Moving to China to Teach: What you need to know


ESL Jobs in China are plentiful and getting one won’t be a big problem. Undertaking a successful move once you have the job od the hard part.

Search the internet and there will be no shortage of guides and tips about moving to china and going to work as an ESL teacher.

Being presented with all this information can be a little overwhelming. The purpose is always to find those useful tips that can make it easier but remember each of our experiences in China are unique. 

Often, the biggest influences on your experience in China (good or bad) will be related to the city you choose to live in and the type of teaching job you choose. 

Having said all that there are other things that if you know, should help your transition to China.

1: You can never save too much

One of the main reasons ESL and Qualified teachers come to China are the financial rewards. However, remember there will be some outlay when you get there. 

We recommend teachers come to china with extra funds at their disposal. We understand that initial transition will be stressful, so you really don’t want money issues to pile on that.

Some teachers will be lucky enough to get a free apartment, but this may not be a luxury for many. If you are paying for an apartment, you are expected to pay three months up front along with a deposit. Factor in that you may not get paid until 15th of the following month and that’s a long wait for your salary. 

You will have enough things to worry about than waiting nervously on your first paycheck and living on noodles. Although that’s not always a bad thing!

2. Live close to work

Commuting to work is a challenge in any city and none more so than China, especially if you must contend with a behemoth of a city like Beijing and Shanghai.

No matter how much that ‘gorgeous’ apartment is, you will soon be fed up with it if you have to commit to one- or two-hour subways rides to and from work.

Many experienced expats in China would recommend not living more than 30 minutes from work. Of Course, this range can be extended if you have a scooter or don’t mind paying for a taxi every to and from work every morning and evening. 

3: Have your accommodation organised ready when you arrive

If you are lucky enough, your school will provide free accommodation as part of your package. This can make your settling in period much easier as you can move straight into your apartment.

If you don’t have free accommodation, you most likely will have some form of housing allowance. This of course doesn’t help when you have arrived, and you need time to find an apartment. 

Before you agree to the terms on your contract, you need to ensure your school have the right on-boarding policy. As well as picking you up at the airport, your new school should put you up in an apartment for at least a week. This will give you enough time to get over the jet lag and time to find a suitable apartment. 

Finding a suitable apartment in China is a complicated process and you should not under any circumstances try to do this by yourself. The letting agents may not speak English and the whole process is very bureaucratic and convoluted at the best of times.

Ensure your new school offer the support and guidance you need through the whole process. If they care about their foreign teachers and their welfare, this support should come as standard. Confirm at interview stage that this is the case. 

China is a wonderful and rewarding country to live and work. The salaries are competitive and being a teacher is very respected job. Throw in that students are very well behaved and you the right mix to have a thoroughly good experience. 

However, for many China is still a sizeable culture shock compared to home and the initial settling in period can take some time. As mentioned above, the support you get when you arrive can make all the different. Ask the question and challenge your school about the on-boarding features of your job. 

For a more comprehensive information about the big move, check out our complete guide to teaching in China