Teaching English in Chengdu

Teaching English in Chengdu is a gratifying endeavour for anyone who dreams of living and working in China but is held back by the at-times overwhelming impressions large Chinese cities make. Unlike Beijing and Shanghai, Chengdu is decidedly laid-back. It’s also quite a beautiful city and, of course, revered for being the panda headquarters of the country. Expat living here can be as exciting (or relaxing) as you’d like it to be with areas renowned for their nightlife and many suburbs for their peacefulness.

Chengdu is still very much a Chinese metropolis nowadays as opposed to the sleepy regional hub it used to be just a few years back. As more foreigners and businesses move in, the city is growing rapidly although don’t be surprised if you get stopped for ‘selfies’ by locals: foreigners are still a novelty in many parts of the city. Glimpses of traditional Chinese life are everywhere: old folks playing majong outside authentic tea houses and still speaking in their Sichuanese dialect, stubbornly holding back the advancement of Mandarin.

If you’re a foodie then you’ll absolutely love Chengdu and if you’re partial to spicy food then Sichuan is certainly the right province for you to live in. Living costs are still lower than other major TEFL cities yet the lifestyle is comparably better here.

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

As an expat TEFL teacher who doesn’t splurge too much on Western luxuries, you can expect to live very comfortably in Chengdu with about USD 1,000 a month, and that includes shared housing, amenities, transport and internet connection on your mobile phone. Expats also note that locals are friendlier and more hospitable here and the pace of life is slower too, which all amounts to a very delightful lifestyle. There are countless interesting destinations within just a couple of hours of the city and that’s inarguably one of the best aspects of teaching English in Chengdu. Add to that the trifecta of ‘friendly people, excellent food and a healthy drinking culture’ and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Climate in Chengdu

The only real downside to Chengdu would have to be the weather. Technically, one would call it ‘moderate’ and the city definitely has four distinct seasons, with lovely but short springs, sticky summers, rainy autumns and overcast and rather gloomy winters. Winter also brings about high levels of smog which, although much better than other cities, is still a considerable annoyance.

Cost of living in Chengdu

The city boasts an enviable standard of living and that’s why it’s such a coveted TEFL destination in China. Score a well-paying job here and you may just feel like you’ve hit the English-teaching-jackpot. City centre living, moreover, is quite affordable when compared with other cities so if you love to be in the thick of things, you won’t be paying for it through the nose like you would elsewhere. What helps the situation greatly is that the local food is absolutely amazing and many expats spend an entire year (or more) not even craving (the more expensive) Western food.

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As an English teacher moving to Chengdu, the first two months will invariably be the most expensive, given you’ll be doing multiple IKEA-runs to kit out your new digs. After that, it’ll be just living costs. Nevertheless, know that you may struggle to save very much here if earning less than USD 1,000 a month (you’ll leave well with less but won’t be able to save much) so do keep this in mind when teaching job hunting.

Entertainment & outdoor activities in Chengdu

Once you manage to tear yourself away from those irresistible pandas, you’ll have quite a few beautiful areas of Chengdu to explore. Start your tour de force south of the Jinjiang River at the temple of Wuhou and its many (many) neighbours, before winding your way north to the pedestrian section of Jinli Road and, further north, Kunazhai Alley. Along the way, you’ll find a seemingly endless maze of narrow streets, all brimming with traditional street decorations and tea houses, shop fronts, boutiques, restaurants, bars, more shops and even more amazing street food stalls. This is the buzziest section of the city and the main street can get sorely busy on weekends but just get lost in the side lanes and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the place.

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If you’re an adventurous sorta TEFL teacher, know that you can score a brand-new scooter in Chengdu for just a few hundred dollars. Or, better still, get yourself an e-bike. You’ll need to have nerves of steel to deal with the mad traffic but, once you get the hang of the driving lingo, you may find this a great way to get around

Dealing with the language/cultural barrier

Chengdu is renowned for being ‘China’s friendliest city’ and, although it has a very traditional feel, you’ll find locals to be warm, welcoming and very hospitable. In this regard, this is the China the rest of the world should know about. Chances of you picking up the local dialect (Sichuanese) are probably close to zero but even just a little Mandarin will go a long way here. With only 7.8 million people, Chengdu isn’t as overwhelming as some of the mega cities in the east and this favours the English expat teacher. You’ll be treated well here, more so than in bustling Beijing where Westerners are a more common sight. The hospitality of the people is enticing an ever-growing number of expats to the city so you’ll find plenty of foreigners to befriend here, many of whom belong to special interest groups.

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Google map and Google translate are literal lifesavers in Chengdu so make sure you have your VPN installed on your mobile before you even arrive

Facts

Quick Facts

  • Total Population:

    7.8 million

  • Expat Population:

    17,000

  • Airports:

    1 – Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport

Salary

  • Average starting TEFL salary:

    USD 1,100

Climate

Temperate

Transportation

  • Public Transport Cost:

    USD 0.30  (single ride)

Food

  • Eating Out (local food):

    USD 3

  • Eating Out (Western food):

    USD 18

  • Price of beer:

    $1 (local), $2 (imported)

Fun Fact

Chengdu is an ancient city that has been thriving under the same name for more than 2,300 years

Monthly rent

  • Starting Monthly Rent, City Centre:

    USD 250 (shared)

  • Average Monthly Utilities:

    USD 40

  • Monthly Gym Membership:

    USD 30

Chengdu photo
Chengdu photo
Chengdu photo