Shenzhen City Guide

It’s almost impossible to imagine that the vibrant metropolis of Shenzhen was just a sleepy little village merely four decades ago. Today, it is one of the most exciting and rewarding TEFL destinations in all of China, a city that offers all the pros of a Tier 1 city (including high wages and excellent amenities) yet with the added bonus of a more relaxing lifestyle, great air-quality and amazing location. Built on the bay that separates Hong Kong from mainland China, Shenzhen benefits from its coastal location in a number of ways. And so will you, if you’re planning to teach English here!

Revered for its inexpensive shopping, mild climate, variety of attractions both for weekend retreats and longer trips, Shenzhen ticks the boxes of all those who want to experience living in China but prefer to not do so in Beijing or Shanghai. If you’re a travel-addict who loves a warm and sunny climate and wants to experience life in China’s richest city (hello, Special Economic Zone!) then Shenzhen will have you packing your bag and applying for that Z Visa in an instant.

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

An easy breezy expat life is what Shenzhen does best, given the sheer number of expats and non-locals living in the city. An abundance of green spaces, great public transport, a host of activities and nearby attractions combine to offer a rather enviable lifestyle. Enjoy the quieter life in the outer suburbs or get stuck into the dynamic life of the city centre.

In Shenzhen, the choice is all yours.

Climate in Shenzhen

When it comes to teaching English in China, life doesn’t much better than in Shenzhen. With mild winters, hot summers and an impressive air-quality, the city suits outdoor lovers to a tee. Humidity can hit 90% in summer and you will have some scorchers, yet the lack of great smog and cool sea breeze mitigates conditions here, especially when compared to nearby Hong Kong.

Cost of living in Shenzhen

It may be the richest and one of the fastest-growing cities in China, yet the cost of living here hasn’t increased at the same rate as Beijing or Shanghai. Coupled with a great demand for TEFL teachers, it means that Shenzhen can offer a very profitable English-teaching lifestyle to boot, as long as you’re a clever expat. Only marginally more expensive than Guangzhou but offering arguably a much nicer setting, Shenzhen is that ‘compromise’ destination that suits travel-junkies to a T. Add to that the proximity of Hong Kong (one of the cheapest Asian travel hubs of all) and all that extra saving can really be put to good use. Just be mindful that Western goods here (including meals) are priced higher than in Beijing/Shanghai because competition is not as fierce. Live like a Westerner in Shenzhen and you’ll quickly see your good wages disappear.


It can be hard to fight the urge for home comforts (what we call Western luxuries here) but if you put your mindfully only indulge in the first month or so (to alleviate homesickness) and then try to go local as much as possible, you’ll see your yuan go much further.

Entertainment & outdoor activities in Shenzhen

The rise and rise of Shenzhen has happened on all fronts with the city boasting endless dining, clubbing and entertainment options. Shopping is, of course, entertainment #1, but if you’re a huge fan of splurging on frivolities, you’ll find an abundance of expat social groups organising activities as per interest, be it jogging, photography, the arts and whatnot. An exciting nightlife, lovely beaches nearby, a trendy art scene and international fusion of cultures mean there is always something going on in Shenzhen.

Heading out of the city is dead easy, be it for a day of sun soaking on Dameisha Beach (or one of the other 22 beaches the city boasts) to stretch your legs in Lianhuashan Park (ideal for jogging) or take an easier waterfront walk interrupted with a bout of fab shopping in Shenzhen Bay Park. Given the outstanding hilly topography of this region, there are endless chances for invigorating hikes in nature.

Dealing with the language/cultural barrier

Shenzhen is the true melting pot of China, the affluence attracting Chinese nationals from every corner of the globe as well as a healthy number of expats (not to mention shopping-mad tourists). The local culture has been heavily influenced by outside forces and that’s due to the city being relatively new as well. Few locals in Shenzhen have deep ancestral roots to the city so TEFL teachers arriving don’t usually feel like they’re barging into a very traditional community, no matter where in the city they live.

Mandarin and Cantonese are both spoken in Shenzhen but, unlike Guangzhou (which really requires a basic understanding of Cantonese to communicate) you’ll get by with little knowledge of the language at first as many people speak English. Everyone also seems to be particularly helpful to newcomers here, probably because everyone remembers what it was like when they first moved there. Overall, this city is an excellent choice for first-time TEFL teachers looking for a ‘softer’ landing in China.


Shenzhen is a migrant haven and you’ll find people here to be open-minded, communicative and well-educated. Need something? Approach a young local and they will be much more likely to speak (at least some) English.


Quick Facts

  • Total Population:

    12 million

  • Expat Population:

    13,000 (last official count, 2013, likely much higher)

  • Airports:

    1 – Bao’an International Airport


  • Average starting TEFL salary:

    USD 1,500




  • Public Transport Cost:

    USD 0.45 (single ride)


  • Eating Out (local food):


  • Eating Out (Western food):

    USD 15/20

  • Price of beer:

    $1 (local), $2 (imported)

Fun Fact

Shenzhen was designated as a UNESCO City of Design in 2009. It famously grew 50 times in size, in only 40 years.

Monthly rent

  • Starting Monthly Rent, City Centre:

    USD 450 (shared)

  • Average Monthly Utilities:

    USD 65

  • Monthly Gym Membership:

    USD 35

Shenzhen photo
Shenzhen photo
Shenzhen photo