Dear Dario

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.

Dear Dario,

The first thing you should do is read my blog, Some 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.
Lianhuacun MTR

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.
Merry Christmas and best wishes to you both!
Simon Hill

(aka the Hippo) 


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