Hitting “The Wall” in China


Hitting  “The Wall” in China is nothing to do about sports, or Pink Floyd. Its all about a mental barriers that almost every newcomer faces.

After the “Honeymoon Period”, generally sixty to ninety days, many will begin to feel the burden of accumulated stresses and cultural shock.

Suddenly, everything’s wrong. They question their fitness for China, why they are even in China and why they ever left their home country.

Not to worry, this is a temporary and completely curable condition.  Your mates will have been through it and will likely recognize the symptoms before you do.

The first part of the cure is to recognize “The Wall” for what it is, a common, temporary attitude distortion caused mostly by change of environment.

The second part of the cure is to surround yourself with friends and familiar things for a bit. Invite some friends over, talk about it, and  watch some favorite DVDs over a home country comfort food meal.

Basically, pull back into a comfort zone you have created until the storm passes, and it will pass in a couple of days or so.

Before you know it, you too will have pushed through “The Wall”.


If you would like to read more short posts about life in China or teaching in China, click HERE


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Being Sick in China

Teaching Sick in China

Illness in China

Illness in China




Almost like clockwork, about three weeks after a new teacher arrives in China, he gets a bout “Welcome to China” illness.  It feels like a mixture of a cold, the flu and being beat in as a member of a street gang.

The typical remedy is going to the hospital once or twice a day for a session of IVs that can last up to three hours.  When I first arrived in China, I became ill just before our long weekend classes. I was teaching all weekend and getting IV sessions before and after the teaching day. It was pretty miserable, but it went away after a few days.

IV therapy is used to treat common illness in China.

IV therapy is used to treat common illness in China.

The Chinese, more for cultural than medical reasons, make extensive use of IV therapy. There are huge rooms filled with walk-in IV patients. In the west, they would have picked up some pills on the way home from the doctor’s office.

I prefer the convenience of the pills. However, the IVs do work quickly to kick start the healing.

Chinese Medicine used for illness

Chinese Medicine

Before coming to China, you should have a supply of prescribed and OTC, (Over the counter medicine) to take with you. Unlike the United States, antibiotics are available OTC.  You can go into a drugstore and find antibiotics, there will be an English description of the product on the label too, (see photo below).

antibiotic label for illness

antibiotic label

An online Chinese-English  medical dictionary like Drdict can also be invaluable.

When it comes to antibiotics, try to find out what you have taken that worked before you come to China. You do not want to be fighting an illness and a reaction to the medicine at the same time.



Don’t Ride the First Horse…



Perils of riding the first horse to come along

China Teaching Perils


That’s one of the important pearls of wisdom my First Sergeant shared with me when I reported to my first duty posting in Korea.

And it applies equally to the ESL field around the world as well as ESL teaching in China..

As headmaster of Kenneth’s English School in Jilin, China, I often shared this with newly arrived teachers.

So, what does this riding a horse perils stuff mean?  In a nutshell, it means be choosy about whom you befriend.


Understand this, every large group and population has misfits, outcasts and exploiters, it is just the way of the world.  And they are always looking for someone to befriend or exploit.  When a new person arrives, they make a beeline for them.

I knew of a school that made the mistake of hiring a local drug dealer as a manager of the foreign teachers. Six months later the school fired six teachers after the drug-tested them. I have never heard of drug testing in China so I assume the Headmaster arranged this. In any event, one bad apple can spoil the bunch.


Now, at Kenneth’s English, our problem wasn’t really with our employees, (although we have have had, briefly, an oddball or two pass through our doors) so much as with people outside our school.

Her is a brief taxonomy of horses in China you do not want to ride:

The Blood-Sucker


vampire blood suckers


One particularly nasty exploiter is the one offering a “business opportunity”.  This blood-sucker usually initiates the scam by inviting you for “a dinner” at a restaurant.  Sometimes, the scammer will even be a parent of a student you teach.

What it eventually boils down to is you are asked to leave your current employer and become “partners” with the scammer.  It is a sweet sounding deal with fantastic projections and promises.

When you ask about your teaching visa status in China and the legality of this, you are told, “No problem, I have strong guanxie with government officials”.

A few months later, you will have yet to be paid, and discover you will have to immediately leave China because the promised visa has never arrived.  You’ve been had.

A variation on this is to ask you to work part time for the scammer or a competitor of your school.   The only real question is who will find you out first, the PSB, (Public Security Bureau) or your employer, (parents and students tend to see all and tell all). So firing and deportation are on your menu while the scammer dines on your account until the scheme is outed.


The Succubus


This is an attractively packaged bottomless pit of emotional neediness and materialistic demands launched like a wire-guided anti-tank round at the first spotting of a new teacher.  I have known of one who spent countless hours over a three day period  to “accidentally” meet a new teacher on his way to class.

There are countless attractive, intelligent and well intentioned Chinese girls and guys one can meet while teaching in China. However, when they come busting out the gate like a wild bronco, wanting a “serious relationship” before the first date has ended, you should be seeing red flags.

Also, it is easier to get rid of a liver parasite than one of these clingy creatures.  As a teacher once shared, “Never throw your girlfriend’s suitcases down the stairs, because sooner or later, you are going to be carrying them back up.”

And this holds true pretty much everywhere.

Unclassified Parasites


*  Parents who invite you to dinner and when you show up, you find a table full of children waiting for their free English lesson.

* People who walk up to you on the street and ask to be your “friend” and teach them English – for free.

* Television commercial producers who get you to perform in a commercial and then disappear when you are to be paid, (pro-tip: cash up front).

By now, I think you get the point. Go slow. Take your time,  and choose carefully who you call a friend.