Culture Shock – Cultural differences when teaching online

Culture Shock (noun): the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

Going into online teaching, it never even crossed my mind that I’d experience any kind of culture shock. For one, I’d already spent a year in South Korea so I thought I had a good idea of East Asian culture and secondly, we don’t even have to leave our homes. How can we experience any kind of culture shock when we don’t have to leave the country? While it’s definitely not as extreme as moving to a completely unfamiliar country there are still some cultural differences I wish I’d known about!

Potty Club

The coveted club of the online teaching world. The first time your student takes you on a journey to their bathroom, pulls down their trousers and proceeds to do their business, all while continuing their conversation with you, can be quite shocking! They aren’t trying to be rude or offend you though, it just isn’t a big deal over there. It doesn’t seem to be as popular anymore but some children still wear ‘split pants’. These are pants with a hole in the bum so kids can just squat and drop wherever they may be! (Google ‘China split plants’ if you don’t believe me!)

Naked Dads (and other family members)

The first time a granddad in nothing but his underpants strolled across the screen I was quite take aback, but it turns out it’s a pretty common occurrence! It is not unusual for homes in China to have no air conditioning or heating so when temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius (105 F) in summer and drop below freezing in winter, it shouldn’t really be surprising people want to strip off when they get home. Conversely, in winter you’ll probably see students wrapped up in their winter coats during lessons!


This was probably the hardest difference for me to deal with. To most of us in the West, the way some Chinese parents chose to discipline their children can be hard to handle. I’ll never forget the first time my sweet little seven year old got swiped around the back of the head for laughing too hard. I try to show parents and students that it’s ok to make mistakes and have fun in class. I find once parents realise this they step back a little bit, both in terms of discipline and feeding answers to their kids.

Lost in Translation

Communication can be tricky at times! There’s the obvious language barrier but also differences in the way things are said. Directness can often be mistaken for rudeness. A common example is, when contacting IT for help they’ll often respond with ‘What do you want?’ or ‘What is your problem?’ which could come across as pretty rude, but really they are just asking what you would like help with. I’ve found the key to successful communication with IT and CS is:

  • be polite – don’t be rude to them. Even if something has happened you don’t agree with, it’s very rarely that specific CS or IT persons fault, so please don’t take your problem out on them!
  • keep it simple – short, simple sentences are the way to go. The longer the sentence, the more likely it will translate poorly.
  • don’t jump to conclusions – if something seems rude or unhelpful at first, take a second to think about whether they might mean something else.
  • deal with one issue at a time – don’t send CS a long list of problems, go through one at a time, again keeping message short and sweet to avoid confusion.
  • if you’re really getting nowhere leave the conversation and try again with another staff member later.

Saving Face

In the most basic terms ‘saving face’ means to avoid being disgraced or humiliated. This goes some way to explain why you often hear parents whispering answers to their children, or helping them in tests they’re trying to save face. Saving face means it can often be difficult for people to admit their mistakes. Admitting to a mistake would involve ‘losing face’. It’s important to consider this when speaking to parents, students and DaDa employees. Correct student (and parent) mistakes carefully, speak politely to employees and avoid making direct accusations. The whole concept of ‘face’ is quite a tricky one for me and it’s definitely worthy of a post of its own, so if you want to know more I recommend checking out this article on Trip Savvy  

 Academic Pressure

These kids are worked HARD! My student told me a ‘joke’ the other day:

“Children in England get 2 pieces of homework a night, they go home and cry “I have so much homework today”. Children in Japan get 5 pieces of homework a night, they go home and complain “I have so much homework today”. Children in China get 10 pieces of homework a night, they go home and shout with joy “I have so little homework today”. “

The sad thing is this is so true! I ask my students about their day every lesson, and they always say how much homework and extra classes they have. Even their weekends are full with 3-4 extra curricular lessons a day. I ask ‘did you get to relax or read or watch TV today?’ and the answer is almost always no! So bear this in mind when your student comes to class sleepy or in a bad mood, or if they didn’t do the homework you set them. These kids are under so much pressure, and before you judge the parents, it’s worth giving this article a read. There is so much competition in the academic world and most parents just want to give their children a fighting chance to succeed!

The World is a Classroom

Your students will take you to all kinds of weird and wonderful places with them! If your student pops up in an unusual location, don’t panic, just do what you can. I’ve taught students in restaurants, at an amusement park, on a bus, in an underwear store, in a car, in a treehouse in Thailand, in shopping centres and my personal favourite, on the back of a motorcycle! Obviously you can’t teach the courseware in some of these scenarios, instead, use their surroundings and get them to talk about where they are, what they can see, who they’re with and what they’re doing! Sometimes these lessons can turn out the most fun!

Have I missed anything? I’d love to hear more about the cultural differences you’ve experienced while teaching online, or abroad! Leave a comment below 😀

Think you can handle these differences and want to start teaching? I’m happy to help you through the process! If you use my link (it’s free) I can mentor you through the application process and in those first few weeks of teaching so you don’t have to go through the culture shock alone!


Continue Reading

How to Pass your DaDa Demo!

The demo plays a crucial part in the application process. Not only does it determine whether you get the job, it also plays a part in the pay that you’ll be offered. So it’s worth taking a little time to prepare!

Key Info

  • The demo used to be 30 minutes long with a real student. Now it’s 10 minutes long with a recruiter acting as a young student.
  • You will have access to the demo material around 24 hours before your class.
  • With DaDa you don’t need to finish all the slides, go at the students pace.

What are DaDa looking for?

  • Use of TPR –  You can find out some of the top TPR poses here:
  • Use of props – Invest in a cheap puppet, steal some of your kids toys or grab some things from around the house!
  • People who look the part – If possible, make your background educational and appealing. Wear light blue if you have it and add the DaDa logo to your background for brownie points! You can find the logo and a name poster for free here: Click for DaDa Logo and Name Poster
  • Technical requirements – make sure you have strong, stable internet and that you can be seen and heard clearly. If you’re not sure, try out a Skype call with a friend (or me if you used my referral link).
  • Friendly teachers – don’t forget to smile, give lots of praise and award those stars!
  • Expand the lesson – ask extra questions, get the student involved, add songs and games that go with the lesson.

If you’d like more tips watch my video about the demo lesson.

If you’re not feeling too confident navigating your way around the classroom, this guided tour of the classroom should help!:

If you think you’re ready to take the plunge and apply for DaDa I’d love it if you used my link! It’s free for you and in return I can help you throughout the process! If you have any questions head over to my contact page and send me a message!


Continue Reading

DaDa (DaDaABC) Name Poster and Logo

DaDa (the artist formally known as DaDaABC) love a clean, educational background and ask teachers to display the DaDa logo somewhere in the background. Here’s a cute DaDa name poster I whipped up and the official DaDa logo from the Teachers Centre. Feel free to use them in your classroom or if you want to impress your recruiter in the interview!



Continue Reading

Choosing your schedule with DaDa (DaDaABC)

One of the first things you’ll have to do after getting your acceptance offer from DaDa (DaDaABC) is to choose your contract hours. Deciding what will work best for you can be difficult so let’s break it down! Firstly, all the times I’ll be talking about are in BJT (Beijing time) so if you’re not sure what that means for you click here for an awesome time zone converter.

Continue reading for some schedule related FAQs!

Continue Reading

Teaching Ideas – The Weather

Us Brits love to talk about the weather so it makes sense that the weather is one of the first things I introduce into my warm up routine. It’s a suitable topic for all ages and levels and students often love comparing the weather in our countries.

Warm up questions

What’s the weather like today? It is hot and sunny.

What was the weather like yesterday? It was cold and snowy.

Is it cloudy today? Yes, it is. / No it isn’t. 

What type of weather do you like? I like …… because….

What do you do when it’s rainy? When it’s rainy I….

With younger students we draw the weather on the courseware together and use TPR actions to accompany each weather word. I found some adorable flashcards from Mockeri too. I use these to practise the vocab and play some of my favourite flashcard games (flashcard games post coming soon).

Weather songs also make a great addition to a warm up routine. Continue reading for some of my favourites!

Continue Reading

Acronym time – What are ICQs and CCQs?

Do you understand?

This is probably the most used (and least useful) question asked in the EFL classroom. However most of us, myself included, are guilty of using it. Ask any student ‘Do you understand?’ and you’re most likely going to get a yes and a nod of the head in response. Delve a little deeper and you’ll probably find in reality they have no idea what you’re talking about! This is where ICQs and CCQs come in.

ICQ stand for Instruction Checking Question and is pretty self explanatory. ICQs are questions we ask to check the students understand our instructions. While I think these are most important for group teaching (it’s a lot more difficult to correct misunderstandings after you’ve sent 15-30 students off to do their thing only to realise they didn’t understand your instructions)  it’s always best to check the student knows exactly what they should be doing before they start a task!

CCQ stands for Concept Checking Question. CCQs are questions we ask to check the student understands the language we are studying in class.

Here are a few key things to consider when asking CCQs:

  1. Keep questions simple.
  2. Don’t use the target language in your question.
  3. Don’t use new or unfamiliar language.
  4. If possible, plan CCQs in advance.
  5. Ask yes/no questions or questions that require short answers.

Here is an example:

I visited my aunt in Australia last year.

CCQ 1 – Am I in Australia now? No

CCQ2 – Was I in Australia in the past? Yes

CCQ3 – Who did I meet in Australia? Your aunt

CCQ4 – Did I see a kangaroo? We don’t know

I hope you found this post useful and if you prefer to learn about ICQs and CCQs in video form, you can watch my video here:


Continue Reading

Five Perks of Teaching Online

At first I was worried about making the transition from classroom to online teaching, now I can’t imagine doing anything else! There are lots of perks (and a couple of pitfalls) of online teaching.

Five perks of teaching online

  1. I can work from anywhere (with internet). I’ve always had ridiculously itchy feet and hate being tied down to one place. Teaching online allows me to move anywhere I like, as often as I like.  Whether it’s an impromptu week away or a six month adventure, as long as there’s internet, I can pack up and go!
  2. I can work in my pyjamas (bottoms at least).  There’s something so satisfying about being able to roll out of bed, pull on a blue t-shirt and be ready for work! As we can only be seen from the shoulders up I often teach in my PJ bottoms and slippers.
  3. I can’t be licked or coughed on. Working with young kids in a regular classroom meant getting sick multiple times a year. I’ve been licked, coughed on and had all manner of bodily fluids wiped on me while teaching in a regular school. Now when the kids sneeze or cough at me I’m safe in the knowledge that they and their germs are thousands of miles away!
  4. I don’t have to sit through any more staff meetings! My favourite birthday present last year was a mug which read ‘I survived another meeting which could have been an email’.
  5. I can have a life outside of teaching. I used to spend so many unpaid hours planning lessons, making resources, marking homework, reading essays, communicating with parents and doing all of the millions of other extra things teachers are expected to do in their free time. Now, all my lessons are prepared so prep time is minimal and the only extra work I have to do is a short assessment after each lesson (I can do a day’s worth in 20 minutes if I don’t get caught up on Facebook)!

A couple of pitfalls

  1. The culture shock. It can be difficult working for a foreign employer, especially when there’s a language barrier. Some things are done differently to how most people are used to it and it can take some time to adjust.
  2. No after work drinks down the pub! There are some great online communities for online teachers (I help run a couple myself) but comparing stories and ranting online isn’t quite the same as doing it over a cheeky pint. I have been lucky enough to meet a few teachers in person but generally I’ve had to put more effort into making friends and meeting new people. I’ll make a post on how I do this in the future!

If you’re thinking about taking the plunge and teaching online you should definitely join our Facebook group ‘Travel and Teach Online FAQ‘. Myself and another teacher Kat (who also happens to have an awesome blog you can check out by clicking here) post lots of advice, tips and support for new and potential teachers.

And if you’re ready to apply today I’d really appreciate it if you used my referral link. It’s free for you and really helps me out!





Continue Reading