you, too, have principles. If you ever break your side of the agreement, you might expect that they will feel at liberty to do so.
Some teachers have found the staff of the foreign affairs office to be extremely supportive; others feel they are not helpful at all; still others report they will only respond to specific questions. Relations with department personnel also vary considerably. It is therefore important to learn as quickly as possible how to get what you need. For example, one American teacher learned never to confront the director of the department about conditions of employment, as the answer would always be "no." But if he gathered all the official information about the situation and wrote a memo to the director outlining the regulations and stating his specific request, he always received an affirmative answer. Similarly, many find that information they felt should have been communicated to them was not. One teacher arrived in his regular classroom to find it empty. The room had been changed and no one had informed him. His students were waiting in the newly assigned classroom. Another teacher who had sent a box of books in care of his foreign affairs office was never informed that the books had arrived. Others, expecting to be informed by their departments of upcoming activities, such as a lecture by a visiting American scholar or the showing of a movie, often learn of the event only by accident and sometimes after the fact. Other foreign teachers at your own or neighboring schools will be a major asset in this regard. You probably share many of the same successes and frustrations. If several of you are at one school, you might select a "representative" to talk with the administration on everyone's behalf, even if a problem affects only one of you.
Many U.S. teachers speak little, if any, Chinese when they arrive, and official discussions between them and their departmental or institutional sponsors are in English (through an interpreter, if needed). Many teachers note that their departmental colleagues often speak far better English than do administrative cadres. However, while they indicate that language is not a key problem, most find that speaking some Chinese is extremely helpful.
The problems typically noted by U.S. teachers are cultural and social organization. "Americans are used to a high degree of independence and self-direction. The Chinese are not. There are a lot of banquets and other displays of friendship which cover up some very hard bargaining. One needs to go along with all the formalities and rituals and still be very assertive concerning one's own interests." Another teacher recommended that two important cultural characteristics be kept in mind:
Chinese work through intermediaries. Americans like to talk things out face-to-face. This means that rather than talking over problems or concerns with the head of the department directly, you may have to work through a third person who will carry messages back and forth.