If you are a foreign teacher or Western expat in China, you can help hundreds of thousands of prospective new foreign residents every year by sharing what you’ve learned about China with our readers.
Many of our current contributors are former readers who relied on the Guide for reliable and valid information before moving to China. If you are one of those who has benefited from Middle Kingdom Life, please consider giving something back by writing an article.
There are four distinct and broad types of submissions that we accept from contributing authors: personal stories, city guides, specialty advice (how-to’s) and product, service, or restaurant reviews. The following section describes each type of contribution and what we are looking for.
“More personal stories” is the most frequently requested addition our readers ask for. Despite the comprehensiveness of the Foreign Teachers Guide, prospective foreign teachers learn a great deal from the experience of other Westerners who have “been there and done that.”
Personal stories are most helpful when they are well organized, focused, and balanced. Before writing your personal story, try to think of a “theme” that will unify the entire story.
If you are writing about your personal experiences as an employee (foreign teacher, Western expat at a foreign-owned company, etc.), one very effective organizational theme is to write about a) what you like, b) what you don’t like, and c) why you are staying (or why you have left). In other words, share with our readers what you personally see as the advantages and disadvantages to living and working in mainland China. If you are writing about your personal experiences in a relationship with a Chinese national, a similar approach is also very effective: Organize your story around the advantages and disadvantages of being in a cross-cultural relationship and why you are still in the relationship or why you ended it.
You should begin your personal story with some background information, e.g., nationality, age, gender, education, current family status, i.e., single, coupled, married, etc. and which city or province you have taught in (if more than one) and are currently teaching in now. This type of sociodemographic information tells our readers something about the source.
Your stories will help others to make an informed and intelligent decision and might spare them some of the traps and pitfalls we had to endure when we first arrived. We especially could use personal stories from couples and families, single women, and non-native speakers… especially foreign women who are dating or are married to Chinese men.
As you write your personal story, think of your audience as a group of close colleagues or peers. Imagine you are at home and your friends are asking you questions about your experiences in China. Avoid writing in an authoritative voice or coming across as a definitive expert, e.g., “you need to,” “you should,” “don’t do that."
Keep in mind that what worked for you might not work for others (and vice versa) and that personal experience alone does not constitute expertise in anything (I have lived with high blood pressure for over 30 years but that doesn't make me a medical expert on hypertension). Be clear in your own mind and with your readers that you are simply sharing personal information about a travel or overseas work experience you have had that others are currently thinking about undertaking... and that everyone's individual mileage may vary.
Avoid offering strong, definitive opinions about subjects you are not formally educated in, e.g., economics, social psychology, linguistics, etc. However, if you are a bona fide subject matter expert (SME) by formal education (academic degree) and work experience, e.g., accountant, attorney, physician, professor of linguistics (PhD), architect, etc. and would like to write an article offering expert opinions, we would be most interested in receiving those.
Finally, there is no point in reinventing the wheel: submissions that simply reiterate in different words what the Guide already covers at great length are not useful to our readers and may even cause confusion. For an example of what we consider to be an outstandingly well-written and exceptionally useful personal story, take a look at An American Couple Teaching English in China: Why We Stay.
It is fine and even desirable for you to express strong personal opinions about living and working in China, e.g., “I love China,” “China sucks.” However, please keep in mind that Middle Kingdom Life is an educational website, not an open public anonymous forum. We will only publish personal stories that are truly informative and useful to our readers. While you do not need to justify or substantiate your opinions with external references, you most certainly do need to explain them in a clear and rational manner. It is not useful to write “I love China but I can’t really explain why in a way that anyone would understand” or, conversely, “Everyone knows that China sucks. Enough said!”
Related, your personal story should offer readers considerably more than just an annotated chronological summary of your work experience. The goal of your story should be to provide prospective foreign teachers with personal insights and “insider experiences” that are not necessarily available in the Guide.
The ideal length of a personal story should be between four to six pages, single-spaced (about 2500 to 3500 words). Personal stories in excess of 3500 words will be shortened. All submissions will be copy edited to correct or improve grammar, spelling, punctuation, word usage, overall readability, and clarity of meaning as needed.
Personal stories are most effective and useful when they are published onymously (with your real name and contact info). However, if the personal story involves another person, e.g., about a relationship that went bad, or using your real name could somehow put you a risk, we may consider publishing your story anonymously.
Please be advised, as a strict policy, we do not publish school, EFL website, or recruiter reviews, good or bad, because we do not have the time and resources to evaluate the review's validity. Finally, all proffered advise or recommendations must be consistent with the advice and guidelines discussed in our Guide unless authoritative evidence that specifically contradicts what is advised in the Guide is provided (see last section on Corrections and Additions below).
If you are thinking about writing a personal story for Middle Kingdom Life, we encourage you to contact us first with your idea or outline so that we may offer some advice to help you get going.
The second way you can contribute is to write a city guide for inclusion in our Foreign Teachers Guide to Living and Working in China. For an example of what we're looking for, take a look at Living and Teaching English in Guiyang, Guizhou Province. Basically we're looking for an informative overview that is organized across two broad areas: living in your city and teaching opportunities.
Here's a rough outline we suggest you follow:
There is no word or page limit for city guides. Use as much space as you need to get the job done.
Do you have a special skill or interest that you like to share with others? Perhaps you are a Western professional, e.g., chiropractor, psychologist, internist, etc. who would like to advise your colleagues about how to set up a practice in China? Maybe you have just purchased a new IPhone and what to share with other foreigners in China which applications you find most useful here in the Middle Kingdom? If so, we warmly invite you to write a “how-to” type of article for publication.
We have a special section in our website for reviews of products, services, and restaurants in China. If you have had a particularly good or bad experience in China, this is the place for you to share about them.
Finally, if you have authoritative evidence of a factual error in the Guide or if there is some omission that you would like to correct, please send us a citation or link to the authoritative source so that we may make specific mention of the source when we amend the Guide.
Please be advised that your personal experience, the experience of your friends, and hearsay do not constitute authoritative evidence of an error or omission. Western people are frequently told all sorts of things in China, by both the Chinese (including Chinese administrators and officials) and other foreigners, for which there is absolutely no valid substantiation.
Old rules and regulations are pulled out and dusted off when they serve a purpose and “new rules” are invented all the time in order to give foreign teachers face. Without at least one specific reference to an official outside source, to substantiate the alleged new rule or level of enforcement, we cannot make changes to the Guide.
Revised July 2011