Here at Foreign HR and China Jobs Daily, we believe that our candidates are the most important part of our business. Sure, the client companies we work for pay the bills, but we’d be nothing without the support and trust of the great talent from all over the world that places their professional future into our hands. The best part of my job is getting to know you as I help navigate the ins and outs of working in China. My greatest satisfaction is when I hear from a teacher I helped place after they’ve had a few months under their belt in China and are loving the experience.
I want to share a few of these stories because they inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing, and I think they might inspire you to fly halfway around the world and dive into a new life in China.
I recently spoke with Nelis van Rensburg, a teacher from South Africa who is now living and teaching English in Beijing. He shared info about his background, his experience finding a position through Foreign HR, life in Beijing, his daily schedule, and some tips for others who are considering coming to China to find work and develop their careers.
From small town South Africa to Chinese metropolis
Nelis is 23 and had never been to China. “I grew up in a small town and lived on a farm. For my undergraduate degree I studied Educational Science (Mechanical Technology and Engineering) with a TEFL at the North West University (Potchefstroom). I love traveling, taking pictures, and doing sports like squash, golf, athletics or bike riding.” Beijing, one of China’s largest cities, was a big change of pace from the small-town farm life he was familiar with: “It’s an amazing city and there’s so much to do. If you consider working abroad, I’ll recommend Beijing! I did have to adapt to the fast tempo they manage here. But give it two or three weeks and you’re ready to take on anything.”
I asked Nelis how he ended up in this huge metropolis, so far from home. He said he’d never really considered China, it wasn’t on his job search radar. But with his TEFL in hand and his love of travel, no country was off limits. “I received an email and followed up,” he explained. “I then got in contact with Ted, he referred me to Foreign HR in Beijing. They contacted me on WeChat, and we set up an online interview. They were very helpful, one of the most professional HR teams I’ve ever worked with. I really felt I could trust they were looking out for my best interest and would definitely work with them again.”
Have TEFL, will travel
English education is a booming industry in China and having a TEFL certificate opens up an endless number of teaching options. I helped Nelis secure a position with a well-established and reputable private language school. They have fourteen training centers and are expanding rapidly. The school is named after the famous Houhai lake in central Beijing, an area popular with expats and residents alike. It’s a great place to go for a stroll or stop for a snack or a drink in one of the many restaurants, bars, and cafes along the shoreline.
I checked in with Nelis after a few months in Beijing to see how he was doing. “What I love about my new life abroad is meeting new people and experiencing the Chinese culture and foods! Although the language barrier can be challenging, it’s difficult to express yourself when someone can’t understand you. But most of the time they are more than willing to look at my translator app.”
Happily settled into his new city, Nelis is also enjoying his newfound employment at Houhai English. “In a week we usually work around 30 hours. On weekdays my classes don’t start until 17:30, so I have the whole morning to prepare my lessons. Weekends we teach 9:00 to 20:30, and each class is three hours long.”
Words of wisdom
Before we finished our conversation, I asked Nelis if he has any wisdom to share from his short time in Beijing. He had a surprising among of great advice for anyone thinking about working in China: “Make sure you’re ready for the transition, they have a fast tempo, and there’s a lot of people here! Learn to speak Chinese! That’s one of the most valuable assets that one can have in China. Make sure you do some research about China, they have a lot of moral standards and if you don’t obey them, they will hate you! And be nice to everyone, especially in public, they don’t like to be humiliated.”
(by Ted Salonek)