Well for those who are thinking of teaching in China i will share our experiences so far...
At present my Partner and I are teaching high school near Xian (Home of the terracotta warriors) one of the oldest cities in China..We are in Fuping County in Fuping city Shaanxi province..
1.ARRIVING:- On arrival to China your generally met at the airport buy a Liason officer who will obviously speak english, hold a sign up with your name on it..Usually they will put you up for a few days in a Hotel or hostel to rest and get your bearings before going to your school..We stayed in a great Hostel in Xian where many Foreigners go on arrival..Hostels are everywhere in China and generally great, clean and comfortable and many are westernized to make you feel at home...EG..Bar with western drinks, hambergers, pizza, pool table etc...Also they are a great place to hear experiences from other teachers and aquire a few contacts along the way which are invaluable in China...
2.HOUSING:-Most schools will offer you a free apartment on the Schools campus, if not it will be very close.(usually within 5 or 10 min walk) we are on campus and a 1 min stroll to classes..Our apartment has most of the mod cons..aircon is a must...cold in winter, some places bitterly cold so it should have at least central heating (always make sure you find this out) and beleive it or not very hot in some places, its summer here now and it's like back home in an aussie summer so the aircon is a blessing...micro wave..western style shower and toilet, washing machine, ref, desktop computer with asdl connection and a printer is a must..although all instructions and lables are in Chinese so you will need someone to translate them...(ALWAYS MAKE SURE YOU SEE PHOTO'S OF YOU ACCOMMODATION BEFORE ARRIVAL) I've heard stories of teachers who landed in absolute crap holes of apartments...yes it does happen...On campus all you amenities should be payed by the school, accept ph calls...off campus you will usually get a housing allowance which will cover most of your rent and amenities.So on campus is preferable..
3. FOOD:- If you have a love of asian cuisine then China is for you..depending on what part of China your in..Our region the food is famous for being hot and spicy !!! but never the less delicious..other regions are more sweeter tasting..Street food is ubundant everywhere as in most asian countries..very cheap..we go out the front gate a few days aweek and buy it with the students..10 yuan will generally get you a good feed !.Serveing in restarants are HUGE!. we have made the mistake many times of "over ordering" and ended up with enough on the table to feed 5 people..Usually 60 to 100 yuan will get you a feast !and the menues always come with pictures and prices so no need for a lot of translation.
4.SHOPPING:-Depending where you are in China forget about the luxuries your used to...Most chinese supermarket (not all) only cater for chinese..where we are its impossible to get butter and cheese..everything is marked in chinese so packet food can be difficult to buy..Remember your in China and 99% of the people where you will likely be will speak little or no english( big cities like beijing may be an exception)Some of your chinese teachers will no doubt speak some english so dont be afraid to approach them and ask for a translation, they are usually happy to assist you..Chicken/pork/duck/is in ubundance, forget about prime beef so if your used to a fat juicy steak forget it accept in a few western style restaurants..beef is available but usually pre cooked as is most of the meat you will buy..coffee isnt hard to find (nescafe)milk, sugar..Cigs are from 5 to 50 or 60 yuan a pack, beer is cheap about 3.5 yuan for a 618 ml bottle, restaurants its about 20 to 25 yuan a bottle, most alcohol is relitivly cheap in china, very hard to get imported like bourbon/scotch at times..so bring a few bottle with you duty free!.Dont be surprised if your shopping , turn around and theres 10 staff following you around...they just like to see what foreigners buy ! and some will even take items from your trolly and replace it with a cheaper equally the same brand, so don't be offended, they just like helping you..
5.PEOPLE:-People in China are generally friendly, happy,and most always great you with Nǐ hǎo hello in Chinese.. Many seek out foreigners to make friends with you and to brush up on the english ability..or to find out about your country.Many if not all will always offer you a cig especially small local shops that way you will keep coming back...Chinese also like receiving small gifts, everytime i go home i always bring something back for the head master and the FAO officer, they love it..and its always good to keep in good with the management (if their ok)..:)..
6.SCHOOLS/TEACHING:-Well this is where the fairy tale somewhat ends..You will no doubt hear many varied stories from teachers in China.Some will say "My kids are great" other will have an entirely different opinion while telling you their story over a quart of bourbon, this is far to common..Ours is somewhat in the middle..Most teachers in China will tell you although a TEFL cert is handy some of what you are told is impracticle once your in China..i'll get to why below..
Public schools in China/high/middle/primary..unless your EXTREMELY lucky to get a class size of 20 to 50 students usually in private or training centers.be prepared to walk into your first class and face 80 to and or over 100 students per class.but dont be so daunted about this after 2 weeks it only seems like 50 :) Now some of us before we embarked to China where told that Chinese students are well behaved, polite, curtious...and eager to learn english, some maybe so... in kindy . primary..most middle to high schools students not so..You will either have one of the two..a "relativly"good class or downright bad..Firstly they will test you to see what they can and cannot get away with..be fIrm with your rules of their conduct from day 1! or they will eat you alive...Its a sad but true fact that english class in 80 % of chinese schools is 'PLAY TIME", time to do your chinese math homework from the previous class..30 % of my students sleep during the whole lesson, 30 percent continuously on a moble ph texting, doing other work,the rest reading comic books or have earplugs stuck in their ears listing to music..No such things as classroom management, wake them up their asleep 5 mins later, stopping from texting is impossible, remover the earpugs from their mp3 players, straight back in..some of my classes ive sent 10 to 20 out the class every class , every day...and im sure if you read many ESL forums this story is ever so common...sometimes from a 45 minute class we are lucky to get 5 mins of actually teaching time in , the other is spent on controlling their behaviour, iv have actually at times walked out of a class due to their behaviour and many other teachers i've spoken to have done the same..out of the clasroom thier ok, they greet you, say hello..inside it's a differnet matter entirely..I always wondered why so many foreign teachers drink when i arrived..now i know :)..Discipline is very lax in Chinese schools and english teachers in many are given little or no support in this this regard..I actually went to the management when i had a worksheet handed back, on one of the papers it said..'If i had a mofo gun i'd shoot you mofo..with a few other choice words added..i was told . but their only children, and i added if this was back home their parents would be at the school with a please explain and police with a threat of this kind...I must say after that a few Chinese homeroom teachers started patroling the hallways and a few addressed my more troublesome classes with a please expalin your behaviour and appologised for their behaviour..Now try to imagine breaking 100 unruley high schools students in pairs or groups for a discussion ? impossible , most chinese schools because of the seating arrangments its vertualy pohibitable..In an average class you will be lucky to have 3 to 4 students who really want to learn and actually take notes who suffer because of the bad...I was actually thinking about giving up teaching alltogether as i thought im just not making a difference to anyone, taking this crap everyday just diminished my passion for teaching..but as my lovely partner said to me."Just concentrate on the ones who want to learn so if you make a difference to them then its worth it..I now state at the begining of every class "if you dont want to be here your free to leave and not waste my or your time" some stay some leave...Remember weather they want to learn or not you still get your salary...
Students unlike some western schools stay in the one classroom all day so the teachers must switch classrooms because of this students dont get put into english classes on their english ability level their all thrown in together which is another one of the many flaws in the Chinese education system..usually 10 minites between each class and the best thing is the 2 hours lunch breaks! No english writing book to take notes and maybe 3 or 4 will have an english to chinese dictionary which should be mandatory for all english lessons..
The upside is we are free to make our lesson plans as we see fit,we're on a 14 hour week anymore and i think i'd be insane buy this point, most chinese schools dont mind you doing this so you have the freedom to use your imagination our school doesn't mind if we find outside work..some do some dont as long as it doesn't interfere with your main work or you simply dont tell them..Our classes are never monitored or checked on by the management..good in a way i guess..Why you may asked are foreign teachers given so much freedom and little teaching restrictions in China....Simple, we are just not taken all that seriously.some may disagree, but read the forums !...Sad but true fact...In China it HIGHLY boosts a schools status if they have a few token foreign teacher on staff and this is coming from a chinese not myself although now i know it to be somewhat spot on, enrollments sore when parents know a foreign teacher is teaching their little angle.!it all a about money and status !.Im surprised they even insist on having BA, but they have to look all official for official sake..l..We got a gig at a primary school in town and we were told upon start 'KNOWLEDGE IS NOT IMPORTANT" as long as you teach them english, how you can teach english without the knowledge of what the words mean is beyond me !..But as i have stated not all are like this, we have no probs with the other teachers staff, accommodation..just the attidude of the students, next term i thik we will give primary school a go :)..China is truly a magnificent country with countless sights to see and food to experience, which can out way any bad teaching experience at times..Also don't be offended if your feel that the chinese teaching staff doesnt have much to do with you..it's not that they don't like you it's probably that they speak little or no english so to them its somewhat SHAME they cant communicate, if you see them greet them with a hello, and they will respond back..most if not all can say hello!..If anyone has any questions i'd be happy to answer...Visas etc....Cheers and happy teaching...excuse any typo's
Ohhh one more very important thing..Facebook and youtube are banned in China,the internet is heavily monitored by the Chinese gov.. so if you want to get around this download a programe called FREEGATE its a FREE proxy server..you will have no probs then..Cheers