Gone are the days when every aspiring teacher wanted to go to either Beijing or Shanghai – Shenzhen is the hottest destination for today’s TEFL crowd. Just thirty-five years ago Shenzhen was nothing more than a small village adjacent to Hong Kong Island. But, Deng Xiaoping’s great “Reform and Opening” brought swift change. Shenzhen became China’s first Special Economic Zone, and the economy subsequently took off. Today, Shenzhen is a boomtown – the first ‘Mega-City’ to spring up in the Pearl River Delta. It boasts a thriving economy specializing in international trade, foreign investment, manufacturing, and financial services offered by the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
Because of the city’s humble beginnings as a fishing village, it doesn’t have as many cultural or historical attractions as Beijing, Nanjing, or Xi’an. But there’s an offset to this drawback; because of the many opportunities here, it attracts job-seekers from every corner of China. As a result, Shenzhen is one of the most diverse cities in the mainland. Regional cultures, customs, and cuisines from various parts of China blend seamlessly. Not to mention, Shenzhen has loads of modern sights and places of interest, such as the Window of the World, Xichong Beach, Happy Valley Theme Park.
Being a cosmopolitan city with a large expat community, there’s no shortage of western restaurants, bars and nightclubs; plus, plenty of parks, temples, theaters and museums. Shenzhen is a symbol of China’s modern economy, and the birthplace of the entrepreneurial spirit that is now found even in the most remote parts of the country.
If it’s for three days or a year, experiencing Shenzhen should be high on everyone’s ‘to-do’ list when passing through China.
Have a look at our China job board for more information about working in Shenzhen (or anywhere else in China)!
You’ve accepted a job offer, picked up your visa and booked your flight to China – now it’s time to decide what to bring. Narrowing down your list will be essential – after all, how many pairs of chunky heels (women) and popped collars (gents) does one really need to survive day-to-day life in China?
Most airlines allow for one to two bags, (23kg/50lb each) plus a carry-on and a personal item, so your packing strategy is critical. If you’ve got a friend taking you to the airport, forget about the luggage restrictions and pay the fee for an extra bag (or two depending on how many you can check for free). A little extra money upfront might save you some heartbreak in the long-run. Plus, most schools will send a driver and someone from the school to fetch you at the airport so you won’t have to worry about lugging three or four suitcases around your new city.
These items are important not because you can’t find them, but because it’s hard to find the brands you like OR the price is two or three times higher than in your home country. It’s good to stock up on at least six months worth of each – you can ask your family to send more about three months later (they can send a care package by slow mail and it likely won’t get opened or held up by customs).
Protein powder: This is a must if you’re really into fitness – I buy six (6) two-pound containers every time I go home and pack it in a standard unmarked brown cardboard box, completely wrapped in packing tape. They never check the box at the airport.
Prescription medicine (can be packed safely in your checked bag)
A laptop (electronics are surprisingly much cheaper in western countries)
Some schools have a uniform, but most just require ‘smart casual‘ attire. That said, it’s still useful to pack some formal attire – it’s not unusual to be invited to attend events such as weddings, banquets etc. And since it’s likely you’ll be adventuring a bit while you’re in Asia, it’s also a good idea to pack hiking clothes and some basic gear.
The items below are in addition to normal, everyday clothes you’ll automatically bring with you – for example, underwear isn’t listed, but you ought to bring some anyway! You’ll also note I’ve suggested a lot of shoes. Why? Because it can be very hard for westerners to find shoes here. Anything above a size 11 (men) and size 9 (women) can be difficult to find!
Smart casual basics for work (and shoes)
One suit (men) or formal dress (women) – with the appropriate shoes/accessories
Comfortable sneakers (wear on the plane)
Sandals (if you normally like to wear them in the summer)
Wuxi is split down the center by Lake Tai and is one of the urban cores of the Yangtze River delta region. Known as “Little Shanghai”, Wuxi is one of the origins of China’s modern commercial development. Located in the Golden Triangle of the Yangtze River, Wuxi is a key member of the “Wu” region of China which comprises the triangular-shaped territory near Shanghai and includes southern Jiangsu Province and northern Zhejiang Province.
This area is notable in China for its distinctive dialect, architecture and its unique waterway transportation along the Grand Canal. Owing to its pleasantly warm and moist climate, it boasts a reputation of the ‘Land of Fish and Rice’. Relying on the near-by Yangtze River and ancient Grand Canal, it had been a port city with the busiest rice and cloth market in China before 19th century.
Besides being a rich cultural repository, Wuxi is blessed with charming natural beauty: the vast Tai Lake with its fascinating water scenes, the ‘Sea of Bamboo’ in Yixing, the Second Spring, Huishan Mountain — the ‘First Mountain South of Yangtze River’ — and so on. Various aspects of nature give you a new experience at every turn.
Located along the main intercity high-speed railway, Wuxi can easily reach Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and other regional hot-spots. The international airport flies directly to most major Chinese cities and other nearby transit hubs in Asia. The new metro line offers city dwellers convenient transportation to points of interest within the city.
With its moderate climate and beautiful natural surroundings, Wuxi is an attractive destination for people to live and work as well as for tourists. With plenty of parks and green spaces, mountains nearby and its proximity to the Yangtze and the Grand Canal, Wuxi offers attractions for all types of travelers, seekers and explorers.
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.
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.
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.
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’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.
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!
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!
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!
“Can you hear me? I can see you but I can’t hear you….wait….OK….no….now I can’t see you, either.”
Sound familiar? The fact is, Skype interviews probably require as much preparation as interviewing face-to-face. An online interview gives the interviewee a few advantages, but several unique disadvantages.
For instance, one good point is that you can keep some notes in front of you out of sight of the camera. That’s great, right?
Well, the bad news is you’re talking to your computer – or a tiny, robotic-eye sitting next to your computer. And some people (such as me) don’t come off very well on camera.
Good and bad aside, there are a few keys which will guarantee you make a positive impression. Most of these won’t be revelations, simply because they’re the types of things you ought to do in a face-to-face interview anyway.
Here they are:
Be on time for the interview. It’s a good idea to be sure you’ve added the interviewer a day before the call. If the interviewer is late on the day of the interview, be patient. Send an instant message if it goes past 15 minutes. It’s possible an earlier interview ran longer than expected. If you can’t connect, send an email to ask if you can reschedule for another day. Something unexpected probably came up, and they’ll likely be happy to chat with you another day.
Make sure the surroundings behind you are tidy, and find a QUIET place. If you have roommates or live together with family, remind them of your interview time so you aren’t interrupted.
Test your equipment the day before and the day of the interview. There’s nothing more frustrating than having technical problems during an online interview. If problems arise and persist, explain politely what is happening and ask to redial.
Dress for the job. If the job is for an ESL teacher, business casual would be best. Men should get rid of the 5 o’clock shadow – shave before the interview. Oh, and if you’re thinking of pulling a “Ron Burgundy” and not wearing any trousers – think again. You never know when you might have to suddenly get up to check your internet connection or webcam.
Smile. This is a no-brainer if you’re interviewing in person, but being personable and smiling are more difficult when you’re in a room alone. Test your appearance on camera before the interview to check for posture, gestures, facial expressions, etc. Try a practice run with a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback.
Use the interviewers name often – it can help develop a connection between the two of you even though you’re not in the same room.
Before the interview begins, tell the interviewer in advance that you will be taking notes. You can politely begin, “I apologize in advance if there are a few pauses here and there, I’ll be jotting down some notes during the interview.” This will ease the awkward feeling when no one is speaking. Plus taking notes will give you a few ideas to come back to when you have questions at the end.
Cheat like crazy. Keep notes about the company handy for easy reference. Being able to glance quickly at information about the position, company or questions for the end of the interview can work in your favor. That said, keep the notes short – if you’re shuffling through dozens of pages off camera it’ll definitely tip-off your interviewer that something’s amiss.
Be yourself. You have a lot to offer to the company – it’ll be more likely to come through during the interview if you’re relaxed!
This list is probably not exhaustive – if you have any other tips I’d love to hear them!
Oh, and if you’re wondering what not to do – just watch this clip: