5 Things to Know about Teaching Abroad in China
1. China is a Huge Country
If you want to teach abroad in China, it’s a good idea to narrow down your focus. After all, China is a huge country, and has many very distinct regions and climates.
Just how big is China? Well, it’s roughly the same size as the United States (The U.S. is 3.79 million square miles, and China is 3.7).
Of course, most English teaching jobs will be in larger cities in China, but it’s not impossible to find jobs to teach abroad in China in rural regions, too.
So, it’s important to ask yourself these questions: Do you want to be located in a huge city that’s much larger than New York City? If so, you’ll want to check out Shanghai, or Beijing. But, be sure to ask recruiters or hiring companies where exactly the school is located in the city. It’s not uncommon for schools to be listed as “in Shanghai,” when in reality they’re very far out in the suburbs. If you want to be in a city, you don’t want to end up over an hour away. So, always ask upfront, and make it clear that you want to be in the city center.
Cold weather doesn’t bother you? Check out Beijing, or Harbin. A special note about China: government schools turn on the heat for all schools above the latitude of Shanghai. So, if you’re located in a government school in Shanghai, that’s right, there’s no heat, and temperatures have been known to dip down into the 40’s in the winter.
Do you prefer warmer climates? You may want to head South to Guangzhou, or Hainan Island.
Would you prefer to be closer to nature and different cultures? Check out Kunming in the Yunnan province. This province is famous for pu’er tea. In fact, there’s a city named for it!
2. You can Teach Abroad in Public or Private Schools
There are many different types of schools to teach abroad in China.
Some recruiters recruit teachers to teach English in private programs within government schools in China. In some cases, the classes may be quite large with over 30 students. These types of classes offer few opportunities to develop relationships with individual students. Be sure to ask your recruiter about class sizes, and whether the schools are public or private.
However, public schools do not always mean the class sizes will be large. In some public schools, parents will pay a little extra fee to have a pronunciation class with an English speaking teacher. In these cases, you’ll most likely have a more manageable class size of 20-25.
Other recruiters are hiring for Chinese-run private schools. Private schools will have more facilities, other foreign teachers, and lower class sizes. However, many private schools only accept applicants with degrees, and/or teaching licenses from their home countries.
Finally, IB schools, or International Baccalaureate schools, are one type of private school that usually include a mostly foreign staff. These schools operate more on American ideas than Chinese ideas, though many private IB schools offer a great mix of both cultures. IB schools are very strict with hiring. You may want to go through a recruiter, like Search Associates, or go to a job fair to be hired for these types of positions.
For more details about the job details and salary expectation, check out this comprehensive teaching guide for China!
3. Expat Networks are Very Helpful
Some teaching jobs in China will offer free housing, while others will expect for you to arrange your own housing. In these cases, many recruiting agencies or schools will offer some housing assistance with local realtors. However, it’s always a good idea to explore your options, as at times, these “expat housing” opportunities could be overpriced.
Be sure to connect with local expat groups on Facebook, Meetup, Craigslist, and other local sites so you can ask about your best options. Many expats have been living abroad for years, and know all the local secrets. It’s a good idea to tap into these resources to find all the information you need.
Here are some tips teaching abroad, including legal contract, Visa, and general reminder.
4. Currencies Fluctuate
Remember, when you accept a salary in RMB, that salary could fluctuate based on the RMB to USD transfer rate.
If you’re teaching English abroad in China, you’re most likely being paid into a Chinese bank account in RMB, the currency of China. When it’s time to leave China, whether for a vacation or to go back to your home country, you’ll want to exchange your RMB into another currency.
Don’t be too hasty and exchange your money at the first bank you find. Check out the trend of RMB to USD over the past year. Maybe you can ride a wave, wait a few weeks, and get a better deal for your money.
5. Be Ready for Lots of Paperwork
When you apply to teach abroad in China, the recruiting agency, or school will most likely ask you for lots of information, which typically includes your resume, passport, university degrees and transcripts, and a criminal background check.
Every company requires slightly different information, so be sure to check with the school or recruiter directly to see what they need.
However, if you thought the paperwork ends once you’re hired, you’d be wrong. After flying to China, you will typically need to undergo a health check at a Chinese hospital, which includes blood tests. You’ll also need to register with the local police department, as well as apply for your Chinese visa.
Be sure to ask your school or company if they will walk you through these processes and assist along the way.