they live without Google. The answer was that their government bans Google and they LOVE their government. I got chills down my spine. 1984 much?
You can’t say you love your government anywhere else in the world and mean it… in Serbia, you can’t say it without laughing (laughter is how we deal with despair) and I just didn’t know if the person who answered my question really meant it or the place was under surveillance… or both?
Shady Teachers Union: Going to Macao to get forged documents
So the deal with my employers was for me to pay for a trip to Macao in order to get a student’s visa there. Of course, I was not a student, but the whole system is corrupt, so they have someone to forge papers for you so that you can stay in their country.
Mind you that the deal was for them to pay for the papers and for me to pay for the trip which was around $450. Mind you that I say deal because I never signed any written agreement since it had no legal value because the whole deal was illegal. The visa means you get a residence permit, and not a license to work there. You can still get arrested if they catch you working.
A few days after I landed, they notified me that instead of paying for the trip to Macao, I now had to pay for a trip to Indonesia. Apparently, their agent who forged the papers got arrested and Macao was no longer an option.
The whole trip to Indonesia + the staying there cost at least 2 times more than the trip to Macao. I had to stay there for 10 days at least because the protocol has changed. They were gonna cut those 10 days of my salary too. So they were basically sending me on a business trip that I had to pay for and they were about to cut off my salary for not spending those days at work.
I tried to reason with them to at least split the expenses, but I just hit the wall… A great wall of Chinese stupidity and greed.
What happens when you can’t get a fake visa in communist China?
I felt so used. Like they just hired a citizen of Europe to teach about English culture and language. I came here to work yes, but NOT AT ALL COST. I was stranded with no money. The teachers weren’t going to help me here. That’s where I saw that there was no place for diplomacy. This was blackmail. I’d just spent $1000 to get there and now I had to go back? How can anybody work under those terms which we constantly changing to match their whims?
My first thought was to borrow money from them (because I really didn’t have enough for that trip) and to go to Indonesia after which I’d book a flight and return to Serbia with their money in my pocket. I would have done it too if it weren’t for my “friend” who would have to take the blame for that.
My residence permit was gonna expire in 5 days. I had to decide fast. If I just came back home, I’d be in a $1500 debt which I couldn’t pay off in Serbia because they were right – you can’t get a decent job in Serbia.
If I fled with their money in my pocket, my “friend” who was bent on staying would fall from their grace.. straight into prison or debt.
It was f**k yourself or f**k your friend’s situation.
Getting Double Crossed
2 days before my residence permit expired, I notified them that I want to get back home and that they should pay me for the probation work that I did for them. They didn’t answer my message so I sent 2 more.
I complained to my friend who was an intermediary between us. He just shrugged. I called the company to book a flight. It turned out that it was in the middle of the season and that the ticket prices tripled. They had no departures under 600$ and I didn’t have enough money to get back.
My “friend” didn’t even offer to borrow me enough money. So my only choice now was to wait for the police to arrest me, do some jail time and then get deported back to Serbia… if I’m lucky. My “friend” shrugged.
I accused him of connecting me to the bosses that f**ked me over and he said what I remembered as a lesson: “I told you that they were gonna cross you if they get the chance to. It’s your fault for putting yourself in the situation that made it possible.”
Evading the Law in China
A big part of me being in that situation was me not wanting to f**k him over and leave him to pay for my debt if I “borrow” the money for the visa and just disappear. I notified my employers about the situation and they told my friend to tell me that they’re not gonna pay a dime for what I worked there. Then I said that I’m gonna contact the embassy.
That’s when the pandemonium started. My “friend” attacked me and said that I’m gonna bring the police down on their necks. Teachers from the school started calling me on my cellphone and begging me not to do it, but managers still stayed determined not to pay me because they had relatives in the police.
Getting the F**K out!
They even said something about their relatives getting to me before the embassy. That’s when I realized that sh*t hit the fan. I called my real friend from Serbia (shoutout to my bro Mitke) and borrowed some more money to get back home. I took a cab to drive me 250 miles to the airport because there was no other way of getting there on my own.
When I landed in Serbia I stepped in a piece of shit as soon as I got off the airport. I was so happy to step into a piece of Serbian shit, it just smelled like daisies compared to what I’ve smelled there.
I’m not sure if I should regret not fleeing with their money and getting my “friend” in trouble when I had the chance… either way, I’ve learned my lesson.