Teaching English in China is not only about high language skills and professionalism, but also about appearance.
Being quite a conservative country, China pays a lot of attention to how people look, especially the ones working in the education sphere.
If you decided to work in the country, you definitely want to look through some information about how teachers dress in China.
So, how do teachers dress in China?
In our article, you’ll find essential tips on what to (and what not to) wear while teaching English in China.
What do teachers wear in China depending on the school type?
Whatever educational institution you choose to work in China, keep in mind that your clothes should be smart-casual.
It’s a well-known fact that a teacher in a Chinese classroom is an authority, and as a result, an example of decency.
Thus, you want to pay attention to what you wear.
Depending on an institution you teach at, teacher dress code will vary a bit.
Let’s have a look at the most wide-spread institutions and how teachers dress in China.
When teaching young learners, the first thing you want your clothes to be is to be comfortable.
The whole English lesson in a kindergarten is a constant change of activities – you sing, play, move, draw, dance, etc.
Of course, it’s important that you do all the activities together with your students.
So make sure you choose modest clothes and the ones that don’t restrict your movements.
More often than not, the dress code for teachers in China schools varies from one institution to another.
Still, the main requirements are the same all over the country.
Your outfit should be strict enough. You can choose to wear a plain dress of medium or ankle-length or opt for a blouse and a pencil skirt.
For men, it’s OK to wear trousers and monochrome top like polo.
But again, don’t forget about your comfort.
Colleges and universities
If you decide to work in one of these institutions, pack up some smart clothes.
As a rule, colleges and universities require teacher attire to be quite formal.
Thus, male teachers often wear suits while their female colleagues are often seen in dresses or pantsuits.
It’s crucial to point out that you should stick to one color pattern rather than mix garments of different and bright colors.
Training centers, language schools, etc.
As a rule, these private learning centers support the culture of dress code for teachers in China.
Although they operate beyond the state educational system, they still require their tutors to look conventional.
Dresses or skirts and blouses for women are preferable. Men usually wear trousers and different kinds of shirts.
By the way, if you are going to teach at a private English school, you’ll often be given a polo shirt with a school label on it.
Thus, you won’t have to worry about what to wear as a top.
In any case, each school or English center in China has its own requirements as for teachers clothing, so it’s a sensible decision to clarify this question with school management in advance.
Keep in mind the climate and year seasons
What teachers wear in China also depends on the season.
If you sign a contract with a Chinese school, it’s likely that you will work there for about a year.
Consequently, you’ll spend three or even four seasons in the country.
That’s why taking into account climate characteristics is important in order to bring with you not only appropriate but also comfortable clothes.
Spring in China is different depending on the part of the country.
Of course, in general, it becomes warmer after winter, but in some regions, winter weather will predominate at the beginning of spring.
It can still snow in spring. The weather can be windy. So don’t hurry to hide your coats, scarfs, hats, and gloves – you might really need them in March.
Summer months can be really hot here.
Normally with 30ºC (and in some cities with 40ºC in recent years), Chinese summer makes you sweat very often.
That’s why your clothes should be light (but modest at the same time) in order to feel comfortable.
In some parts of China it often rains in summer, so don’t forget to take an umbrella with you.
Chinese fall is warmer and more pleasant than Chinese spring. Air still keeps warmth it accumulated during summer, and one can say fall is the greatest season in China.
Those going to teach English to southern China can expect the temperatures of 22-26ºC during day time. If you’re going to work in the northern part of the country, +16ºC is a common temperature there.
Thus, your fall wardrobe should have both summer and autumn garments, and of course, an umbrella.
Winter in China is usually dry and cold, with a small amount of precipitation.
Just like with other seasons, the weather varies from city to city.
For example, winter in inland cities is mild and not so cold.
With the temperature of +10ºC and low humidity, all you need to feel comfortable outside is a warm sweater, jeans, and winter coat.
Coastal cities, on the opposite, feature colder weather because of higher humidity.
So, if you go to Shanghai, take more warm garments for winter.
How women should dress teaching English in China
Women are free to choose among the following items of clothing.
Slack blouses, button-down or polo shirts, sweaters, jackets, cardigans – choose the one depending on the weather.
Also, don’t forget about color – plain colors are preferable.
Pencil skirts, loose (but not too much) skirts, suit pants are considered appropriate dress code for teachers in China. Dresses are also welcomed.
Depending on the season, the variety of suitable shoes for women is great.
In summer, it’s OK to wear flats, open-toe shoes, or even heeled shoes. Just make sure the heels aren’t too high.
In winter, warm boots will usually be your choice.
By appearance, we mean other accessories that complement your look.
If you have a lot of piercings on your face, you definitely want to remove them to avoid arguments with school management.
The only kind of piercing that is acceptable is earrings.
As for tattoos, there are also some restrictions.
As Chinese people are rather conventional, a tattoo is something they don’t appreciate. So if you have one on your arms or legs, you should cover it with clothes.
Pay attention to your hairstyle, too. An ESL teacher in China shouldn’t have an outrageous hairstyle, let alone bright hair color.
How men should dress teaching English in China
Below, there are garments we advise male teachers to wear while working in China.
Choose everything that looks decent – collared shirts, button-down shirts, polo shirts, jackets, sweaters, vests, etc. If you are going to teach in a college or university, you might complement your look with a tie.
Any ankle-length trousers or suit pants will be great if they are unicolored and slack.
In some institutions, khakis are also acceptable, but before taking them with you, find out whether your school allows them.
It’s better to opt for smarter footwear like loafers. If it isn’t your style, sneakers or slip-on shoes should be fine.
The requirements for appearance for men are the same as for women. Just make sure all your piercings and tattoos (if you have them) aren’t visible to others.
If you have a beard or a mustache, spruce it up to look tidy and neat.
What not to wear in China
Speaking about women’s wear, mini-skirts and mini-dresses are taboo.
We’ve already mentioned that Chinese society is rather conventional so nothing mini is ever acceptable.
Three-quarter garments like capris aren’t suitable too. Shorts are a bad idea for both men and women.
Women should pay close attention to their tops.
If you have a nice top of a pastel color but it is a spaghetti-strap top, forget about wearing it to work.
Consequently, men shouldn’t wear jerseys and T-shirts during class.
Chinese school management doesn’t appreciate too tight clothes as well as too baggy ones.
Bright colors are one more thing that you should avoid.
It’s better to choose some pale, pastel colors. Monochrome shades are also OK.
If you prefer your clothing to be patterned, opt for more moderate prints.
Keep in mind that denim garments don’t fit the Chinese classroom. Although denim clothes are worn all over the world, you should keep them for another occasion, but not for work.
Finally, pay attention to your footwear.
Although the dress code for teachers in China is quite loyal in terms of footwear, you don’t want to come to work in flip-flops or extremely bright shoes.