Teaching in Chengdu, China – John’s Story So Far

What is it like to teach in China? Is this a question you have asked yourself? Whether you are looking to teach English in China or to teach at an International School in China there are options for everyone!

As the end of the school year nears and the start of a new academic year fast approaches, we checked in with our teachers to hear how everything is going and how they are enjoying their new life teaching in China. Here, John candidly shares his thoughts and experiences about teaching at an international school in Chengdu. It’s great to learn how much he and his wife Zara are enjoying their new roles in their host city- thanks guys!

What made you want to move abroad?

I had previously lived and worked in Hanoi, Vietnam before becoming a teacher. I always knew I would return to Asia when I had enough experience. I chose China because it had a great reputation for educational standards and the packages they offer are generous.

What were your first impressions of Chengdu?

It was much more modern and developed than I’d imagined. Technology is everywhere here – you can pay with your phone for anything. The sheer size of the shopping districts and the ease of online shopping mean that you can have all your home comforts if you want, or you can explore the more traditional Chinese side of Chengdu. It’s also a very international city so you can find Korean, Japanese and other Asian cultures here as well.

What were the initial challenges of living in China?

The language barrier can be very challenging. I am taking Chinese lessons but it will take a long time before I can communicate beyond the basics! The good thing is that people here are very understanding and helpful. You can use your phone to translate, and they will use theirs to communicate with you. Lots of people in shops and restaurants (particularly Western ones) will also speak a little English. It’s always possible to get by and the more Chinese friends you make, the more your Mandarin will improve. Also, there is a lot of bureaucracy here so your visa, work permits, driver’s licence, bank transfers etc. will take more planning and paperwork than in the UK. As long as you are prepared and have your documents in order you will be fine (also your school will help a lot with this).

What have you really enjoyed about living and working in China?

The opportunities here are fantastic. Lots of schools are expanding and in need of good teachers who want to learn and progress in their career. The salary packages are generous and the cost of living is low compared to the UK. If you are looking to save money then this is great place to do that. Since a lot of people have travelled to work here, it creates a strong bond between staff members, we all help each other in work and outside when needed. Chengdu feels like a city that is constantly developing, I love the optimistic feeling that everyone has here.

Has anything surprised you about living in China?

Lots of things! How modern and developed it is, that there are so many foreigners that have lived and worked here for 10 or 20+ years and that it is amazingly easy to order anything (food, medicine, furniture, electrical goods…) on your phone and have it delivered to your home or workplace in under an hour. Also, there is a really close-knit community of foreigners and local Chinese people who organise charity events and functions almost every week. My wife volunteers for a charity called Hopeful Hearts, so we have attended comedy nights, bring-and-buy sales and fundraising dinners. Everyone is welcome and it is very easy to find a community here.

If you could only eat in one place in Chengdu where would it be?

It’s hard to pick just one! If you’re looking for western food then Gili’s is the place to go. They have 5 restaurants around Chengdu with slightly different menus but you’re guaranteed decent pizza, pasta, sides and atmosphere! For Chinese food, there are so many options. You can find hot pot and a good bowl of noodles on every street.

What one place in China would you take friends or family to visit?

Take the high-speed train from Chengdu to Qingcheng Mountain. You can trek up the mountain, take a boat across a small lake and a cable-car to reach the top. The views are amazing and there are lots of traditional temples on the way where you can stop and rest. It’s a truly memorable experience and gives a glimpse of the culture that has been here for thousands of years.

What do you typically do in Chengdu on the weekend?

Typically, my wife and I take our dog out for long walks to different parks in our area and stop into a coffee shop or restaurant for some food on the way. Lots of places are very dog-friendly here. There are districts that have lots of restaurants, bars, shops and markets that are great for socialising with friends. There is one 10 minutes from our apartment and we’re always guaranteed to bump into some friendly faces there on the weekends. My wife enjoys yoga and pilates, so she often goes there on the weekends. We also love exploring the many restaurants here. You can find traditional Sichuan food as well food from other parts of China (Dong Bei food is really good), Western food, Thai, Nepalese and even Indian Curries.

Where did you last go on holiday?

Sanya. It’s an Island off the South coast (close to Vietnam). It’s the perfect beach destination and has great weather all year round. It has busier parts if you want to be out and about or more quieter areas if you just want to laze by the pool. It’s a 3 hour flight away from Chengdu and is popular with Chinese people as well as foreigners. The sea food is great and it has lots of family friendly hotels and resorts.

Would you recommend living and teaching in Chengdu?

Yes. It might not be the easiest transition to living/working here, when you first arrive, but if you can get past that it has so much to offer. The educational standards are very high so if you are looking for a place to develop your professional skills then I cannot recommend it enough. Also, the quality of life here for a teacher is excellent. You will be able to live in a nice apartment in a nice area, bills are very low, you can eat out regularly, socialise and still have enough money left to add to your savings.

Finally, how did the INTA Team help you with the job search and visa process and would you recommend them to other teachers looking to teach abroad?

I would absolutely recommend using INTA! They made the job search much easier and connected me with several schools in China. They have close ties with these schools and can help you decide which ones are best suited to your experience and what you want from working here. It can be daunting to move your whole life to the other side of the world but they really helped with the application and visa process which put my mind at ease and made the entire process more manageable.

Are you ready to teach English in China?

Then contact INTA Education to start your journey.

INTA Education was founded by Lydia and Will, teachers with a passion for language and education. With ten years’ experience teaching in Asia, we’re ready to help you find the best school in China to teach English.

Get in touch today for more information on teaching English in China.

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