The following story was supplied to us by one of our readers, and serves as a warning to expats not to trust recruiters when looking for teaching jobs in China. Previously respected expat websites are increasingly and knowingly promoting these recruiters for large sums of money, knowing that the expat will run into these problems. One of the worst offenders is the previously trusted eChinacities, but there are also many others.
I was a victim to the foreign teacher scam epidemic that is happening in China. To start off, I have been yelled at by police, threatened by the school, assured that the bribes will smooth over any and all problems by the school, taken under oath by the police, repeatedly asked to reveal my location to the school, and just generally screwed out of a lot of money.
The recruiters name was Xandria Hendricks from Allestra Recruiting. They are based in Georgia. The school I was sent to was Best Learning
To start off I would first like to say that this by no means should ever discourage anyone from ever going to or working in China. It is a beautiful place with kind people and a ton of opportunity. The two police that were dealing with me have been the most professional and good example of law enforcement I have ever seen. Just make sure about everything before you pull the trigger on uprooting your life.
The first thing you have to realise that was my undoing is that these teaching companies are not interested in your money and they are very wealthy and capable of appearing very qualified. If you want to work in China, you must have a Z visa, period end of story. There is no such thing as working on an F visa. You may even know someone that has done that and everything was fine, but is not legal.
The issue that has come up is that people have been able to get away with that for a long time because it really wasn’t causing many problems. The thing that has happened is that last month a man came over to China and the company did not do enough screening on his background and he molested a child. I was told face to face by a detective in Beijing that they are cracking down because of that incident.
Now to start my story, I graduated college in May. I wanted to explore the world and this seemed like a very good opportunity. I wouldn’t make much but I could travel for a year. So I got my visa and headed over to China. The first sign that something was wrong was when they told me to write down that I would be a consultant not a teacher. I questioned this issue over and over with them. I have pages of emails that are between me the school and the recruiter that I went through. So I trusted them and made just an awful decision. Before you ever speak to anyone of these people, understand that they deal with these questions everyday, and they are very skilled at answering them.
So from what they were saying I had to say I was a consultant and once I got to China everything would work out. They would say things like, “you just don’t understand Chinese law. Things work different here. Here are pictures of our school.” The schools are beautiful. So my thought was OK if I get the visa and they stamp my stuff at the airport, this is all good. The strange thing is that it was fine. No one asked a question. I got picked up at the airport by a company car. I was taken to a nice western hotel.
I went with someone from the school to set up a bank account and get a cell phone plan. They ever offered a no interest loan. You could walk in ask for it and within an hour you have 8000RMB. I didn’t do that because I didn’t want any debt to pay off. Turns out that would have been a great idea if I knew what was coming. So I got to stay in this nice hotel for free. I met all sorts of foreigners that were living it up working for this company.
I got trained for a week in a school just down the road from the hotel. I was waking up every morning and running around the Olympic campus. I would go to training and then explore the city for the rest of the evening. I could eat out for dirt cheap and get an amazing meal. I could drink good beer for even cheaper. Having blonde hair and blue eyes had every girl walking down the street stare at me. Teenagers would run up and want to take pictures with you.
So life was good. Now once training ended I had to find a place and I was going to be settled into my new life in China. That’s where the problem came about. When you move into a place in China you have to register with the local police to live. So I go into the office. I tell them the story I have been told to say and this cop knew that it was bad. He wants to see my contract.
So now the police are holding my passport and I need to produce some papers to get it back. So I leave the station and call up my boss for advice on what to do. His wonderful advice was to first not give them any contract. He said we’re going to draw up a new contract and get it to you. So then I get a call back that they are not going to give me a new contract. They want me to go back in and say that I am there to train people not teach.I am working with the Chinese teachers to teach them how to use teaching software. My contract is in the US and I am being paid by McGraw Hill. I don’t know what to think.
I know this sounds awful and looks suspicious but these people have been good to me and they know what they’re doing. So I go down the script word for word. Much to my horror the officer begins to scream at me. Not only that, he finishes my sentence. He had heard this story before. So now I’m in some shit.
He tells me he I need to get my boss down here. So here I am stuck in a Chinese police station. The officer is screaming that I need to stop lying or I’m going to be arrested. So I’m calling the bosses at the school. Anyone I can get in touch with. They are so hesitant to pick up and really be of any help. They tell me they are on the way. Then an hour goes by and the police are getting very angry with me. I told them that they should be here soon. At this point the whole thing doesn’t even feel real. I’m being yelled at to correct my story or I’m going to prison. So I do just that. I explain everything. How I was recruited, where I worked, what I was doing and what I was told to say.
Finally Nathalie Zhang shows up. I have never seen this lady before but you could tell this was not the first time she had done something like this. I don’t speak Chinese but you could tell she was trying to smooth talk the police. Some type of offer must have been proposed because all of a sudden the police became very angry. Just like before but about ten times worse. The whole time on the phone I had been talking with an American, who was the head of HR, Spencer Hays. This is at least what we were told.
So while I was being held the police wanted to know who I was talking with. I wanted Spencer to just talk with the police because he was treating the situation like it was no big deal. The police then ask Nathalie who Spencer was and she says, “I don’t know any Spencer”. At this point I was extremely scared. What the hell is that. Everyone knows him. You can’t work for Best Learning and not know him.
After some more badgering she tells the police that he is just a friend of hers. She also says that they do not have the correct permits to hire foreigners but they have applied for them. At this point I am out. I have come 100% to not trust this company at all and be completely compliant to whatever the police need. I want to destroy this company. They are f***s.
The police have us take them to the school that I was teaching at. They take a look around and take an official statement from Nathalie. At this point the head police officer that was screaming at me when they held me is starting to be nice. He and I talk as she gives the statement to the other officer. During our conversation he even becomes apologetic. Telling me to not let this ruin China for me and he implores me to stay and visit the country.
So this all started to sink in and I’m beginning to become at ease with the situation. Then things changed a bit. After we finished up at the school I was free to go. The only thing was that my passport was being held until I came to the head police station. The Haidain Station if I remember correctly.
So I go back the apartment that I had just tried to move into. On the way home I got a call from one of the higher ups at the school. I had never met him. He didn’t really understand how serious the police are taking the situation. He tells me don’t worry about we’re just going to bribe the police at a higher pay grade. The thing that he didn’t realise was that the police flipped out a special immigration badge when I was held in that station and said, “Do you see this? It means don’t lie to me.”
When I finally get back to the apartment I came to realise one thing, I think I met saints. The two guys I moved in with were so nice to me. They didn’t know me from anyone and they took me in like I was a friend of theirs for years. Now starting that the night the real fear began to sink in. The school had just told me they were capable of bribes and I made a move that pissed them off.
Before we came to China we got an email list of all the teachers that would be coming over that summer. I took that list and emailed all them warning them to not come. The school then issued a statement to everyone in the company that I was competitor who was trying to bad mouth their name. I guess they thought I wouldn’t find out about it.
So I begin to get phone calls from different girls who worked for the school. Trying to convince me to meet up, they want to talk as friends. All I keep saying is that I’m with friends and I don’t want to meet up. I don’t know what would happen if I did meet up with them. So now I’m back at the apartment I moved into. The police have held my passport and I now have a company angry with me and I have no idea what they are capable of doing.
There is more but I wanted to get you started…Editor’s Note: Submitted by a reader of China Daily Mail, this story is typical of the stories I have heard from thousands of expats over the last ten years. Please take caution when considering working in China, and never trust a recruiter. Deal with schools directly.
China Daily Mail is interested in verifiable stories of scam schools and agents in China. Please email email@example.com to send us the details.