You might presume Asia is quite different from the Western world.
Well, it’s true. And it’s not only about the language!
Lifestyle, etiquette, clothing, goods, and food are not what you got used to backing home.
Certain things are considered okay, while others are frowned upon.
Before moving and teaching English in China it will be a great idea to learn some practical tips about everyday life and prepare yourself.
We decided to resume basic facts about what is it like to live in China as a foreigner in this article.
Hopefully, it’ll give you a clue to how to survive in Asia and be successful as an ESL teacher.
What types of teaching English in China jobs are available?
If your aim is to teach English in China, finding a job won’t be too hard.
English speakers are in high demand at public and private schools, international institutions for kids, language centers, colleges, and universities.
Kindergartens often need teachers too, because the idea of raising bilinguals appeals to modern parents.
Of course, being an English teacher at an elementary school is different from a college position: requirements, schedule, and pay differ greatly. Each job has its peculiarities.
What are the basic requirements to Teach English in China?
How to become an ESL teacher? Technically speaking, you’ve got to be at least 18 y.o. and hold a Bachelor’s degree.
As a rule, educators have to have at least 1 or 2 years of work experience.
Other than that, there are no formal requirements.
However, as tasks in the workplace differ, positions may demand specific skills and qualities. Here is a list of what employers typically want from you.
- Creative thinking
- Basic drawing and singing skills
- Understanding child psychology
- Experience with young learners is preferred
It’s not all about language teaching, it’s more than that.
At many institutions, you’ll be expected to take on extra responsibilities, like art classes, outdoor activities and such. In fact, many foreigners are also kindergartners.
This is a good thing because after all, you get fewer hours devoted to teaching Chinese kids English, more free time and fun.
- Ability to work with large groups of kids
- Creative approach in teaching
At state schools, it may be tough at first, because classes are huge – up to 50 people!
No worries, there will be teaching assistants to help you.
Teaching English to Chinese students you’ll have to be creative and invent things.
Games, fun videos, interaction, and creative activities are not only appreciated but also very effective.
- Modern methods
- Regular feedback
Teaching Chinese students English here is a lot like at public schools, except for class sizes: they are limited to about 20 people. It makes a teacher’s life much easier!
The pay is higher, but you are also expected to work hard and be more attentive to each one of your students.
Previous experience is not always necessary, but such candidates are preferred.
- Subject teachers needed
- Experience and additional certifications are preferred
Schedules and basic requirements are pretty much the same as at public schools: Monday-Friday from 8 am till 5 pm.
International schools are the best-paid English teaching jobs in China – up to $4,000 per month, which is why they never hire debutant teachers.
Extremely qualified, experienced TEFL professionals are the ones who have really good chances.
- Wish to work with different age groups
- Ability to work on weekends
- Late evening classes
Probably one of the most popular options for expats moving to China: flexible working hours, possibility to teach adults and lots of free perks.
Language centers in China are usually open throughout the week, so you might have to go to the office on Saturdays and Sundays. On the other hand, you’ll still have two days off every week.
Universities and Colleges
- Minimum working hours
- Interest in academic teaching
- Bachelor’s degree in education is preferred
Interested in teaching English in China to adult students? Colleges might be the right place!
Mentors don’t work as many hours as schools teachers do, plus they get free meals and other bonuses.
It’s possible to work there part-time or take on extra ESL tutoring jobs to increase your income.
What are the average salaries of ESL Teachers in China?
Our clients wonder how much English teachers make in China nowadays, but there can be no short answer to that! Pay depends on the type of teaching jobs and the institution:
- Public schools: $1,200 – $1,800
- Kindergartens: between $1,200 and $2,000
- Private and international institutions: starting at $2,200
- Training centers: $1,500 – $3,000
- Universities and colleges: up to $1,500
Can you save money while teaching English in China?
The truth about teaching English in China is that no matter how humble your salary is, you can save some cash regularly.
Food and entertainment are cheap, plus most schools offer free accommodation, health insurance and reimburse flight tickets.
After all, you don’t have much to pay for!
With a good salary, you can easily put by up to $20,000 after a one-year contract.
You wouldn’t have to struggle to cut expenses for that!
Decide where you want to teach: Top Locations
Here is a crucial point. Your choice will define a potential salary, possibilities, cost of living and so much more.
Bigger cities are more developed, foreigner-friendly, but tend to have environmental problems, while smaller are cleaner and more peaceful.
Weigh up the pros and cons before moving to China!
Best cities to teach in and why
Generally speaking, we advise you to look at the first and second tier cities, when searching for a teaching job in China:
Why? First of all, there are far more ESL teaching positions on the job market, salaries and bonuses are better, international communities are bigger and more developed.
Plus, these cities are very international, it’s easier to find English-speaking locals or foreigners, they have international airports, too, which is good for traveling.
Big Cities vs. Rural Areas
- Big city pros: travel opportunities, higher pay, more options (restaurants, apartments, entertainment);
- Big city cons: pollution, prices, crowds, tourists, noise.
The capital and other megalopolises are very popular with foreigners relocating to China.
They are huge; you can find almost anything there, including Western restaurants and English-speaking staff. Salaries are also considerably higher there.
On the other hand, overpopulated places usually suffer from air pollution and bad tap water quality.
The cost of living is higher, too.
It might be an issue for a debutant teacher, because with minimum wages they won’t be able to afford a lot, living in China’s heart.
- Rural areas pros: low cost of everything, free accommodation, and bonuses, a healthier environment, less stress, more authentic culture in everyday life;
- Rural areas cons: humbler pay, fewer expats and English-speakers among locals, fewer or no Western restaurants, etc.
At first small cities of rural China may not seem a good option. Wrong!
Third tier cities are great for fresh teachers as they gladly accept even inexperienced educators.
Living here you might wonder how many people in China speak English at all because chances of meeting them seem to be close to zero!
On the bright side, it’s a unique opportunity to practice your Mandarin (or Cantonese) and immerse in real Chinese culture.
Plus, local food and goods are extremely cheap, so there is always more money left for trips and souvenirs!
What’s it like to live in China in terms of climate? People tend to believe it’s warm and humid in Asia, but things are way more complicated. There are three major types of climate in the country:
- Northeast: hot and dry summers – freezing winters (up to -20 C/ -4 F)
- Central regions: rainy throughout the year, hot summers – cool winters (0 C / 32 F)
- Southeast: semi-tropical and humid, very hot summers (30 C / 86 F) – mild winters (10 C / 50 F)
As you see, the Chinese climate is various: there are winter-free regions and there are places with snowy winter and distinct seasons.
Have clear expectations for the job
First of all, in the China schools system teachers are respected and cherished.
Kids would bring small gifts and homemade snacks for you, ask to take a selfie with you and will be very hard working in class. Yes, your classes with Chinese children are going to be more intense, than anything before.
Be creative. Students appreciate colorful cards, pictures, videos, games and all kinds of interaction.
Luckily, most classrooms are equipped with modern technology like PCs, projectors and smart boards.
No need to carry your laptop around, invent things or spend hours printing out too many pictures.
According to most teaching English in China experiences, preparation is extremely important, especially in the beginning.
You’ll need to break through both the language barrier and the ice!
Don’t skip lesson planning, because it will eliminate the extra stress and help you connect with kids.
Don’t expect it to be easy – the task to teach Chinese kids English demands lots of effort, but it’s rewarding!
Culture in the classroom – Why it is different
Teaching English in China is not like teaching Americans or Europeans. Chinese children are eager to learn and respect their teachers (laoshi).
The atmosphere is different – even 5-year-olds behave and don’t get distracted or bored that easily. Although it may sound unrealistic, it’s true!
A teacher’s authority is undoubted. Plus, there is the cultural phenomenon called saving face: criticizing someone in front of others, being rude or showing disrespect is discouraged.
Therefore, from a very early age, children learn to respect others, listen to what they say and be attentive in class.
This makes teaching in China is a very enjoyable experience.
What are the costs of living for expats in China?
- Eating out: $370/month
- Groceries: $90/month
- Entertainment & Shopping: $190/month
- Bills: $50 – $60
- Internet: $15/month
- Mobile: $0.03/min
- Transportation: $20 – $40/month
How do you find and rent an apartment?
Teaching jobs in China normally provide foreigners with free housing, some schools even cover utilities as well.
The employer will offer a few available options and deal with paperwork.
Some institutions will only offer housing allowance, but won’t look for an apartment for you. In this case, there are local agents to assist you.
Anyway, don’t panic! Even in smaller cities, apartments are rented out regularly, there is zero chance of not finding anything.
Check our renting an apartment in China guide with all useful tips and instructions.
Chinese food isn’t like home (It’s Better)
Probably, one of the reasons why so many people are moving to China is food! It’s diverse, copious and absolutely mind-blowing.
There are 8 culinary traditions around the country and thousands of regional dishes. Some might seem weird, like the famous century egg, while others are simply delicious.
There is always something for vegetarians, too. Take-away food and street snacks are all worth a try, so don’t stick to Western treats. Let it be the adventure of your life!
Getting a proper certification and visa
In order to find a good job, you need to fulfill two basic English teacher requirements:
- Have a Z visa
- Hold a 120+ hour TEFL certificate
All ESL jobs require international certificates, so the sooner you get certified, the better!
However, many schools provide employees with free training (online or upon arrival).
How can you get a Z Work visa for China?
A Z-type visa is the only document, enabling you to work as a TEFL teacher in China. How long does it take to get a Chinese visa? Between 2 and 4 days.
In order to get it, you’ll need:
- Valid passport
- Recent photo
- Completed application form
- Bachelor’s degree
- 18+ years of age
- Invitation from the employer (sent by post)
- Criminal background check
- Medical examination
Remember, there is no legal way to start teaching English in China without a degree.
Some schools still hire teachers, offering them M or F visas, however, we don’t recommend these options.
Visit your doctor
There are three main reasons to get an appointment:
- Eventual vaccination before trip
- Health checkup for visa
- Prescriptions (if you need to take medicine regularly)
Download all the Apps
Ever heard about the Great Chinese Firewall? The government is very concerned with “Internet sovereignty” and potential cyber crimes.
That’s why thousands of web sites and applications just won’t work in China. Youtube, Google, and Facebook are among those!
Moving to China for a year?
Prepare yourself in advance. Here are a few useful tips on application and services to use in the PRC.
Are discrimination and racism an issue?
When you come to teach in China, some things might seem weird.
In rural areas, people would stare at you, point their fingers exclaiming “laowai”, just because you are a foreigner.
White Europeans are as extraordinary to them as other nations.
People might even take pictures of you or ask for selfies, approach you to touch your hair and skin.
But Chinese are not rude or xenophobe – they are just curious.
Most locals are extremely friendly and don’t mean to be racist at all.
Do you have to learn the Chinese language as an ESL Teacher?
As an English teacher in China, you won’t be expected to speak any Mandarin.
Moreover, using it in class is not encouraged.
On the other hand, our clients testify to the necessity of some basic Chinese, because there are situations, where the language barrier is insurmountable!
Schools usually offer free Mandarin classes and materials for self-learning, so why not give it a try anyway?
Prepare for life outside of the ESL classroom
Hopefully, you won’t spend your days indoors, no matter how much you’ll enjoy your teacher job in China.
There will be free evenings, weekends and holidays.
Basic Chinese, mobile apps (especially translator and maps) and open-mindedness will surely be useful!
Living as an expat in China is not about work – there will be lots of outings, meeting new people and trips with colleagues, students, and new friends.
Are you ready for this much fun?
Teaching English in China is definitely worth it! Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime!
This country is nothing like the US, Canada or other Western places.
Moving to China will surely make you reconsider a lot of things, change your mind and teach you acceptance.
This experience may seem tough at first, especially if you don’t speak the language, but it’s absolutely worth it!
Thousands of foreigners have already moved there, some decided to stay in China forever. Don’t you want to try?
We are a recruitment agency offering jobs in China for English speakers.
Apply now and we will find you a perfect ESL job in China!