Teaching English in Beijing

Beijing is one of the most popular destination for TEFL teachers heading to China and it’s certainly not hard to see why that would be. The city boasts an enviable standard of living for teachers hailing from abroad, with much-coveted teaching jobs offering excellent remuneration packages. Coupled with a low cost of living and the fact that foreign teachers enjoy a privileged standing in Chinese society, it makes TEFL teaching in China – and Beijing in particular – an unrivalled personal and professional experience.

Moreover, this incessantly vibrant city offers an abundance of attractions and activities both within its limits (which are, admittedly, quite huge) and out into the countryside. Beijing is also one of China’s most cosmopolitan and modern cities so although you’ll invariably suffer a wee dose of ‘culture shock’ it simply won’t be as pronounced as if you were to choose a teaching job in a remote location.

Aside from the job and outside of the office, however, you’ll probably be interested to know what living in Beijing is really like, as an TEFL teacher. We’ve compiled a list of the most often-asked questions from potential foreign teachers wishing to head to Beijing with the aim to offer the most valuable info to help you decide if this is, indeed, the right Teaching Destination for you.

Beijing as a TEFL teaching destination – What’s life like for an expat?

Moving to China to teach English is an exciting prospect but we know it can also be a little daunting at first. It certainly helps to know that Beijing boasts a welcoming and blossoming expat scene. Your fellow TEFL teachers will undoubtedly be your first port of call when it comes to creating new friendships but don’t be surprised if your social circles grow rapidly. The sheer number of expat websites, FB groups, forums and social groups out there is indicative of the strong foreign presence in Beijing, a city where expat-organised picnics, music festivals, parties, art exhibitions, yoga classes and ‘traditional Sunday roast’ get-togethers will make even the most timid newcomer feel right at home. Well, almost.

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Be proactive when it comes to socialising in Beijing: you really need to put yourself out there if you hope to make new friends, quickly. It’s true that there are many foreigners here but the city’s size and hectic pace mean you simply can’t leave it to ‘chance’ to form new social ties. Research expat groups and forums before you ever arrive and, once here, join clubs, go to events, say ‘yes’ to every invite. Just don’t be afraid to get out and about!

Climate in Beijing

Beijing is famously hot in summer (June – August) and frosty in winter (November – March), although snow is not excessive even in January, the coldest month of the year. Spring temps are great yet the wind can be considerable, leaving Autumn to be the most idyllic season of all.

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Whilst summers in Beijing are humid, the winters are quite dry which makes the cold easy to deal with. The biggest drawback to the city is (unsurprisingly) the smog, which is exacerbated by the city's geographical position, nestled in a plateau, surrounded by high peaks. Many expats in Beijing will invest in an air-purifier for their homes, exercise in indoor gyms and stock up on masks for those overly smoggy days.

Cost of living in Beijing

One of the prime reasons many chose to teach English in Beijing, particularly, is that the city boasts enviably high wages. Many foreign teachers can live comfortably (eating out and travelling often) whilst still contributing to their savings. What Beijing offers, more than anything else, is a mind-boggling array of affordable choices (accommodation and food are just the start) and many TEFL teachers living in Beijing report enjoying a much better quality of life, overall, then they did back home.

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We’d be the last people to say you shouldn’t be reaching out for comfort home foods when living in Beijing, just know that imported goods here are quite expensive. Choose to eat local, as much as possible, and you’ll have more funds with which to play!

Entertainment & outdoor activities in Beijing

Beijing is often touted as a mega-metropolis that’s chock-full of people. In many ways, it sure is, yet you’ll be surprised to learn that Beijing boasts a myriad of amazing parks where locals head to on weekends to unwind and exercise. Your first few months will probably be taken up with touristy sightseeing in Beijing and, after that, you’ll find a whole world of day-trips and popular weekend destinations that’ll keep you out of mischief. Apart from the more active pursuits, Beijing also offers an insane number of super cool cafés, restaurants, pubs and clubs to discover, as well as an abundance of shopping options. You could seriously spend years on end teaching English in Beijing and still feel like you’ve barely scratched the city’s surface.

Dealing with the language/cultural barrier

Being such a prominent metropolis, you’ll find English widely spoken in Beijing. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t feel the frustrating burden of the language barrier. Yes, you may be able to converse freely with colleagues at the office but you probably won’t be able to have a casual chat with your grocer or butcher, your neighbour or any other local you meet along the way. This can be tough for some and, even after a few years, many TEFL teachers working in Beijing attest to feeling somewhat ‘detached’ from their own local community. This kind of cultural gap is not only natural but also to be expected: China is a very enthralling and unique country, one with a distinct code of norms that will likely not resemble yours in the slightest. Fascinating to the say the least, but also quite isolating in many ways, which makes the expat-connections all the more important.

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Learning Mandarin will go a long way to helping you connect with locals and most foreign teachers will choose to dedicate time to private lessons. This isn’t nearly as difficult as you may imagine so take advantage of your priceless chance to immerse yourself fully in Chinese culture and language when living in Beijing - it may just be the most rewarding aspect of your teaching experience here.

Facts

Quick Facts

  • Total Population:

    21.7 million

  • Expat Population:

    107,000

  • Airports:

    3 – Beijing Capital, Daxing, Nanyuan (secondary)

Salary

  • Average starting TEFL salary:

    USD 800 (public school) USD 2000+ (private & international)

Climate

Continental monsoon

Transportation

  • Public Transport Cost:

    USD 0.30

Food

  • Eating Out (local food):

    $3

  • Eating Out (Western food):

    Under $10

  • Price of beer:

    $2 (local) $5 (imported)

Fun Fact

In 2022, Beijing will become the first city in the world to have hosted both Summer and Winter Olympics

Monthly rent

  • Starting Monthly Rent, City Centre:

    USD 300 in a shared apartment

  • Average Monthly Utilities:

    USD 40

  • Monthly Gym Membership:

    USD 45

Beijing photo
Beijing photo
Beijing photo