Teaching in a Third-Tier City: My Year in Yingkou

Teaching in a Third-Tier City: My Year in Yingkou

My first trip to China wasn't exactly what I expected. But then, that was pretty much what I was expecting.

I got a bachelor's degree in Chinese and Japanese in 2013, so I was hoping to work my way into something other than English teaching during my year there. I find Chinese a formidable language to learn though, so I was happy enough to start off teaching, and happy just to have a way to get into China.

As it turned out, I taught for over eleven months at the school I started at: English Pie in Yingkou, Liaoning. I found it more interesting and rewarding (personally) than I had expected, and made some lifelong friendships with my teaching assistants and students, and with the students' parents.

Beware English Pie

I left on a sour note, though, when the boss there kept me on through April 12, and only paid me a quarter of a month's salary for that month. It was an underpayment of over 1000 Yuan.

It wasn't too surprising if you look at the way she cheated and deceived her Chinese staff, but she had always been very fair and generous to me the entire time that she was utterly dependent on me as her only foreign teacher, never really cheating me out of anything until after I finished working for her. In fact, she conformed reliably to a pattern of giving the best treatment to the people that she needs, and being stingy with people over whom she has power.

Living in Yingkou

Yingkou is a pretty good place. If you are really interested in China, and you can't or don't dare go to the remote countryside or just want city things like decent-sized supermarkets, broadband or whatever, then I think it is a good place to visit.

The air was far, far cleaner than it seemed to be even in most parts of Jinzhou, a couple of cities away, and every day except for perhaps eight or ten smoggy days, I stepped outside, took a deep, appreciative breath, and thought, "the air could be far worse.” The winter is very cold, but not nearly as cold as in most parts of the Northeast. Basically, its seaside location, at the base of the Liaodong Peninsula, seem to give it slightly milder summers and winters, and much cleaner air, than other eastern cities at a similar latitude.  

I rode my $8 secondhand bicycle everywhere, often on wide or even separate cycle lanes, and I went to Dalian (an hour away by high-speed train) for a swim in the summer. There are LOTS of cheap markets of course, selling all sorts of foods, clothes and so on. Things were cheaper than in Dalian, I could see that at a glance.

But oh, the food and the culture - unbelievable. Whether people cooked for me at home or took me out to a restaurant, the food was unbelievably delicious. Certainly there were a lot of flavors, I'm sure not everyone would have liked it quite as much as me, but I will say that none of it was as hot (spicy) as a few meals I have had at restaurants in the West.

And of course there was tai chi and tai chi sword dancing in every park, chess on the sidewalk three seasons of the year and lots of activities and specific snacks for big holidays as they came along (they have more holidays than we do in the West, don't they, at least if you count holidays like Christmas and January 1st they do!) The richness of Chinese culture is truly impressive to a New Worlder like me (I am a Yankee and a New Zealander).

Learning Kung Fu

The best thing that happened to me over there was meeting my kung fu brother, who introduced me to his kung fu teacher, the man who taught me a Northern style of praying mantis kung fu for seven months, and who is like my Chinese father or uncle. Our teacher is in a league above all but one of the martial artists I have been lucky enough to train with. His technique and power are amazing and beautiful. And all of the time that the three of us spent together really was like family time - right up until the day they all dropped me off at the train station to say goodbye, in our teacher's kung fu brother's van, after a big feast together. I cried when we said goodbye, and I look forward to seeing my dear friends again.

I hadn't heard of Yingkou before I was offered a job there, but I'm glad that I went there.

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Keywords: Teaching in Yingkou teaching English in China


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Someone up above posted a comment to the effect that the majority of problems foreigners had in their lives were caused by other foreigners and not locals. I've also found this to be the case. Now I just steer clear of the vast majority of foreigners in China. Sure there may be some fine folk who come over here but by and large it sometimes seems that all the socially inept/maladjusted people from Western society are here. I have two friends(in other cities) who are foreigners and the rest are all locals. Trust me, unless you want to have more drama in your life you might want to consider following the same proportions

Jan 13, 2018 14:48 Report Abuse



Yes, the food is always delicious!

Dec 30, 2017 01:33 Report Abuse



Sounds pretty cool, which there were better job opportunities in the third tier cities

Aug 04, 2016 12:46 Report Abuse



There's pro's and con's.....after a while everybody including the ayi's in the bus know where you're from and where you work and that you can speak putonghua but can't follow the local rural dialect so have a lot of notoriety, the plus side is you can still use that notoriety in the smaller towns to get free things etc

Jun 21, 2015 05:04 Report Abuse



7 tier is the holy grail

Jun 17, 2015 16:44 Report Abuse



But every city has not same situation. Here in Nanjing, English teaching job opportunities are very less. Even a person can not find accurate place for applying any job on website.

Jun 16, 2015 12:54 Report Abuse



I began my China adventure teaching in a small town called Ganyu/Qinkou in Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province. I loved it there, despite the normal concerns here in China with pollution and cultural issues. A small foreigner contingency provided support to each other. At the time, there were about 8 of us in the town. We knew each other well. We would have dinners together sometimes or just meet up for an activity. When you saw them on the street, you took time out of your schedule to say hello and catch up on events. The people of Ganyu were very friendly to us. They would treat us like Rock stars. The Chinese people would become friends the moment you said hello. There was no deceit or other motives in the friendship. There were two schools. I was at the private school and it was a blessing. The kids were eager to learn English. I believe that any school administration sets up for a successful or a dismal English experience for their students. Our school kept English as an important part of the school experience. The other school was run by Aston English. The FT there complained constantly about the work conditions and the poor administration of the school. The kids were unruly and uncontrollable. You could see good, positive teachers shrinking into the negative, bitter foreigners over a short period of time in those conditions. We would visit a local city for tine away from the regular routine of Ganyu. The expat contingency there were like high school kids stuck in their cliques, backstabbing one another and passing rumors about one another. Eventually, most of the Ganyu expats would just steer clear of them. It really does make a huge difference about your experiences in China with who you become friends with and who causes turmoil in your life. I was amazed that all the troubles people had in their life were caused by other expats and never with a Chinese person. I think part of the problem is that not only do we expats have to deal with a Chinese culture that is night and day from a western culture, but we also have to deal with the cultures of all of the other expats we come in contact with. Even if you are an American, you have an east coat expat and a west coast expat, the cultures are drastically different. TIC becomes your friend here in China.

Jun 16, 2015 08:13 Report Abuse



So true man

Jun 21, 2015 05:01 Report Abuse



@Guest - Yeah, I am in a Tier 5/6 city and the foreign community is quite small but very tightly knit. It is a good exercise in getting along with different people because if you don't like someone... too bad they will be there at every event. Unless there is something SERIOUSLY wrong with them, like they are a total jerk to everyone or something... then they are excluded from everything anyway. I have been in China to not need "the foreign crowd" but for newcomers it can be a necessity for coping. @OP - Glad you had a good time in Yingkou. I have never heard of that city but it looks and sounds like a gem. I wonder why it isn't more popular. Consider yourself lucky that you have a very good first experience in China. Most people that come to China to teach usually don't have all the same positive experiences that it seems like you had.

Jun 15, 2015 15:01 Report Abuse



Honestly though I prefer working in 5th/6th tier cities with one University at least. So many benefits to being a group of 5-10 foreigners. 10-50 sucks cos there's gossip and bickering but less than 15 is great cos everyone has more local friends than foreigners and more than 50 is fine cos you don't have to deal with foreigners that you don't like.

Jun 15, 2015 05:13 Report Abuse



Just two in my city. Me and one other. Interesting to hear that a group of 10 - 50 causes problems.

Jun 15, 2015 11:50 Report Abuse



if it wasn't for foreigners there would be world peace for sure.

Jun 16, 2015 23:15 Report Abuse



Seems like a classic case of wanting to be a big fish in a small pond. Those tiny cities are typically where the strangest of foreigners go. Group of 5-10 foreigners? Perfect! Just enough to force friendship among each other!

Jun 28, 2015 11:29 Report Abuse