“Confucius says that the drunker the guest, the more successful the evening is. They really, really try to get you drunk” - Brundall man sets up a school in China

Ollie Cole with pupils at his English language school in Hexian, China

Ollie Cole with pupils at his English language school in Hexian, China - Credit: Archant

A teacher who set up the first English language school in a remote Chinese city has talked about how the endeavour made him an object of fascination to curious locals.

Ollie Cole initially taught in the former Chinese capital, Nanjing, two-and-a-half years ago, but impressed his boss so much that she asked him to found a new school in Hexian, in Anhui province, about 200 miles west of Shanghai.

He said he was the only foreigner in the city.

The D D Dragon School now has about 200 pupils aged between three and 15, who study about two hours a week – either after school or at weekends.

Mr Cole, a 28-year-old from Brundall, had previously worked in London teaching English as a foreign language, and as a care worker for the elderly and people with special needs.


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He said that 'ting bu dong' – I don't understand – was the only phrase he learned during his first year in China, and he had to repeat it a lot.

He said: 'When I first arrived I had no Chinese whatsoever. I was hoping to pick it up, but at the end of my first year I had not picked anything up. It was impossible.'

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The former Wymondham College student has now learned some of the language through a computer programme, and come up with a special method to help him cope with restaurant menus.

He said he picks items at random, and if he likes whatever dish arrives he saves the Chinese name for it on his phone, and is building up his own personal list of food he likes.

He said being the only foreigner in the city was an interesting experience, and added: 'They really, really stop and stare.

'They will literally stop in their tracks and gawp. You are just walking down the street and all you will hear is 'foreigner, foreigner'. People can come up to you and just talk in Chinese and you have no idea what they mean.'

He said that being followed around the supermarket was another common occurrence, but life became easier as he started to study Chinese on the computer.

He said: 'After I learned a few words a lot of people wanted to take me drinking.

'They will pick you up and buy you a meal - Confucius says that the drunker the guest, the more successful the evening is.

'They really, really try to get you drunk.'

The job is something of a family affair, as Mr Cole got his older brother, Giles, to replace him at his previous job in Nanjing, and he said he planned to stay in China for the time being.

Asked what was best about his experiences so far, he said: 'Building up the school, and working with the kids is fantastic.

'They are a joy to work with. They come in with absolutely nothing and you just build up from the very bottom and after a year you are able to ask them questions and they respond.

'It's really satisfying. The warmth and generosity of the people is amazing.'

He said that for the past six months he had been trying to recruit another teacher for the school, but it was proving difficult because companies in the bigger cities were able to pay more money.

However, he said working in Hexian was a much more rewarding cultural experience.

Anyone interested in working at the school should have a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language.

Email Mr Cole at crowstick@gmail.com

Have you had any interesting experiences working abroad? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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