So you’ve signed up to come on the China Internship with i-to-i TEFL and have nearly completed all of the necessary preparations including visas, vaccinations and booking your flights. With most of this organisation out of the way you can begin to start thinking about what it might be like. One such reader of our posts contacted us and asked: “What’s the food like? What about daily meal plans?” So here is a selection of typical meals/snacks we eat on a daily basis with a breakdown of prices.
Lunch options will depend on your placement as often on the China Internship your school will provide this in their canteen. This is great as it takes all of the stress out of organising food during the week. However, the level of familiarity of school-provided food may depend on which province you are placed in and the number of foreign teachers. Large international schools in major cities will most likely have more Western offerings than smaller schools, where you are the only foreign teachers in a less Westernised province. Here’s what we typically eat for lunch both during the week and on weekends:
- School dinner. Best thing about it is it’s free (included in your internship). We get a choice of three meat/fish dishes – though when the staff see us coming they usually hold us some chicken as they know it is our favourite. Chicken varieties include flavoured drumsticks, spicy chicken wings and fried-boneless pieces KFC-style! Pork choices are equally delicious including those served with BBQ/sweet sauces, lemon-grass and even as pork chops! To accompany the meat/fish there will be three other dishes served which are often vegetable-based but not solely vegetarian as some have shredded/minced meat. Next up you can help yourself to all the rice you can eat (literally! You just need to serve yourself) as well as often having noodles (thin, flat or glass noodles) and soup.
- Home cooking. As we’re used to having a cooked meal at lunchtime in the week we sometimes opt for cooking on the rare occasion we stay in Wuxi all weekend (we often go travelling on weekends). This will be more of a brunch and often involves egg, bread/toast, fruit and yoghurt. Eggs are two for 1 RMB (£0.10) and bread is around 5 RMB (£0.50) for a half loaf containing 8 – 10 slices which lasts well if kept in the microwave (think of it like a breadbin). A fried egg sandwich or having scrambled eggs on toast are therefore popular choices. Fruit is cheap – prices depend on what you buy but you can get a large bag of it for less than 10 RMB (£1.00) and yoghurts can be brought in plain or fruit flavours. I opted for a middle of the range set of yoghurts (as I wasn’t sure there was so much selection) and paid 14 RMB for eight (that’s less than £0.20 per yoghurt).
- Eating out. Most weekends we go exploring which is one of the best things about doing the China internship. Being out and about means we have to buy food out of our living allowance. We were initially sceptical as to whether the small living allowance would cover transport, food and sightseeing but we have been amazed that it can easily stretch to allow us to travel most weekends and even allows us to pay for accommodation in hostels to make the most of our trip. When exploring we will often grab a snack for lunch such as:
- Bakery – large Westernised cities will have European-style bakeries selling cold and hot pastries, sandwiches and cakes (yes you can have cake for lunch!)
- Chinese snacks (often on a stick) – if you can put it on a stick then the Chinese will sell it as a snack and we have had our fair share of these with the most popular being a sausage literally on a stick (for around 2 RMB – about £0.20). Not on a stick but in the same category, corn on the cob is sold frequently on the street for around 5 RMB (£0.50).
- Chinese restaurants – we usually save eating at restaurants for our evening meal but some will serve small noodle bowls (around 6 to 12 RMB which is £0.60 to £1.20) or if you go to a chain-restaurant they may have a separate lunch menu but this will be more costly. You can read more about Chinese restaurants in our ‘dinner post’ which will follow this one.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to eat from local restaurants even if they look like more of a hole in the wall. Equally, street vendors are not to be completed avoided. However, you need to use a little bit of judgement here. If the place looks completely empty then maybe there’s a reason for that? However, busy establishments are worth a try as they must be popular for a reason and to feed so many mouths the food will need to be constantly cooked fresh. Also, if you’re not sure what to get, then just have what the locals eat!
Keep reading to find out what we typically get for our evening meal on the China TEFL Internship and how we stay within budget for our evening meal. We’ll also be adding a section on snacks too. If you’re not already signed up to an internship but are interested then why not request a TEFL brochure?