British Expat Living in China - Interviewing Sarah

Published: 4 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,China
Sarah began a 6 month English teaching contract in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China in August 2011. Over 19 months later she is still in China and still loving every minute of being there. During this time she has visited Beijing, Xi’an and many smaller towns in China, as well as teach hundreds of students from the age of 3 to adult every week. She can be found either wandering the streets of China looking for bad English translations or in a local zoo at the penguin enclosure - she has an obsession with penguins. Sarah's expat blog is called The Further Adventures of Bennett (see listing here)

Meet Sarah - British expat living in China
Meet Sarah - British expat living in China

Here's the interview with Sarah...

Where are you originally from?
I hail from sleepy Dorset in England.

In which country and city are you living now?
I’m currently living in Zhangzhou, in Fujian province, China.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve lived in Zhangzhou for over a year now and plan to stay until September 2013.

The Great Wall
The Great Wall
Why did you move and what do you do?
I graduated from Newcastle University in 2011 and with an ever weakening job market and a love of travel in my bones, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to work and travel in the Far East. I’m an English teacher for a private English training school (somewhere the children come at the weekend to improve their English), having done a TEFL course in the summer of 2010 whilst teaching in Italy at the same time.

Did you bring family with you?
No. I don't think they'd want to live here!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Having studied German at university, I lived in Germany for 9 months. Compared to that experience, China has been so easy to adapt to, one because I’m in a completely different situation personally and two, because I’d already had that living abroad experience.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I have lived in places with little to no expat community so I have had to make local friends! This has improved my Chinese a little but basically I’m a bad student. I’ve got to know my Chinese colleagues and students fairly well and we go out socially once a week with the adult students too.

Eating salt chicken
Eating salt chicken
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Zhangzhou is near Xiamen, so you can visit the beach; there are also many hotsprings resorts around which are very luxurious and there is also a mountain just outside the city which is famous around these parts, as well as the salt chicken delicacy you can eat at the bottom.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
You see something new and strange everyday.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
It’s so cheap. Work give me a rent free apartment so that’s a huge help. I have excess cash every month which I am using to save for my next adventures.

Sarah's students
Sarah's students
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Sometimes if you’re having a bad day, you don’t want people staring at you, which happens daily here because there are so few foreigners around.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Be prepared for the interest in you: your skin, hair, eyes, salary. You’ll be asked so many questions and have so many photos taken you really need to be prepared for that. It makes you think about what celebrities go through sometimes…

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I get frustrated when I speak Chinese and people won’t even try to understand me, even though I am making an effort. There are 4 tones and some people will be forgiving if you mess it up, most won’t though.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I think China is just one step in the life ahead of me. I will be sad to leave of course, having spent two years of my life here, but I know it will be the right decision to move on.

Penguin on the beach
Penguin on the beach
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Embrace the “China Way” – which is basically interpreted as be as patient as you can, with everything!
  2. Be confident. You’re more likely to be taken advantage of if you’re not.
  3. Open your eyes. Observe. You will see something new and crazy everyday.
  4. Be prepared to tell your life story to everyone who asks.
  5. Smile lots.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is about my life as a teacher in China, as well as everything else inbetween, especially travelling! I hope to continue travelling and working abroad after I leave China in September 2013 for the next few years, so it will be a home for everything related to that.
I am also finishing a book about living, teaching and working in China as a teacher with my friends Agness and Cez from, which will soon be available on both our blogs!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Via my blog [] or my Twitter @penguinbennett
The book will be out this year, so you can sign up for email updates there too!

Sarah blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. The Further Adventures of Bennett has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Sarah, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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Comments » There is 1 comment

Nigel wrote 9 years ago:

Excellent insight into a different way of life..

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