You can safely assume that a city with 15+ million people will boast the best schools, universities and teaching centers in the whole country and a healthy expat population. These are the kind of Chinese teaching hubs that boast fantastic international restaurants, a huge number of attractions, great options for socializing and, overall, a much busier and more exhilarating vibe.
Salaries for ESL teachers here are the highest you’ll find in all of China although competition is stiff and work pressure can be intense. These cities also boast the highest living costs in the country – coupled with the highest standard of living, all things considered.
Tier 1 teaching cities in China are:
Beijing – China’s capital is the second-most populated city in the country yet its undeniable political and cultural center. This city has been evolving for more than 3,000 years and it has all the bells and whistles to prove it: the most famous and unmissable tourist attractions in the country, like the spellbinding Forbidden Palace, as well as the most cosmopolitan and multi-cultural essence. For teachers, this translates to the best-paid jobs in the most prominent world-class universities and schools. The sheer size of the city and insane amount of attractions means a year teaching in Beijing is like 2 months spent teaching anywhere else – simply not enough time to see and do it all. Learn more on our Guide to teaching in Beijing.
Shanghai – If you’re after a teaching experience that’ll blow your mind…welcome to Shanghai, China’s most populated city. This fast-paced hub is an assault on all the senses and can offer the most exciting and memorable teaching experience of all. For some teachers, this is the epitome teaching in China destination. Home to the single largest expat community of any city in China, a plethora of outstanding historical and cultural attractions and offering unrivalled opportunities for easy travels throughout Asia, as well as surprising affordability, Shanghai is unparalleled. If you can manage to hold off excessive spending (a harder task than you may envisage) you’d do quite well in Shanghai as an ESL teacher, especially if you’ve managed to nab a job with one of the city’s premier schools or universities. Read our Guide to teaching in Shanghai to get the low down on this very exciting destination.
Shenzhen – What started as a small fishing village has evolved into one of China’s most enticing Tier 1 options. The city’s southern coastal location and inexpensive shopping attract ESL teachers in droves. Teachers living in Shenzhen boast about the enviable lifestyle and there’s no denying that if socializing, shopping and travelling rate high on your must-have list then this city would suit you to perfection. The constant sea breeze keeps pollution low in Shenzhen, which certainly helps lure foreign teachers and allows them to really enjoy the great outdoors, something for which the city is renowned, being framed by impressive wilderness and boasting almost two dozen great beaches. Learn more about teaching and living here with our Guide to teaching in Shenzhen.
Guangzhou – One of the fastest-growing cities in China and undoubtedly one of the most productive, Guangzhou is a force to be reckoned with. In southern China, this is the place to be, the city strategically positioned on the South China Sea coast just a swim stroke away from Hong Kong and Macau. Surprisingly, Guangzhou is revered for its immense green spaces and its relaxed vibe, especially when compared to its above-mentioned Tier 1 co-members. Heavily influenced by its trading commerce and boasting a lovely European feel, a great stretch of coast, quite idyllic climate and incredible travel opportunities, this is perhaps the most enticing Tier 1 city of all. See our Guide to teaching in Guangzhou to learn more about this fascinating and enjoyable city.
SUMMARY: Teaching in a Tier 1 city in China is not for everyone: the pace of life, daily commute and overall vibe can be overwhelming to the unaccustomed ESL teacher. Yet be that as it may, China’s megacities have a way of getting under one’s skin and becoming addictive places to live. Once you get used to the speed and exhilarating bustle, it can be a hard thing to give up. We find that foreign teachers fall into either a love or hate camp when it comes to teaching in Tier 1 cities – living in a city with more than 15 million people simply eradicates any kind of middle-ground. This is either your lifelong teaching abroad dream OR your biggest nightmare.
Luckily, though, you do have other options…