There are a lot of rumors that fly around about teaching English in China. Scams, exploitation, possible deportation, etc. It gets scary fast! But how can you be sure it’s all true? As someone who was nearly deported in February, I’ve seen it all! The good, the bad, and the downright illegal; but I’m still here. Chipping away at China. Happy as a clam.
So here’s 6 things you need to know about teaching in China.
1. ANYONE can teach English in China.
China is incredibly thirsty for western languages and customs because they’re thinking long-term. What could make China even more unstoppable? A second language of course! For that reason, schools and parents will shell out hundreds of thousands of DOLLARS for language courses that are taught by God-only-knows-who. Seriously. You don’t need ANY credentials to teach English in China, you just need to look foreign and be a native speaker. However, people with better credentials will be paid more. So will people with blonde hair and blue eyes. That’s just China. If you’re a proper teacher, don’t settle for anything less than 20k-30k RMB a month PLUS housing when dealing with international schools. Normal English teachers at various Chinese schools will be bringing home 6k-12k RMB plus housing. If no housing is included, don’t settle for anything less than 10k RMB.
2. Nearly everything is a scam, but how much of a scam is it?
Everything in China is a scam. There are foreigners working without proper visas, businesses withhold pay and vacation time for no reason, and taxes are laughable-at best. When shopping for English teaching programs in China, you should be able to speak with a foreigner at all times. This will help when you hit roadblocks with the Visa process or when you inevitably start to struggle with adjusting. You’re going to need that friendly foreign face, regardless of your Chinese level or former student China experience. Trust me. You’re also less likely to be ripped off by foreigners, but there’s always an exception. Don’t EVER pay someone to “match you” with a program or school. They’re getting a cut of the profit already from the school so that should cover their scouting fees.
3. You will experience racism in China.
But this is the case in nearly every western country as well. My Asian-American friends are always struggling to find work because families/schools often only want to hire “foreign looking” teachers… because they’re racist and want to impress the people by being able to afford a foreign-looking teacher. Welcome to China. If you are of African decent, or if your skin tone is of a darker nature, you will also struggle to find work. Many of the African immigrants in China have the reputation of being criminals/drug dealers so that’s what Chinese people hold onto. If you are a white male, your resume will be pushed to the front of the pile AND you could work part-time as a “model.” I have a friend who’s in Korea at the moment acting as the “foreign face” for a Chinese company and he’s getting 1000 USD do to it. As a Mexican-American, my skin-tone is often an issue for potential employers (and Chinese boyfriends), but they let that slide because I’m “beautiful” according to their cultural standards: big eyes, small waist, American-accent. Forget my BA from Boston College in ENGLISH and history of teaching around the world. Life isn’t fair; accept it and you’ll do fine in China.
4. You NEED a Z-Work Visa.
Companies will try to give you a F Visa (temporary working visa) and you need to walk away. F Visa’s are only good for 60-90 days and you’ll have to leave the country each time to avoid a 500RMB fine (per-day). This makes saving money difficult. If they’re planning on giving you a Z-Visa once you’re inside China, you need to have a guarantee of some sort that you will receive a Z Visa within 90 days, otherwise you could potentially be deported and charged with tax evasion.
Scary stuff. With that being said, nearly no one has a Z visa because they’re insanely difficult to get due to recent government crackdowns. Unless you have some serious guanxi (connections) don’t bother picking up your entire life without a Z Visa; it gets expensive quickly and more often than not, China newbies don’t have enough China experience to get a Z Visa on their own.
5. The best teaching jobs are freelance jobs.
Private English classes will commonly pay 120RMB to 200RMB a class. If you do 10 hours of private tutoring a week, you’ll cash out at 8,000 RMB at the end of the month (at 200 RMB an hour.) The average corporate wage for Chinese nationals in a 1st tier city is 3k-5k RMB and for foreigners on a local salary, 8k-12k RMB. But teaching ANYWHERE in China will easily rack up 8k-12k RMB a month; it’s kind of ridiculous. So why should you work for a Chinese school on a private contract when you could be making SO MUCH MORE just doing freelance? Because the school will provide a Z Visa. These Z Visa’s are basically GOLD in China so don’t screw it up!
6. Being an English teacher will impact your social standing.
But keep your head up! Because of the severe difference in wages, teachers are often scoffed at within the foreign community due to jealousy. Teachers are able to take more time off, have better benefits, and are nearly the only people in China who are LEGALLY allowed to work here. Don’t let it get you down. This is your adventure; own it. You have plenty of time for that corporate crap. Trust me. Now I work typical 9-5 office job and nap-time is always on my mind. Do you and don’t look back.
Don’t forget about my upcoming South-East Asia Tour!! Have a recommendation about where I should go? Then tag @wanderonwards on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in an explanation about where this place is, what you did there, and why I should go. The destinations I end up choosing will be announced one by one as I negotiate my way into exclusive locations/accommodation. If I choose your destination, I’ll give you a shout-out on my social media platforms and future blog posts. Also, as a special way to say THANKS, I’ll be shipping gifts (purchased along the adventure) to those who have helped me with their recommendations! After all these trips around the world, I happen to be an expert smuggler of legal things (kinda).
Love Wander Onwards? Please donate to my GoFundMe project NOW and help me show the world South-East Asia the right way! There will be shark diving, hiking, and tons of other ultimate activities. Help me continue to inspire women to be their own champion!
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About Vanessa Elizabeth
Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.
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