Rollercoaster Ride Starting Life In China

View from our flat watching the fireworks
View from our flat watching the fireworks

For those of you who don’t know, Mitch and I got ourselves teaching jobs in Hangzhou, China. It’s in the East, not far from Shanghai. We found jobs through a teaching agency who sorted us with school, accommodation, and a visa. So far, there have been highs and lows, but it’s all a new adventure in life and I remind myself I’m very lucky to be here.

We felt nervous and excited. For me, it was three big changes all at once: moving in with Mitch, starting a new job AND moving to a new country/continent. Madness eh?

Our flights over were fine until our luggage got lost. Just what you want when you’ve been travelling for nearly 24 hours, so that didn’t set us off to a very good start. We made our way to Hangzhou on the bus, we were tired, hot and had nothing but our hand luggage.

We arrived in Hangzhou trying to feel optimistic, we were getting picked up from there by the agency and then taken to our flat. Despite asking for photographs a few times before arriving, we had none, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

We’re in block number 11 of a group of flats in a very local neighbourhood. We went into one restaurant below us and Mitch successfully asked in Chinese if they had an English menu, they laughed and shook their head…we ended up with some very slimy noodles (which I’m convinced weren’t noodles). We stand out. A lot.

As for the flat, I’d call it basic, but fairly large. We had furniture but not many amenities, so we quickly had to go and buy cutlery, pots, pans etc. We were provided with bedding, but it must be said, it is the hardest bed in the whole world. After talking to some others, apparently this isn’t rare in China (thats an awful generalisation), but some of the other teachers also said they had hard beds.

HELLO luggage, so nice to see you
HELLO luggage, so nice to see you

Our luggage arrived two days later and we gave the flat a good clean; we were starting to feel better. We still needed to work on our Chinese but hopefully that will come in time.

The day after we arrived (when I was super tired and had no clean clothes), the agency took me down to the school to meet the staff and just find stuff out. The school seemed very nice, friendly staff who were excited to meet me. I couldn’t really take much in, it was all a bit overwhelming. I went back to the school a few days later (the Sunday before starting work on Monday) and got my timetable and a bit more information. The school is actually split between two campuses and they aren’t that close together, so the school would get me a bike to cycle between the two. I now have said bike and it’s very nice…however, it is quite a ride away from our flat, something we might bring up with the agency.

The schools are both nice and the teachers are too, the children are (mostly) good! I’m teaching Grade 1 and 2. It’s very different to teaching I’ve done before and, to be honest, this first week has been a real struggle adapting. I didn’t know what level the children would be at so it’s all a bit of a learning curve. I think it will be easier in time, but this week, what with learning the crazy roads to cycle to school and figuring out how best to teach English as a foreign language, with different levels and big classes, it has been difficult. Everybody is really excited for me to be there and I just hope I can live up to everybody’s expectations.

First dumplings experience
First dumplings experience

There have been times when Mitch and I have both been stressed and upset, even thinking: What are we doing here!? But there are some real joys to find amongst the adjusting: eating new food, watching fireworks for a national holiday, learning odd bits of Chinese, having children give me cards and gifts for Teachers’ Day, watching a whole new culture every day.

It’s not been easy, but the good things in life never come easily, and we have to try to make the most of this opportunity. Mitch has been super at taking care of me during my stressed times and making things easier.

Much more to write about in time but that’s just a brief update. Tomorrow is Friday and we plan to have some drinks with the other teachers. The weekend will be full of exploring our new home of Hangzhou!


  1. Thanks for sharing, Helen. I’m rooting for you! Best of luck and keep us posted.

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