Jan 232014


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.

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Mike Vogler

I have been told (many times) that I really need to write a book about my life. The past 50+ years have been an exciting ride, and these days I find myself with a great many passions. However, I feel that this website is a much more personal way with which to share my musings, stories and commentary.

  44 Responses to “Add Your Brick to the Great Wall, A Handbook Review”

  1. Hi Mike,

    What an exhaustive review!! I didn’t know you review books too! Being cheated and haggling for prices is an interesting info…similar to India! Being hard working also is similar!

    China has always intrigued me but I have never considered travelling to that country, mainly because of their language. This book seems to be quite interesting!

    May I ask your terms and conditions for writing reviews?

    • Of course you can ask, Balroop! And right now they are really inexpensive since book reviews have not been in blogging repertoire. If I do ever pursue it more frequently I would let you know. There are some amazing, elite reviewers out there also. Some of which read this blog from time to time. Thank you SO much for the incredible compliments! 🙂

  2. This sounds like a good retirement idea. I’m not sure about going to China though, I’m more of a Central and South America type of guy.

    • It really would be a great retirement plan as well as how these folks did it just starting out in careers. Great point, Ed 🙂

  3. Great review Mike!

  4. A very thorough review. I want to move to China, just so I can buy the book 🙂

    • Hey, there’s a fantastic compliment and thank you, Jan! They really did write it in a very enticing tone 🙂

  5. Sounds like a fantastic guide to getting started in China. I’ve yet to visit but my husband has been about 7 times and is very keen to learn Mandarin – in fact listens to taps regularly.
    It always strikes me as a tough country to visit but a guide like this is a big first step to going.

    • I was very impressed with how they addressed each area that someone would be faced with, Leigh. Gosh, I would think that would be hard to learn Mandarin via tape without some one on one conversational help. My hats off to your husband and wishing him great luck! 🙂

  6. Mike,
    you continually educate me on new topics. Thank You.

    Love to you, dearest.

    & Kissssssssssssss for my doggie.

    • Well, thank you so very much Kim and our love back to you! Ok, Phoenix says double that from him xoxo’s 🙂

  7. Looks like a great book to read before a trip to China! Loved your review, Mike~

  8. Sounds like a great ebook and I’m very familiar with eTramping and love reading Cez & Agness’ blog.I’m not going anytime to CHina soon but I would recommend this for anyone traveling there.

    • Their blog is terrific, Mary, and they did an amazing job with this handbook! So easy to read and learn from 🙂

  9. This sounds like a wonderful resource. My father was an expat in China, although he arrived with the advantage of already being able to read and speak Mandarin and Cantonese. My husband’s company eventually picked Malaysia as their Asia base over China because China was perceived to be more difficult to convince Americans to move to. Malaysia has been interesting in that we get a lot of Chinese culture due to the large Chinese population (44% of the island where I live). I visited China a few months ago as a tourist and was impressed by how well our guides spoke English. Of course, that is probably one of the primary reasons why they were hired. Those teachers are doing a good job.

    • One thing I didn’t mention in my review is that I’m a HUGE fan of teachers in general as my parents chose that career path all of their lives. I’m so very proud of what Agness and Cez all of the others have done over there to help those kids. That is so cool that your husband is so multilingual (is that the right word?)! It’s a great handbook and I highly recommend it. I’m glad you guys are enjoying the different cultures and it’s fantastic to hear from you, Michele! 🙂

  10. Thank you so much Mike for reading our ebook and recommending it to everyone. This review is just wonderful. I’m speechless! Love, Agness.

    • You are very welcome! The three of you are so very deserving for the shout outs for all of your hard work and fantastic accomplishments, Agness. You really knocked the handbook out of the park. Excellent job! 🙂

  11. Mike, I’d like to echo Agness’ sentiments above – thanks so much for taking the time and effort to review our book and introducing many more people to China and its possibilities 🙂

    • I would absolutely go there just BECAUSE of the handbook the three of you wrote, Sarah! I’ve been following and commenting on your series over at Flights and Frustrations 🙂

  12. We are very grateful that you took the time to read our book and review it! I hope that you would be able to visit us in China one day – with Phoenix of course.

    • I really enjoyed it, Cez! That would be a dream come true for me that you two could meet Phoenix and all of us have a play day at a park. Unfortunately, he can’t fly over there obviously. So, it’s going to be a long swim. I figure if I keep tossing his tennis ball in the water ahead of him we should make it in a year or so…weather permitting. Keep up the great work and stay safe always in your ventures! 🙂

  13. What a lot of interesting information. Perhaps I should look for a job in China?

    • What’s ironic to your comment is that approaching an early retirement I asked myself the same question, Mette! 🙂

  14. I love this review! Massive kudos to Agness for publishing such a helpful and informative guide, such a fabulous accomplishment! And I now have a huge respect for teachers in China working all those days and hours…perhaps it’s no wonder that their education system is trumping ours?! Lessons to be learned here:-)

    • You just said something that I didn’t think about before, “perhaps it’s no wonder that their education system is trumping ours?!” Absolutely spot on and you nailed it! Gawd that was great insight, Jess. I mean that 🙂

  15. I met those awesome travel bloggers through your site and they’re wonderful! I’m fascinated with their travel ventures. This book is incredible. Just reading your review I’ve learned so much! (great review, btw!)

    I’ve decided if I ever needed to disappear, I’d go to China. I’m comforted by the fact I could get a teaching job. Lol

    • I’m with you on how much I learned too, Beth! LOL…to disappearing. A beautiful white girl according to the book is highly admired and fawned over. Might be a bit difficult to pull that off in your case my dear 🙂

  16. Great review, Mike. I have yet to visit China, but when I do, I’ll consider this guide!

    • I highly encourage it for anyone, Dana! It’s worth far more than it’s being sold for in my humble opinion 🙂

  17. “So don’t fret if you lack expert chopstick dexterity.”

    Ha! Ha! That’s me! I’ve never been able to get the hang of it!

    • Me either, Patti! Lordy have I tried but after 5 minutes I’m about to start eating with my hands due to hunger. And in China that would not be proper manners 🙂

  18. Hi Mike, such great review of the work of two of the wonderful people I know (Agness and Cez) in the blogger world. I wish them all the best in their e-book from the bottom of my heart. And bless you for giving them such a great shout out. Hugs to you and Phoenix.

    • Ya know, I think it’s that I live vicariously through them, Marisol. The review was completely impartial and I would not want to write one again on a friend(s) book. Regardless, the three of them did an absolutely fantastic job and I would recommend it…heck, buy it as a gift..for anyone wanting to follow their footsteps! 🙂

  19. I love reading the blogs from Agness and Cez. This book is for sure a great resource for anybody wanting to visit or move to China. A great review Mike

    • They are absolutely wonderful bloggers and the handbook would serve anyone well who was wishing to travel to China in any capacity! Thank you for the compliment I really appreciate it 🙂

  20. Sounds like a great and helpful guide. My in-laws traveled to China with friends (the husband had traveled there many times for work) and had a wonderful time. They talked about it for years.

    • They painted an entirely different picture of China for me after reading it. Very positive, upbeat and full of beautiful culture and people. And you confirmed that with your in-laws as well,Ally 🙂

  21. Nice review! You give just enough information to give potential readers a good idea of all that the book offers.

    • I sure have been waiting and hoping for a comment from you on this one specifically, Jeri! I thought about you the entire time I was writing it because of what an incredibly awesome reviewer you are. Thank you SO much for your compliment, that means the world to me! 🙂

  22. Sounds so fun to teach abroad in China! I’ve some friends in South Korea right now and they seem to be having a blast! 🙂 I taught English last year in Germany but somewhere more exotic would be great too!

    • I think I”ve told you before how envious I was that you were able to teach in Germany, Michelle! My #1 bucket list country wish list. I hear ya on somewhere more exotic but wow you have a never ending list of destinations available by car or rail in Europe! Great to hear from you 🙂

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