Chinese students are required to study English throughout school right up until university level. Most, however, don’t ever seem to reach a level of conversational English. This may be due to a lack of ability or necessity to practice the language.
The need for native English teachers in China is huge and continues to grow by the year. This is paired with the more stringent entrance requirements and means that many schools are desperate for teachers.
But what is it really like to teach English in China?
To find the truth about teaching English in China, we have split this question into ‘the good’ and ‘the bad’ both have numerous points to consider.
First, when thinking about working abroad there are some things that you should consider first.
As well as salaries that go far beyond what local people are paid, many schools will offer a housing allowance that will cover the cost of renting an apartment. Some schools will offer completion of contract bonuses as well as bonuses for keeping students term to term and flight reimbursements.
Low cost of living
The cost of living in China can be very low. The exact cost would depend on which city you decided to live in, with the main cities Beijing and Shanghai etc being more expensive.
Food in China is very cheap as long as you stick to local produce and local restaurants. As soon as you start buying imported food and going to western restaurants it becomes more expensive.
Renting in China can also be very cheap, many teaching contracts will include a housing allowance.
Chinese children are generally very well behaved and want to learn. Of course, there will be the occasional naughty student or one or two that are not interested in learning English. Most, however, are studious and happy to be there. Watching your students gradually become more fluent is very satisfying and having happy students and parents make work many times better.
Making Chinese friends isn’t hard. Many people haven’t interacted with a foreigner before and because of this are very interested. Chinese people may want to talk to you and ask you questions about your life or may invite you out for dinner as their guests this is real Chinese hospitality.
Chinese people hold the teaching profession in great regards, as long as you hold yourself in this manner you will be given respect as a teacher from the Chinese people.
Working hours/ Food and fun
One of the best things about teaching in China is the difference between food and culture. Most training schools have lessons in the evenings and weekends leaving you free during the day (sometime until 5) to explore. In the training centres, your weekend falls on a Monday and Tuesday. This combined with a late start on Wednesday allows for longer trips away to visit nearby areas.
If you are going to work in a Chinese school then the hours will be Monday to Friday, leaving you evenings and weekends free.
Chinese employers also like to take their foreign staff out on trips and meals to show off their country. If you have a boss like this take advantage of these opportunities to share their culture, but bear in mind that you may be asked for something later on in return. This could be working overtime one weekend or promoting the school etc.
Another great aspect of teaching in China is China proximity to other Asian countries and the increasingly cheap flights on offer. From most main hub cities it’s cheap and easy to pop over to Japan or South Korea, or even some beach time in the Philipines or Thailand.
Everything is ultra-convenient in modern Chinese life. A multitude of APPs makes life these days pretty easy. Ordering food or wine to your door, booking taxis and paying for the bus or train can all be done through your phone.
Cash is pretty much unused these days and instead, transactions are all made through Wechat or Alipay. You can be paid by your employer, pay in stores or restaurants, send money to friends or pay household bills through the app.
Another great convenience when travelling in China is fast trains. Some travel around 400kmph and as well as being comfortable get you to your destination in a fraction of the time.
With such a long and interesting history, Chinese culture is fascinating to learn about. Watching how people behave and taking note of different customs is an interesting pastime. If you feel brave enough you could even delve in deeper and approach learning the language. Any attempt at trying to speak Chinese to Chinese people brings about a lot of pride for them.
China is full of teachers who came to China solo. One of the reasons for this is that working in China is especially safe. Violent crime is rare and most of us feel safe walking around alone or taking taxis late at night. That’s not to say that these things don’t happen but in general the Chinese people are very gentle and non-aggressive.
As you can see when examining the truth about teaching English in China, the good things are plentiful.