The Do’s and Don’ts of Moving to China as an English Teacher

After what was a calamitous five-week tenure in Shenzhen (no thanks to CIPTC — China International Personnel Training Centre), I feel that it’s imperative in hindsight to use my wisdom as well as my knowledge to advise those who are seriously considering teaching English in China.

This article will provide you with an informative and detailed list of the do’s and don’ts for those considering a teaching related move to China, and also things to consider once you are in China, should you decide to take that leap.

The Do’s

  1. Revise your contract extensively.
    In the words of Colin Kaepernick, “know your rights!” The very second you get your contract read, revise, memorise and study it upside down and inside out until it feels and looks like a well-worn dog-eared book, to the point where you know it better than the back of your hand and even get both physically and mentally tired of seeing it. That way you will be able to immediately shutdown your company and be all over them like a rash the very second they try pulling a fast one on you. Also, you can be confident that you know just exactly what you’ve signed up for.
  2. Learn the culture and language.
    Many expats have a difficult time adjusting to China and end up leaving in a short space of time. Why? Culture shock, that’s why. Anyone who moves to a foreign country will experience a stage of this. The best way to soften the shock factor of it is to have taken the time to study the cultural, social and moral values of China as well as the language. This will make life much easier and subsequently allow you to adjust to your new surroundings, settle in well and thus have a good experience in China.
  3. Download at least two Virtual Privacy Network’s (VPN).
    China and censorship go together like peanut butter and jelly. The proof is in the pudding, social credits that will come into effect next year for Chinese citizens. Don’t be naive into thinking that because you’re a foreigner that you won’t be watched because you will, especially on the internet. The way to prevent this from happening is by downloading VPN. However, don’t put all your eggs into one basket and rely solely on one, because there will most likely be occasions where you go hours, days or even weeks without internet. Thus, have two at the very least and the two that I will personally recommend are Express VPN and Nord VPN.
  4. Research the area that you will reside in.
    Not a top priority but still, it’s something that I will personally advise. As with most places, crime is more frequent in some places more than others. By being a foreigner/tourist, you will effectively be like a sitting duck almost looking to be mugged, exploited or extorted. Furthermore, China is renowned for having issues with pollution and as a result, it should come as no surprise that many areas are a different degree of filthy to what you are used to seeing in your hometown. So, again do some research in order to make sure that you’re in a good place.
  5. Come up with as many different teaching styles.
    Variety is the spice of life and everybody learns differently. To quote the great Albert Einstein, “everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Unfortunately for Chinese students, most of their lessons are like watching paint dry. They come in, sit down, read, write and listen to their teacher for what feels like an eternity. Be different. Come up with a wide range of tools, techniques and topics to teach your class. The end result will be good lessons along with a fun atmosphere, good relationships with your students and teachers and lastly good feedback!

The Don’t’s

  1. Give money to any recruiters
    The second your recruiter demands money from you, waste little to no time in deleting, muting and blocking them because they are conning you. This is all too common an illegal practise by recruiters looking to pocket extra cash from unknowing individuals. Let me make this perfectly clear, you are under absolutely no obligation whatsoever to pay your recruiter. This is something that only his employers do.
  2. Join a blacklisted company
    You’ve heard that old saying, “it’s better to be safe than sorry” and with ESL companies in China, that couldn’t be any more accurate. There are dozens of them and unfortunately a lot of those companies may seem legit on the surface; however, in reality they’re faker than a three dollar bill. Their level of fraudulence is something that even Milli Vanilli would cringe at. As a result, those companies have been blacklisted. As someone who was put through hell by a blacklisted company, my advice to you is to stay well away from them. Trust me, you do not want anything to do with them because they will get you in trouble and screw you in more ways than you could ever imagine. Always do in-depth research on a company anytime they give you an offer.
  3. Come out on a tourist visa
    This, ladies and gentlemen, will land your ass into some serious hot water. No, I’m not talking a slap on the wrist, I’m talking being detained by the authorities and maybe even deported and banned from re-entering the country. If you want to work in China then get a working Z-visa. However, if your company and/or recruiter tell you that you should come out on a tourist visa then I suggest that you not only ignore them but cut ties with them completely because that’s illegal and the chances are that the company is a blacklisted one.
  4. Get a teaching job without having a TEFL Certificate.
    Even though you can still get one in China, I would still advise that you get your TEFL certificate before even applying for a teaching job. This certificate means that you are a qualified teacher and will ultimately allow you to earn a good salary in your first year. However, without a TEFL companies will gladly rob and exploit you by paying you a ludicrously low salary such as ¥6,000 (£711) per month. Believe it or not, that is what some companies will offer you if you don’t possess a TEFL certificate or in fact any type of teaching qualification.

I probably missed a few points but notwithstanding that, I feel that these are the main ones. All in all, I hope you feel that this article is enlightening and that it helps prevent you from making some of the mistakes that I made in my last visit to China. Whilst I did have some good experiences during my first spell and made good friends along the way, I wish that the information in this article had been given to me right at the start as it could have and would have changed my entire experience; notably to an overall more positive one. The moral of the story is, do your research because it will save you in the long run.

Edits made by Lisa Berrie

I speak my mind, keep it real and drop nothing but the truth over here. I don’t hold back for anyone. My content focuses on sports, religion, life & politics.