Ever thought about a year or two in China?
Ever thought about a year or two in China?

Have you ever considered working abroad but couldn’t pull the trigger on making it happen? If you answered, “Yes” you’re not alone. A lot of people are happy to kick the idea around but can’t muster the will or resources to make it happen. Maybe you’re also one of those people, but don’t fret; fear of the unknown is common. After all, there are many important decisions to make and questions to ask yourself before making such a life altering move.

“Where’s the best place to go?”

“Will I be able to adjust to the culture?”

“What if I can’t speak the language?”

“Who’s going to take care of my hamster?”

These are common questions (yes, even the last one!) – in fact, maybe you’ve asked yourself one or more of them when you were considering a year overseas.

Here are 7 signs you’ve moved past “thinking about it” and are ready to make the leap!

You’re looking for a career boost: One of the biggest advantages of working overseas is that it can offer a fast path to a senior-level position. People mired in dead-end jobs in their home country often find foreign employers are keen to put them into positions with greater responsibility. This can give you experience and training which will help you secure a better job when you decide to move back home.

Leader Businessman Career Promotion. Stand out from the crowd
“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be bigger than your fear of failure.” – Bill Cosby

You’re ready for a new challenge: There’s no better way to grow as a person than to do something that makes you uncomfortable. It’s nearly impossible to experience personal growth without getting outside of your comfort zone and suffering through the trials of learning something new. People who are able to take on and overcome personal and professional challenges are better at coping with new problems. This is why companies are so eager to hire people with international experience – people who have lived overseas for long stretches of time are usually able to make adjustments to difficult situations faster and are more open to taking challenging tasks. This is also why the happiest people have the hardest jobs.

Road sign to challenge
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua F. Marine

You want to learn a new language: Less than 20% of Americans can speak a second language – this pales in comparison with Europe (53%), and most Asian countries require students to study English as a second language. This means Americans  (British, Australians and Kiwis, too) are at a major disadvantage in a world that is becoming increasingly flat. Sure, English is the world’s lingua franca, but there’s no doubt that being able to communicate with people from other countries in their native language will give you an inside edge in business and social settings. Not to mention, employers often perceive  people who can speak a second language as smarter – and they’re right. Learning a second language is said to improve your memory, fight off Alzheimer’s and help you with multi-tasking.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”  ― Ludwig Wittgenstein
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.”
― Ludwig Wittgenstein

You want to learn a new skill or craft: One of the best parts of living overseas is the opportunity to learn a unique skill directly from the source. In China for instance, skills such as calligraphy, ink painting, gongfu (Chinese kung fu) and archery are disciplines that were passed from one generation to the next. Teachers of these ancient crafts are the masters in their field – it’s a rare opportunity to study from someone with that much experience and knowledge. Some people even take cooking lessons and return to their home country knowing how to roll homemade Chinese dumplings or  other local delicacies!

"You can not use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have." - Maya Angelou
“You can not use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” – Maya Angelou

You’ve never been outside of your home country: Many people site “Not traveling enough” as their biggest regret in life. Exploring a different country, observing the customs of the locals, trying new food, smelling new smells – these are all important experiences. Plus, people who travel more tend to have a more worldly view of current events and are more open to the opinions and views of others. For instance, the Chinese admire Americans because of our creativity and ability to innovate – people in the West admire the Chinese for their industriousness. The two countries have very different work cultures but could benefit from learning from one another.

pesci acquario salto, vantaggio competitivo, nuovi orizzonti
“When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.” -Lao Tzu

You came out of the Great Recession underemployed: This was a common phenomenon after the chaos that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Many people came out of the ordeal with depleted savings and with a job that paid much less than the one they had before. Moving overseas is a great way to “reset” – the cost of living is much lower in Asia and finding a high-paying job is easier. While the economy in the west stagnated, China continued its blistering growth. It’s slowed a bit in recent years, but economists say 5-8% annual growth will be the norm. This means there’s still a lot of opportunity. Even if companies in the west aren’t adding to their payrolls, there’s good news: China is always hiring!

"Fall seven times and stand up eight." - Japanese Proverb
“Fall seven times and stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

You have a bucket list: It seems everyone has one now – and if watching the sunset on the Great Wall isn’t on yours, it ought to be! China is home to 45 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From The Great Wall, and Forbidden City in Beijing to Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan Province – there’s a lot to see. It would probably take a lifetime to see them all, but a year or two should be enough to put a few more “ticks” on your Bucket List!

"不到长城非好汉" ("You're not a man until you've climbed the Great Wall") - Chinese saying
“不到长城非好汉” (“You’re not a man until you’ve climbed the Great Wall”) – Chinese saying

This list is probably not exhaustive – but its a good start. If you found yourself saying “Yes” to one or more of these, it might be time to start packing a bag and searching for cheap flights to Beijing!

You’ll probably want to work while you’re living in China – take a look at the ESL Suite job board for the best ESL teaching jobs in China!

3 thoughts on “Thinking About Working in China? 7 Signs You’re Ready

  1. I am a teacher in China. I am 47 years old and wish I had done this years and years ago. I have a new outlook on life, the world and even America. It has been a wonderful experience. I view myself as an unofficial ambassador to the USA. Many of the people I meet here will never get a chance to see another American. I always have to remind myself to put my best foot forward every day. But, it is well worth the smiles and the friendships I have forged. Oh, don’t let the language issue stop you from coming. Today’s technology is remarkable. And, I have found, with some creativity, you can make yourself be understood well enough. That is not to say that you will not get two or three dinner entries sometimes because you were misunderstood. But, it too is part of the adventure and the learning curve. If you want to learn more about my experiences, you can visit my blog at nashboroguy.wordpress.com.


    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences, “nashboroguy”! I agree, there are always a couple (usually hilarious) missteps along the way when adjusting to a new country – but that’s all part of the learning experience! Great to hear you’ve had such an incredible stay in China!


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