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Teaching English In Beijing

Updated on June 19, 2013
Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony
Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony | Source

People Of Many Backgrounds Travel to China

Several years ago a young woman I will call Sue to protect her privacy (she is off traveling somewhere again...) came into my martial arts classes in order to gain some self defense knowledge and exercise that would enhance her health long term. She succeeded! -- She received those things as well as some good friendships and fascinating experiences with people from all walks of life, all levels of income, all ages from 5 through senior citizen, and with many types of physical challenges as well as learning disorders.

My student friend met Asians from across the Eastern Hemisphere, persons of part Native American blood, and many others. An autistic child that had never spoken answered, "Yes Ma'am!" when someone gave a command for action in class. A woman was tally freed of rheumatoid arthritis through exercise, a change in diet, relaxation training, and plant-based dietary supplements. A middle-school aged youth entered our classes with several muscle and joint problems, but became limber enough to avoid $60,000 in knee surgery and to play football in Middle School and High School. Having been in special classes, he advanced to regular college classes and worked his way through college as well.

Teaching English in Beijing

Beijing, China

get directions

The Chinese Flag of the 1890s. (Photos this page public domain)
The Chinese Flag of the 1890s. (Photos this page public domain)

Meeting Other Cultures

Sue was very interested and an avid participant in alternative health techniques, Chinese Medicine, and related activities and she enjoyed all of this. Based in 5 Asian martial arts, our classes provided stretching, meditative movement, relaxation training, exercise, and many other health and personal benefits. It was intriguing for Sue to work with all of these people in classes, gaining and sharing knowledge; and it was fun for me to see them all progress.

Two of these new friends married and went to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, where one pursued a nursing career. Many were able to use their training to remain calm enough solve the occasions of everyday life in innovative ways. Most gained health benefits and doctors removed some patients from medications. So many things happened, that when I think about how I have not likely accomplished very much in life, I look back on all of this history as a starting point that proves at least one step for good.

All of this goes into a desire for travel and to see new places and how other people live. Sue spoke with people in language departments in universities, inquiring about translations of certain phrases in English to Asian languages. She had a way of meeting all sorts of diverse people. Eventually, she traveled to the Americas (Central & South America) and learned much about the languages, families, and culture of those places.) She married and became a step mom to a wonderful young man whom she still considers family, even though the marriage did not endure.

Teaching English to Adult Students In China

However, Sue went to China to teach English, on two separate tours of duty, so to speak. She taught English on a university campus in Beijing that specialized in business and fine arts; and she eventually married a man who lived nearby.

The cultural transitions were interesting, but sometimes daunting in their differences from US habits and customs. About a year ago, I saw my old friend for an evening of catching up. There were so many things to hear and pictures to see.

It was all amazing, and Sue brought knowledge of life in other nations that can only help Americans manage their lives better on a day-to-day basis, through a widened perspective. So much so, that my friend changed occupations, leaving a good job for ministerial studies. With our expanding metropolitan population in America, especially Hispanic and Asian based groups, this will come in very useful.

Flag of Hong Kong.
Flag of Hong Kong.

"Interesting" Experiences in Beijing

According to Chinese proverbs, interesting can mean challenging or even problematic, as in "Have an interesting life...."

My friend did very well in teaching English to Chinese students interested in International Business and similar ventures. The students responded well to lessons and made her a friend over and above that. She was also able to lean quite a bit of the local language,

The university offered living accommodations on campus for the English teachers and this was something unique to Americans and rather fun. The bathroom of the apartment was a "wet room." The shower covered the whole bathroom and I think one could take a shower while sitting on the toilet. At any rate, it looked like that form the pictures I saw and I think the whole room was cleaned with each shower. Restroom facilities elsewhere consisted of the squatting stations with ceramic (sometimes) foot rests, provided over holes. These may be daunting to Westerners, but are more of the norm in the parts of the world. I have had two friends that lived in apartments in China that had these types of squatting facilities.

Sue went on to tall me about registering for marriage in Beijing. It was a civil ceremony that was very short, performed in a government office. No fancy or special clothing as worn. A snapshot of the couple standing at a podium of some sort with their wedding papers was presented to them as a keep sake. The while thing took just a few minutes.

Again, my friend became a step mom to a great youth - Chinese this time - and she enjoyed many adventures with him. She herself is very special too two young men, because she taught them how to survive in foreign cultures despite barriers of custom and language. The Chinese son came to America and when surrounded by others that spoke only English, he spoke to my friend and expressed dismay at her former circumstances as a foreigner in Chine -- He said, "I had no idea!"

Many businesses use Chinese and English signs and packaging.
Many businesses use Chinese and English signs and packaging. | Source

Differences At the Drug Store In Beijing

After she was married, Sue asked her husband to bring her something for the sniffles and sinus congestion. He returned with some heavy duty drugs for other disorders, available in the US only by prescription. Rather exasperated, she went to the drug store and found all the packages of tablets and capsules under glass in a case, with Chinese lettering on the packages.

After speaking with the proprietor for several minutes, he turned the packages backsides up and these were printed in English! Much easier now to make a selection.

After feeling better, Sue went with her family on a hike at a local natural park and shrine. 1000s of steps led up a mountain side. When Sue reached the landing of the stone staircase, she thought she was finished with her hike, but learned that she had only completed the introductory staircase to the actual stairs up the mountain. Tired but determined, she made it all the way to the top, enjoyed the view and the building, and made it all the way back down.

Old flag of Taiwan, 1895.
Old flag of Taiwan, 1895.

Sanitation Differences

Sue was in Beijing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and found the sanitation outside of the University District a bit lacking at that time. She described men and women relieving themselves behind bushes in the city. A female friend of hers was walking along side her on the sidewalk, stepped off behind a bush and returned to the sidewalk, continuing the conversation without missing a beat.

I must admit that I have noticed the occasional camper in the woods perform this ritual, but not on US city streets. In a land as large as China, there were likely not enough restrooms and in many places, especially homes, the toilet is but a hole in the floor.

Different cultures have different equipment.

A Green Garden by the Road in China

Another good story I will share is an event that happened to another friend that also had gone to China, She had been studying Chinese language and culture in college. She described to me her surprise at the countryside through the provinces in which she traveled. Some distance outside Hong Kong on her first visit, she road a tour bus with other students and as they proceeded down a road they came upon what appeared to be a farm. It was indeed a farm, but the crops in the fields are all marijuana. She said their mouths were hanging open in surprise as they passed by those fields and the students and Chinese tour guides broke out in laughter to think of the difference in the US, where pot was totally illegal at the time.

China is full of amazing stories. While there have been human rights violations and abuse of animals in the country, it is still a country full of average citizens making a living and battling pollution, going about their daily lives as best they can. We hope for the best for all of these.


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    • magnoliazz profile image


      8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I just re-read this hub, it is so interesting! Yesterday, I went to WaL Mart, and a very lovely Asian girl was my check out girl. Obviously she was raised in the USA, ans she was exactly like anyone else in America, although her name was Xia.

      It just made me think that under the skin, we are all the same. It is culture that makes us seem "different" to each other.

      This was a really good hub, and this is the second time I enjoyed it and voted it a thumbs up!

    • Write On! profile image

      Write On! 

      10 years ago from United States

      Thanks for this really interesting article about China and what is happening over there.

      Write On!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I fully agree on the interesting fascinating experince China has been for my friends. I feel as though I have been there.

    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 

      10 years ago from California

      Great information for all of us who are curious about the conditions in China right now because of the Olympics! Thanks for the intimate details.

    • FoursX2 profile image


      10 years ago from Laguna Niguel, CA

      Having lived in Taiwan in the 50s I can vouch for the unsanitary conditions. Nevertheless, the Pac Rim is the most unusual (thru gaijin eyes) and interesting region of the world. Your friend is very lucky to have experienced it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I did not know about the nose-blowing taboo, but I agree with it. :)

    • magnoliazz profile image


      10 years ago from Wisconsin

      China is an interesting country. Did you know that blowing your nose while dining is considered the most disgusting thing you can do in many Asian regions? To be honest, I have always found the practice of blowing one's nose while eating disgusting and bad manners, however it is not the social taboo here that it is in Asian countries. From what I have read about China, most Americans are grossed out from the unsanitary conditions there. I cannot imagine an apartment complex without the benefit of flush toilets. The stench in summer must be somewhat overwhelming. I am so happy that I was born in the good old USA!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks Rodney and DJ!

      I just heard something new as well on NBC this morning - The staff of new motels around Beijing have not understood about box springs needing matresses on top of them, so some motels have only the box springs. Very interesting indeed!

      The footage of Beijing is absolutely gorgeous, sor far. I noticed at the women's beach Volley Ball venue rock and roll music was playing -- They need a live DJ Funktual!

    • DJ Funktual profile image

      DJ Funktual 

      10 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

      Have an interesting life, Ha! Wow I learned something new.

    • rodney southern profile image

      rodney southern 

      10 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      fantastic hub from top to bottom! Awesome

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      She has accomplished much in her life and spread understranding to many. It's all been a gratifying, amazing journey and I look forward to much more of it!

    • Georgiakevin profile image


      10 years ago from Central Georgia

      Wow! What a hub! Sue sounds like a lady anyone would be fortunate to have as a friend. You both are fortunate!


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