I moved to Shenzhen, China, three days after my graduation.
In all honesty, before I left I didn’t know any Mandarin, nor did I have a great understanding of the culture. I simply knew that China was on my bucket list of places to visit, so when I was given the opportunity to work as an English language (ESL) teacher and travel, I grabbed it with both hands.
In retrospect, whilst I now love China and do not regret my experience, I was naïve about the cultural differences and also how essential learning Mandarin would be for me as a young black woman and foreign teacher.
China is fast, vibrant and at times very dramatic. Shops and vendors overlap each other on busy high streets, and the intensity of bargaining sounds like verbal kung fu. Within the first couple of days, I encountered several situations that I wasn’t typically accustomed to whilst living in the UK. On my third day I was walking alongside a colleague near a station in Shenzhen called Shaibu and a man proceeded to take pictures of me with his professional camera whilst simultaneously pointing at my hair and skin.