Add Your Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats is a very convenient 197 page handbook in eBook format. The travel blogging dynamic duo of Agness Walewinder and Cezary Krol from eTramping.com have teamed up with Sarah Bennett from TheFurtherAdventuresofBennett.com to bring you this clever collaboration of their living and teaching experiences in China.
This provides anyone interested with traveling to and potentially working in China with a bountiful of insightful information. If you’re pondering a full-time adventure in China this handbook is a must read as it’s written from the viewpoint of expats, not tourists.
The cover offers a mini gallery into the many beautiful destinations in China, teasing the traveler of what possibilities are in store for their excursion after they begin reading. You are assisted easily by the hyperlinks in the table of contents that will take you to any topic of interest instantly. How to get your Visa, the best places to travel, delicious food delights and the cost of a train trip in a soft bunk from Mongolia to Beijing, all of this and more are a mere finger tap away.
As mysterious and intriguing as China might actually be, the reality of moving to, living and working there could seem quite daunting. Yet they are mindful with a ”word of caution: One of the main things you need to consider is how you will feel leaving behind your home country, your family and your friends.”
Besides associating China with the notorious smog there is an entire spectrum of different climates to enjoy throughout the country. Solitary plateaus and majestic mountains that instill bitter cold where locals often leave their windows open. To exotic, tropical beaches and lowlands with sweltering heat. Any traveler will be able to find the appropriate location for whatever weather suits them best.
While writing anything in Chinese is intimidating, learning to speak Chinese may be easier than you realize. In this handbook they offer assurances and some simple instructions that with a little time and effort put forth you too can learn. There are seven main dialects with Mandarin being the most widely used. “You can easily pick up some words and then build sentences from them”.
If you get lost or completely perplexed in any given situation. Approach one of the Chinese and simply attempt to convey your problem through gestures. Remember, the Chinese speak very fast yet the authors remind you that the locals will be inclined to slow down once they notice you are a foreigner. “The fact that Chinese language structure has probably the easiest grammar structure in the world is a blessing.” The Chinese will offer to help you and are very family oriented.
Of course the much awaited, mouth-watering question anyone would have is about the food. “For the Chinese, food is everything and having a meal is like a ritual. They worship eating.” Meals can be epic in duration and all of the dishes placed upon the table are tasted. A calming note came with a mention that most dishes both in homes and in restaurants frequently arrive with a spoon. So don’t fret if you lack expert chopstick dexterity. Many entrée meals can be found for under $1.00 and the authors tease you with enticing food pictures such as Peking Duck and dumplings in the handbook.
The Chinese are very hard-working and the teaching profession is no exception with many individuals working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. The schools that the authors are contracted with provide nice living conditions, often large rooms along with rent and food stipends. They were adamant in being mindful that you should never have to pay to get a teaching job in China. English teachers are in such high demand in the country that it works to the benefit of the job seeker. An approximate salary of $1,000 a month was a reasonable base to expect with most contracts lasting 1 year. Cez mentioned his contract was focused on the employee’s rights and that is highly encouraging.
Subways and cabs are very cheap but be extremely wary of being cheated by the latter. The train is also inexpensive and a popular mode of cross-country travel. Due to the enormous size of China it can often be quicker to fly to the same destination at nearly equal the cost. For ¼ of the time spent that sounds like better time management. Don’t count out traveling by train just to reach a destination faster as getting there via rail can be a great experience and a wonderful way to view the countryside.
You can buy a phone in China for about $13.00 but be sure you continually have plenty of phone credits. China blocks Facebook and Twitter though you can apparently bypass that through a proxy. All of the teaching and visa applications, job hunting and interview processes are covered at length leaving very few, if any, remaining questions for the reader. A huge appeal is that each one of the authors gives their personal experience at the end of various chapters.
They stress the importance of maintaining a positive attitude in China and “saving face”. Hence, reminding you of the difference between living in a country versus being a tourist. If you were staying at a friend’s house common sense would dictate you would be polite with good manners. Living as an expat in China is no different.
Haggling on prices from everything to food and clothing to cab fares is actually expected. They give numerous tips so that “you can feel safe” in China. There are also a few pages filled with a library of different resources you can link to right from an Internet enabled eBook reader. These provide further information on all of the topics the authors covered.
If you are planning on taking a trip to China for travel, adventure or possible employment you will definitely want to get a copy of this incredibly fantastic, low-cost handbook. It’s organized, reads easily, is incredibly user-friendly and does the work for you!
Over the past year I’ve read more and more about travelers picking up stakes at home and moving to a new country to work and or live. My fascination was derived from one question, “How did they do it?” Add Your Brick to the Great Wall did a wonderful job of answering those questions. It’s available here in eBook format at Amazon.