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Teach English in China, what is it like?

Teach English in China

1. Why would you want to live and teach English in China?

China is one of the most coveted English teaching destinations in the world. The country has been growing and changing rapidly over the last decade. As its connections to the rest of the world continue to grow, so has its demand for ESL teachers.

Have the right qualifications and meet all the eligibility requirements? Then you’ll be in super high demand here.

Here are just a few reasons why you’ll want to teach English in China:

  • You’ll have access to some of the highest teaching salaries in the world

When it comes to teaching English as a Foreign Language, China is renowned for offering some of the highest salaries in the world. Salaries generally range from $2,000 – 3,500 per month. 

  • You’ll benefit from a wide range of perks and bonuses

The financial benefits don’t start and end with your salary. Negotiate a great teaching contract and you could receive a housing stipend (that’ll drastically reduce your rent cost). If you’re lucky, it can also include reimbursement of your visa costs, flight back home once a year and top-notch health insurance cover. 

  • A teaching stint in China is a great boost to your CV and can be a fantastic career move

Living and teaching outside of your home country broaden your professional horizons. You’ll find yourself making some interesting and valuable international contacts. And once you add a year (or more) teaching stint in China on your CV, you’ll also highlight your ability to overcome cultural challenges to future employers.

  • It’ll sharpen and perfect your teaching skills

Teaching in a drastically different country and culture will, not literally, blow your mind. It will also blow the cobwebs off your teaching skills. It will make you a much better and more creative teacher in the long run. We believe that if you can teach English in China, you can teach English anywhere in the world.

  • It’s a sensational cultural experience

China is a sensory overload destination for English teachers. Especially if they’ve never taught abroad before. A lot about the country will have you wondering ‘what the hell?’. This makes your first few weeks, months and even years an incredibly fascinating and rewarding experience. The country offers crazy surprises and discoveries at every turn. For culture-vultures who are bursting to live outside their comfort zone, it’ll make for an unforgettable experience.

  • You’ll have Asia at your doorstep 

China is arguably the best ESL teaching destination in Asia. Its central location within the continent means it is the perfect travel-springboard. Depending on where in China you choose to teach, you can hop over to Thailand, Laos or Vietnam for a long weekend. Or even the Philipines, Japan or Indonesia during the extended school holidays. China is a fantastic home-base for visiting the Far East and a mind-boggling number of international airports (and flights). This means air travel is inexpensive, thus opening up travel horizons to a stunning part of the world.

  • You’ll enjoy an excellent standard of living

Well-paid English teachers really do enjoy ‘the good life’ in China. This is the main reason so many end up living here beyond the year they had planned. On a standard teaching salary, you can enjoy your day-to-day life, travel whenever you can and still save a neat bundle saved every year. 

This is why teachers stay in China longer than they planned. No English-speaking country offers such high teaching salaries, coupled with low living costs.

Not sure if you meet the requirements to teach English in China? See our Am i Eligible? page for detailed info

2. How much can I earn teaching English in China?

ESL salaries in China can run up to USD 3,500 a month. Understanding how pay-scales work here will help you get a better idea of what you are likely to earn.

The four main aspects that dictate teaching salaries are:

  1. Your qualifications and teaching experience (the more you have, the more yuan you can demand)
  2. The type of teaching job you score (some teaching job types traditionally pay more than others)
  3. The teaching city of your choosing (the more prominent the city, the more schools will pay)
  4. Status of the school (the more prominent the school, the more you will be paid)

In essence: if you hope to be paid a top salary, you will have an abundance of qualifications and experience. 

If you are:

  • Qualified and specialized English teacher with a decade of teaching experience in a world-class school
  • Working for the most prominent international school in a Tier 1 city. 

Tick those boxes, and you can just about ‘rake it in’.

Needless to say, not every ESL teacher is lucky. Here are a few answers to all those burning questions you no-doubt have:

What are the average salaries for English teachers in China?

Depending on experience, qualifications and location, you can earn $2,000 (14,000 RMB) – $3,500 (24,500 RMB)

Can you live well on an average ESL teacher salary in China?

Yes, you can! Even inexperienced teachers earning  $2,000 (14,000 RMB), can live a comfortable lifestyle and save money. 

What are the best paid teaching English job types in China?

International schools and private kindergartens. Work in a prominent international school or kindergarten as an ESL teacher and your average salary will be more like USD 2,500 – 3,000 every month. Add a prominent location and that salary can exceed $3,500 (24,500 RMB) per month.

What are the lowest paid teaching jobs in China?

Public schools, as you may have suspected. However, do note that there is a very strong correlation between pay and workload. The lowest-paid teaching jobs in China are also the least stressful, so it’s something to keep in mind.

What are the easiest English teaching jobs to get in China?

Most agree it’s Public schools. This is a fantastic way to get a foot in the ‘ESL-teaching-in-China’ door if you have little to no teaching experience. It can be a stress-free experience compared to the other school types. 

What’s the overall ‘best’ teaching job to have in China?

No such thing. Every single teaching job type has its pros and cons. The salary is only one aspect you need to consider.

3. What’s the cost of living in China?

China is a relatively inexpensive country in which to live for native English teachers. Yes, even those hailing from South Africa.

This means that even in top-tiered cities like Shanghai or Beijing, you can live very well on an average English teacher salary of USD 2,300 per month. This is mainly done to the affordability of necessities like utilities, groceries, internet and transport

Once the monthly living costs are subtracted, you’ll have USD 500 + left over every month. Of course, the amount of money left over is related to your lifestyle.

The wonderful thing about China’s living costs is that they fluctuate depending on the destination. Just like teaching salaries. This means that although you earn more in big cities, you’ll also have to spend more on day-to-day living. Teach in a smaller and less prominent city with a lower salary, and you’ll also drastically reduce your day-to-day costs.

Here’s what you need to know about living costs in China:

  • No matter where in China you live, you have the option to spend BIG or small

This is one of China’s most enticing aspects of English teachers. You can live like royalty and have nothing left over at the end of the month. OR watch your spending and save loads. The choice is yours!

  • If it’s imported, it’ll cost a bomb

The most expensive things you can buy in China are those imported from the West. That means French cheese, Italian wine or luxury branded clothing can be exorbitantly priced. The best way to save your hard-earned teaching yuans is to hold back on those items. Tough…but true!

  • If it looks ‘Western’ it will also cost quite a bit

Did you know that Pizza Hut is an ‘upmarket international restaurant’ in China? Well, now you do! Western chain joints like Starbucks certainly help keep the homesickness pangs at bay, but it comes at a price. Eating and drinking in local restaurants and cafes will save you a small fortune in China.

  • If ordinary locals don’t use it, it’ll be expensive

This goes for things like gym memberships and personal trainers. Expect to pay more for gym memberships in prominent Chinese cities than in the West. If you want to make your eyes water, ask about PT session on top of your gym membership. 

  • You can drastically reduce your rent costs by commuting for an extra 10 minutes

Everyone wants to live centrally in China, especially in larger cities. The closer you will to the city centre, the more expensive your rent will be. If you need to take public transport to get to work, you may consider adding a couple of costs. This could reduce your rental cost considerably, which is bound to be your biggest monthly expense.

  • Buy, eat, drink locally

The cuisine is, hands down, one of the best reasons to move and teach English in China. It also happens to be crazily affordable. A sumptuous meal in a local restaurant will set you back just a couple of dollars. This can compare with the USD 15-20 of a Western chain eatery. It’s a no brainer!

Here’s a sample base monthly spend of an English teacher in China in a Tier 1 city

  • Rent – USD  600 – 700
  • Utilities – USD 45
  • Groceries & eating out 3 times a week – USD 300
  • Phone plan & internet – USD 25
  • Incidentals (metro rides & whatnot) – USD 50
  • Socialising – USD 200

For just over USD 1,000 a month, you can live in a lovely apartment in a major city and cover all your basic costs, and that includes not cooking a few times a week which is luxurious enough. Now, add to that a whole lot of weekend entertainment (USD 200+) and a few imported luxuries. This will give you a great idea of how well you can live and/or save up on an average teaching salary.

Teaching English in China

4. What’s your lifestyle like when you teach English in China?

Your lifestyle in China will be greatly dictated by the type of teaching you do. To be more precise, by the type of teaching job you have.

This will determine:

  • Your salary and disposable income
  • How many hours you’ll work every week (both in and out of the classroom)
  • How much free time you’ll have.

And all three will determine what teaching (and living) in China will be like, for you.

Teaching experiences in China are as varied as can be. Some teachers have an awesome time and thoroughly enjoy their teaching and living stint. Whilst others find the stress, pressure and cultural challenges of their job to be overwhelming. Some work exceptionally long hours and feel too tired by the end of the week to take advantage of everything their chosen city has to offer. Others work less and earn less and with more time, they enjoy their lifestyle.

Although this is a highly personal perspective, there are similarities in experiences and expectations of each type of job. Understanding what’s it like to teach in a kindergarten, university, a public or private school in China is important. It will help understand what life is like for those teachers. And it will also help you understand which teaching job may be best suited to your skills, desires and personality.

To this end, we’re offering 1st-person reviews from real teachers, working real teaching jobs in China, which you might find useful:

ESL Teachers and their experiences

 

There are also some general aspects of English teaching in China that ring through across the board.

 

  • Respectful and welcoming

Whether young or old, Chinese students are always very respectful towards foreign teachers. You’ll find your elevated standing in your local community to be a wonderful, and heart-warming, bonus. Young students are also very eager learners without teenage brooding seen in most Western teenagers. 

That is, as long as we’re not talking about extra-curricular language training centres. These are schools run on weekends and evenings and young students who attend have (probably) been urged to go by their parents. They may also be exhausted because of the relentless number of classes. As a result, the students can be a little challenging

  • Public school are an easy life!

Interestingly enough, ESL teachers rate public schools quite highly. Yes, the salaries are not competitive but they have a lighter workload. You will find yourself with free periods in the day and ALOT more holidays. 

 Expectations are not as high.  Parents do want their children to flourish in the classroom, but they don’t compare to private school parents who expect their children to succeed. 

  • Parents can be difficult

If your employer doesn’t put pressure on you, trust that parents sure will. As mentioned above, especially inexpensive private and schools. That tiger parent thing? Yeah, it’s actually a thing. In some schools, parents will be allowed to sit in on your class to observe you and that can be a little unnerving if you lack confidence. But hey, you know what they say: fake it till you make it!

  • It can be frustrating

Frustrations are a given, in one way or another, for anyone who’s teaching English in China. Some schools aren’t well organized whilst others are incredibly demanding. By and large, however, this depends more or the type of school in which you work. Given the cultural and professional diversity to what you’re used to, you will undoubtedly face quite a few challenges. Luckily, nothing that you won’t be able to conquer given some patience.

  • Work culture differences

You’ll find the work culture in China to be quite different to what you’re sued to. The best way to describe it would be to call it ‘traditional’. This means the dress code can be more formal than you’d imagine formal greetings, respectful behaviour towards your superiors that borders on reverence and so forth.

The biggest cultural differences between China and the west is ‘Collectivism’ versus ‘Individualism’.  Understanding the differences maybe give some insight as to why your Chinese colleagues accept work hours, we might deem unreasonable.

  • That reverence is sometimes needed from you too

School boards and principals sometimes change your working conditions a few months into the job. You are expected to accept things that are ‘ordered’ from the top. There’s a definite hierarchy in China, socially, culturally and professionally. You’ll have to stand up for yourself when the need arises. Always respectfully, of course, but do know this is no place for pushovers!

What it is like to teach English in China

5. Best destinations to live in China

  • As is the case for teaching job types, teaching destinations also vary SO much in China. Figuring out the ‘best’ is damn near impossible. What you can do, however, is determine which Chinese city may suit you best.

The fantastic benefit of China is that the choice of teaching destination is nearly endless. For every well-known mega-city, there are hundreds (make that thousand) of smaller and less prominent cities. How to choose the right one? Well, it may help you to first learn all about the ‘tiers’.

You’ve heard us refer to Chinese cities by ‘tiers’ and that’s because China classifies its cities in order of prominence and size. Before continuing, you may want to familiarize yourself with the China City Tier System. Here’s a quick overview:

What are Tier 1 & New Tier 1 Cities?

The top teaching destinations in China are the country’s largest and most populated cities, like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The metropolises are home to more than 15 million people and, for teachers, they hold a lot of appeals. Here is where you’ll find the best schools in the whole country and the highest paid teaching positions.

The Pros and Cons of Tier 1 Cities

Living in Tier 1 and New Tier 1 city is not for the faint-hearted. These cities can be insanely overwhelming although the pace of life and the exhilarating vibe is also incredibly addictive.

  • Pros – Loads of ex-pats, international cuisines, plenty of imported goods and immediate access to a world-class international airport. Also the best-paid teaching jobs in the country
  • Cons – Crazy busy, dubious air quality, (relatively) expensive and an assault on the senses. Overall a high-stress working life for the top-paying jobs

Why is Beijing one of the most desired teaching destinations in all of China

 

What are Tier 2 Cities?

Tier 2 cities tend to be smaller in population and importance with a population of anything of 3-15 million people. 

They can still be busy and exciting, only slightly less so than their larger counterparts. Tier 2 teaching destinations like Kunming and Xiamen offer a more laid-back lifestyle. They still had plenty of Western luxuries and an abundance of things to see and do. 

A little quieter, a little cheaper and just as rewarding. These are perfect cities for those who want a ‘big China city’ experience, but a more manageable one. Because even if you’ve lived in Sydney, London or New York, nothing will prepare you for life in a mega Chinese city!

The Pros and Cons of Tier 2 Cities

  • Pros – Excellent jobs with good pay, slightly cheaper than Tier 1 living costs. Fantastic attractions and infrastructure. 

Usually, quite close to a Tier 1 city so you can visit often. You can still ‘blend in’ given the many ex-pats about town

  • Cons – Can be as busy and congested as Tier 1 cities but with fewer international and luxury choices. You need to choose your Tier 2 city well or you could risk living in a similar Tier 1 city but be paid less
 

What are Tier 3 Cities?

Tier 3 cities are the Chinese equivalent of ‘regional hubs’ and are usually inherently historic places full of authentic charm. In cities like Qinhuangdao and Guilin, you’ll meet fewer English-speaking locals You may well be the only foreign teacher in your suburb. You’d probably have to travel far and wide to locate those all-elusive imported goods.

Ask a teacher who’s living and teaching in a Tier 3 city and they’ll tell you they’d never move to a larger city. 

Tier 3 cities are ideal for those who are looking for a cultural experience, above and beyond great teaching and earning stint in a foreign country. These are the cities that’ll entice you to learn mandarin, make local friends and experience a more authentic side to Chinese culture.

  • Pros – Amazing standard of living despite the low pay, immersive cultural experience, more authentic Chinese living. Less competition for jobs so finding work with little to no teaching experience is infinitely easier here. Most Tier 3 cities are hidden gems that have yet to be ruined by mass foreign tourism (and ex-pat bubbles)
  • Cons – You’ll stand out like the proverbial in a Tier 3 city and being a ‘circus foreigner’ can get annoying after a while. You’ll also be hard-pressed to find anyone who speaks English well so you can potentially suffer from a greater culture shock if moving here

 

Where to live in China? North VS South

By population and landmass, China is an absolutely huge and varied country. Not only do you have to choose between big and small city but you’ll also want to research the north VS south conundrum. Which region would suit you best?

Southern China – the more economically advanced region

Generally speaking, the south is best if you’d like to live in a milder climate and have Southeast Asian beaches at your fingertips. Southern Chinese coastal cities boast sub-tropical weather and easy access across the South China Sea – to South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, to name but a few. In the south of China, you’ll experience monsoonal rains and high humidity. You’ll also be choosing a much more ‘luscious’ diet of green vegetables and fruit, rice and super fresh seafood.

Northern China – the cultural headquarters of the country

Head north and you’ll be entering an arid region, characterised by mild summers and harsh winters. Meat, root vegetables and noodles are kings up here, as are amazing cultural experiences. This is the more traditional and historic region, home to towns and cities with histories dating back thousands of years. Ironically enough, many tend to group Shanghai (southern city) and Beijing (northern city) as similar but, in reality, the two offer quite distinct experiences for English teachers.

Northern and southern Chinese cities boast many distinctions, many of them so subtle that you’d have to live in both to really notice. From the friendliness and openness of the people to the cuisine, architecture, even shopping habits and general topics of conversation: the two regions really can be ‘polar’ opposites although intra-region migration is swiftly mitigating these differences.

Our City-by-city Destination Guide offers a great overview of the top teaching destinations in China

6. Is it safe to live and teach English in China?

In case you hadn’t heard, China is not a very tolerant country when it comes to crime. So consider this one of the world’s safest countries for foreign ex-pats. In China, you can safely walk the streets at night in any major city, and needn’t worry about crime.

Petty theft can be an issue, although this mostly relates to opportunistic thefts of mobile phones and e-bikes. The latter is actually a major problem so be warned if you invest in one.

Alongside crime, however, there are other safety issues you may be thinking about, especially as 2020 comes to a close.

Our Safety Guide to Teaching in China in 2021 covers the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, as well as:

  • Petty Crime
  • Road Hazards
  • Work Exploitation
  • Air Pollution
  • Food Safety

These are things you may not have considered yet but they are important aspects to know when moving to China. 

The golden rule of living in China (or anywhere) is to never break the country’s laws. Although you might find a way to wiggle out of a legal issue back home, China’s not the kind of place you ought to test it. Just like penalties are harsh for Chinese who break laws, they are (at times doubly) harsh for foreigners too.

Wondering how to travel to China and survive quarantine in 2021? We give you detailed experiences on how to tackle that challenge in COVID times

The guide about teaching English in China

7. Will I suffer culture shock when living and teaching English in China?

Probably, yes. Even if you have experience teaching and living abroad. You likely won’t be prepared for the onslaught of all things ‘China.’ For newcomers culture shock for just about guaranteed.

The good news is that you will get accustomed to the local culture, mentality, habits and behaviours in due time.

What issues will you likely face when teaching English in China?
  • Language barrier

The obvious #1 issue, even in Tier 1 cities is the language barrier. Sure, plenty of locals will speak a basic level of English but, most of the time, that simply won’t be enough to initiate a deep and meaningful friendship with locals. 

This can be frustrating for those who want a little more from their experience outside the ex-pat bubble. Move to a Tier 3 city and Mandarin classes for you will be needed. The language barrier can be tough going at first when you need to work out where everything is and how everything works. When in doubt translation apps will save you a world of frustration.

 

  • Discrimination

There’s no denying it, some Chinese can be openly discriminatory. This is more prevalent if you are non-white minority wanting to teach English in China. 

This applies especially to Africans, unfortunately. You will likely face discrimination far and beyond what any Caucasian foreigner experiences. It should be noted that racism is not more prevalent in China than elsewhere – it is simply less hidden. This is a tough topic to speak (and write) about and even tougher issue to deal with. But know that the larger and more cosmopolitan the city, the higher the chances of cultural and racial tolerance and acceptance.

  • School culture

As an English teacher in China, you will enjoy a heightened standing in your community. This will be counter-balanced by an unwelcomed pressure from parents and/or employers. Anyone with whom you work will simultaneously hold you to high esteem and have high expectations of you.

  • Unfamiliarity (of everything)

Everything about China is kinda weird for ex-pats at first. The smells, sounds and sights of China are truly amazing but they can also be unsettling. To this end, we recommend you ditch that budgeting tip for the first 2 months and indulge in home-made comforts if they’ll help you settle in. If a chunk of cheese and a bottle of wine from home will reset your soul for a day, then so be it!

  • Distinct manners

Some foreigners love to say that the Chinese have awful manners yet, if truth be told, what they may have is awful Western manners. They have perfectly attuned Chinese manners! Sure, you and I may find it hard to burp loudly after a meal, spit chicken bones on the floor of a good restaurant or clear our throats of evil phlegm in front of other people. BUT we wouldn’t think twice of blowing our noses in public and that is something no Chinese will ever be caught doing. That’s way too rude!

When it comes to ‘manners-shock’ and ‘culture shock’ in China, it is always best to think of every issue in terms of it being ‘different’ rather than ‘good’ and ‘bad’. But you might be perfectly within your rights to be somewhat shocked at local behaviours, you may want to keep your reactions in check. After all, there’s plenty of Western cultural attributes that can drive the Chinese to despair and, given you’re in their country, the onus is on you to accept.

8. What’s dating and making friends like as an English teacher living in China?

This very much depends on where in China you’re moving to. If it’s a popular Tier 1 city, then rest assured you’ll find plenty of awesome expat networking groups. Meeting new people and making new friends is relatively easy in cities with huge expat communities.

Although there are dedicated groups for families with kids, Americans, Australians, Hispanics, sporty people, musical people and people who are into specific hobbies, most expat groups are an international mush-up of all of the above. Most expats end up with several groups of friends with whom they do different things.

How to find friends when you first move to China to teach English

Join WeChat Groups – The first thing you need to learn about is WeChat, a hybrid of WhatsApp, Facebook and Insta all rolled into one. WeChat also has a built-in wallet so you’ll probably use the app to pay for taxis, food and all sorts of things. 

WeChat is China’s choice for social networking. Joining WeChat groups you’re invited to an invaluable way to make new friends, super fast.

Take classes of…anything From tai-chi to table tennis and martial arts. Every city and even suburb in China has social groups that gather around a common sport/activity. Join one you like to instantly make new friends with people with whom you have at least one thing in common.

Take Mandarin classes – Guaranteed to bring you together with foreigners who have also just arrived. Given you’ll presumably be taking beginner classes.

Scour expat forums in your specific city – China’s far too big to start scouring general expat forums so you’ll want to hone in your ‘expat forum group’ search in the specific teaching destination you’ll be living in.

 

The Ex-pat bubble in China

The expat bubble conundrum

To be honest, making friends with fellow expats will not be the issue. The biggest issue will be stepping away from what’s known as an ‘expat bubble’ and making friends with locals. 

Nurturing friendships with both foreigners and locals will reward you with priceless experiences and that’s not something you’ll want to miss out on. Your school will likely be the first place you’ll meet locals and this is a great time to nurture new friendships.

The culture difference can get in the way sometimes but you’re always bound to find something common with a local colleague. This could be anything from your love of dumplings, jogging, playing tennis or shopping for makeup. The best part? Local culture dictates that a friend is a friend for life and part of your family. This is the way to learn all about the local culture and experience the famed Chinese hospitality.

Dating a local as an Ex-pat

The Chinese dating game beats to a different drum than you might be used to. Generally speaking, Chinese are quite traditional and essentially date in order to find a spouse. This may well be the subconscious end game for any young person but it’s very much a conscious effort in this country, so know this well in advance. This interesting topic is #7 in our Top 10 Things Newcomers to China Should Know so have a good read and you’ll gain a better understanding of how to date in China.

What is it like to date while teaching in China

9. What’s shopping like as a foreign expat in China?

Shopping in China can be exceedingly fun and given most items are affordable you’ll soon understand the local obsession with consumerism. Or maybe not! The Chinese are outstanding consumers which means you will find everything you need right here. The range is amazing. You will have IKEA to fill up your new apartment and a bunch of incredible farmer markets to fill in your fridge.

Shopping for traditional Chinese items is easy in all cities. You’ll find plenty of international brands in China

Shopping hours in China are usually 8 am to 10 pm, 7 days a week.

  • Food shopping

Every suburb of every city has its own local markets selling fresh produce, dry food, clothing, homewares and knick-knacks. The most popular supermarkets for ex-pats are Carrefour, Walmart and WuMart (the local Walmart equivalent) although you’ll find better deals in chain stores like Jinkelo and Chaoshifa. 

However, for the cheaper alternative, shop local at your Chinese supermarket. You will have a few recognisable brands to choose from, but it’s insanely inexpensive.

  • Regional specialities

Every province in China is renowned for its traditional arts and crafts, be it tea sets, silk, hand-woven handicrafts and ceramics galore. Most ex-pats will inevitably decorate their homes with a mix of Western-style furniture (thanks, IKEA) and local traditional detailing. Not only because local is cheaper but, primarily, because it is beautiful, colourful and distinctive

 

Online shopping in China

Due to the fast pace of city life, most locals have taken to the online-shopping craze like nothing else on earth. You probably will too. From supermarket shopping to eBay-like peer-to-peer purchases (Taobao) of anything and all big-branded Chinese items. Everything has its own website or micro-site and selling directly to consumers, then delivering straight to your door.

Online shopping in China offers more than the benefit of time-saving. As an ex-pat English teacher living in a top-tiered city, it will be highly unlikely you will have a car and perhaps even more unlikely you will live in a super-expensive suburb. Usually, these are the neighbourhoods that host foreign embassies and consuls and here is where you’ll find the best (Western & local) supermarkets in town.

So…you’ll want to shop locally and, like locals do, buy a little bit of fresh stuff every single day. Getting into this habit may be a challenge at first. Once it’s part of your routine (just pop into the local store on your way home from school) you won’t even think about it twice.

For everything else? There’s online shopping! Online grocery shopping has exploded in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. This is a trend that is likely to stay. Get with the programme and enjoy the superlative convenience.

Learn all about International Teaching Jobs in China and you’ll see why they are among the most coveted jobs of all

10. What’s it like to live and teach English in China with a family?

Moving to China with a family seems like a difficult thing to do but you’d be surprised to learn just how many English teachers move here with spouse and kids in tow. The considerations for a family are not all that dissimilar to everyone else’s although priorities will certainly be different.

  • Location

Your choice of teaching destination will undoubtedly be dictated by the ages of your children and your interests as a family. If you have toddlers and wish to live in a quieter city, that elusive ‘top paying teaching job’ will take a backseat. It will be replaced by a still-well paid job in a small city with fewer people, better air quality and more outdoor parks.

  • Teaching job type

You will also want to spend more time at home than your single teacher counterparts, right? To this end, you may not want to take a job that requires you to teach nights and weekends. This will probably rule out training centre jobs but you’ll still have public and private school jobs, as well as university jobs. This last teaching job is perfect for experienced teachers moving to China with their family.

  • Accommodation

It’s fair to share you will not want to share your house with a flatmate. To this end, it’ll be important to negotiate a good housing stipend so you can rent an apartment your whole family likes but have financial help from your employer. You may also want to live on the outskirts of your chosen city, so you can rent a bigger place for less and also have better chances of more green spaces for the kids to ride their bike and play with new friends. A quieter, more family-friendly suburb will also be easier on the wallet so it’s a win-win.

  • Extra interview questions

Health insurance is a priority for many would-be English teachers heading to China. Especially if they’re planning to move with the whole family. During your job interview question and when negotiating your contract, make sure you ask about insurance. You’ll want to ensure the school offers a comprehensive top-notch health insurance. If you are lucky your school will pay for your family too. If not, ask how much is the extra to cover the other members of your family. 

  • Think outside the teaching box for extra benefits

Many excellent private schools offer discounted tuition fees to children of foreigners who teach there. Having your children attend the school in which you teach is a win-win. It’s a major logistical convenience for morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up. It can save you quite a lot of money on school fees. You can also keep an eye on your kids as they settle into their new life.

  • Extra considerations

Almost every expat in China will employ a cleaning lady to take care of the bulk of the domestic work. “Aunties’ as they are called in China, can literally help you run your household and can help with child-minding and cooking. If your spouse is qualified you may want to look into the option of having them work in the school in which you teach. School are usually eager to employ to employ teaching couples.

If your children are of school-age, consider advising your partner to also find a job in China. Being alone at home, as a brand-new expat, can be boring and demoralizing. Partners of working foreign teachers can suffer from homesickness and depression much more than their working counterparts.

Useful Links - Last Bits of Information

If you’ve yet to look into the option of teaching English in China and landed here just to get a general idea of what to expect, you may want to have a squeeze of our guide on How to Find a Teaching Job in China. We share the best tips to increase your chances of getting a great job and then guide you through the job application process.

Don’t have any teaching experience yet? No problem. China is actually an excellent destination for English-teaching with NO Prior Experience.

For the sake of transparency, we’ve also compiled a guide to The Most Common Teaching Scams in China to Avoid. First-time ESL teachers and newbie graduates will definitely want to have a good read before applying.

And to complete the process, here’s a detailed guide on How to Get a Working Z Visa for China

Ready for more personalised advice? Then why not Submit Your CV or contact us to know more about teaching English in China.


David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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