Culture Shock in China

Is it a thing? The short answer is “YES IT IS!” However, in my experience, it wasn’t in the way I thought I’d experience culture shock. Let me explain why.

Culture Shock because of Other Foreigners

ESL TeachersPicture this. You are at your office. There is a bunch of Chinese folk on the one side, and then there are the foreign teachers on the other. Teachers come from all over the world. My fellow colleagues come from Canada, various different states in America, Ireland, England, Australia and New Zealand. On nights out, I’ve even met foreigners from Brazil, Norway, Iceland, Russia, Serbia, Malaysia, Tanzania, Ghana and so forth and so forth. You spend a lot of time at the office lesson planning so obviously you will be chatting with fellow teachers, getting to know more about one another. They are also the first people you go to when arranging plans for a night out or a weekend trip outside the city. As you get to know them, you realize just how vastly different you all are in terms of your little habits and quirks. People from different states in America have a different way of going about things! We don’t always understand the why’s, how’s and what’s of each other’s different cultures and backgrounds, but somehow, a bit of magic happens. What do I mean by this? The magic is that regardless of your differences with others in terms of these fundamental aspects such as culture, lifestyle and background, your relationship with other foreigners is a very harmonious one most of the time! Learning about one another person’s “Point of View” won’t ever take anything away from you and who you are as a person, but will only add so much more to what you’ve already got and know about the world!

Culture Shock because of… Well, China

Teacher Nadia in China

Surprise! China is weird, man. However, I’d like to rise to the defense of its weird inhabitants. I have been treated with nothing but kindness here, and it is something I’m truly grateful for.  They are still in many ways so much more different from what I expected them to be. It’s quite the task to try and explain this in words, but as a colleague of mine said today “Sometimes you’ve just got to let go and let China.” In certain areas, China is way more advanced than I would have thought them to be, but in other, they are extremely traditional. The great thing is that when you are open to experiencing the traditional China, it’ll amaze you! Chinese folks are quite set in their ways, and as a foreigner it’s practically impossible to try and have them understand your point of view.  Homosexuality is a sensitive topic and when discussed, the idea of a same sex couple loving one another is so strange and incomprehensible to them. Cue the daft expressions and furrowed brows trying to understand this wild concept.  You’re a vegetarian? Wait…really? You really don’t want any meat or animal product in this dish? But…how? Any Chinese Person in China Ever. Being a vegan in China has its ups and downs. I don’t pay as much at a restaurant for buffets as my meat-eating diners do which is pretty cool. However, when going to order food at the food court in a shopping mall, jaws drop and brains fog up when I order a dish with no meat. 85% of my dishes were meat-filled and my specific instructions completely disregarded, because according to the Chinese folks, not eating meat is as good as trying to kill yourself. So I suppose that this is my main point – have patience and understanding for the Chinese mindset.  Once you understand that you cannot always change their customs and opinions, you’ll have a much easier life here. Then again, they’ll make up for this in many different ways (freebies with purchases being one of them!)

Overwhelmed?

Well, that is what you should be to a degree, of course. Once you get the hang of things and you know what the term patience means, you’ll have an absolute ball here! China has shocked me into total delight. I cannot wait to explore more of what this country has to offer!

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The Best Part of Teaching is Everything Else

Teaching is a fun profession in Thailand. The excitement stems from mostly one thing, all the non-teaching time. It may sound strange but monthly there are activities that a teacher has the opportunity to participate in, in place of actually teaching English. It’s a way to have fun with the students, increase friendships with the other faculty, and mostly, have some good old fashioned fun-in-the-sun.

Thailand is one of the few countries that provide many learning experiences, at school, that aren’t classroom related. The Thai culture is based around balance in work and play, learning cultures and not just language, and physical activity. And the best part is, none of those require classrooms, books or structured lessons.  Instead, the students, teachers and parents spend time having fun TOGETHER.

CHRISTMAS JUBILEE

One example is last Christmas. On the last day of school, before Winter Break, our school held a huge Christmas assembly. This is where all of our students participated in songs, dances and accepting of gifts to understand an important Western holiday. The students loved it, and so did the teachers! The English Department dressed up and the kids went absolutely nuts. Of course, There was a Santa Clause, a Mrs. Clause and a few elves that played about under a beautifully homemade Christmas Tree.Christmas in Thailand

This was a perfect interactive, object lesson for the students and they really understood the Christmas spirit. All 1400 of the students took turns taking pictures will all of the dressed-up characters and it made them see their teachers act silly and be funny. This made them feel closer to the faculty and actually increased their willingness to participate in class, after the break.

SPORTS DAY

Another example of fun activities the school participates, is Sports Day. All week (and often times, all year) the students practice physical activities and prepare to compete against each other in all sorts of sports and games. It’s started with a huge ceremony. Some girls and boys get all dressed up to preform dances and everyone participates in a parade to start the day. The teachers are spectators that cheer and eat all day. It is so much fun! Everyone loves Sports Day…Everyone!

The best part is the allowance of exerted energy. Teachers and students play side-by-side, and now teachers are on the students’ turf. The tables are turned and often times the students get to show off and teach the teachers a thing or two. What a great way to build trust, comradery, and get to know the parents as well. It is much easier to get a child to listen in the classroom when they know you are buddy buddy with their parents.

SHARE DAY

There’s another extracurricular activity that is an extremely inspirational experience for everyone involved, a day that really exemplifies that sharing is caring. It’s a day where all the students and teachers bring extra food to school for homeless and displaced children. It’s a special day that reminds everyone that no matter how little we have (And in Thailand, we all have very little) there are others that need items that come easy to us, like food. All the food is packed on a truck and distributed to children throughout the province. 

Share day in Thailand

On this special day of sharing, the students gather together at the beginning of the day and listen to inspirational talks given by their school leaders. Then they sing songs and offer praise in gratitude for what they have and hope for what their fellow children will have. It is not a spiritual celebration, rather a celebration of the spirit of giving. There is nothing more humbling than watching students, who have very little, give with all of their heart to others.

These are just a few of the activities that take teachers and students out of the classroom, and they are all wonderful learning experiences for everyone. Thailand is about balance, it’s a little work, a little play, a little bit of food (A lot of food) and a little bit of relationship building. Arguably, all of it is vital and equally important. And all of the activities can enhance classroom time, reinforce scholastic lessons, and be the meat of future lessons.

When used properly, the English Teacher can enjoy some well-deserved time to be silly, as well as plan great English lessons around such days. Either way, students and teachers agree on one thing, they best days at school are the ones spent outside the classrooms.

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Finding Your Way in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destination cities. MasterCard ranked Bangkok as the top destination city by international visitor arrivals in its Global Destination Cities Index 2016, ahead of London with more than 21 million overnight visitors. When you are teaching in Thailand or traveling in Thailand, you definitely need to know how to get around the city. Fortunately, it is very easy and there are several ways of transportation you can use in the city.

Public Transportation

It is extremely easy to get around the central city of Bangkok for the most part. The city offers a wide selection of transportation options, and the two main forms of public transportation can get you to most of the major areas, but sadly not the bulk of the main attractions that Bangkok has to offer. The public transportation that exists in Bangkok is basically the same as any other major city: trains and buses. Luckily there is also a third option, taking a nice breezy boat ride. As for non-public modes of transportation, there are cars, bikes and boat taxis, ride apps such as Uber and Grab, private cars or vans, and the famous tuk-tuks.Getting around in Bangkok

On The Tracks

The BTS (Bangkok Train System) also known as the Sky Train, is the fastest, most convenient, and most popular way to get around Bangkok. The BTS is comprised of two train lines, Siam and Sukhumvit. The other train system is the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit), which is basically a subway system. These two train systems cover most of the city, and make it much easier to get to your destination. Both of these train systems offer clean and air-conditioned train cars, though sometimes the air-conditioning can be a bit too much, I’d recommend having a light sweater at your convenience. During rush hour the trains can become… a ‘bit’ crowded, and your personal space will definitely be invaded.

Bangkok MRT

Most of the BTS or MRT stations that are located centrally will have malls or markets located right outside, where you can eat and shop till you drop. The only downside to the BTS and MRT, is that neither of them can take you to the cultural centre of the city, where you will find many of the main attractions such as; The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Phra Chetuphon, China Town, or the backpacker street of Khao San Road. As for fare prices, it varies depending on the length of your trip. The fare for one stop is around 15 baht, but can go as high as 60 baht for longer trips. You can also buy transit cards, which are prepaid electronic cards, they cost around 750 baht for 25 rides or 1,100 baht for 40 rides. Depending on your usual length of travel, these might not be worth your while if you only travel a couple stops every day.

Hop On A Bus

Buses are definitely one of the cheaper ways to get around the city, but are my least favourite. They are usually late or never come, and are bumpy, hot and cramped. And worst of all, the buses are the only form of public transportation that fall victim to the atrocity of Bangkok’s infamous traffic. I will avoid taking the bus as much as I possibly can.

Go With The Flow

Public Boat Chao PhrayaThough there are public boats you can take in Bangkok, they aren’t located everywhere throughout the city, and are obviously limited to where they can take you. The main boat route is located on the Chao Phraya River, the largest river that runs through Bangkok. There are many public boats that you can hop on that will take you up, down, or across the Chao Phraya River. When taking a boat on the Chao Phraya, make sure to find the local public boats, which is exponentially cheaper than the tourist public boat. There are also some other water routes throughout the city that go down smaller waterways known as Klongs.

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