Will I survive in this city?
September 4, 2006 10:47 PM   Subscribe

ChinaFilter part III - Give me advice for living, teaching, and learning Mandarin in Jiangmen!

This is the third and final installment in the "which China should I go to" trilogy. The Hive Mind has chosen to send me to Mainland China, and I have obliged. I will be in Jiangmen, teaching for 25h/week, with my own apartment. I'm fucking stoked.

So now, a day before I leave, I now ask the green: what sort of things can be done in Jiangmen (~2h north of Hong Kong), or Guangdong in general? Here are a list of things I am particularly concerned in.

1. I love music, to no end. Electronic, house, and hip-hop covers much of my tastes. I want to do some clubbing, and I am also extremely interested in securing a DJing gig somewhere round here - perhaps even in HK if possible (though I understand transportation one-way there is round US$22.) But mainly, let's say that I am sort of a party animal. Will I die of boredom? Is there any sort of youth scene here at all (I'm 22)?

2. In addition to absorbing the culture, I really, really want to learn Mandarin Chinese. This is my primary reason for coming. I worry slightly that I'll be surrounded by people who would rather speak Cantonese - which is fine, but one at a time, you know? In addition to taking uni classes, I am willing to be outgoing, get one-on-one tutors out of my teaching money, etc - will this be doable here? I

3. While I've got a year of college Mandarin under my belt, I know little of the culture - and I'm not proud of that. Are there any pointers or you would give to an enterprising foreigner-to-be?

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and offer a decoratively wrapped bag of the finest choice internets as well as a free spot to crash at my pad once I get settled to anyone able to give me some solid advice.
posted by dihutenosa to Travel & Transportation around Jiujiang, China (6 answers total)
Response by poster: Oh - and I do realize that #2 was addressed, somewhat, in my previous question. I'm just trying to get extra info on the dialect situation. Thanks!
posted by dihutenosa at 11:48 PM on September 4, 2006

Best answer: I just got back from 2 months in Beijing and plan to return for 9 more. I was pretty disappointed in the quality of the professors at Beijing Language and Culture Univ, which as I understand it is one of the better language teaching unis in China. My plan for my next stay is to hire, like, 5 private language teachers for 20-30 kuai/hour--grad students studying how to teach Chinese to foreigners like me--and not enroll in a university. Don't yet know how it'll work out, but you might want to think about something like that.

Unfortunately, traveling back and forth to HK, I think, will be nearly impossible unless you have a multiple entry visa. (They are different immigration/customs zones.)

Hey, send me an email at jlerner27@gmail.com and we can get in touch.
posted by jbb7 at 5:10 AM on September 5, 2006

Best answer: I'm 23 and I teach English in Asia too.

I'm working 25 hours a week (this month) in a big city in Indonesia and let me say this: you will have little, if any, time, to study the language. You're teaching (physically being in the classroom!) five hours a day. Prepping lessons, making copies, getting to and from work, and sitting around during breaks in split shifts is outside the 25 hours. Plan on 40-50 hours a week, really, that are somehow tied to work. Eight to ten hours a day. And getting paid for five. Five. This might be the exception rather than the rule, but if it's your first time teaching English, it's going to be a steep learning curve, at least for the first few months.

I'm not saying the job isn't easy sometimes, but the fact remains that there are too few hours in the day (like any job). If you can find time to take language classes, shop for groceries, get out of town on the weekends a few times a year, and hit a bookstore once in a blue moon, you're ahead of me, my friend. I'm surrounded by Indonesians speaking Indonesian, and it is a major ordeal for me to formulate sentences and articulate myself because even though I studied the language with a few books/tapes before I came over here, I have no time to practice in any academic format now.

Not to be a downer, but knowing the perils of the job, you shouldn't be too optimistic about squeezing in a college course, at least at first.

Any more questions you might have about teaching, I'm happy to answer. Good luck!
posted by mdonley at 6:30 AM on September 5, 2006

There's a lot of information of the kind you seek over at Lonely Planet Thorn Tree.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:16 AM on September 5, 2006

I live in Guangdong province (three years), and I've never heard of Jiangmen. Is it a tiny town? If it's 2 hours north of HK, you won't have time to go very often, but make sure your employer gives you a resident visa, so that you can cross the border back and forth whenever you like. Many lazy/incompetent employers will try to get away without getting it for you, but it's their obligation.

Guangzhou is a cool city, get to know it. Lots of techno, some hip-hop clubs. In know several bars in my city (Shenzhen) that have foreign DJs, a white or black face goes a long way toward getting you a try-out.

25 classes a week is a lot, it will keep you quite busy. Though often, schools don't give you as many classes as their contract allows.

Don't be afraid to try street food. It's great. Find a Uyghur restaurant, preferably one run by actual Uyghurs (Chinese from Xinjiang, muslims of turkic decent). Talk to old people when you can, they're almost always interesting. If you're partial to a particular spice or seasoning that's easily transportable, bring some. I brought Tapatio mexican hot sauce and I treasure it.
posted by bluejayk at 9:25 AM on September 5, 2006

Response by poster: Okay, I know that it seems that I was just totally freeloading answers off of you all, but I haven't had a 'net connection until just now. On the off chance that anyone is reading this and that anyone else is in a similar posiiton:

I just started work, and mdonley is right. I may have only 25ish hours now, but I spend a hell of a lot of time sitting around waiting for the next class to start. For example, I get to work around 8 AM on tuesdays, teach for 40 minutes, then wait until about 2:30 until I start again. I suppose I can fill this time with studying.

Unfortunately I'm starting to realize that coming to the Guangdong area (yes, Jiangmen is fairly small by Chinese standards - 650,000 people) to learn Mandarin is a bit like going to Germany to learn English. But hopefully I can find some tutors, ala jbb7 (check your inbox).

bluejayk, if you know of any good places to check out in Shenzen and wouldn't mind sharing, my email's in my profile. Thanks.
posted by dihutenosa at 1:25 AM on September 17, 2006

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