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Are you guilty of stereotyping your Chinese students?

 
Guest blogger Nicholas McKay identifies three stereotypes of Chinese students and explains why they’re inaccurate.
There are three stereotypes of Chinese students, as Nicholas McKay explains.

There are inaccurate stereotypes of Chinese students, according to Nicholas McKay.

In teaching English to second-language learners, there are many stereotypes I have come across. Some teachers I’ve met are quick to label their students.

Below are just some of the stereotypes I have heard in conjunction with Chinese learners.

Stereotype one: Chinese students do not participate in classroom activities

Whoever was the first to suggest this has clearly never visited my year 10 English class (I’ve previously mentioned them before): 24 Australian students, and not one of them was eager to talk. I imagine Tutankhamen’s tomb is louder!

A number of teachers I’ve met are quick to point out Chinese students don’t want to lose face. Fear of giving the wrong answer stops them from speaking. However, this idea could be applied to students of all backgrounds.

When a student says something wrong, their peers are often quick to criticize. Students have concluded that the best way to avoid embarrassment is to not say anything at all. Some teachers misconstrue this as evidence that students lack competence.

This is contradicted by the many Chinese students who I’ve met that love talking during class, albeit in their mother tongue. This is despite the great big sign on the wall which reads ‘English Only Zone’.

Students bring with them a lot of knowledge. However, they are far more confident communicating in their native language.

Furthermore, some Chinese students prefer silence. They use the time as an opportunity to think, generating their own individual meaning.

Some teachers believe that the students who don’t talk, don’t understand.

There are, however, other ways students demonstrate comprehension. By observing those students who rarely speak, I sometimes notice they use reams of paper, jotting down notes, demonstrating their thoughts.

Communication isn’t just speaking. Although I am one of the first to admit that dialogue is important, sometimes it’s not the students’ fault.

Some teachers ask students to regurgitate information back at them. Other teachers ask closed-ended questions. These require little thought, and honestly, some students find these annoying.

In case you haven’t noticed already, many Chinese students enjoy a challenge, and have a thirst for self-improvement.

With this in mind, perhaps teachers could think of ways to motivate verbal communication. Try pair work, or small group tasks. Or give students a whole class activity that requires them to get out of their chairs.

Example

I recently gave permission for a learner to ask students about their favorite food over lunchtime. He kept a journal of all the interactions he took part in.

In short, maybe the students are just not experiencing the appropriate atmosphere for dialogue.

As a further example, I recently discovered a student I’ve been observing has a fondness for music.

Though he’s usually silent, he writes lyrics and poetry, and is learning the guitar. While writing this article, I was observing him, and other students, undertaking a test.

Upon completion, during which he was allowed to leave, he said: “I can disappear silently from the world, until another day.” I found this very poetic.

In short, perhaps the inclusion of music or poetry into the lesson could motivate him to contribute further. Might something similar work for your students?

I’ve met many learners who don’t fit the stereotype that Chinese students refuse to participate interactively.

Two Chinese girls I met recently were the total opposite. In fact, it was trying to stop them from talking that was the problem.

Additionally, after having a class summarize some readings, there was one Chinese girl who surprised me. The task was very short but after ten minutes she was still talking!

Moreover, there was a boy, who, whenever I called upon him to speak, said one word: “Nah!” However, when it came to giving an oral presentation, his voice was as clear as it was confident.

I also met another young girl, who, despite her height, spoke louder than King Kong. Though many have said Chinese girls are shy, she went around the school punching people in the arm to get their attention.

In short, this stereotype is very wrong.

Stereotype two: Chinese students are obedient

A friend of mine told me once that Chinese students have immense respect for their teachers. So much so, they will believe anything their teachers say.

In having taught a class of Chinese students, I can confirm that many of them are incredibly respectful, in contrast with their western counterparts.

The Chinese students I taught at high school were very compliant. In telling them to listen, stop talking, or do the work, they would always follow instructions.

When I provided similar instructions to my Australian students, I would have to yell until I was blue in the face before they took me seriously.

Chinese students originate from a culture where great respect is bestowed upon elders. Where Australian teachers I’ve met have said “teaching is a thankless profession”, Chinese teachers are seen as important figures.

China even has a Teachers Day, where educators are praised for their abilities. No offence to my home, but I can hardly imagine Australia ever doing this.

Moving on, I’ve rarely had to raise my voice when teaching Chinese students. However, I know this isn’t always the case.

Example

When I attended school as a student, there was a Chinese boy in my class. I remember him particularly, because he had some of the worst behavioral issues I’ve ever seen.

In one class, he set fire to the curtains when the teacher left the room to talk to another misbehaving student. On another occasion he punched a hole in the plaster because he was told off.

There was even an occasion when he brought a knife to school, and threatened the lives of many others. I can think of a dozen other instances, too.

The truth is, there are bad apples in every society. How teachers respond to these instances though, is what’s most important.

Stereotype three: Chinese students lack critical thinking

I read recently that second-language learners may make the best second-language teachers. This is because they understand the difficulties faced during second-language acquisition.

Students require an opportunity to construct their own individual understanding. As stated previously, Chinese students occasionally prefer to do this silently.

In the West, we often depict the Chinese as being the smartest people on Earth. Due to this, I think we sometimes expect too much from our Chinese students.

Learning is longitudinal, and because of this, it takes time. Corners cannot be cut to extradite this process.

I once met a teacher who informed me, “You cannot save everyone”. In short, some students are beyond help. This has pertinence, because I’m surprised by how many teachers immediately give this label to second-language students.

Truthfully, even low-literacy learners are capable of achieving much. Just because their English skills are not superb does not mean they are not superb in other learning areas. These students hence will draw on anything around them to communicate with.

Again, it comes down to the situation that teachers give to their students. If we do not provide opportunities to foster constructive, creative or critical thinking, our students cannot be held accountable.

Example

Although Chinese students may respect what teachers say, that doesn’t mean they won’t critically reflect. As an example, I recently asked students to draw me a response to a question.

One Chinese girl, however, incorporated writing into her response. I asked her why she hadn’t followed instructions. She referred to a previous comment of mine, ‘rules are meant to be broken’. She therefore took some initiative, believing that mantra fit the situation.

For students to be critical, we must foster this ability. To do so, we must incorporate support, examples and patience, else who are we to expect this from students?

Final thoughts

Some teachers I’ve met, when they stereotype their students, try to justify their opinions. However, these teachers should instead be looking for individual differences amongst their learners.

Regardless of the culture or ethnicity of students, teachers are likely to encounter a variety of different personalities. Yes, some Chinese students may be quiet, though others might be aggressively active.

Some students may be reserved, though others could be outgoing. Some students may be very well-behaved, just like others might be positively rotten. Not every student fits a stereotype, because no two students are the same.

The moment we begin to stereotype our students, we immediately cease to notice them for who they are. When it comes to education, this is quite possibly the biggest crime a teacher can commit.

Are you guilty of stereotyping your students? Please comment below.

DISCOVER THE TOP 5 CHALLENGES FACING ENGLISH TEACHERS IN CHINA

How to strike a balance between behavior management and student connections

 
In this personal account, guest blogger and teacher Nicholas McKay provides insight into how he balances student connections with behavioral management.
Striking the right balance between behvavior management and student connections can be challenging.

How do you strike the right balance between behavior management and student connections?

Personally, I find behavioral management to be challenging. It’s a classroom practice I’m not particularly confident in. Though mentor teachers of mine have praised my techniques, they likewise felt concerned.

Considering some of the nightmarish stories I’ve heard about unruly behavior, I’m not surprised. A friend of mine once worked as a year level coordinator. One day, he was called to a classroom because the teacher had lost total control.

Tables and chairs had been knocked over. Students were running around, screaming and throwing papers. Some of the boys were even playing a miniature game of football.

The unfortunate truth is, once the respect students have for their teacher is gone, it’s very difficult to get back.

When I began teaching, I was like a Dalek: “If you do not do the work,” I commanded robotically, “you will get a detention.” I shudder at the memory.

While undertaking my teaching qualifications, I was told not to smile until after Easter. In short, do not let students see you as a person, else they will lose respect for you.

I don’t believe this is the case. In being a robot, I built the same wall Donald Trump wants to construct, between my students and me. In being myself, I developed connections.

Getting the balance right between behavior management and student connections is important, according to teacher Nicholas McKay

Teacher Nicholas McKay was told not to smile at his students.

During my first ever English classroom, I was surrounded by a sea of Asian faces. I was quite possibly one of the whitest people they’d ever seen. Being a robot wasn’t going to cut the mustard.

We were studying essay writing. When the topic of stereotyping came up, I used my class as an example. “Who here’s heard the expression all Asians are bad drivers?” I called out.

The class heatedly responded “yes”. “I’ve had three girlfriends in my life,” I announced, only to have many class members whistle and cheer. “Yes, I’m a player!” I teased. “Out of my three girlfriends, two of them were Asian, and both were better drivers than I will ever be.”

During this transaction, not only did the class gain an understanding of a stereotype, they also learned that I had prior experience communicating with people from their ethnic background. They, in turn, trusted me more.

Some of my favorite students have in fact been those who misbehaved.

I interacted with them so frequently I came to know them, not as learners, but as people. In doing so, I understood them, and what was required to ensure they did the work.

On the first day of teaching at my second school, I was told: “There are four absolutely atrocious boys in Year 10 – and guess what? They’re all in your English class. Go get ‘em, tiger!”

My experiences with this classroom was a wakeup call on behavioral management. For starters, students MUST immediately recognise you as the teacher at the beginning of every lesson. The simplest way to do this – have students line up!

Secondly, seating plans; friendship groups frequently result in distractions. Indefinitely separating friends will often result in increased concentration.

Thirdly, don’t ever be afraid to raise your voice. The first time I yelled in my Media classroom, I scared some of the students. They weren’t used to me shouting.

If ever I do yell, I remember to approach the student before the end of the lesson, to make it known that no hard feelings are held. You’d be surprised how easily students can grow to resent their teachers, because they’re convinced the teacher hates them.

I also never use the word ‘please’; it sounds like I’m begging. “Please child, could you do this for me?” No, not on! Instead, I say ‘thank you’. “Could you stop talking and do the work? Thank you.” This implies I trust students will do as instructed.

Students, however, don’t like being told off, even when they know they were misbehaving.

“But Sir, Tiffany was talking too!” This rebuttal could easily be one a student makes.

In that case, I make sure not to argue with them. “That may be so,” I begin, “but you were the one I saw talking.” By saying this, I am acknowledging their statement, while fairly disciplining behavior that I witnessed.

At all times, I try to remain calm. One student I taught almost always refused to participate in other classes because teachers frequently responded to his misbehavior with yelling. He would, in turn, yell back.

An unruly class can test you when it comes to getting the balance right between behavior management and student connections

Even if you have an unruly class, try to remain calm.

During my class, I didn’t yell at him, instead, opting to speak in a calm, non-argumentative manner, resulting in him doing the work. By knowing your students, a teacher will learn which behavioral tactics are most appropriate for each.

Fourthly, detentions are one of the most powerful devices in a teacher’s arsenal. Students often realise the importance of the work when this consequence is used.

Detentions should only be handed out unless absolutely necessary, for teachers are technically giving themselves a detention as well.

If, however, students refuse to attend, a detention with the coordinator is the next step.

Finally, and this is probably the most important part, don’t forget to have fun. Yes, you’re a teacher, but these are children you’re working with.

When asking students in the aforementioned English class what qualities they liked in teachers, many responded, “For teachers to be themselves”. They found this behavior to be weird, charming and cute.

Students dislike boring environments. So make sure you don’t inadvertently create one while being hung up on maintaining your distance. We’re all people after all.

Having recently completed a Master of Teaching in Secondary Education, Nicholas McKay is currently studying a Graduate Certificate of TESOL and considering his long-term teaching career options.

How do you manage students’ behavior while trying to maintain connections with them? Please comment below.

Teaching abroad: Why China is better than South Korea

 
You’ve decided to teach overseas but can’t pick between China and South Korea. To help make the choice easy for you, here’s five reasons why China is the better option.
Shanghai's standing as a world city is just one reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

China has so much more to offer than South Korea (sorry, Psy!).

Tossing up between China and Japan? Read our comparison here.

It’s cheaper

China is a developing country, South Korea isn’t. This means that things are generally cheaper in China.

You can buy a delicious, piping-hot lunch from a street vendor for just one or two U.S. dollars, and wash it down with a supermarket-bought bottle of water for about 20 cents. Now that’s cheap!

Cheap food is just one reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

Food’s cheap in China.

Accommodation, utility bills and even your internet connection are covered by many schools in China. This means your spending will be restricted to just food and public transport, and any extra-curricular activities like sightseeing or hitting the bars and clubs.

Unless you’re constantly eating out at Western restaurants, you can easily live in China for under $10 a day.

There’s loads more to do

If you could pick up South Korea and place it in China, you would have to do it 95 times to fill up all of China. That’s how big the country is.

Luckily, bullet trains connect cities and towns of all sizes thanks to an extensive transport network. This means you can, quite literally, train-hop from one place to the next, taking in all that the country has to offer.

The capital, Beijing, is a treasure trove of attractions, from the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven in the city center to the Great Wall of China just a couple of hours away.

There's loads more to do - just one reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

The Temple of Heaven is a popular attraction in Beijing.

Prefer the road less traveled? Then head to Xinjiang, an ecologically diverse area which is home to the Uyghur people and borders eight countries including Russia, India and Afghanistan.

American teacher and Xinjiang resident, Josh Summers, recommends staying a night in a yurt, a tent-like dwelling covered with skins or felt traditionally used in central Asia. It’s an experience you simply can’t get in South Korea.

Whether you teach in Beijing, Xinjiang, or somewhere in between, you can be guaranteed that there will be plenty of things to do in China.

Demand is super-high

It’s estimated that over 400 million people are actively learning English in China. That’s more people than the combined population of the US, the UK and Australia. It’s an impressive statistic – and one that you can take advantage of.

The strong demand for native English teachers means upward pressure on salary and working conditions. With China’s relatively low cost of living taken into consideration, it’s now comparable with many other overseas teaching destinations.

High demand is another reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

Foreign teacher salaries in China keep climbing.

In addition, as China’s middle class continues to grow and get wealthier, parents will spend even more money on their children’s education. The ability to speak English is highly regarded by Chinese people, and access to a native English speaker is the pinnacle.

Shanghai has more style than Gangnam

Imperial foreign influences blended with Chinese tradition has resulted in Shanghai becoming one of the world’s coolest cities.

While South Korea can claim Gangnam Style songster Psy, Shanghai is teeming with world-class museums and exhibitions, chic shopping and cosmopolitan cuisine.

Take Xintiandi, for example. This redeveloped car-free area, just a stone’s throw from the heart of Shanghai, combines ancient Shikumen housing with modern shopping, eating and entertainment facilities.

And who could forget the Bund, a foreigner favorite. This waterside walkway gives you the best views of Shanghai from street level, including the exquisite European architecture of yesteryear.

The culture rocks!

Chinese culture is incredible. It’s unique, diverse and constantly changing.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about martial arts like Kung Fu, admiring the ‘feng shui’ of Chinese gardens or listening to Peking opera, China is brimming with culture.

China's incredible culture is just another reason why China is better than South Korea as a teaching destination.

Carefully designed gardens are an important part of Chinese culture.

Due to China’s enormous size, you’ll notice distinct cultural differences between the various provinces. For example, spicy food might be enjoyed in one place while sweet food is the preference in another.

There can be recognizable cultural differences even within a province. This makes teaching and traveling in China all the more interesting!

Do you agree that China is a better choice than South Korea? Have your say below.

How China’s cities are like Game of Thrones characters

 
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Here’s our take on how China’s biggest and best cities epitomize the show’s characters.
China's cities depict Game of Thrones characters

China’s cities depict some of GOT’s most popular characters.

Beijing – Cersei Lannister

While Beijing rules over the rest of China, Cersei’s influence over life in the Seven Kingdoms is unparalleled. Betray her and you’re doomed!

Power-hungry and a political mastermind, Cersei is always within reach of the Iron Throne.

Beijing’s own Iron Throne is the Forbidden City, an enormous museum that was an imperial palace from 1420 until 1912. Nowadays, it’s one of Beijing’s top tourist spots and attracts millions of visitors each year.

Of all Chinese cities, Beijing is the political hub.

Beijing’s Forbidden City has similarities to GOT’s Iron Throne.

Tianjin – Margaery Tyrell

A booming metropolis with 15 million people, Tianjin has risen out of relative obscurity and is now fighting for its rightful place amongst China’s cities. That’s why Tianjin represents Margaery Tyrell.

Like Tianjin’s late entrance to the world stage, Margaery doesn’t make an appearance until season 2 of the show. However, her character constantly builds until she eventually becomes a force to be reckoned with.

Cersei despises Margaery and never takes her eyes off her. Likewise, the Tianjin Eye, built over the Hai River, keeps a close watch over the Tianjin city center.

Best time to visit? A weekday in the middle of winter. You might even have the whole Eye to yourself!

Tianjin is one of the biggest Chinese cities.

The Tianjin Eye spans over the Hai River in the heart of Tianjin.

Shanghai – Daenerys Targaryen (Khaleesi)

Shanghai is one of China’s most popular cities, just as Khaleesi is one of GOT’s most popular characters.

Portrayed by Emilia Clarke, Khaleesi is the stunning Mother of Dragons. She embodies beauty, strength and justice.

Shanghai’s dazzling skyline, and majestic architecture seen at the Bund, represent all that is Khaleesi.

For the best views of Shanghai, ascend one of the city’s mega-towers. Conveniently, the tallest three – Shanghai Tower, World Financial Center and Jin Mao Tower – are adjacent to each other in the Pudong (east bank) area.

Wuhan – Theon Greyjoy (Reek)

Wuhan is one of China’s ‘tier 2’ cities. While it plays an important role in the nation’s economy, it doesn’t have the same status as tier 1 cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

GOT’s Theon Greyjoy, played by Alfie Allen, is a bit the same. In season 1 of the worldwide smash, Greyjoy plays second fiddle to the Stark family.

While he temporarily breaks free from this mental shackle and rebels against the Starks, by season 3 he is taken captive by the sadistic Ramsay Bolton.

If you’re teaching English in Wuhan, or just passing through, the Yellow Crane Tower is a nice spot to take it all in. Although the tower has been destroyed a number of times (like Reek’s psyche), the traditional design of the current construction gives you a glimpse into the China of old.

Wuhan is one of West China's biggest cities

The Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan is worth checking out.

Will Wuhan ever become a tier 1 city? Like the evolution of Allen’s character, only time will tell.

Nanjing – Sansa Stark

Nanjing, which literally means ‘southern capital’ in Mandarin, is China’s Sansa Stark.

Over a six-week period starting in December 1937, the Japanese Army carried out a barbaric mass murder and rape of Nanjing’s residents. Known as the Nanjing massacre, up to an estimated 300,000 people were killed in the atrocity.

Like Nanjing, Sansa has mental and physical scars that go way back.

Early on in the series, she’s at the beck and call of Joffrey Baratheon, a cruel king who threatens her with severe physical abuse. Sadly, the abuse continues with new husband Ramsay Bolton.

Shenzhen – Tyrion Lannister

Brash and bold, and nipping at the heels of Hong Kong, Shenzhen is China’s own Tyrion Lannister.

Both Shenzhen and Tyrion Lannister are inextricably linked to money.

From its humble beginnings as a market town, Shenzhen is now one of China’s major financial centers. It’s also known for its shopping destinations, including Luohu Commercial City, a massive mall near the Hong Kong border.

Shenzhen is one of China's biggest financial centers.

Shenzhen locals playing chess outdoors

The city’s migrant workers, which number in the millions, all have one thing in common – they’ll do anything to make money!

Son of wealthy Tywin Lannister, Tyrion uses money to get what he wants. On a number of occasions he manages to get himself out of trouble by offering bags full of gold coins.

Hangzhou – Jaime Lannister

Hangzhou is renowned for its natural beauty and picture-perfect scenery. In this sense, the city epitomizes the handsome, chiselled-jaw king slayer, Jaime Lannister.

Hangzhou is dotted with trees and, despite the city’s big population, the air is fresh. Jaime Lannister equally brings a breath of fresh air to the show’s cast.

If you’ve only got a day or two to spend in Hangzhou, hire a bike and ride around the lovely West Lake. It’ll only set you back a few yuan and you’ll be able to burn off some of the dumplings you had for lunch!

Of China's cities, Hangzhou is the most beautiful.

Hiring a bike and riding it around West Lake is a great way to see Hangzhou.

Chengdu – Brienne of Tarth

Want to see a panda while you’re in China? Then head over to Chengdu in the country’s west. It’s home to the world’s leading panda breeding and research sanctuary.

Lovable like a panda, early on in GOT we see Brienne of Tarth pledge her loyalty to Catelyn Stark. She’s hell-bent on finding and reuniting Catelyn’s daughters, Arya and Sansa.

Just like pandas struggle to reproduce, Brienne of Tarth faces much adversity in the series. Fortunately, her endearing friendship with Jaime Lannister provides some light relief.

Hong Kong – Jon Snow

Hong Kong is quite different to China’s mainland cities, just as Jon Snow stands out from the rest of the characters in GOT.

Hong Kong is superbly clean, full of high-end stores and even has its own Disneyland.

Hong Kong stands out from the rest of China's cities.

Hong Kong is immaculately clean (pictured: one of the city’s subway trains).

Despite breaking free from British rule in 1997, Hong Kong still has an air of independence and confidence about it. These are the same qualities seen in Jon Snow.

Unlike Snow, however, Hong Kong is far from dead!

Thinking about teaching English in China? Read our free eBook before you do anything else.

Would the real China please stand up?

 
In this guest post, Australian traveler Vanessa Scrofani gives an honest account of her recent trip to China.
Vanessa didn't find the food very authentic on her trip to China.

Vanessa shares her story about her trip to China.

It was on a whim that I decided I had to see China.

I’d heard that the Chinese economy was the second largest in the world – and growing – so I was curious to see what the secret to their success was. And then there was my love affair with dumplings!

With two compelling reasons to travel to China, I surreptitiously clicked ‘buy’ on my computer screen when I came across a 10-day guided tour for a pretty neat price.

My side-kick, Resham, and I, arrived in the smog-filled air of Shanghai. I was immediately impressed – our hotel was in a tiny side street full of quaint buildings that seemed to be both European and local.

Vanessa was impressed by the architecture on her trip to China.

Vanessa was impressed by Shanghai’s mix of European and Chinese architecture (pictured: the Bund).

There were posh patisseries, a boucherie, even a pizzeria and fancy wine bar. I almost thought twice as to whether I was, in fact, in China.

That all changed, however, when we walked a block from the hotel and found ourselves knee-deep in live chickens, duck entrails and stinky fish. Yuck!

The people-watching was incredible. There were old ladies barely four feet tall sitting and knitting on their foldup chairs, and old men playing cards among stray cats.

Laundries were strung up across the narrow spaces between the houses, and outdoor sinks with tiny women bent over washing vegetables dotted the alleyways.

When it came to street food, I found that Shanghai was lacking. There was always someone thoroughly cleaning up the streets, which made me think that street food was not allowed.

I was desperately searching for some ‘traditional’ Chinese food, like what I was used to eating back home in Chinatown. I couldn’t find any.

Each night we would attend a so-called restaurant for dinner that resembled a cattle feeder’s hall. We would be seated on a round table and served some strange meat covered in ketchup with rice.

I never knew what protein we were eating. Every time I asked the waiter or tour guide, I was told ‘pork’. But the flavours didn’t taste traditional to me – they were so westernized. I was disappointed.

Vanessa didn't like the food on her trip to China.

Mystery dish 1

Vanessa didn't like the food on her trip to China.

Mystery dish 2

Vanessa didn't like the food on her trip to China.

Mystery dish 3

Vanessa didn't like the food on her trip to China.

Mystery dish 4

Vanessa didn't like the food on her trip to China.

Mystery dish 5

We finally arrived in Beijing, which was extremely cold. I was hoping to experience some traditional food here, but I didn’t.

Our first stop was the Wangfujing night market. By the time we arrived, I was starving. I’d heard that Wangfujing was a westernised shopping area with a famous snack street.

Little did I know, the snacks included scorpions, spiders and other creepy crawlies. I was horrified! I wondered to myself, are these people for real? I couldn’t eat any of it and settled for the meat covered in ketchup instead.

Vanessa visited Wangfujing on her trip to China

Vanessa wasn’t a fan of Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing.

We visited a few of the biggest tourist sites, including the Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven. The temple, in the south-eastern part of Beijing, was a special place where emperors used to go to pray for good harvests… and perhaps meat covered in ketchup?

I was glad to see firsthand some traditional Chinese culture. In the temple grounds, there were elderly people dancing and practising tai chi, a busking duo playing traditional Chinese music and groups of people playing badminton.

Afterwards, we were taken to yet another nondescript local restaurant followed by a tour of a jade factory, tea house and silk factory. The tours were virtually compulsory and I’m almost certain that the tour guide received a commission.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my trip to China and I would recommend it to others. However, I didn’t get the authentic experience I was looking for. I guess I’ll have to go back to Chinatown.

Have you had a similar experience? Was your trip to China authentic? Have your say below.

About the author

Vanessa Scrofani resides in Melbourne, Australia. Although she has a desk job, she manages to jump on a plane every now and then. China was Vanessa’s first trip to east Asia.