Living (& working) in China!

269 posts in this topic

David, I lived and worked in China about 7 years ago. It was a great experience. I didn't work in the ESL field but a lot of the wives of the other expats I worked with did so they had something to do while we were there. After the initial fun wore off China got to me after a while. The food was one thing- had some great meals but usually when we went out with a Chinese person to order for us. For me, after a while the food just got old. The daily meals they served in the 'executive dining hall' were nearly indedible for me. I'd hate to try what they fed the factory workers. I can relate to what your saying about oil. Seemed everything they served in the dining room was soaked in oil. This caused me to eat KFC and McDonalds more often than any human should.


I was in Anhui province and every chance I got took a car to Nanjing and if time allowed the fast train to Shanghai for some western food. TGI Fridays never tasted so good after 2 weeks of Chinese food. If you ever find yourself in Shanghai and want to spoil yourself the sunday brunch at the Intercontinental hotel has to be one of the best I've ever had anywhere in the world. It used to be a pretty good deal at around $40 with champagne but I dont know what it is now. I could drink more than $40 in champagne alone so for me it was a bargain.


People who complain about living in Cebu should try living in provencial China. Nobody ques up, communication can be hell if your lucky and worse in most cases. And the constant spitting up of snot really gets to you after a while. Cebu is like living in a club med resort compared to there in my opinion. Some people fall in love with the place. I would like to visit China again this year for holiday - but living there day to day wasn't my cup of tea. You should get a merit badge just for doing that.



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You are right about the food. I spent 18 months in Anhui, and I hated the fact that most foods were served

swimming in oil. Very few fresh vegetables, almost all foods cooked in oil.

Provincial China is just too primitive for me.


China can be nice if you find a good job in a city that you like. I only work about 15 hours a week, and have

about 6 weeks paid holiday per year. Plenty of free time to travel and return to the Phils :)

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The stuff they called meat available at the local Walmart was pretty scary too.

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Hoping I might find work at ESL Winter Camp in Cebu?






Enjoyed reading your post about teaching experiences in China, you may find ad's in Mynimo or Jobstreet for teaching in Cebu.

WELTS in Maria Luisa road (behind the French restaurant) are advertising within your expectations!


It is unfortunate that the managers of the Korean owned English academies here are operating a cabal regarding salaries, few of them pay the 400-500 an hour as we used to get up until a couple of years ago!


One reason is students culture of using agents who nowadays demand 20-25% commission of tuition/boarding fee from the academy.

Another problem is schools pretending they will process your AERC when in fact they may not create any record of you whatsoever and these schools usually pay cash-in-hand (beware of deportation and becoming PNG)

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David--- Hows the crime in china???


Had any problems yet in this area ???


Whats the tax situation ?


Do the Chinese seem to welcome a white face or do they smile in your face and talk bad behind your back like many people in other Asian countries do ???

Edited by KID

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Thank you David for the great info you provided on teaching in china i completed the course at Harvest Christian School in July of 2010 - I really dont know if the TESOL certification I got there is really salable? After being out there looking will it be a good reputable course to show to an ESL School? Just wondered your opinion?


For you single expats living in Cebu the course would be worth the investment to meet some really high quality single young women who are teachers there. I had about 7 or 8 requests - could you help me find an American husband ?? :-)


TESOL/TEFL CERTIFICATE COURSE | Harvest Christian School ... www.hcsinternational.org/link/tesol.html - HCSI is the leading internationally recognized TESOL/TEFL certificate provider in the Asia-Pacific Region with real physical campus in Cebu City, Philippines. Next best is combined on-Line, followed by Class Room for hands on assessment and coaching. This cuts down on cost and time spent on the Course in the Classroom Tesol/Tefl Admission Requirements, Procedures and Course Fees

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Hi David.


I am also living and working in China. In regards to the food at your school having orange oil and being very greasy

you might want to read this:


"Sewage oil“, also known as “gutter oil” or “drainage oil”, is the leftover and discarded oil collected from the drains and gutters near restaurants that has been “refined” to be reused and resold as cheap cooking oil. “Slop oil” or “swill oil” is the oil that can also be processed from thrown away food garbage that normally would be fed to pigs. Many street vendors throughout China who cook snacks (especially fried foods) may use “sewage oil” or “slop oil” to save money and keep their costs low."


I know it mentions street vendors in the above quote, but many school cafeterias and nicer restaurants

have been caught using the drainage oil also. Chinese locals will tell you that they know drainage oil has been

used when the food is spicier than normal, and when the food has an odd flavor.


More info here, including pics:



"The above Chinese news report says a third-year student said an unknown student on December 14th discovered a container of drainage oil in the school’s cafeteria. Around 8pm on December 15th, fliers appeared on campus spreading the news that the school was using drainage oil. That night around 10:50pm, angry students condemning this gathered a crowd of 300 student onlookers. Some more excitable students smashed trashed the cafeteria’s glass windows, doors, tables, and chairs and demanded that the school give everyone an explanation."







here is a quote from one of them sick links... dam that is gross



Students, be careful. First, you are not the American military. Second, you are not the People’s Liberation Army. Third, you are not China’s chengguan. Fourth, you are not Korean nationals. In China, students should keep a low-profile. I’ll say it again, keep a low-profile.

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David--- Hows the crime in china???


Had any problems yet in this area ???


Whats the tax situation ?


Do the Chinese seem to welcome a white face or do they smile in your face and talk bad behind your back like many people in other Asian countries do ???


I guess I will be paying Tax on my Salary, now that I have my FEC and Resident Permit.

There is no Tax on ones income up to about CNY4,000, then it is in 'bands', above that.

I read somewhere, it will only be 10% Tax above CNY4,000.

So if I get paid say CNY6,000 it might be about CNY200 Tax, in rough figures.


I was paying 15% Tax when I worked in Hong Kong, and that sure beat paying 40% Tax in the UK!


Judging by security bars over windows, security locks on marked motorcycles, I would say the Chinese are concerned about someone stealing from them.


They also warn you about leaving wallets in back pockets on crowded buses etc.


But this is not unique to China, it happens anywhere without a welfare system that look after the homeless, the poor, the sick. Those who do not have, take from those that do have (if they can).


I have not had anything stolen here in the 4+ months of living here in Mianyang, Sichuan province. I have not always moved my wallet from my back pocket to inside jacket pocket.


As to white face foreigners, the Chinese generally are curious and treat us with a lot of respect. For example several times on a crowded bus, someone has offered me their seat. I say say/gesture that I am OK standing up, but they are rather insistent, that I take their seat. I don't want to be rude and offend or upset them so I accept and say ​xiè ​xiè, or duō ​xiè.


Like in many countries, if you make and effort to learn the language of their Country, they appreciate it, no matter how little or how badly you pronounce it.


You have to try and get the 'tone' right however as getting it wrong, gives it a totally different meaning (ie you say horse (mǎ), instead of mother (mā), or buy (mǎi) instead of sell (mài)


That is the big problem - getting the Chinese pronunciation correct.


In English if your pronunciation is bad, it is still the same word and has the same meaning. If they pronounce it so bad, you can't tell what word they are trying to say, at least you don't think it is some totally different word.


Not many Chinese can understand read, nor speak English.


There are some, usually younger people, so ask a student to help you. I have been fortunate several times when trying to get a Taxi to take me somewhere (they pretend not to know where you want to go - even when I showed them on my Garmin GPS, or try and not use a meter or private car and want to charge rip off fee), some young Chinese good Samariton who speaks good English has offered to help. Foreigners are treated with respect here in China, perhaps more so than in Hong Kong, where we are just 'gweilo's'. There are many gweilos in Hong Kong, so nothing 'special'. You do seem to be treated as someone special in the provinces of China (perhaps not so much in the major cities perhaps?).



Many can understand Putonghua (Mandarin), even if their native tongue is different (e.g. Cantonese as spoken in Hong Kong). This applies to the Philippines also where most can understand Tagalog, even if they are from Cebu and speak Visayan./Cebuano. Why because National News and Films are in Tagalog, the same as them being in Mandarin in China.


But those from the National Language, often can't speak the dialects of other parts of the Country,


The Systems Engineer that was hired @ 1/3 the salary of a Hong Kong Systems Engineer, could speak Mandarin and English but could not speak Cantonese. The SE from Hong Kong could speak Cantonese, English and Mandarin however. What I like about Chinese is the written form is universal to all parts of China. They can all read it and understand what it meansd, even if there are many ways of pronouncing what they read.


That SE visiting Hong Kong did not know what they were saying as he did not understand Cantonese. Yet he could read the menu in the restaurant, and point to it. If he wanted to ask a question of someone, he would write it down and they would read it and know exactly what he was asking. When they replied to him, he did not know what they were saying so got them to write their reply and he understood exactly what the answer was.


To anyone who has not bothered to consider learning Chinese and attempt to try and learn how to to read and write Chinese it looks impossibly difficult.


One does not need to write Chinese, just use Pinyin on your PC, Tablet , or Smart Phone. There are applications to convert Pinyin into Chinese Characters, give translations and speak the words.


There are also OCR applications to convert Chinese Characters to Pinyin and/or English and speak them. There is also application Chinese Camera OCR - point your camera at a Chinese Sign, press the button and it translates the Chinese Characters it recognises.


However Chinese is in many ways a lot simpler than English! They don't have the same rules of grammar, For examples they don't use 'plurals', don't have masculine or feminine, so no 'tenses' to worry about.

  1. Pronunciation
    Like other languages, Chinese also has a alphabet whose pronunciation is generally very similar to the world language English. The only difference is that Chinese is a tonal language and it has four tones which is not so hard to master through practice
  2. Characters and words
    Chinese syllable is represent by characters and some people may think that it's hard to write Chinese characters.Well, actually you don't need to know how to write Chinese characters if you just want to speak Chinese. You just need to recognise them, but Chinese calligraphy is a kind of art and a lot of foreigner may be very interested in learning it.
    Since Chinese syllables are represent by characters and each characters may never change, so Chinese words doesn't have any changes,such nouns from singular to plural and verbs change their forms in difference tenses and so on.
  3. Grammar
    Chinese grammar is a lot easier English and many other languages for there's no tenses, no changes of verb forms in Chinese which is achieved by adding a specific particle(character) to the sentence. So you just need to memorize the function of some specific particles. You don't have to change the form the verb in every sentence.
    In Chinese, you just need to know one particle for each grammar point.

Here are some more websites, that may prove informative/useful:-




This can be confusing for English speakers because we often use tone over a sentence such as a rising intonation to signify a question. In Chinese, tones are linked to each syllable’s meaning, so changing the tone can change the meaning entirely!


That can be difficult to get a handle on.


The good news is that if you’re a musical person, this probably will be easier for you, but even if you’re tone deaf, you can still get by.


As one of my Chinese professors used to say, context matters. In fact, Chinese speakers might still understand you from context; it just might take a bit longer!


Of course, I’m not recommending you don’t try to learn the correct tones, as you can say some funny things if your tone is off.



我要水饺 wǒ yāo shuǐjiǎo (I want/would like some dumplings) with

我要睡觉 wǒ yāo shuìjiào (I want/would like to go to sleep)


Edited by David_LivinginTalisay
KID, MrSuave and softail like this

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Before I take a taxi I look for the address in Chinese on the internet. I take a picture with my phone,

and then show that to the taxi driver.


If I want to go shopping for something a little difficult to find, such as medicine. I use Google

translate to find the name of the medicine in Chinese, and take a picture of the name to show

to the workers.


Almost any place that I want to go, or anything that I need to buy regularly is now in my phone.

KID likes this

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I use Google translate...


I am glad this came up. When it comes to using Google Translate to translate something to / from Chinese, do you use Chinese (Simplified) or Chinese (Traditional)? Or, do you find that it matters much, which one you use?

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