As the second largest economy in the world and a population with a growing appetite for speaking English, China is perfect for teachers looking to gain valuable experience while immersing themselves in a new culture.
But after the recent coronavirus pandemic and ongoing global turmoil, is it still worth it?
China recently announced the lifting of curbs on visas for foreign nationals. This means it’s easier for foreigners to enter and exit the country.
Even though travel restrictions have been lifted, you should still check requirements for your own country’s government because there are always exceptions and rules change from time to time.
How much is a teacher paid in China?
The average salary for English teachers in Shanghai is between 20,000 and 45,000 yuan per month (equivalent to around £2,000 to £4,500), depending on experience, qualifications, and the number of teaching hours per week.
By comparison, the average teacher in the UK is paid between £2,142 and £2,680.
Many employers in China also offer other benefits like housing allowance, airfare reimbursement, and health insurance coverage. So, you could end up saving more of your salary than those making more per month in the UK.
How much do you need to live comfortably in China?
China is large and costs can be different depending on where you live and the ‘tier’ of your city. Yes, the Chinese government ranks their cities in ‘tiers’ and it gets more expensive as you climb the scale. We’ll compare the four main costs, which are:
Average rent: £300–£1,000 per month
Most employers will try to arrange accommodation near your school, especially outside cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
You could live so close that you can walk or cycle to work each day. But if you decide to get your own place, it will cost between £300 and £700 per month. Major cities have higher rents, while living on their outskirts are much cheaper.
A one bedroom in Shanghai and London costs £951 pounds and £1,647 pounds respectively.
If your employer doesn’t provide accommodation, they will normally include a housing allowance on top of your salary to help with your rent.
Eating in China: £100– £150 per month
Food can be very cheap, and a week’s worth of groceries would set you back about £25. You can buy a kilo of chicken for about £6, while a variety of fruits and vegetables goes for less than £8.
But you’re new in town and want to experience the local cuisine, so eating out is a priority. Luckily, it isn’t that expensive either. Depending on how fancy your taste buds are, a meal in Shanghai will cost:
- Chinese fast-food restaurant, 20 to 40 yuan (£2.50 to £6) per person
- Casual dining, 100 to 160 yuan (£15 to £20) per person
- Fine dining, 180 to 5000 yuan (£22 to £600) per person
Street food costs roughly a quid, and if you need to cool off you can get a pint of beer for less than a £1. That’s less than £2 a meal!
Getting Around in China: £25–£41 per month
Travelling around is easy on your pockets thanks to the modern infrastructure. Buses are your best bet for cheap rides – a single ride costs less than a pound.
But if you’re planning to go a little further, you might want to take the subway despite the higher cost.
Taxis, on the other hand, can be a bit heavy on the wallet or purse because they are usually the priciest option.
However, you can’t beat the convenience of having a private ride when you’re in a hurry. If you’re looking for an Uber-like experience, try Didi – it’s China’s homegrown ride-hailing app that won’t break the bank.
Lights, water, internet in China: £41–£82 per month
In China, some of these may be included with your apartment, which means that you won’t need to pay for them. You can get a good mobile prepaid plan for less than £24 a month.
An average Chinese household spends about £55/month on utilities (gas, electricity, water). Overall, your utility bills shouldn’t cost more than £82/month.
Adding it all up, the living cost on average in China will set you back about £1,200/month. And the average cost of living ranges between £1,800 to £2,000/month in London.
China can provide you with more than just a slightly higher salary and significant cost-of-living savings. Personal growth also requires experiences, connections, and exposure to diverse cultures.
So, what opportunities for growth does China offer?
Personal and professional growth
You could pick up Mandarin. Immerse yourself in one of the most widely spoken languages in China. It can be valuable to you for both work and personal reasons. Practise with colleagues, students and even locals, and you’ll be speaking like a native in no time.
Once you’ve got some Mandarin phrases under your belt, explore and experience the country’s rich and diverse culture that spans thousands of years old from traditional festivals to modern art and music. There’s always something to discover.
Put your new language skills to work. As the second largest economy in the world, China is a global powerhouse. Working here provides an excellent opportunity to build international connections that could lead to lasting friendships.
Challenges of teaching in China
There are some potential challenges to consider if you want to work here.
- Not everyone speaks English, especially outside of major cities. When you’re new, you might struggle, not only as a traveller, but within your workplace and when you’re trying to navigate administrative tasks or communicating with the community.
- Communication styles. In the West, if someone didn’t like what you did or said, they’d tell you off directly. But in China? They’ll try to leave hints hoping you’d pick up on it and change.
- Feeling isolated. It’s common when you move to a new place without any friends or family. It can be even more challenging if you don’t speak the local language or lack a support network. Consider joining clubs or taking classes to connect with people who share similar interests. With time, you’ll create a network of friends that will help ease the feeling of loneliness.
Is it worth teaching in China?
Overall, once you’re more comfortable with the language and have had time to adapt culturally, teaching English and other subjects in China can be a highly rewarding experience, providing you with the opportunity to expand your professional and personal horizons while immersing yourself in a fascinating and dynamic country.
If you’re ready for a China teaching experience, contact INTA Education to start your journey.
INTA Education was founded by Lydia and Will, teachers with a passion for language and education. With a decade’s years’ experience teaching in Asia, we’re ready to help you find the perfect teaching in China experience.
Get in touch today for more information on teaching careers in China.