This depends on whether you’re looking for a full on adventure in Asia, or a relaxing place to live, work, and save money. I’ve spent two years teaching in China, first in Qingdao and then in Shanghai. As a 21 year old college graduate, it was a shock to my system when I landed in Northern China for my first teaching gig. It was a year full of discovery, surprises and intense culture shock. This first year in China prepared me for anything that living abroad would throw at me for the following 11 years.
We were a small group of Americans hired from the States to work at a private school. The teaching part was straightforward but the living and working conditions took some getting used to. Chinese food in China is nothing like what you’re used to back home. In fact it’s completely unrecognizable. I dealt with shady teaching managers and a restrictive dorm living arrangement where I had a midnight curfew like Cinderella. I would say these days teaching in China is much different.
Chinese schools have learned to deal with Western teacher’s needs much better as it’s in their own interest to keep them longer. I think in that first year almost all of us quit before the contract ended. I left the job after a few months and quickly found a job in a Korean owned school with much better working conditions.
Three years later, when I landed in Taiwan, I was just as culture shocked but this time in a good way. Taiwan offered many of the things I enjoyed in China: the food, the language, the people, but without the bureaucracy at the banks, the crowds at the metro station, or the authoritarian funk in the air. Taiwan has all the American brands, shops, and even a version of democracy that’s imported from USA. That’s why I’ve found it to be a much more comfortable place to live and where I’ve decided to settle for the past eight years. That’s not to say I regret my time in Mainland China. Without those first wild years in China, I would never appreciate the living circumstances here in Taiwan. I have nothing but good memories from China and you wouldn’t believe how living in a developing country brings people together.
So to answer the question, are you an egg rolls and fried rice kind of person or do you prefer the duck tongue?