Are you wondering what it is like to teach English in China? Awesome. I was there once too.

I taught in China as well as in Korea and Taiwan. In this post I'll touch on the lifestyle for teachers, the environment, culture and even include a video with teachers in Hangzhou and Xiamen.

The cost of living in China can be quite low depending on where and how you live.

I'll also do a bit of comparing to other East Asian countries like: Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

9 teachers in China give job hunting advice, talk about food, culture and language


The teaching scene in China

  • Requirements: Usually a 4 year degree & native English speaker, plus possible preferences for experienceTEFL certification, etc. More on the requirements to teach English in China
  • Job Market: Good
  • Average Salary: 4,500-15,000+ RMB ($700-2,400) a month 
  • Cost of Living: Cheapest, but big cities like other places can be expensive
  • Housing: Often free sometimes not in big cities 
  • Airfare: Reimbursement at contract completion
  • Teaching hours: 18-25 a week 
    *These are averages expect differences between institutions

It's rich and poor

China is changing faster than any other country. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. It's both rich and poor. You'll see some people driving Maserati's, others push carts and three wheeled bikes.

It's kinda polluted

As you have already heard China is pretty polluted. The average person is not that environmentally aware and many are completely careless. While out for a walk it's likely that you'll see someone just throw their empty cup or soda bottle in the street and nobody (except for you maybe) will say anything.

In a local restaurant - not a fancy one, customers will throw their napkins and cigarette butts on the floor.

On a positive note you'll find loads of electric bikes here. I have also seen electric buses and windmills in Shanghai, which for a megacity is considered much cleaner than others less than half it's size.

So it seems as if things are getting somewhat better. You'll also find trash and recycling receptacles on the streets. Oddly enough in Korea you'll be hard pressed to find a public trash can on the street.

Learn Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is the world's widest spoken language, hence China's large population. It's a tonal language with four tones and simple grammar. Many foreigners come here to study Chinese.

Nanjing Rd. Shanghai,China

What kind of city do you want to live in?

Life and salaries for teachers will often be different in a small city than it will be in a megapolis like Shanghai. You'll find more opportunities in Shanghai, Beijing or in Shenzhen for finding higher paid work yet there can also be more competition here.

Living in a smaller city can be more of a cultural experience.

Learn more about how to choose a place to teach.

The Great Wall

China is steeped in history and you'll find loads of historical monuments/buildings here. Given it's history, it's changing faster than the other three places. However, it's government is still changing relatively slowly, like many other governments in the world.

Unfortunately most of Taiwan's and Korea's historic buildings have been decimated. Lets hope the same doesn't happen to China.

The Firewall

Along with the "Great Wall" China has a "Firewall" and what you can access online is somewhat censored. They have become more open, but there is no access to websites like Facebook or Youtube here. There are ways around that, but the internet is still pretty slow here.

It's for the "unqualified" teacher

China is one of the easiest to find a job in (of the 4 mentioned here) if you don't have a degree or you are not a native speaker. Easiest doesn't necessarily mean it will be for you. Most jobs will require or prefer the teacher who is a native speaker and who has a degree.

That is what you will usually need for a Z visa.

My experience

I lived in Shanghai, China for more than 6 months. I also did some traveling around Shanghai and went as far south as Xiamen and over the years I took many short trips for visa runs to Hong Kong.

I found China to be surprisingly more open than Korea. It could have been because I was in Shanghai, but even though it's a communist country it didn't seem so different. I enjoyed speaking and learning more Chinese.

I found it to be a bit crude though with all the spitting and hawking. I might go back to travel or visit, however I don't think would live there again.

This is Ed. He used to teach in Xiamen.

Ed pic

"...Especially in Xiamen, the living standards are cheap. You can make less than $2000 and you would only be spending 3 or $400 a month. Initially the school helped me to find suitable housing, but later on I looked for my own apartment."

Ed in Xiamen, China

Considering other countries? Wondering what's it like to...