My first flight took off roughly 3 years ago in February 2017. The excitement in me was inextinguishable and it felt like I finally got the opportunity to make my dream a reality… travelling and seeing the world! It took me 4 years studying for my degree in Education, but what I experienced after these 4 years was unfathomable. China has offered me this opportunity.
My first night in Guangzhou, China was BEYOND scary. I did not know what to expect and the feeling of loneliness and foreign was immense. However, I quickly got to realize that these people – these Chinese citizens - are just like you and me. They felt just as strange around me when we met. Once I started talking to them and being friendly, they immediately responded with a huge smile and was more than eager to help or even shower you with gifts (whatever they had available such as food, fruits, or flowers). I also got the occasional selfie-gesture, asking me whether they can take a photo with me. I felt like a Celebrity! But to them, you are one. The long to meet foreigners and to befriend one. Which in turn, ended up great for me because not only was I making new friends on day 1, but I quickly got a tour guide.
I used an agency for the first time. They helped me a lot. They dealt with all my legal documents and permits. They helped me find a suitable school and showed me places I can visit. They helped me with my Simcard registrations, apartment searching and Wi-Fi contracts etc. My daily needs were taken care of with the help of an agency. Therefore, I would highly recommend using an agency if it is your first time travelling, OR a school you know you can trust. Maybe you have friends there or know of someone who was happy there. That is the most important. Oh, and secondly, make sure you download a translation app before travelling. I will put a list at the end of all the apps needed in China and why it is important to have them. Let us continue…
Adapting to a new country and their food, culture, language barriers and loneliness made it seem impossible. The first 3 months was hard. Thereafter, it got better, and it was like I finally belonged! China treated me well and I fell in love with everything they had to offer!
Always trying new foods and realizing that every district has their own “unique” taste and blends of spices. The language… all different. Chinese spoken in the South and Chinese spoken in the North are all different! Who knew? Cantonese, Mandarin and all its dialects! Fortunately, my school at the time offered Chinese classes so I could learn a thing or two for survival.
That brings me to the schools and teaching culture in China. I worked at an International school at first. Very professional with their uniforms and curriculum. Academic performance was of high importance. Here I met most of my friends and we still have contact even though we do not work together anymore. Some went back to their countries and others live in other parts of China now. I met so many people from so many different countries – Ireland, Scotland, America, Pakistan, England, Wales, Spain etc. I travelled to a few countries already in 2 years. I saw Thailand, Russia and the whole of China. My next destination is already in the planning process.
I moved more South to Guangdong province. Worked there at a Public Middle school. I stayed on the school grounds and got to go home during our 2-hour lunchbreaks. Convenience at its best! After which I moved to Wuhan. This was the place to be.
I love every moment of it. It is beautiful, clean, modern and historic. There are many foreigner hangouts places and subway systems take you all over the place. Transport in China is very convenient and cheap! Taking a bullet train from South to North, takes about 5 hours! Insane thinking that it travels more than 300km/h.
There are so many things to say about China, but honestly… nothing is better than experiencing it for yourself. My words mean absolutely nothing when compared to the physical experiences. Small things like being asked by Chinese parents to join them for dinner, or getting your hair washed and cut, but having to lie down on a bed to do so. Walking along a lake or riding a bicycle. Teaching those amazing kids and experience all there is with them. Making not only friends, but friendamilies! Those are all the moments that I never thought I might have before I got on the first flight, boarding to China. If only I knew how amazing life abroad really was, I would have done it sooner. Just go for it! You can always fly back to your country IF you do not like it… or you could fly to your next destination for another travelling experience
I am going to list a couple of apps that I think is important to have before traveling to China. I will also explain what they are for.
1) Wechat and Alipay –
these apps are China’s #1 communication app and also payments are made with them. Buying anything from a vendor to a shop or the mall, you will pay using Wechat wallet or Alipay. Make sure it is set up and ready to use. WhatsApp and all other Western apps such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are all blocked by the Government. Thus, maybe you can find alternatives for them or find a way to use them.
2) Translation app –
Baidu translate or any other app that allows you to translate a photo or screenshot is very helpful indeed. Ordering food online or even just translating instructions are difficult without a translation app
3) Didi –
Didi is a transporting app and is much like Uber. Here you can sign up and instantly order taxis to go somewhere. Addresses may be in Chinese; therefore, the translation app is needed
4) Taobao –
this is China’s Amazon or Takealot. They deliver everything to your door. Widespread and easy to use, with a translation app. Ask a Chinese person to help you set it up as it is in Chinese only. There is an English version on Wechat, called Baopals. Search it in the engine on Wechat and you will be able to find them. However, they are more expensive