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Things You Need to Know Before Going to China to Teach

Things You Need to Know Before Going to China to Teach

1: Small Vs Big Cities

One of the first questions you’ll be asked and that’s what your location preference. This is one of the important things you should consider. Picking the Best cities to teach English in china that suits you will have a big impact on your experience in China.

Shanghai and Beijing are the behemoths of cities in China. The size of these tier 1 cities can off-putting for many, but for what they lack in sheer size they make up in the abundance of expats. 

Smaller cities offer a different experience altogether. The smaller tier 2/3 cities offer a deep dive into Chinese Culture and for many it gives them a more authentic experience. You’ll still have expats within your community, but not at the same quantities. Craft breweries and western types restaurants may not eb as plentiful.

What works in your favour is the cost of living. I’m not sure there are many countries in the world that offer such a huge discrepancy between the cost of living. Bear this in mind if when are comparing teaching salaries.

2: Download a Translation APP

Seeing as the likelihood of you being able to speak Mandarin is very low. The days trying to attempt to order your food with a dictionary are long gone.  Having a translation add is a must. 

Google translate offer the best way to get your basic point across. Translation apps have come along in the last few years and they are even more important in remote areas where English speakers are at a premium.

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Whatever the case may be, just be prepared: dictionaries, menu pictures and translation apps can be absolute lifesavers at first, most especially if you’ve scored a job in a city where English is not widely spoken.

3: Don’t get so caught up in your expat life 

When we speak to teachers, we often ask them what they motivations are when they come to China. Knowing what you want from the experience often leads to a more memorable experience. 

For some it could be nothing more than financial. For others it can be centred around location and traveling and even learning Chinese.  Whatever your motivations are, try and stick to it.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to fall into a lovely routine here but teaching English in China is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that will be over before you even realise what’s happened – so take advantage of your extra savings, your time and your independence and just do the stuff you set out before you even moved here.

4: Get to know your city

Getting to know the City where you will live, and work can start before you arrive. The internet is a wonderful place and no matter where you go, you will find a ton of blogs and videos about your city of choice. 

This can only help you make the transition all the easier. You’ll be prepared to the traffic; transport system and you will know what to expect. More importantly you will know where to live and which supermarkets and shops that will stock your western home comforts. 

Read up on expat blogs and get an inside track from those who have lived and experience everything your new city has to offer. There is a lot of be said for just dumping in with two feet and seeing what happens, but sometimes failing to prepare is preparing to fail. 

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Luckily, expat blogs, FB pages and forums abound so get in there as soon as possible and we bet your transition into life in China will be a much smoother one.

  1. Be Patient and Flexible

Being flexible and patient is one of the keys to having an enjoyable time in China. You will find yourself being challenged at a work in environment that will at first be TOTALLY alien to you. Many meetings will take place in Chinese without (what is seems like) a consideration to you.

You will also find it at odds with your own work culture when you are asked to work late evening or weekends.

There will be times when an event has not been communicated to you or there are changes to a plan at the last minute. Sometimes for the sake of group harmony, it’s just better to smile and nod.

You should experience better communication at international schools in China, however you may experience demanding parents. Chinese parents pay large sums of money for their children to attend international school and their expectations of teachers are much higher. 

Bearing all this in mind, for most living and working in China is a wonderful and life altering experience.

Get ready, life is about to get a lot more interesting.

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.


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