2021 Guide to Teaching English in China
Updated February, 2021
China is one of the world’s most diverse and fascinating countries. With demand for English lessons at an all time high, there has never been a better time to teach in China.
Whether you’re looking for spectacular natural beauty, global mega-cities, a rich history or culture of modern innovation, there is a China to suit everyone. And there’s a huge variety of English teaching jobs in China too. Home to the largest population in Asia, there are currently 350 million English learners in China and demand is still rising. Enrollment in international schools, a sector in which China is already a world leader, is set to double in the next four years--and that’s before you consider growing opportunities to teach English in private language schools, universities, and China’s state school system.
Throughout the education sector native speakers with experience in western school systems are in particularly high demand. As a result, English teachers in China often have the luxury of picking and choosing between vacancies to find the most fulfilling and best paid teaching roles.
So, an international adventure in a fascinating culture? Fulfilling and well-paid work? If these are on your professional check-list, now might just be the perfect time for you to teach in China.
Who can teach English in China?
With demand for English teachers in China running high, there are a large variety of teaching jobs on offer from TEFL and ESL jobs to university positions and English language roles in international schools. There are opportunities to teach English in China for all kinds of candidates.
New or Experienced Teachers
If you have teaching experience or teaching qualifications (such as a bachelor’s in education, teaching license or TEFL certificate) you will fit the profile for a wide range of teaching jobs in China. What’s more, teaching in China is a fantastic way to test your teaching skills in a new context by broadening your experience, building international classroom communication skills, and getting to know a new education system.
If you have no teaching experience, but you hold a bachelor’s degree or higher you will be eligible for many teaching jobs in China. Some may require you to do a teaching qualification before you start, but there are also positions where no experience or teaching qualifications are necessary. Living in China after you graduate can be a great way to learn workplace communication skills and gain international professional experience in a country that is increasingly influential in the global economy.
If you are already established in a professional field, but are itching to travel and explore the world, teaching English in China is a great way to do so, and there are plenty of teaching roles available which will value your practical experience. Whether you’re interested in taking a career break or making a career change, learning to teach in China will add a whole new set of professional skills to your inventory.
What are the requirements to teach English in China?
To work in China you’ll need to have an all-important Z visa approved before you enter the country. Other visas such as a business visa (known as an M visa) or tourist visa (known as an L visa) will allow you to enter China, but not to work while you are there.
To get a Z visa approved to teach English in China you’ll need:
a Bachelor’s degree
Although stories abound online of teachers who have found teaching jobs in China without bachelor’s degrees, doing so is not advised. A bachelor’s degree is necessary for a Z visa, and entering the country to work on any other kind of visa is illegal. Converting your visa once in China is not possible, and Chinese officials are keen to ensure all English teachers hold proper visa status in an effort to support child safeguarding practices.
a passport from an English-speaking country
Specifically, the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand or South Africa, as English teachers with knowledge of western pedagogy are in demand. Note that the Z visa application doesn’t list a preference for native speakers, although most teaching roles will request fluency, idiomatic level English, native fluency, or something similar.
teaching qualifications or professional experience
Similar to immigration policies in many other countries, the Z visa application system works on a points basis, and professional experience (teaching or otherwise) will add extra points to your application. Some jobs will request, teaching experience, some general experience, and others may require a TEFL certificate in lieu of, or as well as, work experience. The specific requirements will depend on the teaching job you apply for, but getting TEFL certified certainly won’t hurt your chances of getting your Z visa approved.
What kind of TEFL certificate do I need to teach in China?
A good TEFL course can be invaluable for new teachers. Aside from boosting your confidence, getting a TEFL certificate will give you a solid foundation of skills to use in the classroom. On a TEFL course you’ll learn to:
plan lessons that meet learning objectives.
understand different learning styles.
develop teaching and classroom management skills.
use techniques to teach reading, writing, listening and speaking.
understand terminology used in English teaching and the English language.
How do I choose a TEFL certification course?
If you’ve already found some teaching jobs in China that interest you then check with the recruiter or school to see what their TEFL certification requirements are. If you haven’t started your job search yet but want to get TEFL certification in advance, make sure you choose an accredited TEFL course that meets industry standards. Unfortunately, there’s no single TEFL accreditation body but reliable TEFL certification courses have a few things in common.
They are a minimum of 100 hours long to meet industry standards. Most accredited TEFL courses include around 120 hours of study.
They include a 20 hour practicum, normally broken down into six hours of English teaching practice and 14 hours of lesson observation.
They normally cost at least $1000 USD for online TEFL courses and more if you’re studying face-to-face or abroad. Face-to-face and online TEFL courses are valued equally by schools and recruiters, so when selecting a course choose a delivery method that suits your budget, availability and preferred learning style.
The entry requirements will specify applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, or be in the process of completing one.
It will be accredited by a well-known organisation such as WTEFLAC or affiliated with a respected university such as Cambridge’s CELTA course or similar courses run by the University of Toronto, University of Northern Colorado, and University of Arizona.
The course provider should be willing to answer questions and have a trustworthy online presence. Look for online reviews of the course, check whether the provider has a social media presence, and get in touch with them by email or phone. Any reputable course should be able to put you in touch with past students or tutors who can discuss the course with you.
How can I find a job teaching English in China?
Use your network
Once you’ve got your TEFL certification, you’ll be ready to apply for all kinds of teaching roles in China. A great place to start your research is in your existing network--ask your TEFL tutors for recommendations for good companies to work for or if they can put you in touch with former students who have worked in China. Beyond that, ask your wider circle --you never know who’s aunt’s cousin’s friend might have taught abroad and have some useful advice for you.
Personal connections are a good place to start gathering information, but the bulk of your ESL job hunt will probably take place online. There are two ways to approach an online job hunt.
Go through a recruiter
Going through a large international recruiter can be a great way to get an overview of all the different kinds of teaching positions available in China and take some of the heavy lifting of moving abroad off your shoulders. Many TEFL recruiters offer additional visa assistance, personalized job searches, and support when you’re in China such as orientation, training and social meet-ups. Working with a recruiter that has staff based in China will additionally give you a larger network and an extra level of support to rely on while you’re teaching abroad.
Reputable recruiters follow SAFEA guidelines as specified by China’s state governance body for expat affairs. This means they only hire TEFL teachers with Bachelor’s degrees and two-years work experience or TEFL certification, and they will make sure all teachers enter China legally, on a Z visa. You should never have to pay a recruiter for their services or send them your passport prior to receiving a job offer.
Contact schools individually
Alternatively, you could contact schools in China directly. This will take some more research on your part, but puts the TEFL recruitment process firmly in your hands.
Private language schools recruit throughout the year in China and international schools, public schools and universities tend to recruit twice a year in spring and fall. Before you apply to any school in China make sure they have been licensed with the state governance body for expat affairs, SAFEA. Without SAFEA licensing schools do not have the authority to issue work visas. Again, reputable schools will make sure all teachers enter China legally on a Z visa, and you should never have to send a school money or your passport.
What kind of English teaching jobs can I do in China?
Unless you have a very clear idea of what you’re looking for before you start, ESL job hunting online can be a little overwhelming. There are thousands and thousands of English teaching jobs in China, hundreds of companies and schools recruiting, and the country itself is an enormous place!
Teaching contracts are typically one-year full-time or summer internships, and you’ll find roles teaching teach kids, teens, university students and adults. However, your class sizes, working hours and teaching salary in China will all depend on the kind of school you work in.
What kind of schools are there for English teachers in China?
Public schools in China
Chinese schoolchildren enter the public primary school system aged six or seven, although many attend kindergarten before this. Secondary schools are often divided into junior (for 12-14 year olds) and senior (for 15-17 year olds) middle schools. Academic achievement is a pathway to social mobility in China, so parents and teachers set high expectations for students.
English teachers in Chinese public schools work Monday to Friday. They normally lead four 45-minute classes per day, with office hours on top for lesson planning, meetings and English clubs. Classes can include up to 60 students (with a teaching assistant) and the focus is normally on spoken English. Public school ESL teachers take 11 days’ national holiday throughout the year, plus two longer holidays in summer and winter. Public schools in China often only have one or two international teachers making working in them an immersive cultural experience.
Check out Kimmie and Rachel chat about the benefits Working at a Training School in China Video.
Private schools in China
Many kindergartens in China are beginning to teach English to help prepare students for primary school. With students as young as two and a half, lessons are focused on teaching English through games, songs and activities, and students might learn just one or two words each lesson.
Teachers in kindergartens can expect to work 20 hours a week or more, including hours at weekends. Class sizes will depend on the individual kindergarten.
International and boarding schools
International schools and boarding schools are generally found in large cities in China. Students are aged from three to 17 years old and tend to be children of foreign workers or wealthy Chinese families. Class sizes and teaching salaries will vary from school to school. Term times will normally align with the public school sector.
As all classes at international schools are normally taught in English, foreign teachers may have to teach subjects other than English language. Students often hope to study at international universities so the curriculum normally follows international programs such as the International Baccalaureat or the Cambridge International Examinations.
Private language schools in China
Education is a big focus in China and many students and adults study English as an extracurricular activity, outside of work and school hours.
In private language schools (also known as training centres) English teachers usually work evenings and weekends, when students have finished work or school, and will often teach more hours than in public schools. Classes in private language schools are usually around 12 students. Private language school teachers often get 11 days of public holiday, plus two or three weeks vacation to take at a time of their choosing. Private language schools such as First Leap, ABIE and Scholastic English employ many international teachers meaning there is sure to be a large English language community. Check out our video on teaching adults vs children for more information.
Online Teaching Jobs in China
Some private language schools also offer contracts for English teachers to teach online in China. Jobs are normally based in big cities, but could entail teaching students from all over China individually or in small groups. Some companies such as VIPKid and DaDa offer lessons exclusively online, and others such as EF also offer face-to-face English lessons.
Universities and Colleges in China
There are public and private universities in China. Students that get the best results in their end of high school exams are enrolled into public, government run institutions and others who still want to pursue higher education pay to go private. There is often the opportunity to teach large undergraduate classes and smaller graduate ones.
English teachers are normally contracted to teach around 20 hours a week, plus preparation time.
Private Tutoring in China
Like most countries, your immigration status defines the work you can legally do in China. In many cases private tutoring is considered illegal in China as it means working outside of the contract specified by the school or organisation that sponsored your Z visa. However, contracts are negotiable and many English teachers in China make agreements with their visa sponsors allowing them to teach private students. This agreement will normally be written into your contract with terms and conditions, such as not tutoring students from the school.
If you can tutor, classes will usually be one-on-one or in small groups and very well paid.
What’s the average salary for teaching English in China?
The average monthly salary for English teachers in China is 10,000-30,000 RMB ($1423-4269 USD). The kind of school you choose to work in will influence how much you get paid.
However, when looking at these pay scales there are two additional factors to consider: first, the benefits that might be included in your teaching contract and second, the cost of living in China.
What benefits do English teachers normally get in China?
As well as a monthly salary, most jobs for English teachers in China include generous benefits packages. Here are some benefits that may be included in your teaching contract.
Some employers will offer administrative support to guide teachers through the process before they arrive in China (like SkoolSpot)
Contracts for English teachers in China are typically one-year long and include full or partial payment for return or one-way flights to China. Employers may offer to pay for flights, reimburse flights or offer a set flight allowance.
Cultural and transition support
Some schools and organisations initial and ongoing support for English teachers in China such as airport pick up on arrival, orientation packages, initial housing or hotel stays, in-country staff support and school social events.
Depending on your teaching contract TEFL training and/or Mandarin lessons may be included in your contract.
Health care and insurance
Most employers will provide English teachers in China with health and dental coverage. Depending on your employer, your contract may include paid sick-days, or a percentage of payment with a doctors note. Some organisations even provide in-house health clinics for foreign teachers.
Many contracts provide teachers with free meals on workdays either in the school cafeteria or in the form of coupons or a food allowance. It is also common in China (and many Asian cultures) for students and their families to show appreciation for their teachers by taking them out for meals or giving them small gifts.
There are seven national holidays in China, which amount to 11 days of public holiday each year. Depending on your contract, these may be taken as paid, unpaid or half-paid leave. Additionally, most employers will offer at least two weeks vacation time on top of this, and significantly more for ESL teachers working in the public school system.
Many contracts for English teachers will include a generous bonus system. Typical arrangements include a six-month performance bonus or a contract completion bonus, normally equivalent to an extra month’s salary after a year of work.
Many contracts include temporary housing during an orientation period, a monthly housing allowance, or free housing for foreign teachers while they are employed in China.
What is accommodation for English teachers like in China?
One of the biggest benefits included in most Chinese teaching contracts for foreign teachers is housing and apartments. Whether you get a housing allowance or rent-free housing, having your apartment covered frees up a huge chunk of your teaching salary each month.
Accommodation for foreign teachers in China is normally an apartment or small house. Apartments are often modern, and have centralised services to maintain security and amenities in the building. Small houses are often in hutongs, areas filled with narrow streets where local Chinese people often. Living in a hutong can provide a sense of community and tradition.
Apartments will normally come furnished, with a fridge, stove top, microwave, sofa, TV, bed, air conditioning unit, shower and washing machine. Most Chinese people hang their laundry outside to dry, so dryers aren’t common. The vast majority of apartments shown to westerners will be furnished with a western-style toilet.
Check out a video of an apartment from a teacher!
How do I find Apartments in China?
Some employers provide rent-free apartments pre-selected for their English teachers. If this is the case, your accommodation will already have been found for you.
Others give English teachers a housing allowance (in addition to a salary) which they can use to rent accommodation of their choosing.
Although finding an apartment in China may sound intimidating, your employer should be able to advise on English-speaking rental agencies, online apartment rental groups and co-workers who are either looking for accommodation or moving out of their apartments.
How much does renting an Apartment in China cost?
The cost of renting an apartment will depend on which city you live in, the district in the city, the size of the accommodation and the amenities included--much like renting an apartment anywhere else in the world!
At the more expensive end a studio or one bed apartment in central Beijing may set you back around 5,000-6,000 RMB ($750-$850 USD) per month.
But, in a smaller city or city suburb, you’ll be looking at something closer to an affordable 2,000-2,500 RMB ($290-$360 USD) per month.
Housing allowances for English teachers depend on which city you live in but typically range from 3,000-5,000 RMB ($425-$750 USD) per month.
What is the cost of living in China?
The cost of living in China is typically much cheaper than in North America and Europe. Comparatively generous salaries for foreign teachers make China a great place to teach abroad for educators who want to live a comfortable lifestyle and save money.
However, how much you earn and spend in China will be influenced by where you live. Living in a big city (or tier one city, such as Beijing) means a higher salary but also a higher cost of living. Living in a small city (or tier three city, such as Suzhou) means a lower salary but a cheaper cost of living.
What are the top locations to teach English in China?
Teach in Beijing
Capital city Beijing is the nation's political, economic, and cultural center and has the highest demand for English teachers in China. Cultural highlights include the world-famous Forbidden City and Summer Palace, but you’ll also want to take time to explore the city’s lesser-known corners. Traditional narrow streets, known as hutongs are great places to soak up the local atmosphere and sample Beijing’s awesome street food including, of course, Peking duck. The weather in Beijing is typically dry, getting very cold in winter and hot in summer.
Public transport ticket: $0.59
Cheap Meal: $4.43
Teach in Shanghai
Megacity Shanghai is known for its forward-thinking outlook, bustling atmosphere and famous skyline filled with modern skyscrapers. China’s most populous city has four distinct seasons, with hot, humid summers and mild winters. There’s no shortage of things to do in Shanghai, but highlights include great shopping, nightlife and an international atmosphere--the city even has its own Disneyland. International cuisine isn’t hard to find, but for a local speciality, try the soup dumplings.
Public transport ticket: $0.59
Cheap Meal: $5.16
Teach in Guangzhou
Known as the capital of the world, Guangzhou was historically China’s only port open to foreign countries. These days its international heritage is reflected in the mix of nationalities living in the city. While home to typical Cantonese cuisine such as dim sum and egg noodles, Guangzhou’s cultural mix has also made it a hub of fusion cuisine and a great city for foodies. Guangzhou’s climate is subtropical, meaning hot, wet summers and mild winters.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $2.91
Teach in Shenzhen
Shenzhen became a city only 40 years ago and has since gained a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative tech hubs. Summers are generally hot and rainy, and winters are mild--the perfect time to curl up with some local dim sum or a bowl of traditional rice porridge known as congee. With beaches, mountains and Hong Kong all within reach, Shenzhen is also a great base for weekend trips.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $0.34
Teach in Chengdu
Chengdu might be a large city, but it’s known for its easy-going reputation, typified in the local tea house culture. Green tea grown in the Himalayan foothills is local specialty, as is spicy, Sichuan hot pot. With more than 30 universities in the city, Chengdu has a relatively young population meaning plenty of youth culture and nightlife. However, you’ll find the most adorable young population slightly out of town--at the Giant Panda Research Breeding Base.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $2.76
Teach in Nanjing
Often overshadowed by China’s two most well-known cities, former capital Nanjing has more space than Beijing, and is more affordable than nearby Shanghai. Home to beautiful gardens, ancient temples, lakes to boat on in summer and nearby mountains to hike, there is also plenty to do. The climate in Nanjing is cold in winter, hot in summer and comfortable in spring and autumn.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $3.27
Teach in Suzhou
Nicknamed the “Venice of the East” because of its many canals and waterways, beautiful Suzhou is a small city, close to Shanghai and very popular with visitors. The city experiences four distinct seasons, the prettiest of which has to be cherry blossom season in spring. Unsurprisingly for a place with so much water, fish is a local delicacy and is often eaten fried, in spring rolls and steamed buns.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $3.63
Teach in Ningbo
The name Ningbo means “tranquil waves” in Chinese and rightly so--the city is filled with traditional water spa resorts to relax in and surrounded by incredible nature: waterfalls, mountains, forests, beaches and lakes are all within reach. International cuisine is widely available in this port city but for a local treat, Yongbang cuisine (typically steamed, stewed and roasted meat and seafood) is traditional to Ningbo. Summers in the city are hot and humid and winters are cold.
Public transport ticket: $0.36
Cheap Meal: $3.46
Teach in Hangzhou
Known as one of the most beautiful cities in China, Hangzhou has a wealth of natural and historical sites to explore. West Lake is a local natural beauty spot and also the source of the most famous local dish: West Lake fish in sweet and sour sauce. The city itself is filled with stunning pagodas, temples and cherry blossoms in spring. Summers are hot and humid in Hangzhou and winters are mild.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $2.90
Teach in Tianjin
Close to Beijing, Tianjin is a large city known for it’s pretty river promenade and mix of Chinese, modern and European colonial architecture. For a glimpse of Chinese folk style architecture, take a walk down Tianjin Ancient Culture Street where you can also stock up on locally produced jewelry and ceramics. Winters in Tianjin and cold and humid and summers are hot and dry. The local specialty in this river city is seafood.
Public transport ticket: $0.29
Cheap Meal: $2.90
What’s the hiring process like for English teachers in China?
Finding ESL jobs that suit your goals and personality should feel like a much more manageable task once you know:
✓ the kind of students you want to teach in China.
✓ how much you want to earn in China.
✓ the kind of school you want to work for in China.
✓ where you want to live in China.
Don’t forget to only apply for roles in SAFEA approved recruiters and schools as well.
You job applications will probably all be done online and require you to send a resume to potential employers. If your application is of interest, you’ll be asked to do an interview.
What’s the TEFL online interview process like?
Whether you apply for a teaching job through a school or a recruiter your interview will normally be conducted by video call online. You may have one or two interviews to do, potentially with the recruiter, a staff member from the school, or both.
Make sure you take some time to prepare for your English teaching interviews. Researching common interview questions so you can prepare answers, and make sure you look professional and presentable for the video call. You’ll need a quiet room and a reliable internet connection and a quiet room to complete.
How do I accept a teaching job in China?
When you find a great ESL job in China you might be tempted to hop straight on the next plane and start your new life abroad right away! But accepting a teach abroad position is a huge life change, so take time to think through your decision.
research the school or recruiter thoroughly to make sure they are SAFEA approved, and have positive reviews online. Don’t forget to speak to existing staff if you can.
read your employment contract carefully and ask the school any questions you have before you sign.
say yes! Let the employer know in writing that you want to accept their teaching job.
start the Z visa process through your employer and book flights to China.
What’s the Chinese visa process like for English teachers?
The Chinese visa process may seem like a feat of admin, but realistically getting a work visa for China is no more difficult than for any other country. A little organization and an up-to-date checklist will help you through the process.
Also, all of these steps will be completed after you have accepted a job offer in China. SAFEA approved schools and recruiters will guide candidates through the process.
Step One: the work permit
Before you can get a Z visa, you’ll need to apply for a work permit. To do this you’ll need to send the following documents to your school or recruiter.
copy of your passport information/bio and signature pages.
medical consent letter and physical examination form.
reference letter if necessary.
non-criminal record background check.
copy of Bachelor degree certificate.
copy of TEFL/TESOL certificate.
name affidavit if the name on your degree or TEFL does not match your passport.
Your school or recruiter will forward these documents to Chinese officials to be approved, and then return them to you, along with your work permit.
Step Two: the Z visa
Once you have your work permit, you’ll need to fill on the Z visa application form online, then take the following documents to your nearest Chinese embassy:
visa application form (completed online and printed).
one recent passport-size photo.
working permit (provided by the employer in China).
any other required documents (as advised by your employer in China).
Most Z visas take three to seven working days to be processed. Once you have your Z visa, you’re ready to come to China!
Welcome to China!
The day has finally come … you’ve just arrived in China! Most schools and recruiters will organize airport pick up for new employees, along with temporary accommodation while you settle in to your new home abroad.
Keeping in touch
First things first, you’ll probably want to check in with your loved ones back home to let them know you’ve arrived safely. As some foreign websites are not accessible from within China, the most reliable way to keep in touch is to download China’s own social media app WeChat before you arrive in-country, and ask your friends and family back home to do the same.
If your job in China doesn’t include orientation, aim to arrive a week or so before you start teaching so you have time to get over your jet lag and acclimatize to your new environment.
If your job does include orientation, this will be a great opportunity to get to know your new colleagues, find your way around town and maybe learn some new teaching tricks as well.
During your first few days in China make sure you find out who at your school you can call in an emergency, where you can access healthcare should you need, and how to get around safely on the public transport system.
Then, it’s time for a little more visa admin ...
Updating your Z visa in China
Within 30 days of your arrival you’ll have to take some steps to verify your Z visa and get a residence permit. A reputable school or recruiter will guide you through the following steps
You’ll need to register at your local police station within 24 hours of your arrival with a passport, housing contract and landlord’s ID and contact details. If you are staying in a hotel you will likely be registered as part of the check-in process - same as when you travel to most countries and they scan your passport..
You may have already given a physical examination form as part of your Z visa application, but you will need to have your health assessed by a local doctor who will complete a Chinese medical report too. You’ll need to take 630 RMB, unless your employer is paying, and a passport photo. Don’t eat or drink on the day of your medical exam.
You’ll need your passport, a passport photo, your police registration form, medical report and other documents from your employer to get a work certificate in China. Work certificates take five days to process.
To get a long-term residence permit you’ll need to go to the local Public Security Bureau with your passport, police registration form, resident permit application form, photo, work certificate, and other documents from your employer.
Once you have all these documents, you’re ready to live and work in China! It might sound like a lot but reputable schools will be well versed in this process and able to guide you through each step.
Day in the life of an English Teacher
Your daily life in China will depend on the kind of English teaching you do and where you live. All English teachers should have at least two days off a week, and balanced workdays that allow time for lesson planning, admin, teaching and relaxing. Factoring in the relatively cheap cost of living in China, your salary as an English teacher will give you the freedom to enjoy plenty of restaurants, shops and entertainment activities.
Check out a teacher’s day as an English Teacher below:
Work culture in China
Be observant during your first few days at work. Take note of how other teachers interact with students, what time people arrive at work and leave, and how your colleagues behave at work to get an idea of what the work culture is. As a general rule, remember that “saving face” is important in Chinese culture. This normally means maintaining a good reputation by staying calm and treating others with respect.
Workwear for teachers in China is smart-casual. Avoid revealing clothes. A shirt and pair of smart pants or trousers or knee-length skirt is a good basic outfit. If you’re teaching young learners you may need clothes that are comfortable and easy to move around in.
What is the lifestyle like in China like for English teachers?
Getting around in China
There are plenty of ways to get out and about in China. Public transport options normally include the bus or the subway in larger cities, with tickets costing from one to 12 RMB. Taxis are also available, and China has its own ride-hailing app Didi (which can be used in English). A 30 minute DiDi ride in Beijing will set you back around 30 RMB. Finally, cycling is popular in most cities and many people use bike sharing apps to rent bikes as and when they need, costing around one RMB per ride.
With a diverse, thriving and affordable food culture, many foreigners cite the local cuisine as one of their favorite aspects of living in China. And from spicy hotpots to steaming noodle soups, you’re sure to find a lot of new food to try.
Restaurants in China are typically noisy and upbeat as a busy, loud atmosphere is thought to be a sign of how delicious the food is. Chopsticks are standard but many restaurants will also provide knives and forks.
If you don’t want to sit down to eat, street food provides a delicious, cheap alternative. Look out for traditional dishes like piping hot steamed buns, crispy, chewy dumplings and traditional Jianbing, a kind of savory pancake with egg. Finally, Grocery shopping in China is also highly affordable, and most supermarkets stock a mix of international and local foods.
Food in China is diverse and there will be vegetarian options available in most restaurants. Make sure you download a translation app or learn to explain what you do and don’t eat in Chinese, and most restaurants will be accommodating. Some tasty examples of traditional Chinese vegetarian food include egg dumpling soup and classic fried rice. Tofu is also a staple of Chinese cooking.
A lot of the activities you enjoy at home will also be available to you in China.
Join a gym for around 335 RMB per month
Get a beer in a bar for around 28 RMB
Hit a downtown club for cocktails for around 67RMB
Go to the cinema for around 49RMB
Get the best seats in the theatre for 554RMB
Or, if you’re up for trying something local, why not get into mahjong or tai chi?
Moving to China on your own might seem scary but look at it this way: there are over 100,000 native English speakers teaching in China. That means plenty of people in the same position as you, and plenty of opportunities to form friendships overseas. Your co-workers, local and foreign, are a great place to start making friends. Beyond that try getting involved in your local expat community, joining a social group, taking a language class or language exchange and getting online via WeChat to meet new people.
What are the main Chinese holidays?
New Year’s Day
Most workers get one day off on January first. As in many other countries, it’s typically a day to rest and relax.
Chinese New Year
This is China’s biggest holiday normally falls in January or February. Workers and students get from three days to two weeks off, plenty of time to indulge in New Year’s celebrations such as eating large family meals, getting new clothes, giving money as gifts in red envelopes, and setting off firecrackers as a symbol of protection.
Quing Ming festival
Tomb Sweeping Day is a one or two day holiday falling in early April. Traditionally families use this time to visit their ancestors’ tombs to pay their respects and write messages on paper which is then burned, carrying their words up to family members in the heavens.
The Chinese equivalent of Labor Day is a one-day holiday, falling on May first. This is a popular day to go shopping in China.
Dragon Boat festival
Dragon Boat Festival lasts for up to three days starting on the fifth day of the fifth month in the Lunar calendar. Big crowds come out into the streets to watch crews compete against each other in dragon boat races and to eat zongzi (sticky rice wrapped in leaves.)
Lantern Festival or Moon Festival, lasts for up to three days during which people spend time with family, eat moon-cakes, make lanterns and give gifts. Worshiping the moon is traditionally supposed to bring good luck and prosperity in Chinese culture.
October first is Chinese National Day (commemorating the founding of the People’s Republic of China) and the start of “golden week” in China. Most workers will take a full seven days off to travel during this time. National day traditions include flag-raising ceremonies, firework shows and shopping.
Travel in China
China makes a great base for local and international travel. Making China your home will put an exciting new range of holiday destinations within reach.
Where to visit in China
As well as the cities mentioned above (where a few of your teaching friends might be based) there are plenty of iconic sights to visit in China.
The Great Wall of China
This truly iconic site is a wonder of the world and listed UNESCO heritage site. The Great Wall of China is over 20 kilometers long and accessible from Beijing.
The Terracotta Warriors
The tomb of China’s first emperor is one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world. Hundreds of life-sized soldiers and horses made from terracotta form an army surrounding the tomb to protect the emperor in the afterlife. Xi’an is the nearest city.
The Yangzi River
China’s largest river runs from Tibet to Shanghai, passing through jaw-dropping scenery along the way. On a cruise down the Yangzi River you’ll pass majestic mountains, stunning gorges and charming water towns.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Accessible from the city of Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge is an area of stunning natural beauty great for hikers who want to take in some breathtaking mountain views.
How to get there
China has a reliable and safe high-speed train network that serves the whole country. Tickets are cheaper than flying and include beds for overnight journeys, along with access to dining cars and restrooms. But, for quick trips, domestic flights are also available and can be bought online.
Where to visit outside of China
Living in Asia puts a whole new range of destinations on your doorstep. While you’re teaching China, why not visit some of these destinations.
For a few days of imperial palaces, K-pop and delicious spicy food, check out South Korea. Capital city Seoul the lava caves of jeju island are highlights.
Return flights Beijing to Seoul from from $200
There’s nowhere in the world quite like Japan. Get your fix of geishas, ramen, anime, bonsai and high-tech toilets in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Return flights Beijing to Tokyo from $230
Whether you’re looking to backpack off the beaten trail or get a massage in a luxurious resort, Thailand has the dreamy beach, unique festival and delicious pad thai you’re looking for.
Return flights Beijing to Bangkok from $200
Between the hubbub of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, lie miles of tropical beaches and the ace up Vietnam’s sleeve: truly incredible food, from hearty noodle broths to flavour-stuffed baguettes.
Return flights Beijing to Hanoi from $180
Taiwan packs a lot into a small space. Relax in mountain resorts, by scenic rice fields, and sandy beaches. Or get lost in the street markets, museums and temples of capital city Taipei.
Return flights Beijing to Taipei from $160
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