I moved to China just over a year ago. Previously I had been living in Thailand and just felt it was time to move. When I told a lot of my friends that I was moving they seemed rather negative about China and had many bad things to say about the place. They would ask me questions like "aren't you worried about the people" and "what about the pollution?" As I have lived in a few different countries I was not overly worried about the move, but I was prepared for things to be very different.
I have to say China has not been anything like my expectations. My initial reactions of getting off the plan and it was snowing (I had not had a winter in 5 years) was a big shock, but this was tempered by someone from the school coming to pick me up. My first few days I was very well looked after by my school which made things easier, although the language barrier is very real!
My first unpleasant surprise was that I was not actually in Nanjing but Jurong. I always think in every interview there is something the school is hiding and you just need to find out what that is!
The biggest shocks for me when I first arrived was definitely the cold and how friendly people were.
I feel that there are many misconceptions about Chinese people. I think most people are guilty of judging a whole country to some degree, and the Chinese tourist has developed a very negative impression. However I would caution people on judging without looking at ourselves, Brits abroad anyone? We literally have a tv show about how poorly behaved some people are when they go on holiday.
Do all Chinese people spit? No, many find it a disgusting habit and associate it normally with poorer people in rural areas. Do I see people in suits spitting? Yes sometimes. Are Chinese people friendly? I have to say since I have come here I have never had so much help. My colleagues have always been happy to help me with translating, talking to taxi drivers and help me to find out bus times. They really seem to appreciate that things here are very different for foreigners and that we do need some help.
I think not living in a big city has been harder for me to adapt to than any cultural problems. It takes me 30 minutes on a bus to get to the city and due to tighter road regulations than Thailand I am unable to buy a motorbike and too poor to buy a car! However when I am in the city the public transport is extremely efficient and clean. During rush hour though it can get a bit hot and stuffy!
What do I miss about Thailand?
I miss the food, although Nanjing has a good Thai restaurant I do resent paying 5 times what I did in Thailand- but this is probably because I am pretty stingy! I miss the freedom that having a bike gave me, and of course the beaches!
What do I prefer in China?
I like my job (most days) and feel there is a lot more opportunity in China. I have found more people with similar interests to me here. I enjoy the food, but being a fussy eater I do have to be careful about what I order, my first week I had heart, which tastes just like you imagine it would. I also enjoy having seasons, although it is a tad too cold at winter!
Would I recommend China?
I think it very much depends what sort of situation you are in and what you want from life. China has so many great places and history that there is plenty for the adventurous amongst us to see and do. The job market is very attractive, especially for unqualified (with a TEFL) teachers, the cost of living is fairly low and wages are high.