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The 10 tacky Chinese souvenirs that you’ll probably end up buying

Let’s face it – every overseas trip means a suitcase full of questionable souvenirs to sift through when you get home.
From weird t-shirts to retro Chairman Mao statues, China is up there for having some of the tackiest souvenirs around.
Buying tacky Chinese souvenirs is just what you do in China!

Buying tacky souvenirs is just what you do in China!

Here’s what you could end up buying on a trip to this fast-developing country.

1. I ‘heart’ t-shirts

Ok, we admit it – there’s something cute about declaring your love for a Chinese city by wearing a white t-shirt with a few black letters and a red heart.

But you can thank New York for this one. I ‘heart’ NY t-shirts started in New York a gazillion years ago, and the craze has spread to every touristy city across the globe.

Shanghai’s version of the t-shirt is ‘I heart SH’, while Beijing’s is the ambiguous ‘I heart BJ’. It’s Chinglish at its best!

'I heart t-shirts are one of many tacky Chinese souvenirs.

An ‘I heart BJ’ t-shirt. What the!? (Source: www.aaanything.net)

2. Fake antiques

Three words of advice when buying antiques in China: beware, beware, beware.

Fake antiques are rife in markets across much of China. While they might look like ancient treasures – old watches, wooden dragons and jade trinkets – just wait until you get home and realize your neighbor bought exactly the same thing five years ago!

Unless you know what a genuine relic certificate looks like – or you’re qualified to host the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow programme – it’s best you buy antiques at low prices knowing that they’re not, well, antiques.

3. Mao paraphernalia

You’ll see Mao Zedong paraphernalia for sale everywhere in China. The most common items include the Little Red Book, statues, plates and badges.

A Chairman Mao Zedong statue is one of the classic Chinese souvenirs.

Mao Zedong paraphernalia, like this statue, can be found all over China.

You’ve probably got a mini Eiffel Tower and mini Statue of Liberty sitting on a shelf somewhere at home. So why not add a mini Chairman Mao statue to the collection?

Sure, miniature statues are a little unimaginative, but they’re a nice way of keeping tabs on all the places you’ve been to.

You’ll find mini Maos in all shapes and sizes, from baby-sized ones to life-sized ones (not so mini, after all!).

If you’re serious about buying a decent statue, go for a brass one that you can shine until your heart’s content. If you’re in China for a while (for example, teaching English like Brooke did), send it home early unless you’ve got oodles of room in your suitcase.

4. Silk pyjamas

No trip to China is complete without a ‘tour’ of a silk factory.

The tour will start with an explanation of silk worms, and you’ll get to see some real ones doing their thing (for show, of course). Following that, you’ll get a run-down of the production process and how it’s been modernized over time.

Silk is another of the classic Chinese souvenirs you could end up buying.

Silk factory near Suzhou, eastern China.

The tour will culminate in a massive hall of silk products, ranging from luxurious bed sheets to children’s pyjamas.

If you’re buying an expensive item, or even a few smaller things, it’s definitely worth asking for a discount. Haggling for the best price is part of a Chinese person’s DNA.

5. Jade

Unless you’re buying from a government-licensed operator, the same rules apply here as per antiques above: it’s buyer beware.

If in doubt, ask your tour guide or preferably a local. Some tour guides are paid commissions for the sales they bring in, so you want to be 100% confident that you’re buying the real deal.

6. Kites

You probably can’t get a tackier Chinese souvenir than a kite.

These plastic toys of dubious quality can be found in many places in China, including the open spaces around the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium.

A plastic kite is one of the tackiest Chinese souvenirs around.

Kite flying near the Bird’s Nest in Beijing.

This particularly windy area in the nation’s capital, Beijing, makes for perfect kite-flying conditions. That’s why you’ll see numerous kite sellers showing off their wares in this part of town.

Want to know the only good thing about this Chinese souvenir? It shouldn’t set you back more than a few dollars.

7. Hand-painted bottles

These little glass bottles are painstakingly painted by hand or mass-produced in factories. A good quality one can look lovely in the right spot.

Pandas, flowers, dragons – the choice is endless when it comes to the scene you want on your bottle.

Seeing the artist in action is a sure-fire way of guaranteeing your bottle is handmade.

Hand painted bottles are one of many Chinese souvenirs you can buy in China.

Hand painted bottles – tacky or not?

8. Calligraphy sets

While not as prevalent as they used to be (thank you, iPad), there’s something very quaint about a Chinese calligraphy set.

Sure, it’s a Chinese souvenir that you or your loved one will probably never use, but at least it does honor one of the ancient Chinese traditions – writing.

For an additional fee, some stores will be able to engrave your initials into the stamp. Now what’s tackier than that?

9. Tea

Ok, this is probably our favorite Chinese souvenir because it’s practical.

If you choose wisely, you’ll return home and actually be able to enjoy drinking some real, fragrant Chinese tea.

Tea is a regional product in China, meaning different areas produce different types of teas.

Avoid the souvenir shops unless you want to pay exorbitant prices. Your best bet is to go to a supermarket and buy some local tea for a fraction of the price.

If you’re in China for a while, for example teaching English like Malachy), ask a local for a recommended tea shop. Many cities have lovely tea shops – to buy from or drink at – which the tour guides will never take you to.

Tea would have to be one of the most practical Chinese souvenirs you can purchase.

Tea is one of the most practical Chinese souvenirs.

10. Terracotta warriors

Ahhhh, the ubiquitous terracotta warrior statues.

Even if you don’t get to visit Xian, where the real terracotta warriors are located, you’ll be able to buy these little gems anywhere you see tourists.

Like most things in China, the quality of the warriors can really vary. You’ll be able to pick up a cheap and dirty box for just a few dollars, or pay top dollar for a carefully crafted set.

Here’s a quick quality check: touch a warrior and if it leaves a black mark on your finger then you know it’s not worth paying much for.


What do you think of our list? What other tacky Chinese souvenirs have you bought?

Discrimination against non-native English speakers in the TEFL industry

In this blog, Kim Ooi examines whether discrimination against non-native English speakers in the TEFL industry is justified. He also provides advice on how non-native English speakers can get teaching jobs abroad.
Discrimination against non-native English speakers in the TEFL industry is a hotly debated topic in online forums.

Is discrimination against non-native English speakers justified? (pictured: classroom in China)

Discrimination against non-native English speakers in the TEFL world is currently an emotive and hotly debated topic in online forums.

Does this discrimination really exist though? Look at any TEFL job advertisement and you are likely to see phrases like these: ‘10 native speakers wanted for full-time teaching jobs in Beijing, Shenyang, Kunming and Nanjing’ and ‘Nationality of UK, IRE, USA, CAN, AUS, NZ or SA’.

These are by no means isolated cases. If you do not meet these criteria, you will find it almost impossible to be hired as an English teacher in a foreign country.

So what exactly is a ‘native English speaker’? The dictionary definition of a native speaker is simply ‘someone who speaks a language as his or her first language or mother tongue’.

Neither one’s nationality nor race should determine one’s status as a native English speaker. However, these are often the precise criteria that overseas schools use when recruiting teachers.

Many qualified, experienced and capable teachers may therefore find themselves discriminated against as a result.

Is this sort of discrimination justified?

If we were to examine the essays written by non-native speakers, or when speaking with a non-native speaker, it would not take us long to find errors in their grammar or pronunciation.

This problem is made worse by the influence of regional creoles. For example, ‘Bislish’ and ‘Taglish’ in the Philippines, ‘Manglish’ in Malaysia and ‘Singlish’ in Singapore.

Not offering someone a job as an English teacher because their grammar is appalling is fair enough. However, when one starts assuming that only people from certain races qualify to teach English, that is when it becomes racism especially when you consider that even in Asian countries there are many affluent families where the parents have been educated abroad.

They speak English at home with their children so English becomes their native language. These children do well in English at school and many are later sent to schools overseas, including the UK, USA and Australia.

It is really unfair not to give such people a chance simply due to the color of their skin.

How can non-native English speakers get a teaching position abroad?

The short answer is that non-native English speakers should not be teaching EFL at all. They are likely to have picked up bad linguistic habits which should not be passed on to learners.

There is discrimination against non-native English speakers in the TEFL industry, according to teacher Kim Ooi.

Non-native English speakers should not be teaching EFL at all, according to Kim Ooi (pictured second from bottom right).

However, if you are able, through determination, hard work and years of study to achieve a native- or near-native level of fluency in English and believe that you can do a good job of teaching, you should take the following course of action:

  • Become a citizen of an English-speaking country, live there and learn the local culture, accent, slang, idioms, etc.
  • Get a reputable TEFL qualification and gain some experience.
  • Grow a thick skin and never give up.
  • Develop a network of contacts on LinkedIn.
  • Put your resume on sites like Serious Teachers or Dave’s ESL Café.
  • Approach schools and recruiters in person. By speaking with them directly, you can immediately demonstrate your competence and mastery of the English language.

Some non-native English speakers have even had to go as far as lie about where they were born in order to get work as an EFL teacher. This is obviously a dangerous path to take.

However, if only certain nationalities will be considered, some job seekers may feel like they have no choice.

A word of warning: it is one thing to lie about where you were born but if your command of English is not good, please do not even think about teaching abroad. Foreign students (or their parents) pay a lot of money to learn English and they deserve to be taught by people who know the subject well.

What can schools do to help end discrimination against non-native English speakers?

The key issue here is competence.

Race, skin color or nationality are all irrelevant. What is important is that teachers have a sound grasp of English grammar, spelling, punctuation and accurate pronunciation with a neutral accent.

If more non-native English speakers are able to prove their competence in these areas then in time the industry should become more accepting of such candidates.

However, for teachers to be able to prove their competence, they need to be given a chance. Schools can help to end this practice of discrimination by being more open-minded and mindful that stereotypes are not always accurate.

Foreign schools should interview job applicants. But what if the local staff at foreign schools cannot speak English that well themselves? That should not be an excuse for racial discrimination because they can ask one of their own foreign teachers to interview prospective candidates.

In summary, if you wish to teach English abroad, you must have native-level fluency in English. Students (or their parents) pay good money to learn correct English and deserve to have competent teachers.

If you are fluent in English but are not Caucasian, it will take a lot of hard work to get your foot in the door. Don’t be disheartened though – you will get there eventually. Good luck!

Kim Ooi has been teaching English in China for the past four years.


Do you think there is discrimination against non-native English speakers in the TEFL industry? Please comment below.

The teaching method that will transform your classroom

Guest blogger Nicholas McKay explains how embodied pedagogical approaches can work wonders in the second-language classroom.
Embodied pedagogy will change your second-language classroom for the better, says blogger Nicholas McKay.

Embodied pedagogy can transform your second-language classroom, according to Nicholas McKay.

Embodied pedagogy: what is it?

When undertaking my Master of Teaching, my area of academic interest was embodied pedagogy; in short, using the human body as a learning tool. This is very similar to the drama classroom.

Having used this practice in the classroom, I can confidently admit that this teaching method works. In many classrooms, students have next to no power. The teacher tells students what to do, and they carry out the instruction.

Embodied pedagogy is about giving power back to the students.

The classroom rarely allows for the use of prior knowledge. Embodied pedagogy changes this. Students know their own body best. Through this tool, they can appreciate learned experiences, which shape who they are.

A century ago, educational scholar John Dewey proposed that students ought to use all of their bodily senses to learn, including touch, taste, sound, sight and smell. Though drama, dance and physical education classes often capitalise on these senses, this rarely happens in English.

Many years later, Noam Chomsky and Dell Hynes discussed similar theories in regard to second language acquisition.

Tasks related to embodied pedagogy often involve authentic use of the target language, including role plays, practice interviews and social tasks.

Not all students will immediately appreciate this teaching method, especially if they have been sitting in chairs for the past 15 years. However, I guarantee, you will not regret these practices.

The dilemma belittling embodied pedagogy

Despite a century of discussion, little has changed in the typical classroom. Students continue to sit in rows, in very teacher-centered environments.

Some may argue, why change a system that has clearly worked all this time? The point is, it hasn’t.

Not every student works well in a teacher-centered classroom. Many educators, it seems, take a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching, rather than accepting every student as an individual learner.

Though some students appreciate ‘chalk and talk’, the same cannot be said for students who learn kinaesthetically or visually.

In most classrooms, the teacher is positioned as the all-knowing expert. In using embodied pedagogical practices, this stereotype is thrown on its head. I’ve met teachers who, due to this, are concerned their authority would be challenged.

Some teachers to this day refuse to adopt technological practices in technology-rich environments. Something similar is happening with embodied pedagogy.

I’ve interviewed at schools where, the mere mention of using the human body to help students learn has sent the panel into a state of shock. You’d think I said something obscene considering their responses.

The truth is, adopting practices like these are very easy. Also, they strengthen student connections and understanding. The major issue is they change student-teacher relationships.

The benefits of embodied pedagogy

I was in a Year 10 class once, where trying to engage students in a discussion was next to impossible. Disabling a nuclear weapon, with only three seconds left to spare, would have been easier!

To save face, most students kept quiet. I informed students that making mistakes was part of the learning process. I also said asking questions was perfectly acceptable.

I might as well have dressed up in a panda costume for all the good it did me. So, I used an activity, called 123, instead.

Students sorted themselves into pairs, and were asked to count to three. Example: Student A: 1, Student B: 2, Student A: 3, Student B: 1, Student A: 2, Student B: 3. The process was continuously repeated, and students were required to gradually speak faster.

Inevitably, learners would make a mistake. When they did, students were asked to celebrate it. ‘Yay! We stuffed up!’ they would cry, while jumping up and down. In so doing, they learned mistakes were part of the learning process.

Embodied pedagogy gets students out of their chairs, and moving around. If you ask me, it seems some teachers are raging a private war with students’ bodies, making sure they never move an inch from their seat for the entirety of a lesson.

Embodied pedagogy is fun and relaxing. Moreover, teachers go from being the class leader, to the facilitator and participant. In this sense, the relationship is equal.

If teachers are willing to put themselves in vulnerable positions, then students will be equally willing to follow. In so doing, they will not feel embarrassed to participate.

At the same time, students can experience a moment of self-exploration. By using embodied pedagogy, learners will have the opportunity to reinvent themselves and the language, whilst generating individual meaning.

Putting it into practice

The second-language classroom is often very teacher centered. That being said, there’s no reason why embodied pedagogy should be avoided.

I recently had a class of second-language learners. Most of them would rather be trapped alone on a desert island, than speak in the classroom. An oral presentation was on the horizon, and I was concerned they would experience difficulty.

So, I separated students into pairs, giving each group a Shakespearean sonnet. I asked each pair to read their poem, face to face and back to back. Then, each student read from across the room, walking towards one another as they spoke.

Following this activity, I asked the groups to analyse the themes, storyline and characters of their sonnet. I then asked students to come to the middle of the room where I had placed some prop cards.

These included a teddy bear, a car, a mug, a love-heart shaped necklace, a ring, a dog, and many others.

Choosing a card, students wrote a short story on their own about one of the characters. Learners incorporated the prop into their tale. Upon completion, students read their story to their partner.

Students would then choose a sentence from their poem. Using gesture, and their prop, they would devise a short performance, and show this to the class.

In undertaking this task, every student gained confidence with speaking. They used their imagination, and appreciated the maturity placed upon them. Learners also acquired understanding of a Shakespearean poem.

This method of teaching could also be applied to:

  • warm-up activities (games which have pertinence to the lesson)
  • stories (whereby students act out difficult sections)
  • job interviews (where one student asks questions, and the other answers), and
  • role playing social situations (ordering food, asking for directions, etc).
Concluding thoughts

So, the next time you print off worksheets or choose an activity from the textbook, please ask yourself, is this really what my students need?

It seems worksheets occasionally become the crutch teachers use in exchange for creativity. Educators should not fear allowing students the opportunity to be creative. After all, this is how students learn best.

Though written tasks can build knowledge, they often provide students with no relevance for using the target language.


Do you agree that using embodied pedagogical approaches can transform a classroom?

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.


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.


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.


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.


7 annoying things that ESL teachers do in China

For the most part, ESL teachers in China are a good bunch. There are, however, some things that many of them do that are just plain annoying.
There are some annoying things that ESL teachers do in China

Teachers in China sometimes do annoying things.

Here’s the top seven that we find the most irksome.

1. They eat Western junk food

Eating the occasional McDonald’s or KFC meal in China is fine. But when it’s all the time, you’ve got to wonder whether the ESL teacher should have left their own country at all.

Unless they’re earning big money in China (most teachers aren’t), they should avoid the foreign fast-food chains. Why? In local terms, the food’s expensive and generally regarded as a luxury.

An ESL teacher in China should try to live like a Chinese person as much as they can. This means eating Chinese food and only going to Western restaurants now and again.

The benefit? A more authentic experience and extra money in the back pocket.

If you really have to go to McDonald’s, try the one in Yangshuo, a small city in southern China’s Guangxi province. Nestled between a stunning mountain range and mirror-like lake, it’s regarded as one of the world’s most picturesque fast-food outlets.

Eating Western junk food is one of the annoying things that ESL teachers do in China.

Avoid eating lots of Western junk food in China. Eat Chinese food instead!

2. They expect the same conditions they’re used to

The conditions that a foreign teacher will experience in China may be quite different to what they’re used to.

For example, in a public school there could be up to 45 students in each class. Multimedia will be limited, the internet connection may be unreliable, and the trusty chalkboard could be your new best friend.

A smart, motivated teacher will see this as an opportunity to fine-tune their classroom management skills rather than a blight on the Chinese education system.

And, while foreign teacher accommodation is comfortable, it’s certainly not on par with Hilton Hotel standards. A foreign teacher should never expect to sleep on a mattress that’s as soft as a cloud, particularly in China.

3. They play movies in their classes

Teaching oral English means exactly that – teaching oral English.

Lazy ESL teachers are known to play movie after movie in each of their classes. This means they can slack off, tune out, and even mark papers while students are forced to have a one-way interaction with a television screen.

While it’s ok to play movies now and again, don’t rely on them to make up the bulk of your lessons.

If you do play one, make sure you regularly pause it to check for student understanding. You could also break it up with fun games, facilitate interesting discussions around the themes of the movie, and give students relevant homework which you could go through in the next class.

4. They complain a lot

Some foreign teachers complain about everything. Really, everything.

If you find yourself constantly complaining about the city you’re in, your school, your classes, your colleagues, Chinese culture – the list goes on – perhaps China isn’t for you.

Nothing’s ever as good as back home? Go back and read point number 2.

If you’re totally unhappy and you don’t think there’s anything that will change that, leave China once you’ve completed your contract. Just don’t bore us with your constant whining in the meantime!

Complaining is one of the annoying things that ESL teachers do in China.

With postcard views like this in China, how could you possibly complain?

5. They refuse to speak any Mandarin

Foreign teachers in China don’t need to know any Mandarin to do their job. In fact, schools prefer they don’t know any Mandarin because it effectively forces students to converse with you in English.

However, you should try learning a few basic words and expressions once you’ve settled in. It’ll really help in everyday situations, like catching a taxi, buying food at the market and finding your way around.

Fortunately, many schools offer free weekly Mandarin lessons as part of the contract.

Some ESL teachers think they’re above everyone else and refuse to learn even the basics. They expect Chinese people to understand what they’re saying in English (most don’t) and they only socialise with other foreign teachers. Now that’s annoying!

When you’re in China, or any other foreign country for that matter, try to learn at least a few words in the native language. It’ll help you tremendously.

6. They break the golden rule of Chinese classrooms

Some ESL teachers disregard the golden rule of Chinese classrooms.

That is, they talk about sex, religion or politics (or worse – all three!) with their students. If there’s one thing you shouldn’t do while teaching in China, this is it.

China is a socialist country and in many ways is quite conservative. So respect the country you’re in and avoid talking about these topics in class.

Sex is a taboo subject and people don’t talk about it openly. Don’t try and change that.

As for religion and politics, these are sensitive subjects in China and highly controlled by state-run media. It’s not your place to enter this murky space. Save these conversations for when you return to your home country.

It’s quite likely that astute, older students may ask you what you think of their president, or what politics is like in your own country. Don’t get involved in these kinds of conversations; it’s just not worth it.

Talking about inappropriate things is one of the annoying thing that ESL teachers do in China.

Don’t talk about inappropriate things while teaching in China.

7. They choose a job based on salary alone

Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Unfortunately, there are some ESL teachers who annoyingly choose a job purely for the money.

We all know that money alone isn’t going to keep us happy and motivated in our jobs. So why would it be any different teaching English in China?

Choosing a teaching job based on salary alone could be one of the biggest mistakes you’ll make.

Some jobs may seem enticing with a salary of double what’s on offer at another school. However, the schools that offer the highest salaries generally expect you to work up to 40 hours per week. This may include working on the weekend.

In addition to the salary, benefits like location, accommodation, working conditions and class size should definitely be considered as part of your decision to teach in China.

So there you have it – seven annoying things that ESL teachers do in China. Which one are you guilty of?