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If you’re seriously looking to escape your current bore of a life because you feel flaccid by the concept of routines and schedules, then I understand how travelling to Asia can be appealing and e’rectifying, I do, seriously, I was a noose and a cocktail away from seeing Pol Pot before I became clueless in Asia.
But, before you go, there are a few things you need to know if you’re wanting to find employment as a teacher. I say, ‘teacher’ because that’s pretty much all you can do as a foreigner in China unless of course you’re fluent in Chinese and want to stay permanently… which, well…come on.
I do believe that an individual should be hired on a fair and equal basis regardless of their ethnicity, and ultimately individuals should be hired on reflection of their skills and experiences. Though, the following ‘checklist’ serves the purpose of preparation for those wanting to venture to China. Consider this to be an insight to some of the strict, ruthless, and callous ‘check-listing’ that you may be subject to. I do not believe it is politically incorrect or insensitive to list or expose the cruel and derogatory terms that others have set.
Disclaimer: Please do note that the ‘criteria’ that I am listing, is and has been written from personal experiences and from the experiences of others. This list does not reflect the feelings, views or opinions of myself.
1. Be White.
Wow, okay, what a start. This is difficult. I want to start with this one to essentially ‘get it out of the way’.
One of the biggest benefits for a foreigner is to be white. Now I don’t mean white as in, ‘stick a swastika patch on your backpack you Neo-Nazi fu*k and you’ll be fine’, but white as in ‘white of skin’. As shocking as that sounds, it is true. From experience, China has a very negative outlook towards black people, as many associate them with drugs and crime, so as a black individual, you will find it very difficult to not only work in China but to live.
Of course, many of you will be thinking, “yeah, duh, racism is a global phenomenon. Black people are no strangers to it”, and yes, you’d be right, but in China, racism is not frowned upon, in fact, it’s pretty much openly expressed without inhibition.
A brief example for you. Once upon a time, I was on the metro commuting to work when a black man came on to the train. He nodded to me, and I him, like a sign of mutual respect for being foreigners alike, like two bus drivers passing one another. To my surprise and disgust, the Chinese commuters who were spread out like the gazelle in the savannah, suddenly huddled together towards the other end of the train avoiding eye contact with him at all cost, as if he was riddled with disease and there to lay eggs in everyone’s mouth.
I looked at him, he looked at me, and I just shook my head and as did he (lovely, I’m a poet of racism, what’s next, white supremacy and Nazism?).
You may be thinking, “ah, maybe they all just fell on top of each other at one end and stopped looking”, but you’d be wrong. Firstly, you’re wrong because you’re one of those annoying people who excuse everything (I hate you). Secondly, it would be wrong to deny the victims palpable claim; and thirdly, Chinese people love to stare at foreigners, it’s like, a fetish or ‘summin’.
And here’s another, one that is quite frankly worse. As a teacher in a public school, I had asked students to read from their English language workbooks. The workbook contained scripts for the students to read out and each line was spoken by a character; I began assigning each student a line, but every student categorically refused to read the lines of the black character. They sat shaking their little heads at me whilst I shouted, “be the black one!”
After total refusal from all students, I questioned as to why no one wanted to read the lines from this character (bear in mind I knew why, but I wanted to question their reasoning), one child shouted out, “dirty!” to which the classroom turned into an orchestra of laughter. Even the assistant teacher was slapping her knee!
I cannot say that it is impossible to find work as a black individual, but to my knowledge, it is hard. I have been involved in the hiring process and have heard many times before credentials have even been considered, “White or black?”
That’s not to say that white people are not subject to racism too, but in regards to being hired as a teacher, black people will be victim to harsh and barbaric scrutiny.
It is a sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.
2. Be Native.
It’s not the most important criteria, but it sure does help. I know teachers that speak English as their second language and speak it far better than some natives do, especially those who roam about the streets mouthing, “brap brap, I wear a backwards cap”, as they probably, in fact almost definitely, don’t know what a simile is, nor a metaphor. It’s like they’re a hollow carcass with the Union Jack painted on it, pretending to be real, or that they are indeed a hollow carcass with the Union Jack painted on it, pretending to be real (see what I did there).
To shed light on that, you’d be amazed at how little you know of the language you speak. Students who study English as a second language will know the language far better than you (a native speaker). Whilst you’re busily abbreviating because you can’t be bothered to say, “bring your own beer” like some yuppy, students of English are whipping out conjunctions left right and centre, smacking you in the mouth with words you didn’t know existed.
“What’s that? Holophrasis! POW!“
Why? Because I, a native speaker, does not need to know what a ‘gerund’ is when telling my wife what I’m doing, I just, ‘tell’. Unlike students of the English language who need to quite literally list five adjectives before they eat their fu*king cheese and pickle sandwiches, all in order to jump through whatever hoops have been set according to a tape from Oxford! (sorry, I got red-faced and breathless then).
“mmm, this sandwich is delicious and yummy, though I wouldn’t have had it if it wasn’t for mummy. The cheese is strong and the green pickles long.” (that turned into a ruddy song).
Being native, and white means you’ll most likely get the teaching job before you’ve even done a trial lesson. You see, the parents do like to brag about their children being taught by a
foreigner westerner, so the schools like to give the parents something to brag about, it’s that simple
No, don’t worry, you don’t really need to know English grammar, yes, it’s your job and you’re responsible for the teaching of many countless innocent children, but so long as you’re white and native, everything will be okay.
3. Be Good Looking.
There’s not much to be said here, other than, “be somewhat decent looking”.
This sounds almightily vain and obnoxious, I know, but it’s true. Bad skin? Forget it! I’ve seen a girl get rejected from a school because she was “too ugly”.
Appearance is everything, not your clothes, because ironing just simply doesn’t happen there, but your face, so get it bloody ready. That doesn’t mean iron your face, let me just make that clear, otherwise, you’ll look as if you’ve got dried PVA all over you, or worse, dried sexpiss on your skin.
On CV’s in China, your face must be at the top of the page and in large, along with any health problems you may be having or going to have. Yes, future tense, ‘going to’, I’ve seen people listing their families health history. I mean, why hire you if you’re just going to die a year later. Seems efficient and ruthless, the perfect combination for…
(you filled that blank, not me!)
As mentioned previously, parents love to boast about their child’s new teacher, and if you’re handsome or beautiful, they will ask for selfies and most likely invite you to lunch and or dinner. If you’re ugly, then they will ignore you. Which come to think of it, isn’t a bad thing at all.
I know of a friend who is pestered every week by his student’s parents to have dinner with the family, even arranging entire evenings with him as the centrepiece, inviting numerous other parents, all without even asking him if he can attend in the first place; which illustrates the ideology of ownership. When he politely rejects the weekly request, he is made to feel guilty.
Which brings me to a side note. Be prepared to feel owned, especially if you’re teaching in a language centre. The parents consider you to be a part of their purchase, meaning that when they paid for a course for their child, they also purchased you, so don’t be too surprised when they make unreasonable demands from you, and give you permission to go for your lunch break.
“You’re going for lunch? Okay, I agree. I will allow this.”
“You…wha…uh…you agree? Thank you, Mao.”
Blonde hair and blue eyes go a long way in China, so, if you’re an Aryan, you’ll do great. Well done you for being pure.
4. Don’t Be Too Good.
You know when you lose an activity on purpose because you’re in the process of courting/grooming and you want to seem ‘supportive’ or whatever, or when you’re trying to suck up to your boss so you lose that game of pool on purpose? Well, do that!
Sounds mental, I know, but don’t be too good at your job or the Chinese teachers won’t like you. If you show them up, it reflects badly on them, so don’t expect their entire support. It’s in their best interest to make sure you struggle.
Being too good can also cause difficulties for management, and here’s a perfect opportunity to scrutinize Dick yet again by using an example from his big fat menu of lies, cheese and deceit.
A good friend of mine called, Woody, was asked to cover a lesson from Donatello, as he was sick. Remember Donatello? He was the very first guy to meet me when I came to China in Chapter 3. Knowing that Woody was far better than Donatello, Dick actually instructed Woody to “do a bad job” because “otherwise the parents will want you and it will be a nightmare to change all the classes.”
I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t be the unicorn liver pate, be the value tub of margarine, capiche!
5. Don’t Be Too Tall.
Okay, so this one isn’t necessarily a general truth, but I’ve seen it happen. I know of a case where a teacher who was loved by many students, was actually fired because the Headmaster felt insignificant standing next to him.
There are many cultural ‘complexities’ about China in regards to social mentality, and for men, one of them is not to feel inadequate or outdone by other men, especially by a foreigner. The teacher in question was renowned for his patience, skill and experience, but unfortunately for him, on photo day, he was taller than the Headmaster, making the head of the school feel, well…small and outdone.
If you’re mega tall then you’re probably going to have problems with your limbs when you’re older, so… sort that out. That’s what you get with Clueless in Asia, I’m not just limited to travel advice, but medical advice too.
Anyway, If you’re a white native of an English speaking country and want to be an accessory that gets dangled in front of parents, then what’re you waiting for guys, get your average body height out to China!
If you’re of an ethnicity that isn’t white, and you’re gangly, my friends, don’t let barbaric, knuckle-dragging primitives get in your way, seriously, please don’t let these subjections stop you.
Despite this seemingly humiliating and very specific checklist, I’ve known of a teacher who has physically abused children but was allowed to carry on as his classes were making money (good ole Dick…yeah, he knew and allowed it).
So, I guess, whether you’re white, black or an abuser, there’s room for everyone.
Power to the people!