Please, Please Be Careful

Update:  Those of you whom were wondering what happened to the girl that I kind of rescued from Bejing.  She actually came to where I am and did a demo class for my school and with my recommendation and promise of training.  She was hired as a teacher at my school.  I am now her boss.. but i think she will do wonderfully.   She is excited that she starts tomorrow.  Her salary isnt as high at first.. but with hard work and training she will be fine.   She keeps telling me that she cant believe she actually met me after reading my blogs… hehehe… I kind of feel like a celebrity..

Now is the time where many of the schools, private and government, will be looking for Foreign Teachers to come and teach in China and many other countries.  The school year is ending and the summer holiday is going to begin soon.  Which is the busiest times for Private schools.
However, although living abroad can be an exciting and interesting experience; I want you all to be careful.   For the most part the schools are honest.  But you can run into some agencies, recruiters that are not so honest.    Case in point, I received an email from a Black American woman who is currently stuck in China.  She requested some information from me regarding her situation.   She had been cheated by her “recruiter” and not gotten her a job.   So, she email me for advice.
Lucky for her, I am back in China from my holiday and was able to get her information so she could be closer to me.  (since she was in Beijing)  and I could assist her in finding a job and be there for her so she knows she was not alone. She was very lucky and thank goodness she reads my blogs and things.   I was very happy to help her in her situation.
The young lady will be arriving to my city tomorrow morning and I will meet her at the bus station and have already made calls and arrangements for her to have several job interviews with some of my connections.
I want people to be aware that although I came to China on a whim and made the decision in less than two weeks time.  I fully did my research before coming to China.   I researched not only the areas, the cities, and the schools but I also questioned my Chinese friends on their opinions on whether I should go or not.   Her situation turned out good but it could have been terrible.
Therefore, I am offering my assistance to anyone that is interested in living and teaching in China… or that is stranded in China.  I can’t provide you with monetary assistance.. but I can provide you with information and connections to help you out of your situation or make sure you are not getting cheated in some way.
I am by far no expert but I do know quite a bit about the system over here and the people.
Oh.. and please be aware.. that China can be a very racist country, when it comes to skin color.  So, do not be surprised when they ask you for photos, or tell you that you are too dark-skinned or not beautiful enough to teach at their school.   The locals over here are still living in a pre-civil rights era and have gotten good sense yet.
I hope this doesn’t discourage anyone.. just know I am here to help or do what I can to keep you safe.
until next time…

21 thoughts on “Please, Please Be Careful

  1. Takira


    I am in the process of finishing up my final year of undergrad. I am also in the process of applying to different countries throughout Asia for Teaching English (so far I have applied to one in Japan). I am interested in teaching in China. I am in my early twenties, have light/med. light (think in terms of a werther’s toffee candy or graham cracker color) and have natural hair. I have been abroad before in Europe (studied abroad in the rural part of Spain) so I am used to getting stared at by foreigners. I was wondering if you knew of any good recruiting programs for teachers of color in China? Or just good recruiting programs in general? Also during your first year teaching, did you get help from other chinese teachers concerning things like making lesson plans?

    I love your blog and have been following it for some time!

    1. @Takira… thank you for reading my blog… first of all I am pretty sure that there are no recruiting programs that are specifically for teachers of color. Since we are not the preferred teacher I am sorry to say that they would not make any money. However .. I used it is widely used here. As for help in making lesson plans… actually every school is different. Most government schools will give you a week or two of training. The private schools are various some people give you training on lesson plans and some just throw you in the mix… However, if you get your TESOL that I recommend .. they will give you lesson plan training. Please know that it is very difficult to get a job in Japan as a teacher due to the demand and the teacher requirements. As suggested in another comment Korea is the easiest place to start your asian experience. Good Luck.

  2. jackie

    Yes, do be careful.

    I am a white American with blond hair, so arguably the most-desired candidate for a foreign teacher in China. I have worked for 2 different public schools in my nearly 4 years here. Yet I have been cheated and/or otherwise “used” by both of those schools.

    I worked at the first school for 3 years. I liked the job, it was relatively stress-free and the school gave me a lot of freedom. I could teach whatever and however I wanted, and no one EVER, not even once, came to monitor my class. If they ever gave me any feedback at all, it was only positive. As long as the students were happy, they seemed to be happy. Since my husband is Chinese, I was hoping to keep that job for the long term. Well, the 3rd year, after initially indicating that they wanted to sign me for a 4th year, I was suddenly told that the school decided not to hire a foreign English teacher for the following year (I was the only foreign English teacher at that school). So that meant I had to find a new job. I was suspicious of this claim, since I knew they were keeping the Japanese foreign teacher on. Why would they keep the Japanese teacher but not the English teacher? But there was nothing I could do about it. So I found another job.

    The next year (the current school year), my suspicions were confirmed by a teacher at the old school who I still had contact with. He told me that the school had indeed lied to me, and there was a new foreign teacher in the house: a young, inexperienced Australian guy. Interestingly, he had used the same recruiter to find that job as I had initially used to find my job at the same school. Although I don’t have any hard evidence to corroborate this, I am convinced that the sole reason they did this “teacher switching” was to save money. I think the new teacher must have agreed to a lower salary than what I, as a more experienced teacher, was getting.

    Then at the new job (my current job), I also had some MAJOR ISSUES with getting paid. To make a long story short, basically the contract was worded in a very manipulative way and resulted in an excuse for them to pay me FAR LESS than my agreed monthly salary for any month with a holiday (which is most months of the school year). I was able to resolve that problem with the school by calmly but firmly bringing it to their attention and insisting that something be done. But it was a lot of stress and trouble in the interim as I didn’t know what the outcome would be immediately.

    So the point is, from my experience what schools in China care more than anything about “face” (lookie! we have a foreigner in our school!) and also their bottom line. I have yet to know a school that seems to genuinely care about their students or the quality of their foreign teachers. So, yes, when deciding to move to China people should be aware of this, read every letter of that contract (and in Chinese too if possible), CHECK EVERYTHING TWICE, and expect to get cheated or taken advantage of. It is super important that you stand your ground for what you want. I’ve found in China that school leaders often say certain things are “impossible” to intimidate you, but most of the time if you push it (calmly but firmly), the “impossible” becomes possible. Remember that everything in China is negotiable. Everything.

    So, sorry for the long comment but that’s my two cents, if it can help anyone out there.

    1. Thank you Jackie… you are exactly right… read those contracts… and make them stick to them… there is many times I have had to “remind” my boss what the contract said. Teaching in China is wonderful.. but you need to just make sure your “i” are dotted and “T” are crossed.

  3. Hi there! I’m A-A woman in my early 30s. I’ve ALWAYS dreamed of living in another country for at least a year and I’m very interested in teaching english in China. I’ve been studying Mandarin for about a year now. I’m a medium/d.brown complexion (my picture is on my blog) and I’m planning to loc my hair soon. Will that make it difficult to find a job? Should I focus on teaching on the outskirts or the major cities? Thanks again! I look forward to reading more of your posts. ~Nika

    1. @Nikayuedan… As for your hair that is fine… no problem.. but please be aware many people will want to touch it and ask you questions about it. Since it is not common here… As for finding a job… that is a difficult question.. in some cases.. it is good to search in the big cities.. because you are better accepted because of the fact there are more foreigners… however, there are more foreigners.. so a little harder to get the job. On the other hand… the places on the outskirts of the cities and in the countryside.. need teachers badly… and will probably hire you quickly.. but.. you are in a place where you may be the only foreigner for miles…. so I guess. it kind of depends on you. I would try to apply in both and see what happens.

  4. Amber

    That is true. I had my heart set on South Korea maybe Taiwan. I would not be able to go right away. I have obligations. My friend is getting married and I am in her wedding. I also have obligations to my students. It would be a year from now. I am going to email you a link I found let me know if it is a reputable agency. I’m going to be extremely honest about my racial background and due to what happened to your friend, I intend to save up more money. Also I need another year or two in order to get a sabbatical. I hope I won’t be too old to teach all the people I see are young kids in their twenties.

    1. I dont know how old you are Amber.. but… they usually accept teachers that are under 50 years old… so if you are not over 50 you shouldnt have a problem. and you can send me any information you want. FYI, the young lady told me that the company she had used was ChinaESL… so stay away from this company.

    2. @Amber. Hi, I lived in both South Korea and Taiwan and let me recommend South Korea by far! I have seen more A-A expats there than anywhere and there are even a few cities outside of Seoul (and in Seoul too) where there is a black community going on (ok, not thousands of people, but enough to keep you happy and sane!) Both SK and T, like China, are still in a ‘pre-civil rights’ era, to quote the author of this blog. Things are improving slowly. Mind you, it applies to ‘everyone’ dark skinned, South East Asians also have a hard time here in East Asia, so do Chinese/Taiwanese with darker skin (Southerners and minorities.)
      Of course, SK is way more modern and developed than both T and C, so it’s less exotic is some ways, but that’s not a bad thing as when you want to do something cultural, it’s there, and when you just want something familiar, it’s easy to find. [And thanks to the army bases there, you can find a lot of stuff from home, which is major for one’s sanity, specially the first year far away.]
      T has a traditional culture you can’t find in C anymore, for better and for worse, as superstitions and weird traditions do persist and being an island, the island mentality can sometimes drive you nuts!
      As far as schools wanting to hire according to modeling criterias, they do so because of the parents and $. Most parents don’t want a dark-skinned teacher, for similar dubious reasons they don’t want American/Canadian Born Chinese to teach their kid either. I was told they want ‘real foreigners’ aka fair skin, pale hair and eyes, as if it had anything to do with teaching!
      Do you want to use your sabbatical year to come here and put up with that? There are tons of interesting countries were people are way more open minded and you could also have a fine time teaching there and make local friends more easily!

      1. Elise is correct… and if you want it easier then Korea is the way to go… the skin color thing is in prevelant in all Asian countries.. the young people are more open but like Elise said… it is the parents… that do not want a dark skinned person teaching their child. But I am not one to turn from a challenge… so China is where I am… hehehe…someone has to set the stage of Change…. and my mouth is big enough to do it… and still stay out of Chinese jail .. hehehe…

  5. beth

    “too dark-skinned or not beautiful enough to teach at their school”…WTF? wow..that is crazy! what has skin color & beauty got to do with ability to teach?
    This is crazy!!!! Someone needs to smack some sense into the heads of people who think that way. I’m aware that not all Chinese folks think that way. Thank God for that!!!!!

    God bless you for helping that young lady out! Fill us up on how things turn out for her(does she ends up getting the job? and what not).


    1. @Beth.. i diffinately will keep you posted… and yeah.. they even do that to other chinese people .. not only foreigners. On TV and in ad campaigns they are told this is what an American looks like, and this will draw more students to your school… blah, blah, blah….. even my boss came to me.. and said… “but Jo.. she isnt very beautiful and she is kind of dark-skinned .. not like you… ” I told him … “She is beautiful .. in a different way .. and then I said.. do you want a good teacher or do you want a model?” I said to him… remember you said that about me too… before…… he was like right, okay.. okay… My husband told me that night.. to not be angry with my boss.. because .. it is not what he thinks.. he is just telling you the truth about a lot of Chinese people here.. they look at that… and judge that way… my husband said… there is a chance he could lose money if he hired her… Lucky i have many connections for her… in the end my boss agreed to interview her and watch her teach a demo class…. on Monday…. so I see my school is trying to also do the right thing… just difficult in this kind of society.

  6. That’s so very good of you and I hope that this young lady isn’t too jaded about China and will start enjoying here stay there.

    I always wonder about some of these recruiters, and the bad ones penetrate even the reputable arenas.

    1. it is usually best to go thru a big agency… or directly thru a school. recruiters are out for a quick buck.. and dont care what happens to you. She sounds pretty positive now… after I spoke to her on the phone and she is very thankful… I think i just made a friend for life… lol

  7. Debbie from California

    I read and enjoy your blog from afar, enjoying your posts and livinig vicariously through your amazing and brave adventures. After reading this post, however, I know your kindness is boundless. You’re the best. I will continue to read and learn. Take care!

    1. Thank you Debbie… You know.. i just feel .. that I wouldnt want to be one out there with no one to turn to… and no matter who anyone is… we are all in a new country that isnt ours… and I dont know this girl.. but if she took the initative to come to china on her own.. then she is brave and special.. so she needs some kind of support system. I would do that for any person no matter the color of their skin or the country they come from.

  8. Thanks, for this post. I am sort of in a position where I am not exactly the best candidate (meaning I don’t have much experience nor a CELTA, Trinity or MA) so I know that I will be more prone to that feeling of “oh just accept anything for now”. But, I have to fight that feeling and really make sure to research and double check everything before setting foot out of the country. Luckily my deadline is for this Fall or next spring (so I can save money), so I am not in a rush to get a school. I am still thinking about going to South Korea or China, so when it gets closer to time, I will send an e-mail.

    Also speaking as a dark-skinned BW, is it more likely to get a job in the larger cities in China or is it just all around hard to get a position?

    1. Actually… some of the larger cities are more accepting because they have seen many types of people…. and the very poor cities are kind also .. because.. they just want someone to teach them english. YOu do not need exprience to teach english you just need a bachelor’s in something and get the TESOL or TEFL … which you can get online. Dont get discouraged. Please remember they usually hire for the next year half the year before. So if your planning for this fall you need to apply now.. for next spring you need to apply in the fall.

  9. Amber

    It did discourage me but that is ok. I am darker hued, natural hair and overweight. I would definitely be considered unattractive. I was researching and came across this prior to reading your blog. My heart dropped, I would never be offered employment over there. I will just live vicariously through your blog 🙂 It is sad that due to my appearance I can’t follow my dreams but such is the way of this world.

    1. Hey… Amber… if it is your dream to go overseas and teach then do it… just because some people feel that way doesnt mean all of them do.. and you can always go to Thailand, Taiwain, Korea… many places where you can experience things. If i let what everything i heard get me down .. i would ever be here married to my husband. I am a good size 16.. 14 on a good day… and I am not the ideal choice.. but i forced them to see beyond the color.

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