I spent one year teaching English in China, and I thought it was about time I told you why I chose China. There are many reasons to teach English in China – here are just 10 of them.
If you know you would already like to teach in China – read this guide to help get you started.
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1 – The money
So why teach English in China? The main reason people sign up to teach English in China is because they are the highest paid in the world, relative to living costs. It is common to earn between 10,000-20,000 RMB (£1200-£2300/$1500-3000) per month without any previous teaching experience.
Your earnings can reach 30,000 RMB with experience or a teaching qualification (more than a domestic airline pilot in China!). Accommodation and meals are often included on top of this.
For example, in Chengdu (where I live) I am paid approximately 14,000 RMB per month. My living costs are around 5000 RMB per month, meaning that I’m currently saving around 9000 RMB (£1000/$1400) each month.
Ridiculous amounts to teach English in China, right? Especially, considering most teachers have no prior teaching experience.
Living off 5000 RMB allows me to travel multiple weekends in a month to neighbouring cities. I also eat out every day – this includes a mixture of local and western foods. It’s relatively easy to afford luxury – like the penthouse apartment with pool we stayed in in Thailand. This is a definite perk of teaching English in China.
2 – Living abroad
Living abroad is completely different to travelling. You really experience the culture and see the country through the locals’ eyes. China is a stunning place to live with diverse landscapes. There are mega-cities, deserts, mountains, beaches and even ski resorts to explore. By teaching English in China, you have the opportunity to explore all of this – and further afield in Asia. I recommend considering Beijing, Suzhou and Nanjing, as well as Chengdu.
Of course, there is the odd negative! For example, I can’t walk down the street in the morning without somebody doing the loudest spit ever! And I need a VPN to use pretty much everything out here.
3 – The job
There are different types of teaching schedules in China. Kindergartens and public schools tend to work 8AM-6PM Monday to Friday. Training centres usually work Wednesday to Sunday; 12-8PM from Wednesday to Friday and 9AM-6PM on Saturday and Sunday. Think about which schedule best suits you. Universities often work less hours and sometimes 4 days a week; however, tend to have more marking and lesson prep.
As a kindergarten teacher you often work more hours but less teaching hours and are better paid. While as a training school teacher, having Monday and Tuesday off is excellent for visiting tourist hotspots which are always busy on the weekends. Choose carefully!
If you’re nervous about the idea of teaching English in China, you will find it reassuring to know that most schools have at least one assistant teacher in each class to help with translation and classroom management. Most assistants have degrees in education and so you can rely on them for ideas and help.
I have to admit – I had a pretty easy job. I had big spaces of time with nothing to do, and for me it was relatively easy teaching English in China. However, I know this is not the case for everyone, and I have met many teachers in China who have been overworked. Just be careful when choosing an employer.
4 – The kids
Some people say never work with kids! However, I disagree wholeheartedly.
Kids are always so keen to learn, very energetic and, also, sooo cute! As a kindergarten teacher, I get to mess around dancing, singing and playing games.
So much more fun than teaching grammar right? The kids were my favourite reason for teaching English in China.
Saying goodbye to my kids will be one of the hardest parts about leaving China.
5 – meet new people
As a part of living abroad, you get to meet so many different people. From the locals to a wide range of foreigners. Meeting people with a different outlook on the world makes you challenge your own opinions and values.
In China, people have a strong collective opinion and like to think together. They often place a strong emphasis on what’s best for the community rather than the individual. While there may be negatives to this, the sense of community and the importance of family, means I have a lot of respect for the people I met while teaching English in China.
6 – Travel
The ability to travel more is definitely the reason I decided to teach English. China is a pretty awesome country to live in. Due to its size, there is so much to see and do. So far, I have gone skiing, visited the Great Wall of China and hiked up several mountains. The city I live in, Chengdu, is surrounded by mountains which offers many travel opportunities – from hiking to skiing to city life.
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7 – The food
The food in China is absolutely amazing! Forget Chinese as you know it in the west. There are so many different types of dishes. From hot and spicy dishes to cook your own BBQ, there are so many options for eating out. I firmly believe food in Chengdu is the best in China – don’t forget to try the spicy hotpot.
Don’t worry though… there are many western options available. So when you’re craving that burger or pizza, you can still get one!
8 – Learn a new language
I love the challenge that comes with learning a new language. There is something about being able to communicate with people in their own language that I find exciting. Since beginning teaching English in China, I have been learning Mandarin. It’s hard work, takes a lot of time to practice, however it’s definitely worth the effort. Most people don’t speak English in China so it let’s me communicate with them.
9 – Live in the biggest cities in the world
China has some of the biggest cities in the world – Shanghai and Beijing have populations of 26 million and 22 million, respectively. With these big cities comes awesome tourist attractions, excellent transport and great nightlife. Never again, will you get the chance to teach English in the biggest cities in the world. Of course, the only negative with this is the pollution – so invest in a good air purifier!Booking.com
10 – Further your career
These days, employers tend to like the fact you have travelled. It shows that you are open to new ideas and have had different experiences. If you’re considering a career that involves travelling abroad, teaching English in China helps to demonstrate your suitability for the position.
Does this sound like something you want to do? Don’t forget to read the bad parts about teaching English in China – be fully prepared! And if after this China doesn’t sound like it for you there’s many reasons to teach english in Vietnam or Thailand or Korea.
How to get around China
- By Air: The easiest way to travel between cities is air. Flights can be expensive – so booking in advance is preferred.
- By Rail: Trains are very easy to get in China, you can book online through Trip.com.
The weather in China
The weather in China changes rapidly across the country. However, in general, the winters are very cold in the north of the country. Similarly, they get very hot summers across the country. Think a big coat in the winter and you’ll need a good air conditioning unit in the summer!
Like with any trip it’s important to get insurance before you head to China.
Your future employer might tell you you have health insurance. Make sure you check their policy – normally it will not cover western medicine – only traditional Chinese medicine. This won’t be much help in an emergency.
I recommend True Traveller if you have pre-existing health conditions, including mental health.
If you have no pre-existing conditions – check out World Nomads.
Make sure you get a SIM card as soon as you arrive in China. Remember: Only China Unicom is guaranteed to work on foreign phones. Expect to pay around 200 RMB ($28/£22) for 20 GB of data.
You’ll need it to pay for things and to take taxis (Didi) between places.
Money-saving tips in China
- Take the metro, instead of taxis/Didi. While it will only save you a small amount each time – this adds up over the year.
- Many attractions in China look very similar – therefore, try not to visit too many pagodas, temples or Chinese gardens. You can save yourself some entrance fees.
- Find a job that will include accommodation and food – this can save you a lot of money over the space of a year.