Harder For Some To Teach English In China

TESall.com recently featured an article from the Shanghai Daily about the challenges for “ABC’s” – or America-born Chinese – who go to teach English in China. (I don’t know that such a name is necessarily a good one, but it’s hard to beat the first three letters of the alphabet for simplicity’s sake.)

First-year teacher Nick recently commented for a TEFL Logue interview on the challenge of everyday tasks like eating at a restaurant when you can’t read Chinese; while some or most ethnically Chinese teachers who return to teach English in China may speak and read Chinese, they may another set of challenges.

One local said “…most Chinese people are very kind to foreigners. That’s our way to show hospitality, even when we encounter cultural differences that we can’t accept….But ABCs are not as lucky as foreigners. In terms of cultural differences, local people are stricter compared with the way they treat foreigners,” she says.

One bilingual 23-year-old actor from San Diego moved to Shanghai and has been teaching English for a year. He acknowledges that it can be hard to adjust, but says “I just try to be who I am wherever I am in this world, I think lots of people change once they get here or go live somewhere else…I think it’s a real test of character when you’re out in a new country or new environment, but hey, I’m not changed, still the same, I will keep on learning, but my core is set.

While I can’t say I’ve experienced something exactly parallel to this, I think this sense of not really fitting in as one might expect is something that many EFL teachers or others who have lived abroad can relate to – be it when returning home or even just when finding that reality doesn’t conform to your expectations about life abroad.