Arriving in a foreign country where there are no familiar faces, huge cultural differences and a strange language is an extremely brave and challenging step for anyone to take. Formed of ex-participants, the Teach English In China team knows how this feels and aims to do everything we can to make the transition as easy as possible.
Throughout your placement there will be several people you can contact should you have any problems or questions:
We work with a number of trusted schools and organisations to find placements for our teachers. When you enrol onto the programme and secure a placement with a school, you will be provided with contact details of local staff members who can help with any immediate school related issues. Our partners have been working in the industry for many years and are experts in dealing with questions from foreign teaching staff.
We have a number of current and ex-teachers on hand to help answer any questions or solve any problems you may have. These people have been through similar experiences and are able to give well-founded advice on anything from day-to-day life to classroom based problems. You will be given contact details in the run-up to your placement.
Teach English In China Staff
As you may know, all members of the Teach English In China team have completed a teaching placement in China. We therefore have first-hand knowledge and experience of what living and working there is like and are here to support you through the process. Though we are based in the UK, we always like to hear from our teachers and we encourage you to keep in contact and seek advice from us if need be.
School Contact, the ‘Waiban’
Schools in China are well aware of how daunting a prospect moving abroad can be and want their staff to settle in quickly and be happy in their new environment. It’s for this reason that they assign all foreign teachers an English-speaking member of staff, who acts as their “guardian”, known in China as a “waiban”.
The waiban is there to take care of foreign teachers, to make sure they have everything they need and to help resolve any problems encountered while in China, whether they are professional or personal. They should be the first port of call for almost everything during your employment.
Upon first impressions, your waiban may or may not appear eager to help – don’t let this put you off building a good relationship with them, just be warm and friendly and they will soon relax! This attitude is most likely explained by nerves at the prospect of meeting a new foreigner, something which is considered a huge status symbol in China and which makes this role highly desirable. Despite it being a well-regarded role, it can be quite a difficult job at times, particularly when it comes to problems teachers are having with the local culture. While it’s okay to speak to your waiban about things like this if they are bothering you, it’s important to remember that you are in their country and as frustrating as some aspects of the culture can be, it’s not the waiban’s fault.
The concept of guanxi (relationships), is very central to Chinese culture and could be compared to the saying “treat others the way you wish to be treated”. As obvious as it sounds this can be something foreigners don’t realise when speaking with Chinese people, who are unlikely to tell you if something you have said or done has offended them and express their unhappiness by reducing contact with you. Therefore, if you are raising issues about the culture with your waiban, try to do so in a sensitive way and don’t take it out on your contact! After all, your waiban will be your lifeline and not someone you want to alienate!