Although China is considered a xenophobic country, foreigners often enjoy privileges that local Chinese people do not. The archetypal "loser back home," for instance, may find themselves in a prestigious position in China due to foreigner privilege. Oftentimes, such people would find it difficult to get a job in vast food back in their home countries.
Foreigner privilege extends to nearly every walk of life from employment, to dating (at least for foreign men), to the observation of social norms. These privileges are particularly prevalent in the ESL classroom. In this article, we will discuss some of the perks that you may get teaching in China just for being a foreigner.
The Ease of Getting a Job
Getting a Job teaching English in China is no difficult chore, provides that you come from an English-speaking country and have a bachelor's degree. Those that are White, especially those with blonde hair and blue eyes, would have to be extreme failures to not be able to find employment in China. Black people will have a comparatively more challenging time, but it is nowhere near impossible. In fact, I would advise educated Black people that are having trouble finding employment to give Mainland China a try.
English teaching jobs can be found throughout the Middle Kingdom, and as long as you are not too picky about where you want to live, you will easily find a job. Once you get there, it becomes even easier to find employment. Personally speaking, I was never without work in China when I wanted it.
The Students Revere You
I have heard conflicting reports to this finding, especially when it comes to kids, but in my observation foreign teacher's are respected immensely in the classroom. For many of your students, you will serve as a window to the outside world. Knowing some of the teachers that I worked with, this is a little bit of a scary thought.
East Asian cultures are known to respect teachers as a part of their cultures, but foreign teachers will receive a higher degree of respect. This privilege is even more noticeable for male teachers. Being told that you are cool, handsome, or strong on a daily basis can work wonders for one's confidence. If you are being told this by some of your cute adult students a hot co-workers, then that's even better.
Depending on the school or branch that you work at, foreigners may be expected to bring the fun in the classroom, while locals are expected to bring the boring old information. This can make your job easier as a teacher, but whether you see this as a privilege or a curse is up to your personality and objectives. Personally, while I enjoyed having fun, I wanted to hone my skills as an educator, so I considered this to be more of a downfall. The two good parts about this setup was that one of the schools that I worked at gave me free license to create my own lesson plans, and it also gave me more room for error that I likely would not have enjoyed if I were a local teacher.
The Schools Value You
A person with a bachelor's degree in underwater basket weaving can find themselves receiving accolades and best teacher awards with no prior teaching experience.
On the contrary, while local teacher's are respected, they are required to have extensive study in the realm of language teaching. For this reason, Chinese staff tend to take the job more seriously than foreigners (especially at the lower levels of organizations) and will spend time trying to hone their craft. For them, it is a career, having invested tons of money and time in education. As for foreigners, many will head home after a year or so, then get a job in the profession that they studied for, if they can find one.
Working alongside Chinese teachers that had master's degrees in education or the English language with my bachelor's degree in a STEM field was trippy to say the least. What hit the hardest was that I was paid about double what they made.
Rationalizing the Foreigner's High Pay
Some foreigners may feel guilty about being paid more than their highly educated, hard-working Chinese co-workers. This guilt is understandable, but completely unnecessary. As foreigners, we are paid more, but we are often paid at a higher rate than locals. We should also keep in mind that we are living far away from home and likely paying more than a Chinese person would to rent out an apartment. Chinese teachers have families that they can rely upon, and might even still be living at home. This means that their paychecks, although smaller, can go a longer way than ours.
Also, while many of my Chinese co-workers were highly educated and could run circles around many native English-speakers, who took things like parts of speech for granted, in terms of teaching grammar, their spoken English was robotic. Native speakers, on the other hand, were able to reach the proper flow of language as well as colloquialisms. We also served as selling points for the school, walking billboards for the sales team's free usage.
Of course, it is easy to say this when one is on the receiving end of the benefits, but harder to rationalize when foreigners get more perks in one's own home country. Hypocrisy is an unavoidable human trait, and I must thank my Chinese co-workers for being good sports about it all.
Teaching in China is not the profession for someone that might feel guilty about having perks, just like it isn't for the thin-skinned. Social justice warriors should stay in their safe spaces far away from the Middle Kingdom. However, those that have no guilt but are not too haughty to openly flaunt their privileges to the point of enraging others will be able to appreciate the perks that come with living and teaching in the country.