Teaching in China: What’s it Really Like?


Countless people across the globe have taken the opportunity to teach English in China as a way to explore a different part of the world while earning some money. 

Especially for those interested in teaching as a long-term career, teaching English in China offers incredible opportunities for personal growth, professional development, and immersing yourself in a different culture. However, it’s important to be aware of the details of what this lifestyle is really like. Here are a few important things to know before embarking on your Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) journey. 

Lifestyle Practicalities

When you’re thinking of teaching in China, you probably imagine the magic of travelling and experiencing a new country and culture. However, you also need to think about the practicalities of how your day-to-day life will look during your time there.

This means you’ll need to think about managing things like housing, healthcare, money, and your typical daily schedule. You’ll need to look into your options for accommodation and understand the costs, compare options for expat insurance in China, think about what your transport options will be, and even think about how you’ll make friends and socialize. Make sure you create a realistic budget for yourself based on what you’ll be earning and make some plans for how you’ll balance work, daily life, and all the exploring you want to do.
Legal and Visa Considerations

For a seamless transition into your stay in China, it’s crucial that you figure out the legal requirements and visa laws ahead of time. Make sure you have the appropriate work visa (Z Visa) or residency permission for the length of your teaching contract.

You’ll also want to avoid any potential legal issues that might crop up, so try to familiarise yourself with the immigration procedures, any other document requirements, and local laws. Stay up to date with what you need to do regarding renewing your visa and work permit, and make sure you’re always compliant with what’s required of you as a foreigner in the country.

Language Barriers and Communication Challenges

While more and more of the Chinese population is becoming fluent in English (thanks to English teachers like you!), you’re still likely to run into some challenges when it comes to communicating and figuring out your way around, especially in more rural areas. 

Successful teaching depends heavily on effective communication, so it’s important that you figure out ways to close that communication gap. Learning fluent Mandarin is a serious undertaking that can take years, but it’s a good idea to at least make an effort to pick up some simple, common phrases. In the classroom, you’ll need to use gestures and some visual aids to help improve your students’ understanding and encourage their participation. Language learning (on both ends) requires having a good relationship and an easy rapport, so make sure that you try your best to connect with your students!

Cultural Etiquette and Sensitivity

Building genuine relationships and encouraging mutual respect between you and your colleagues and students, as well as social connections, is going to require an understanding of the social and cultural norms in China

Understanding concepts like social hierarchies, saving face, and more indirect communication styles will help you cope with interactions that you might not have had experience with before. Before you have to learn by example and through making mistakes, take the time to do a bit of research on Chinese culture and communication and try to avoid any mishaps. All in all, try to always show humility, patience, and mindfulness in how you communicate with those around you. 

Classroom Dynamics and Teaching Styles

Much like how you communicate in day-to-day life, you’ll also need to be mindful of the communication styles that are valued in Chinese classrooms. Discipline, respect for authority, and harmony between groups are incredibly important, and recent times have seen an increase in appreciation for creativity, critical thinking, and a more student-centred approach.

Clearly, it’s important to strike a balance between all of this if you want to be successful in your classroom. Make sure that you maintain your position as an authority, but try to make learning more fun and interactive for your students by incorporating group activities, projects, and other creative exercises that keep your students engaged and active during class time. 

 Networking and Professional Development

If you’re looking to make this your career, you’ll be pleased to know that there are lots of opportunities for professional growth and networking within the teaching community in China.

You’ll have the resources and opportunities to stay up to date with trends in education through engaging in workshops, conferences, and seminars within your industry. You can also collaborate with other local educators and exchange teaching styles and techniques with your colleagues and peers to boost your skills and effectiveness in the classroom. Learning and growing as a teacher will help you extend your contract, achieve promotions, and find new opportunities to further your career in so many ways.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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