Back to the list
Name : Vidar Skar
Date : 25 Feb 15
Subject : Hello from Daging, China - Thank you Global TESOL College
Body : It has been almost four months now since I moved my family to Daqing, China. Over half a year ago my wife and I decided that I should take a TESOL certificate (with two specializations; one in teaching children and a second in teaching grammar) at the Global TESOL College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As I was only a Welder by trade (at the time), it was quite the change in my life! English is also my second language to boot! After much prayer and with a good teacher (Heidi), I was able to pull off a 95% mark, and that was the start to my new trade, as an English TESOL teacher. China has an enormous need for English instructors (at the time I believe that on the Global TESOL College web-site alone there were over 5000 postings!) It is important to understand that you may not get a university job, but there are many opportunities to teach at kindergartens. Working for a kindergarten in this area will give you a salary of approximately 2000 Yuan (pronounced: “yoo en”) more per month then a university job. (5 Yuan or RMB’s [the Chinese currency] are approximately 1 Canadian dollar). This doesn’t sound like much but the cost of living is very cheap, and the school pays for: a furnished apartment, internet, taxi or bus fares to school, lunches at school, medical benefits and residence visa (for the employee). They also bought us a nice rice cooker and groceries when my family and I first got here. But I should start off from the beginning for those of you who would like a little more detail. As soon as I received my TESOL certificate, my wife and I started the laborious task of international job hunting. We had hardly any direction, although we knew that China was one of very few countries that would not require me to sponsor the rest of my family for 3 months before they could come and join me. Also, China would accept me even though English is not my first language, and without a university degree (they call me an expert in the English language. I’m not joking. It is printed on my work visa.) These are three very important areas that I would encourage all future TESOL teachers to take the time to research, before deciding on any one country. Realize also that if you are having a hard time finding a job in the warmer regions of the world, you may want to consider colder areas for a few years, so that you can add some experience to your resume. As an example Daqing, Heilongjiang, China has about the same climate and temperatures as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. China is one of the most thorough countries in the world when it comes to health and security check-ups. And that was probably one of the most discouraging things we had to face daily while preparing in Canada. I have forgotten how many times we had to visit the doctor’s office, hospital, the Chinese passport office in Calgary, RCMP, and the list goes on. I also had to work full time in the trades to support my family, as well as paying for all the paperwork, airfares, etc. (if you are taking a spouse and children with you it is very important that you don’t forget to get embassy certificates proving that your spouse and children are indeed yours [they did not accept the marriage certificates and birth certificates.] This was a 2300 dollar mistake that we made, and they almost had to send us back to Canada.) Do not take any shortcuts in this area (medical and police checks). The Chinese government told us many times: “We take security very seriously.” Many countries have taken this route especially since 9-11. The other challenging area was the time difference of 14 hours (I’m comparing China to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). Before we left Canada, I remember many early mornings and late nights. All of China is under the same time zone. They call it Beijing time. When they walk in their office at 8 AM Monday morning, it is 6 PM Sunday evening our time (we are half a day “behind” them). You also need to know that they don’t have AM or PM, but military time. The preferred ways of communication are e-mail (for daily correspondence), Skype (for interviews), and DHL (for sending important information such as work visas). If you have an interview with a potential future employer in China, don’t be surprised if you cannot see their face. Speak slowly and use simple words. Be very patient, as there will most likely be misunderstandings (unfortunately). The vocabulary is limited and it is difficult for most of them to switch back and forth from one language to another (I can attest to this as my mother tongue is Norwegian). After many tense nights, I got a job in Daqing, Heilongjiang, China (in the north east corner of China.) My new job is teaching children English at three large kindergartens. These children (ages 1 to 7), are from well to do families, or from families who invest much of their earnings in their young ones. They believe that the children’s English will be much better if they are taught by a westerner. As we got closer to the departure date we lived more and more humbly, as we imagined that what we take for granted in Canada is not something that most nations experience. We gave away furniture, toys, extra clothing and kitchen ware, tools, etc. till we just about lived out of our suitcases! In our situation, this proved to be a wise decision. On Saturday in the afternoon, I dropped of my family and bags/suitcases at the airport hotel, got rid of the car, dealt with the paper work in regards to the car, and then reunited with my family. Our departure date was set to Tuesday morning at 7:30 am, October 14, 2015 (the school wanted us to start on October 16 not realizing that it was just after our Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend). Because we had to pass through customs 2 hours prior to departure, we had to get up fairly early, thus the reason for choosing to stay at the airport hotel at that time. Fortunately, the room prices had just dropped. Since the hotel food prices stayed the same (quite high), we decided that the only feasible way of feeding a family of four during our hotel stay was to buy a large hockey bag and fill it with primarily non-perishables (we had a fridge and microwave oven in our room, so that worked out really well!) Bright and early in the morning (4 am) we got ready for our Tuesday morning flight. We had done some research in regards to Air China’s baggage allowances (always follow the major carrier’s allowances because of international aviation regulations). Before checking in we used the EIA’s (Edmonton International Airport’s) scales, and were able to do some last minute rearrangements. With the baggage checked in and having passed through the security we boarded our plane. At this point we had given up almost everything to go to China. All we had were our faith, each other, some suitcases, and a couple of bank accounts (besides the clothes on our bodies). Once we arrived in Vancouver, we had just enough time to get to our next flight. On board Air China’s airplane, travelling above the clouds at about 1000 km/hr., we were finally on our way to Beijing. It would take the airplane 14 hours to get us there. For our young boys who were used to running around and climbing trees, it was quite the test of patience. They did remarkably well, which was a relief to us! The Beijing airport is very large, and we had to find the hotel we had booked our room at (we had pre-paid for it through an agent in Edmonton.) Very few people speak English in China and those who do usually don’t speak very well. We finally found a lady who not only spoke English very well, but she also took us to the hotel shuttle bus. It doesn’t get much easier than that! We didn’t really know what to expect. As the bus drove up to the hotel, it just looked like a huge concrete block. On the other hand, once we stepped inside we noticed how fancy it was. And after checking out our hotel room we realized that we had booked a two story penthouse! We enjoyed it while it lasted! The following morning we had to get back on a plane destined for Daqing. Again, because our flight would leave early in the morning, we had to get up in the wee hours. Fortunately we didn’t have to carry any suitcases as they got sent directly from Edmonton to our final destination. I asked my wife if she could write about her experience moving to China so you get two people’s perspectives. Moving to China was somewhat uneventful considering it was a major event of our lives. We went through security in Edmonton, Alberta very excited but nervous. Then, thinking we had plenty of time we took our boys for a long stroll down the terminal until we heard our names being announced over the intercom. Tip #1: Always stay close to your departure gate even if your children need exercise. We then dashed to our airplane and got seated. We had a pleasant flight and managed to transfer to our Beijing flight on time (once in Vancouver.) This leg of our journey was extremely lengthy, but our children managed to sit still while exploring the seat back entertainment system. Tip #2: Bring a snack and wet wipes (or hand sanitizer) for the extended rest time mid-flight. We skidded, screeched, and lurched into Beijing’s rubber laden landing strip. After catching our breath and laughing with relief we gathered our bags to leave. Very quickly we got through customs and started looking for our hotel bus. A very kind Chinese lady took the time to lead us to our bus stop. After a night stay at Langham Place (just minutes from the airport,) we were bussed back to the terminal for our next and final flight to Daqing, Heilongjiang. A God-sent free-lance Chinese man whisked us through the airport just in time to get some breakfast and catch the plane. He was rather expensive, but cheap in the long run as we didn’t miss our plane. We had an enjoyable flight and began experiencing life in a non-English setting. After arriving we used the restrooms before meeting our School Representative. We were quite unprepared for the airport restrooms, as now we had “squatting ceramic holes” in the floor, instead of toilets. Tip #3: Always carry toilet paper with you in China, as there is none in the public restrooms. We have found, since arriving, that the Chinese are very helpful and enjoy our white boys immensely. We have gained a partial celebrity status because of their lovely white skin and blue eyes. Learning some Mandarin (the most common language used in China) is very helpful outside of the big cities. English speaking Chinese will often befriend you and are very kind. Some of the adjustments to living in China has been simply living in a large city (although small by Chinese standards) with all of it’s noise and being unable to communicate (we use a lot of hand movements, but it doesn’t always work.) Tip #4: Smile frequently, especially when misunderstandings are likely, due to language barriers. Currently we are living in apartment and are learning Mandarin step-by-step (we recommend the Rosetta Stone Learning Program). We have located all the main stores for groceries and learnt how to cook without an oven. The internet is by far the best way to communicate with the outside world (Google and some other websites are not allowed here). Until we can speak the language better, taking a taxi is better than taking the bus, but if we can walk to our destination, that is the most hassle free way of getting around. I hope that this gave you a taste of what it is like to live in North East China and I also hope that you would have a smooth transition.