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What Not to Wear While Teaching in China

Somewhere along the line, I seem to have become the unofficial style consultant for the China internship… forget what you’re going to teach, what the hell are you going to wear! And what does ‘smart-casual’ really mean?

First up, don’t panic… People in China are super keen on fashion (Shanghai is now up there with Paris, Milan, London and New York as one of the fashion capitals of the world don’t cha know), and as long as you’re not a 6ft 5 Amazonian, there are plenty of  shops and markets to explore so you can top up your wardrobe if you find any areas lacking.

The first thing to get your head around is Chinese people’s perceptions of teachers. While  teachers here in the UK are regarded with a healthy mixture of contempt and derision by their students, in China teachers are afforded a lot of respect. As such, going for this kind of street style is not to be advised…

created on: 01/26/10

Or at least leave the pink tights at home. This is more the look you want to be going for:

created on: 01/26/10

(apologies – this lady did have a head and shoes when I got the picture…)

So, a few tips:

  • Cover up! Flashing cleavage, midriff and thigh is not going to be a bringer of respect
  • Scruffy is not a good look for a teacher – stick to neat and tidy and you won’t go far wrong
  • Jeans are fine, but opt for indigo or black denim rather than stonewash
  • Try to find something a little smarter than battered Converse all-stars. Flats or boots are great, or smarter trainers are fine too.
  • You’re going to be there for 4 and a half months, going from bleak midwinter to high summer, so try and bring clothes that you can layer up rather than lugging out loads of bulky winter clothes from the off.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, don’t fret it! Bottom line is you’re a foreigner and people will expect you to be a bit different and your dress sense will be part of that. Your best bet is to take a few trusty, plain staples out with you, then if you need to get extra clothes while you’re out there you can.

Anyone got any more China fashion tips? Post them below!

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