How to cope with culture shock in China

Coping with culture shock in any country significantly challenges our understanding of assumed societal norms. Through growing up and studying in your home country, you may become accustomed to specific ways similar activities are done, which may be done differently in other countries. Culture shock can initially be scary. However, it can be overcome with an open mind and reflection. In this page, we look to explore a variety of methods that have helped international teachers in China cope with their culture shock and look to share those ideas in practical examples from which you can use to help reduce the culture shock you experience in China.

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How can I understand the differences?

The first method is to learn the rules of living in China and progressing to understand the key differences activities are completed. You could look at the mealtimes, modes of transport, how people are courteous to one another, what is considered rude and the formalities for the dress code and body language. As you can see here in this shortlist, there are lots of assumptions you may make based on the information you have learned within your own culture. By being open-minded enough to realise that culturally these factors may be different, will allow you to remove prejudice and therefore accept the culture of your host country.

A parked train

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Will learning the language help?

Another useful suggestion to remove culture shock when visiting China is to learn the language. Whether that is Mandarin or Cantonese, learning the language is a fantastic way of developing relationships with Chinese citizens and being able to connect the people both in your professional and social environment. This will allow you to ask questions and become more familiar with their perspectives, as they can share with you their thoughts, ideas, and cultural understandings, allowing you to reflect on your assumptions and believed truths.

How can I reduce my negative feelings?

As you are introduced to China and their culture for the first time this may be quite stressful. You may feel angry, confused, or have negative feelings towards the culture you are in because you have been accustomed to your understanding of living, from your home environment. If you find yourself losing your sense of humour, feeling irritable or frustrated, taking care of yourself can be an amazingly effective tool to reduce how these symptoms affect your relationships whilst teaching in China. We suggest getting involved in a group outside your professional environment like a travel club, joining the gym and the classes involved, going on your ebike and exploring the city you’re living in, or talking to friends and family back home.

Talking with friends and family back home can help ease you into the international teacher lifestyle in China, by allowing you to gradually be exposed to Chinese culture while still experiencing your own back home. You will be able to tell stories about your experiences in China and will have your friends and family share their perspectives on your interesting situations. Whilst WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube do not work in China, you need to convince your friends and family to get WeChat to communicate with you that via video call. Alternatives to WeChat our Skype, and with limited access, Zoom.

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Your FAQs

We’ve put together a Resources Page to answer your most frequent questions. From Saving Money, to Getting Your Z-VISA, we have gone into detail there.

Your school will apply for your VISA for you to work directly for them. We’ll be with you every step of the journey. We’ve created our own VISA Support Page. Remember, the VISA you’re applying for is a Z-VISA.

You will have a minimum of a one-year contract, that will be full-time. You can save a lot of money teaching in China, and we’ve put together more information for you to read.

When you are directly employed by the school, they will offer you insurance. This means private level care. Be sure to check your contract for sick days.

You will have to go through your bank to legitimately send money home. To do this, follow the steps they give you. Your school will help support you and will be able to translate anything you need.

That is fantastic news! Not speaking Chinese is great for your students, as you will be able to immerse them in English more. We’ve also put together an Essential Mandarin Guide, and Benefits For Learning Mandarin when you’re exploring.