china vs. taiwan - where should i teach?

Taiwan vs. China? Considering teaching English in Taiwan or in China? Are they different? I have taught ESL in both places and this post is going to look at some of the differences between the two.

Qualifications

You usually need to be a native English speaker and to have university degree to teach English in Taiwan or in China. You need those qualifications to get a work visa. Individual schools can also prefer or require teachers to be TEFL certified.

However, there are some exceptions to the rule. In China some teachers may not have degrees and be able to find work on an alternate visa. Occasionally Europeans can find work providing a Z visa teaching in public schools in China. For more on the exceptions you can read teaching English without a degree.

If you have completed a TEFL course and 2 years of a degree some schools may be able to get you a visa and ARC to teach in Taiwan. HESS is one of those.

Work schedule

Different schools have different work hours. Commonly in Taiwan if you teach English in a private school (buxiban) you may have to work on the weekends and you may have one or two days off during the week. In my experience weekend hours are usually just Saturday mornings, but it does depend on your school. Buxibans are after school programs with hours ranging from about 3-9pm or so.

If you teach English in a public school or university then you will have a M-F schedule. In a public school you will teach from about 8:30-5:00 (in Taiwan) and you will most likely be teaching high school kids (in Taiwan).

China is similar, but teachers in training centers tend to work on the weekends and have a day or two off in a week. Weekends are usually busy with longer hours.

Money, Salary, Pay

Many schools in China offer benefits such as free housing and airfare reimbursement at the end of the year. If you are in a big city like Shanghai you might not get free housing, but you might make more money. Salaries in China can range from 4,000RMB to 15,000RMB a month or more. Public schools and universities tend to pay on the lower end. Training centers and international schools pay on the higher end.

There are rarely any benefits provided by schools in Taiwan. Most teachers make NT$600 an hour. Salaries in buxibans are anywhere from about NT$50,000-60,000. Public school teachers make NT$65,000-75,000+.

Cost of living

The cost of living in China is lower than Taiwan's, but it does depend on the city of course. Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong can be quite expensive. I'd say the cost of living in Taiwan is a bit more expensive. Living in a city like Taipei will increase your expenses.

Start up cash

For start up costs you'll need around $2000 for China and about that or more for Taiwan depending on your situation. If you have a job lined up in China with free housing then you could get by on less. If you need a decent scooter in Taiwan then you would need more to start with. Both places often require taking visa runs to Hong Kong to apply for the appropriate work visa and those can add up.

School differences

There are a few different kinds of schools in Taiwan and in China. Basically you can work for a private school called a buxiban in Taiwan or in a training center in China. Then there are also public schools, international schools and universities in both which have different requirements.

Public schools

If you want to teach English in a public school in Taiwan then you will need to be licensed in your home country. If you teach in a public school in Taiwan then you will likely be teaching in high schools.

In China many private companies place teachers in public schools. Often you will have a partner teacher who is Chinese. You may teach in a elementary school or high school.

Universities

You don't usually need a master's degree to teach in a college in China. However, you do usually need that to teach in a university in Taiwan.

Private schools - Hagwons and Buxibans

Private schools are called training centers in China and buxibans in Taiwan. These are private after school programs that hold classes outside of regular school hours. These tend to be in the afternoon and evening from about 2-8, 2-9pm or so. Elementary students often make up the majority of students. Yet the students can range from kindergarten to adults.

Kindergarten jobs are in the morning and afternoons. In Taiwan some teachers get a couple of hours off for lunch and then return for a few more hours. In the afternoons they often teach elementary school children.

Job market

China's job market is better. There are many jobs for teachers. They also tend to offer more benefits than jobs in Taiwan do. In China it is possible to get a job from outside the country. In Taiwan that is pretty uncommon. Schools advertise to teachers already in Taiwan. So most teachers just go to Taiwan to find work. That's how I would recommend doing it, but you might be able to find a job there from abroad.

Tealit is the best site to look for a job in Taiwan. In China Echinacities is often the best. ESLcafe is also o.k.

Environment

China is huge and offers a pretty diverse environment. You can find the tallest mountains in the world in the west, deserts in the north, skyscrapers in the east and some nice beaches in the south.

Taiwan is pretty small. You can drive from the north of the island to the south in about 6 hours. The west coast is pretty flat, populated and urban. The interior of Taiwan contains mountains over 12,000 feet. The east coast of Taiwan is quite rugged. There are some beautiful beaches there and in the south.

Pollution

Both Taiwan and China have a problem with pollution. The pollution in Taiwan is less, but the main problem in Taiwan is the scooter pollution. There are millions of scooters in Taiwan. China is the world's greatest polluter. The USA is 2nd. In China you have huge populations which are producing soil, air, and water pollution.

Language learning

You can learn Mandarin in both places. Mandarin is the most spoken language in the world. China is better though as there people know Pinyin. I think most people in Taiwan do not know Pinyin and they have a non-standard way of transcribing Mandarin into English phonetics. There are different dialects in China, but most people can at least speak some Mandarin.

Mandarin is useful as it is not only spoken in China and Taiwan, but also in Singapore and in Chinese communities around the world.

Vibe and Culture shock

It really depends on where you are comparing in China and Taiwan. Parts of China can be pretty regional and others pretty international. Remember when you choose a location in China, Taiwan or in other places in Eastern Asia that you are going to find more diversity and international flavor in the big cities. But just remember that you are in another country. Don't expect Shanghai to be like home. But you can expect to find more foreigners, restaurants, nightlife, clubs, classes and jobs in a big city like Shanghai than you could in a small town somewhere in the country side in China.

If you are in a small place or city expect more of a cultural experience. It can be more isolating and bring more culture shock. China has been sheltered so in comparison the people in Taiwan are going to have a bit more of a contemporary mindset to some extent.

Conclusion

If you are thinking of teaching English in Asia then Taiwan or China could be for you. You may also enjoy reading Where should I teach? China, Korea, Taiwan or Japan?

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