About the author: Raph, 19 years old from Australia who stayed with China Educators’ host family for 9 months in Beijing. Now he has returned to Australia. We invited him to write his experience as an Edu au pair. Hopefully it would be helpful for those who would like to be an au pair in China. (All rights reserved. Please don’t reproduce without written permission.)
Life of being an Au Pair in China
In a world wrought with confusion and economic and political crisis, there is only one hope but to travel to China and become an Au Pair…
Well this obviously isn’t the only solution, however I’ll be honest and tell you right now the first job I found when searching on Gumtree that my skills (as an advanced academic yet inexperienced high-schooler) were adequate for was the Au Pairing job.
In Australia, if you already have a solid income and bountiful amounts of life experience, Australia is an amazing place to live. However, as an impulsive teenager who wanted the opportunity to actually embark on this said life experience, rather than forever dwelling in the bubble of the Western education system, this was one irrefutable way to do it.
If you’re able to connect with kids and you happen to posses the more outgoing trait in your personality, well, this is one outstanding place to begin an epic adventure of, yes, true adventuring off the beaten path!
What other place could give you a more fulfilling adventure, with its wall being longer than the length of its surrounding countries, towering mountains like those which were filmed in Avatar (or just lots of epic mountains in general), rice fields that ascend into the heavens and a culture that’s equally diverse as all of the manufactured Made in China products you see on your shelves all the time…
I mean, aren’t you a little curious about that country where about 95% of the things you own had some sort of involvement with, or the fact that its booming economy is, well, what’s keeping the world’s economy still running? China certainly kept my economy running, thanks to the fact you get free meals and the apartment and additional activities to further discover Chinese culture if you weren’t already mind-blown in the first week.
You can travel to America or Europe or even Japan and have your travel plans laid out for you, to be assured you can experience every part of the culture and landscape you already see on the TVs…
Or you can go to China and have this sort of a lifestyle (especially if you so desire to have a life in the league of my insanity):
In Beijing, you can eat food from not just every single nook and cranny existing in this world, but arguably the best food in the world with noodles so amazing that you can forget your obsession with cheese nachos…
If you’re a party-goer, then forget entrance frees when you rock up to the nightclubs of our beloved Sanlitun (the foreigner-sprawl district of Beijing essentially), for free!
When in Beijing, you don’t just need to settle for the Forbidden City or the same tourist-infested locations of the Great Wall when you can discover the fifty or so other temples (especially the even more stunning Summer Palace), and instead have the chance to discover broken and completely untainted sections of the wall, far more fun and good exercise for the less faint-hearted.
And finally, it’s in my belief the people make the place. Here I can give a word of warning that Chinese people live a fast-paced unrelenting lifestyle, so they might not always be the most considerate people when you’re lining up to enter the subway, but they are undoubtedly some of the friendliest people you might happen to encounter.
If you are expecting to encounter cultural shock, the majority will be experienced from the people here. I’ll talk about the people later, so for now you should know China is actually already highly developed (you may have seen pictures of the modern Shanghai, so picture a city even wealthier… which is Beijing…), and anything you could do in the west you can pretty much do here.
Asides from the nightclubbing, you can go to the cinema (where most films are still in English), eat pizza – in fact the family I was living with gave me pancakes with Nutella the first morning I arrived, and if that’s not satisfactory, then how about all the internet cafes and martial arts clubs you’ll find ridden across the cityscape?
The first main thing to be cautious of is when you venture off to random places, especially those that are more isolated, try and bring bottled water with you as tap water isn’t drinkable, and Beijing has especially dry air. You should also consider bringing tissue paper, as although this issue isn’t so prevalent in Beijing, I found that many public toilets in Guangzhou for instance didn’t have their own toilet paper, and were mostly squat toilets, so learning how to squat well is advised!
In terms of the internet, say goodbye to Facebook, Google, Youtube and your favourite torrent sites when you get here, unless (or really until) you get yourself a VPN. The internet connection is fast for the Chinese sites (that’s great if you can read Chinese characters, yay!) and also free, the mobile bill is cheap, as well as public transport, and pretty much so are all the other services (no electricity or water bills)… so I’d say the affordability of everything here makes up for the inconvenience when trying to watch your favourite cat videos here in China.
You might believe that air pollution is serious, though in my opinion this is a common misconception about China. You can buy masks everywhere for dirt cheap prices anyway. The pollution is only unsatisfactory on one or two days of the week, mainly after long periods of time without rain or wind.
Now back to topic of people. You should note that Chinese people are actually extremely hospitable and friendly, and many of them are happy to have simple conversations with you if there English level is high enough. Or, just study your Chinese well in class – this a great plus of this program I found, where you can frequently study Chinese with great Chinese teachers so you’ll be having your first Mandarin conversations in only a few months (and another great reason to come to China – don’t you want to be able to study one of the most challenging languages known to all native English-speakers?). Free Chinese lessons, of course.
Besides the language difference, you might find some will stare (and sometimes even take pictures) at you… It’s okay because it shows you’re special… If it really bothers you at all, it’s not because you’re weird, just imagine you’re like a George Clooney or Emma Watson walking around on the streets, and hopefully that will patch up your ego.
Chinese people tend to find foreigners (especially white people) more attractive because we are simply ‘exotic’ (take me for instance with green eyes and curly brown hair – I think I’d easily become narcissistic after only seeing straight black hair and black eyes for eighteen years before suddenly seeing those sorts of more unique physical traits).
Either way, you’re bound to make many friends or even experience romance with them if you keep an open mind to it.
Even though Au Pairing isn’t necessarily the most glorious of all jobs, and sometimes it can be difficult to be on the best terms with the Chinese kid that you will teach (or even their parents for that matter), but it is something that will and truly follow any yolo-based principles you might live by.
Living in China as an Au Pair job is living, and not just continuing to reside in your education bubble to find a simple stable career. It was an invigorating experience and it shed light on a way to truly experience some of the wonders of this world that we live in but know so little about.
If you’re looking to gain some substantial life experiences, being ready to make international friends or trying to learn a language that’s harder than English’s vindictive spelling laws, don’t hesitate to stop by in China and have a simple, yet thrilling life here as an Au Pair.