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British university teacher finds happy family life, enjoyable culture
Date:2014/06/27

Like many of his compatriots in Britain, Steven Bateman had little knowledge of China before he attended a university for a master’s degree in business management.
Now he lives in Suzhou, a historic tourist city in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, with his Chinese wife and their two sons, who speak fluent Chinese.The 34-year-old English teacher at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Suzhou campus has decided to make China, and Suzhou in particular, his permanent home. He is considering seeking Chinese citizenship.
Bateman earned his bachelor’s degree in film and television in 2003, but he found it was hard to land a job in this field. After a brief spell working in retail management at Marks & Spencer,a British store with multiple ranches in China, he studied for a master’s degree in international business administration at Northumbria University in 2004 to advance his career.
The move turned his life around. He became engulfed in Chinese culture and lost his heart to a Chinese girl. “I was the only native British student in my class,” Bateman said. “Most of the students were from overseas and 70 percent of them were Chinese. And so that was my kind of introduction to Chinese culture.”
Most of his Chinese classmates became his good friends, and one named Zhang Jie became his wife. The pair were friends and passed notes in class, teasing each other. One day Bateman drew a fat man and told Zhang that was her future husband. Then Zhang drew his future wife as a woman with only three hairs.
In 2005, a flood trapped Zhang and other students in their homes, and for several days they lacked hot water. Bateman picked them up and offered them baths at home. When his parents saw Zhang, who had not cleaned herself up for days, they noticed that she and their son seemed like a nice couple. But Zhang, a traditional Chinese girl, would not establish a relationship with a foreigner until Bateman convinced her he was truly committed and would settle
down with her in China.
Bateman visited China for the first time in 2007 to marry Zhang, who was from Rui’an County of the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang Province.
Having promised his wife he’d come to China, he completed his master’s degree in teaching English as a foreign language at Lancaster University and taught English for academic purposes at several British universities, while Zhang was pursuing her PhD in Economics.


Liked Sino-Western dual focus


Their two sons were born before the couple returned to China in 2011. Though Zhang found a job at Shanghai University after coming back to her homeland, Bateman was attracted by Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), a joint-venture school founded in 2006 in Suzhou by China’s Xi’an Jiaotong University and UK’s University of Liverpool.
Bateman liked the university because while other international schools stressed foreign teaching methods, XJTLU focused on both Chinese and Western academic traditions. He started by teaching freshmen English for their future academic courses, which would be taught in English.
He was also invited to be a columnist for the Suzhou government’s Information Office website (livingsu. com) and has also contributed to other English language media in the city, writing about cultural and social phenomena.
Living in two different cities and working full time, the couple left their sons with Zhang’s parents in Rui’an.
Bateman later persuaded his 31- year-old wife to join his school, and they took the two boys, now 4 and almost 3, back with them in 2013. His retired mother-in-law is now living with them to take care of the kids when they are working.
Bateman had learned Chinese from his Chinese friends and from evening adult education classes when studying and teaching at Lancaster University. He also studies at staff classes and has a vocabulary wall with pink notes of Chinese characters and pinyin in his office.
His wife gave him a satisfying Chinese name, Zhang Bohan, to reflect that his knowledge is rich and broad like the ocean. Though born in Britain, his sons now speak fluent Chinese and can speak only some English words and expressions. Steven hopes they will be bilingual in the future.
With the agreement that they will spend their lives in China, the couple have helped their sons to get Chinese nationalities. Steven is also considering applying for Chinese citizenship.
“I like China. China is very, very good for me and my family,” Bateman said. “I think we have more opportunities and better quality of life here than we can have in the UK.”
Their salaries in Suzhou are almost on par with those in Britain, but the cost of living here is much less, he said. The couple recently bought an apartment that is under construction in Suzhou Industrial Park.
More importantly, the Chinese lifestyle is more family-oriented than in Britain, Bateman said.

 

  Far left: Steven Bateman, his wife Zhang Jie and their two kids at their Suzhou home.

 

Left: Steven Bateman works as an English teacher at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Suzhou campus.
 
Photos by Zhang Suoqing
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
"I like China. China is very, very good for me and my family. I think we have more opportunities and better quality of life here than we can have in the UK."
                                                                  Steven Bateman
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
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