Teaching English in China

Teaching English In China is one of the most amazing experiences we’ve ever had. We’ve travelled the world for three years, witnessed amazing cultures, sampled succulent cuisines and indulged in a lifestyle of adventure and excitement. There comes a time in every traveller’s life, however, when new experiences present themselves in ways never before imagined. For us, it was the joy of volunteering to teach English in a rural village in Myanmar that really sparked our interest in this astonishingly rewarding profession. We’ve now been teaching English in China for 6 months and although we will soon pack our bags again and carry on our life’s journey, we have found our experiences here to be as epic as any we’ve ever had on the road. Teaching will stay with us forever and we will come back to it. It’s the perfect way for travellers to “work” while still enjoying new people, places and perspective. Teaching English has enriched our lives and taught us much about Chinese culture and customs that we would never have learned while passing through. It has had such a profound effect on our life that we have decided to put together this list of 10 Reasons To Start Teaching English In China.

Dariece getting her photo taken with an eager Chinese woman

Dariece getting her photo taken with a Chinese woman. She gets asked to do this often because she is tall and white.

1. The People: The people in China are incredibly friendly and they will always treat you like an honoured guest in their country. If you live in a touristy city like Shanghai or Beijing, you may not receive as warm of a welcome, but almost everywhere else in the country you will be treated like a star. People go out of their way to say hello, smile at you or stop their car to stare at you. They will invite you to their homes for dinner, offer you free vegetables at the market and never rip you off. We’ve lived here for 7 months and we’ve never had a taxi try to over charge, or a shop owner give us the “tourist price” that you see in so many other countries. The people of China are friendly, kind, honest and genuine.

teaching english in china

Nick with one of his primary level classes. Yangzhou, China

2. The Job: Teaching English in China is the most rewarding job we’ve ever had. Walking into a classroom to see 12 students light up at the sight of you, is an indescribable feeling. Chinese kids work extremely hard in school. By the age of 12 they spend up to 10 hours a day studying, but when they start their English lesson with the foreign teacher who lets them play games in class, they finally get a chance to let loose and have fun. Being a part of that fun is a blessing and they truly love and respect their foreign teachers in China.

3. The Food: Sure you’ve had Chinese food at home, but you really have no idea just how delicious the food here is until you’ve sampled it straight from the source. There is an astounding variety of colors and flavors, and although Chinese people are notorious for eating anything and everything, there are plenty of “normal” dishes on the menu. And who knows, you may be like us and find out that you really like ox tongue and sheep stomach!

Where to eat in Chengdu, China for budget backpackers

skewer of meat being cooked in the bubbling chili oil, Sichuan hot pot restaurant, Chengdu, China

4. The Salary: You may think that $1500 a month would be hard to live off of at home, but here in China where everything is affordable, you really only need half of that to survive. This means that the rest can be saved or spent on an extravagant lifestyle. You can pretty much afford to eat at restaurants every meal, drink as much beer as you want and travel around the country on your holidays. Or you can save that money and travel the world for a few months when your teaching contract is up.

chinese wedding

Us With Our Teaching Assistant Staff

5. The Assistance Programs: Usually when you get a job teaching English in China, you will be assigned a “welfare assistant” who will help you with everything you need … and we mean everything. It’s like having a full-time assistant at your disposal at any time. If you don’t know how to order a dish at a restaurant you can call, if you’re stranded somewhere you can call, if you don’t know how to pay your bills, deposit money or send money home, your welfare assistant can do it all for you. Just be sure that when you’re searching for a job, you look for a school with a good welfare program.

wenchang ge

6. The Feeling Of Travelling While You’re Working: One of the best parts of teaching English in China is the feeling of being somewhere new every day. Sure you have a bit of a routine going to work, but every day on your way to work you’ll see something you’re not used to. China is a fabulously different place and every minute you’re here, you know you’re somewhere exotic. So for those of you who crave the spontaneity of travel, China manages to satisfy those needs while you’re living your day-to-day life.

7. The Hours: Most jobs teaching English in China will advertise around 20 hours per week, but we know a lot of foreigners here teaching at many different schools and the truth is that you will often work far less than that. Our schedule is 6 teaching hours on Saturday and Sunday, and then 5 or 6 more hours spread over the rest of our work week (from Wednesday to Friday). How easy is that? There is always some extra time associated with teaching like marking tests and writing lesson plans, but working less than 20 hours a week leaves us plenty of time to do things we love: hanging out with friends, seeing China and working on our website.

teaching in china

Dariece With Her Students

8. Tutoring Opportunities: If you’re coming to China to teach English and you want to make more money and work more than 20 hours a week, then you’re in for a treat. It’s extremely easy to find tutoring work here. In fact, within your first couple of months working, you’ll probably be offered a few private jobs. You can make around 200 RMB ($28) / hour tutoring students and you probably only teach one or two kids at a time. Easy money to add to your travel fund!

9. Feeling Like A Rock Star: Being a foreigner in much of China is still a commodity. We’ve been asked to be on TV twice and we were recently paid to be white faces in an advertisement campaign for an energy company here in Yangzhou. We’ve heard of other foreigners being paid to attend business meetings solely for the purpose of having a white face in the meeting to boost the business’ credibility. Sounds strange to us, but many Chinese people associate a foreign face with success, and these moments of fame can pay quite handsomely.

Working In China

Our Photo Shoot. Basically getting paid to look like we were associated with the company.

10. China Is Just A Great Place: We love living in China. We love how different it is and yet, how comfortable we can be living here. We love learning new things every day and hearing Chinese people laugh when we try to speak mandarin (it’s extremely difficult). We love the food and the friends, the foreigners and the locals, the parties and the festivals. There is a lot to love about China and teaching English in China was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

teaching english in china

Hanging Out With Our Friends In A Park In Yangzhou China

So what are you waiting for? If you thought it was too hard to get a job, the hours were too long or China was too crazy for you, hopefully this article has helped put those worries to rest. China’s the perfect place to start teaching English and you’ll always look back on it with fond memories and perhaps it will be your first step into a better lifestyle. All you need to do now is learn more about teaching English In China, what to expect and then find a job and go! The best way to do this is to check out these articles:

Teaching English In China, Frequently Asked Questions About The Job

&

Teaching English In China: Getting Started FAQ’s.

Nick & Dariece have an inspiring travel blog Goats On The Road which features excellent tips, advice and stories.

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{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

zoomingjapan February 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

This was a very interesting read for me! :)

Actually I’m an English teacher in Japan. Originally I’m from Germany.
It’s been such an interesting experience that instead of staying the one year as planned I ended up staying here for a much longer time. I’m going into my 6th year now.

There are certainly a few differences I noticed about teaching in China thanks to your article!
I also feel that teaching is very rewarding and that you’ll learn so much about another culture and also can share your own culture and customs with the people there!

The “rockstar feeling” can be a good or a bad thing. I bet there’s a lot of staring going on in China as well? It can be rather annoying.
Being asked to be on TV (or something similar) will only happen in big cities.
I’ve lived in the Japanese countryside all the time and I enjoy it a lot, being one of the very few foreigners around.
You get to know a country so much better living in a rural area!

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Nick - Goats On The Road February 12, 2013 at 7:24 am

Thanks for the comment ZoomingJapan.
We have been thinking about teaching in Japan, we know some people here who taught there previously and absolutely loved it.
The staring hasn’t become annoying yet. The kids usually call out “waiguoren” which means foreigner. We just say “junguoren” back which means Chinese person. It always gets a laugh from the parents.
The country side would be nice, we’re in a “small” city of 5mil here and we miss travelling China’s countryside. The next job we take will probably be in a smaller, warmer place. Who knows!
Enjoy Japan!

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Adventure Strong February 26, 2013 at 8:11 am

I’m going to head to Korea this year to teach but China and Japan are places I’d love to work also. Who knows…

Nick & Dariece, thanks for all the great info about China!

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Samuel March 8, 2013 at 3:17 am

Best of luck in Korea Tim!

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Maria February 10, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I’ve had many Chinese and Korean co-workers over the years and worked for a Korean company here in the US – always found them to be diligent, friendly and helpful and glad to hear it was the same for you working there. Can’t wait to read and see more of your experiences from this latest teaching tour. Kudos to you both and best wishes as you move forward.

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Dariece - Goats On The Road February 12, 2013 at 7:30 am

Thanks a lot for the comment Maria!
Yes, we love working with Chinese people. They’re so kind and treat us so well all of the time. It will be sad when we have to say goodbye in 5 months, but that’s the life of travel. We’ll be posting up some more articles and hopefully some videos on our site, and here if Sam has room in his schedule. We’ve received a lot of information from his ESL section here on nomadicsamuel.com and we’ll be using it on the next job hunt.
Thanks for the Kudos!
Cheers.

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Angela February 10, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I so love China, I spent a year in Shanghai and sorely miss it. Teaching English in China might be a good idea to go back for a longer period of time!

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Samuel March 8, 2013 at 3:20 am

That’s so cool Angela! What did you do there?

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Angela March 8, 2013 at 9:15 am

I studied Chinese! And made so many friends, I would love to go back :)

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Natalie February 11, 2013 at 6:34 am

I am interested in the foreigners that attended the business meetings just to be there. Did they understand what was on the agenda? Or did they just smile and look pretty?

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Seattle Dredge February 11, 2013 at 2:53 pm

This has nothing to do with this particular post.. but, love your new design! :D

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Samuel February 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

Thanks Seattle! :) I should have had it done a looooong time ago…LOL

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Shaun February 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Pretty compelling post! It’s nice to hear some salary vs living costs for teaching English.

Would like a follow up post after doing it for six months or a year!

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Dariece - Goats On The Road February 12, 2013 at 7:33 am

Thanks for the comment Shaun,
We’ll be posting some more articles as well as some videos. Keep your eye out for them.
We’ve been here for 7 months so far and we still love it. It’s important to find a good school and contract. Once you do that, it’s smooth sailing!
Cheers.

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John February 11, 2013 at 11:53 pm

This is definitely something I see myself doing in the near future. I am leaving Canada tomorrow, but am still very much interested in working and living abroad and China seems ideal.

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Dariece - Goats On The Road February 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

Go for it John! You’d be amazed how easy, fun and rewarding it is!
Be aware that the climate is similar here to Canada, we’re from Calgary and we still consider it cold here in Yangzhou, near Shanghai!

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Wil @ Where's Wil February 12, 2013 at 4:32 am

How do you find jobs being a token white person? Sounds like a great gig.

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Nick - Goats On The Road February 12, 2013 at 7:38 am

Those jobs are in most cities here Wil. It’s funny, if you’re one of the few foreigners in a city (very likely outside of Shanghai & Beijing) then you’ll be contacted on numerous occasions! Little bit of extra incomes alright!

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Agness February 13, 2013 at 2:35 am

Awesome post! I’m back in China again and going to start teaching next week for the second time during the past 2 years. Agree with everything you said – people are hospitable, the job is always well paid and rewarding and the food hmmmmmmmm :)

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Samuel March 8, 2013 at 3:25 am

Good luck with your next teaching gig Agness!

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Express China Visa February 13, 2013 at 7:41 am

Its good to hear that you enjoyed China tour. Chinese peoples are so lovely and Chinese foods are also very popular around the world. simply amazing post.

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Samuel March 8, 2013 at 3:26 am

I have to agree. I loved the food in China when I was there in 2011.

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Julia Robert February 21, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Thanks for sharing this nice post. Some children don’t have any natural ability to learn English Language, So use some English Learning Tips for Kids for effective learning.

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Samuel March 8, 2013 at 3:29 am

Sounds like a great program.

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Joanna February 22, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Hey there, hope you can help.
I am heading over to China,Beijing now in a few weeks as an ESL teacher so this article makes me happy/excited etc.
At this stage I am wondering though, how much do you think I will need to bring to sustain me for the first month (my airport transfer and rent is covered) so it would just be any potential initial upfront fees and living expenses etc.

Also, are there any other forms you travelk money that you would advise for China (such as pre-paid visa/travel card etc) ?

Sorry for that all ^^ haha. Any info you can provide would be helpful.

Many thanks.
Joanna

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Nick - Goats On The Road February 27, 2013 at 2:17 am

Hi Joanna,
there are a lot of unexpected charges when you first arrive in China. Here in Yangzhou, we had to pay dammage deposit on our apartment plus the first 3 months down, plus a half months rent finders fee to the property agent and there are property management fees as well. Also our internet had to be paid in full for the year! Of course these costs vary from city to city but generally your deposit will be one full months rent. Agent finders fee is half of one months rent. Property management is about 1 RMB / square foot. Internet is about 1200 RMB / Year, Phone is about 50 RMB / month, utilities are 600-1000 RMB / 3 months. If you school is paying for your accomodation (they do for us as well) ask them if they will pay the rent up front if your landlord requires it. If not, it’s a lot of money out of your pocket. Also keep in mind that many apartments are “fully furnished” but don’t include pots, pans or even matresses sometimes! Of course you can find apartments that have all of these ammenities but expect to have to buy some things that you would normally use at home. (cheese grater, strainer, spatula, cutlery, pillows, blankets) they all add up.
All in all I think it’s a good idea to have at least a thousand dollars in your bank when you come here. That’s if your school is going to pay the advance months on your apartment. If not then you’ll have to have double that. Keep in mind you’ll also have to sustain yourself for at least a month before your first pay check (if you’re paid monthly).
We were surprised at how many things added up when we first came here. We also had to buy bedding and a better mattress ( the Chinese matresses are like hay). Just ask the school exactly what they cover and if they’ll advance you the money. Sorry to make it sound like it’s more expensive than you may have hoped but in reality, it can be a bit of a shock just how much this stuff adds up! This is all in reference to our experience in a cheaper city (Yanghzou) keep in mind Beijing is considerably more expensive.

As for your second question. I don’t quite understand what you mean.

Anyway, hopefully this helps! Good luck and have fun in Beijing!

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Cole Van Horn March 4, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I’ll actually be heading to China in August to teach English in the University setting. Thanks for the good insights on the subject. It just makes me more stoked than ever.

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Samuel March 8, 2013 at 3:31 am

Best wishes Cole!

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Pio@ESL vacancies March 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

Internet-based TEFL courses can vary in quality, but most are accepted worldwide and particularly in Asia where the largest jobs markets exist in China, Korea and Japan.

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Susan March 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Love your post. We are trying to plan a trip next year to get the kids into a summer language program. I saw that you didn’t so much recommend big cities, do you know of any cities that you like where they give mandarin summer camps for kids?

All the reasons you mentioned above are reasons why we think we should try to expose our kids to different cultures.

Stay safe!

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Natalia April 16, 2013 at 12:52 am

That’s such a short amount of teaching hours per week. That would have been incredible in Korea. So much opportunity to travel.

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Kevin June 27, 2013 at 8:59 am

I’m currently teaching English in rural Thailand and THERE, I feel like a rockstar. When you’re one of only 2 people in a small community who speaks English, you receive the royal treatment pretty much constantly. I teach classes of 45 students, grades 9-10, no A/C. They’re reasonably well behaved, but it sounds like Chinese kids are (discipline-wise) where it’s at. How does teaching in China compare to Thailand? Classes smaller? More well behaved?

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Jacqui Low July 13, 2013 at 5:31 pm

OMG what a super-positive post! I love it! I love living in China too :)

Check out my blog – http://jacqui-low2.weebly.com.

I don’t have anything on China yet, but you’ve inspired me!

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Jacqui Low July 13, 2013 at 5:32 pm

OMG what a super-positive post! I love it! I love living in China too :)

Check out my blog – http://jacqui-low2.weebly.com

I don’t have anything on China yet, but you’ve inspired me!

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Georgia July 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm

Interesting post! I have been thinking about teaching english overseas for a while. Is there a reputable agency that you recommend I research? Are there agencies that I should avoid? Thanks!

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Samuel Jeffery July 18, 2013 at 1:03 am

For teaching in Korea I would recommend Work N Play.

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Kevin September 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

This is making me more and more excited about teaching in China! I start my job in 2 weeks in Rizhao, China, the “sunshine city.” Beyond pumped to leave my tiny rural Thai town to live in a coastal Chinese city for a while.

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Samuel Jeffery September 13, 2013 at 12:29 am

Kevin,

It sounds like you’ll have an exciting new challenge in China. I’ve always wanted to teach there myself.

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Jack December 11, 2013 at 9:07 am

I wish we could get a little bit more balance when it comes to the reality of teaching and living in China. I lived and taught in Hunan and also Henan for a total of six years. There are definitely good things, but it’s not like you’re constantly doing cartwheels as one would think after reading much of the above info. I and many of my colleagues regularly dealt with heaps of racism and xenophobia. If I wasn’t fluent in Chinese, I would have been unaware that I was constantly being called a “foreign dog,” and maybe could have seen China through rose colored glasses like some folk do. I’m not a China hater though, I’m thinking of going back next school year because the work is so ridiculously easy. I really need to find out if the place has gotten any worse than when I left in 2010. If it hasn’t gotten worse, I can handle it, however, some posters on other sites are reporting that the racism is going through the roof. Those people may be China haters and I don’t want to hear from them any more that I want to hear from the China apologists which the Internet is rife with.

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Ravel December 11, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Hahaha, just saw my buddy Jaafar in that last pick and did a double-take. Thanks for the info and tell Jaafar I said hi! :)

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Truth is strength December 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm

What this article greatly fails to mention are the severe struggles non-white foreigners will face while living and working in China. Being called a “foreign dog” is the LEAST of your worried there. Of course a couple with white skin that travels for fun will have a more than stellar “rock star” time, as lighter skin is seen in a higher status. The lighter your skin, the more noble you are to a Chinese person. The darker your skin, the more peasant and poor status you are to them. Don’t believe me? Just research the working class history of China in regards to skin tone “relationships”, and yes it is still true to this day. This is the reality unfortunately. It’s “happy go lucky” posts blogs like this that truly set foreigners up with a “blinded reality”. Every single one of my black, brown, and yellow skin toned friends that taught English in China all had absolutely horrible experiences. They all come from completely different open minded personalities with many interesting ways of positive outlook on life. I myself am a white skinned person from NYC in America. Myself in particular come from Italian culture, so I honestly don’t know if I’m even considered a white person by their standards. I don’t like posting things like this, but I also don’t like super positive/slightly oblivious posts that do not talk about the “other side” of reality that occurs in China. It’s our responsibility to tell both sides of the coin when preparing anyone who wishes to visit and/or live in an Asian country. Foreigners in China put their very livelihood at risk when leaving their home country, so it’s the least we can do as human beings. If anyone needs reality advice on China please message me. I have the pros and cons from many “angles” or perspectives, as well as advice from my many friends that have been there. (White and non-white English teachers)

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Katie Mclean January 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Hi! I’m going to Shanghai in February. Was wondering if you could tell me a little more about those pro’s and con’s. Been seeing very mixed views.
Thanks!
Katie

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Rachel January 4, 2014 at 8:02 am

I really enjoyed reading about your experience! :) I’ve been really considering teaching in China and I was wondering how it all began for you. Did you go there with a certain program? Or just on your own hoping to find a job?
Thanks again for sharing!

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Matt January 6, 2014 at 11:51 am

Hi guys, if anyone is interested in teaching English and want to enjoying relaxing lifestyle in China. I can offer 2 teaching positions in Xi’an City, which is one of the oldest and best city in China. The salary is generous, and the working environment is friendly. Your responsibility is teaching 3 to 6-years-old communication skills in English and show their parents how nice you are. More details please email me, and I will respond it ASAP. By the way, does anyone know where I can find right person for teaching ESL? Which websites most people are using for English teaching jobs abroad?

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SmartIntern China Internships February 26, 2014 at 12:15 am

Nice look at teaching English in China, Samuel. I’m with you on the ox tongue- not bad at all!

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:05 am

Thank you!

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rachel osterlind March 17, 2014 at 8:23 am

Which company did you wok for? We just got our CELTA’s, but we have heard many bad stories about teaching in China.

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Christiane March 31, 2014 at 3:52 pm

What a load of crap this is! I feel like I’m reading the China Daily. Sure there are some great/good things about China, but could you be a bit more balanced? No talk of pollution, food scandals, disengaged students married to their cellular devices, the salary, English mills, cheating, plagiarism, the government, sanitation, being treated like a dancing monkey in a cage, healthcare, etc. Please. I’ve unfortunately found that the bad far outweighs the good. There is nothing worse than a “cultured” person avoiding topics that matter and pretending that everything everywhere induces rainbows out the arse.

And they never rip you off! Good lord. What China am I currently in?

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