Teaching English in China is a great experience as I am sure you have read on blogs such as this.
However, moving thousands of miles away from the comfort of your own home, away from family, friends and your beloved sports team can be daunting.
I’d like to say that once you arrive in China you adjust straight away and life is great, but that’s not always the case. I have found from some of the friendliest and happiest teachers that loneliness can creep in.
It doesn’t matter how many people that you have around you, it just seems to be a factor. That is, unless you have a significant other.
The luckiest guy in China
I arrived in Shanghai during the first week of January 2013.
I remember this very clearly; I’d just left my job in the UK to become an English teacher at English First - one of the world’s largest private education institutes. For me, the first few weeks were great.
The institute paid for my hotel stay when I arrived, along with 20 or so other teachers. We trained together, we hung out together and we were in China together all for the first time.
I was pretty lucky. No homesickness, no loneliness, just enjoying my new job and my new life abroad.
After training was over, the moment of truth arrived – I was going to Hangzhou to teach English. To my dismay, all of my newfound friends would either be staying in Shanghai or travelling to other Chinese cities to start their new jobs. This time marked the start of my loneliness.
I arrived in Hangzhou to be greeted by a local staff member. She took me to my hotel, and checked me in for a few days while I was looking for an apartment. They even helped me check listings and communicate with the agent.
I was grateful for this, and found a place pretty quickly. Although my apartment was nice and comfortable, I still felt a bit lost.
My experience in Hangzhou wasn’t quite the same as it was in Shanghai. I couldn’t hop on the metro and see my friends, I hadn’t met my colleagues yet, and the cold, hard reality set in – I was alone in China.
Every cloud has a silver lining (even in China)
As a month or so went by, my loneliness subsided somewhat. I was more content, but still, there was something missing. That is, until I met my future girlfriend!
Her name was Emily, and she was from another school from across town. She was covering in my center, and she seemed really cool. We both came from a similar background, and we were both interested in exploring China.
By the end of the day we met, we had exchanged our details on WeChat. Following that, we began to get to know each other in the 21st century way. We had long conversations, voice messages and emojis.
We got on like a house on fire!
A few more months had passed, and Emily and I were spending more and more time together. We visited Hangzhou’s famous sites, like the massive West Lake. And we travelled to neighboring cities and towns, including beautiful Shaoxing.
West Lake in Hangzhou.
Things were getting more serious. Before long, I was happy again. I felt like I did when I arrived, if not better.
And to top it all off, I was enjoying teaching in China more than ever. Emily and I soon became a couple, and the rest is history.
Having a partner while teaching in China
It’s not unusual to meet your partner at work these days.
Since living in China, we have met many couples who are teaching English as a foreign language. At my school, and many others, this is pretty normal.
The schools don’t seem to mind. Sometimes, you have to keep the relationship low key, but this is only if you are teaching in the same school. The main reason for this is that they don’t want any bad vibes should the relationship break down.
If you work in a language training school, another issue could be getting the same days off. You need to try and find a way to see each other, so you could try to negotiate this in advance (before you start teaching).
Benefits of being a couple in China
I’d say it is pretty easy being a couple in China.
If your accommodation in China isn’t included with your school contract, you can save a fortune on rent if you live together. Travelling together is cheaper too.
I wouldn’t recommend coming to China only to ‘hook up’ with someone new, as this may not happen. If you are an existing couple, I know that most schools can accommodate you and help you find a job in the same area.
And last, but certainly not least, having a partner gives you a feeling like no other. Life alone is great, but I’s say that life is best when it is shared.
Have you found happiness in China? Share your thoughts below.