This blog is supposed to be all about Bulgaria, but for five years we were in Shenzhen, in southern China. That is the reason for the weird title, "Bulgaria with Noodles". In June of 2018, Irena and I left China and retired to Bulgaria, to our villa 60km north of Sofia and to our apartment in Veliko Tarnovo. This blog is really all about some comparisons and contrasts between China and Bulgaria, two very different countries.
Using my nickname, "the Hippo", I often write posts on the Teaching Overseas forum, part of the TES (Times Educational Supplement) website. Quite a few teachers contact me, asking me about teaching in international schools.
The first thing you should do is read my blog, www.bulgariawithnoodles.blogspot.comSome people think it is just about Bulgaria, but really it is also very much about China as well, since we are living in China and we will not be in Bulgaria until the summer of next year. Yes, we are in Shenzhen, where I am currently teaching at Green Oasis School, and you are going to be in Shanghai, so there will be one or two differences.
So you have both been offered jobs at Dulwich College? Great! Dulwich College in the UK is, of course, a very posh and famous public school. (They are called “public schools”, but of course they are private.) Well, of course it will not be quite the same as the original Dulwich College, I am sure, but my guess is that this new school will have a lot of money behind it. Therefore the teaching resources and the buildings will be excellent and the overall “package” that the teachers will receive should be a very good one. That would be my guess.
Shanghai is supposed to be wonderful! Yes, it is quite an expensive place, by Chinese standards, but then again salaries a much higher. The crucial thing is your accommodation. Here in Shenzhen, we pay 6500RMB a month for our two-bedroomed apartment in the centre of Futian, which is right in the middle of SZ. Well, I would expect to pay at least 10,000 or maybe even 12,000RMB a month in Shanghai. From what people have written on the TES Teaching Overseas forum, that seems to be about right.
Ghost-free entrance to our block
Shenzhen has an amazingly cheap and efficient MTR system and I believe that it is much the same in Shanghai, so you will not have to worry about buying a car. A Chinese friend told me that buying a car is NOT a good idea if you are a laowai (foreigner).
As you probably know, the official language or government language of China is Mandarin Chinese, but the bad news is that most people in Shanghai will speak and write Shangaiese, which is quite a bit different to Mandarin. Although you will not find it hard to buy DVDs and books about Mandarin, you might find it much more difficult to find any worthwhile resources for Shanghaiese, if indeed you do decide that you want to try to learn the local lingo. To be honest, I have given up trying to learn Mandarin, firstly because I am going to be retiring and leaving China at the end of this academic year and secondly because it is such an impossibly difficult language. Thirdly, I have a teaching partner, Miss Yanee, who is absolutely wonderful and she translates everything for me.
I am afraid that I do not know what to recommend. Should you start learning Mandarin or Shanghaiese or both? I cannot help you with that one. I have always been interested in learning languages, as I learned French, Spanish and Latin at school, followed by Greek and Hebrew at university and then I married a Russian lady and bought a house in Bulgaria! Mandarin, however, is an incredibly tough language, far harder than any other language I have ever come across. Yes, some determined foreigners (not very many) do master it, after a lot of time and effort.
I am sure that at Dulwich College you will have some smart and capable young Chinese ladies, who speak excellent English and are there to help you to sort out awkward things like rental agreements for apartments. This is certainly the case at Green Oasis School, where we have two angels in our Human Resources department.
Well, I do not know what other advice to give to you. Heather, a sweet lady who contacted me through the TES, sent me a most kind and helpful letter, so I am sending that on to you. Stephanie Yoder's article is brilliant and funny, but maybe it is not relevant to your situation.
really enjoy going back to England any more. Last year it was RTD’s memorial
service and last month I went back to try to sort out what to do with my lump
sum from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
Well, why don’t I enjoy going back to my
own country? First of all, I think that it is because I just do not belong
there. Bulgaria is my home and therefore, more and more, I feel that my roots
are in my adopted country. Bulgaria is “home” now. Secondly, there are the
practical issues of going back, as I have no place of my own in the UK, no car,
no nothing. My old friend Peter Adams was very hospitable, as usual, and we
certainly enjoyed some splendid scoffing: lots of roast beef, roast potatoes,
Yorkshire pud and all the trimmings! This was then followed up with the
inevitable crumble and custard. Then we also had a good lunch with Peter’s mum
(fish and chips), followed by a delicious Chinese meal. But food leads on to my
next anti-British moan: the outrageous cost of just about every…
Even though we left Qatar more than five years ago, many teachers still contact me through the TES and ask me what it is like to teach there. Hi Hippo
I hope you don't mind me pre-emptively sending you a conversation about my job
GEMS Wellington Qatar have offered 13.5k which I think is reasonable for three
years' experience qualified (five including unqualified experience).
However, they are not offering medical insurance for my family nor are they
covering flights for them. At the interview, the Director intimated that my
family might even have to stay here in the UK while stuff like permits got
sorted out. My gut instinct tells me not to accept the offer as a result.
Also, I've heard Qataris can be quite racist towards non-white people. How true
is this? I've always fought against this sort of thing in the UK as an Asian
man and don't want any trouble when I go out to work.
Is the cost of living higher than Dubai or London? Obviously, I'd not have to
In many ways Veliko Tarnovo, also known as V.T., is a much nicer city than Sofia. It is smaller, less polluted and the traffic is nowhere near as bad as it is in the capital. Every year, we go and spend a week or so in our apartment in Veliko Tarnovo. For I don't know how long, Irena and I have been saying, "When you retire, we will move in V.T. and that is where we will spend the winter, as it won't be much fun spending the winter in Kalotina." The main problem with this plan is that we have not retired yet. Well, I was retired for six months, but then I started working again and now we have started to put down roots in Sofia, not in V.T. This trip to V.T. was rather different, as it was dominated by the presence of Tina. Yes, it was a lot of fun to have her delightful company, but she was also seriously ill. Several trips to the Vet were needed, along with quite a few injections and a course of antibiotics. First she was vomiting and had bad diarroheia, followed by …