Not only will you get the immense pleasure of making a difference in the lives of children, you also get to see a brand new country and learn about a culture that is totally different from the one that you are familiar with. For people who want to go outside their comfort zones and really stretch themselves, teaching in China is a great way to do it.
First things first. You will need a university degree from a 4-year college in a country that qualifies as Native English speaking. Native English speaking countries are The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, The United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. Secondly, you need to have a TEFL certificate. Your TEFL classes will teach you how to communicate with non-native speakers and effectively teach them the language.
You can get your TEFL online, or through an in-person class. I loved the camaraderie of my TEFL class and it was much more effective for me to have classroom experience with the peers in my TEFL, so I would highly recommend taking an in-person class. You also need a Z Visa to work in China. Your school will provide you with this!
One thing that I noticed immediately about Chinese culture is how important family is in day to day life. Ancestors are respected deeply, and you will be expected to respect your superiors. Formality is big in China. Even if it was okay to call your boss by his or her first name in the United States, always use formal titles in China.
You will be showing respect and, in turn, be treated with respect! If you are from a Western country, you will also be used to a lot of personal space. Get rid of that notion while you are in China! In Chinese culture, personal space is almost non-existent so it is important to remember that if people are brushing up against you, they’re not trying to be aggressive and rude. Humility is also a very highly valued attribute in China.
If you brag about your accomplishments, Chinese people will look down on you. Make sure you remain humble, respectful and patient at all times. Even if you are angry with someone, remember to take a step back and realize that it might be a cultural misunderstanding. You are a guest in China and will be expected to act appropriately.
This is especially true when you’re dealing with your students! Don’t make the mistake of calling them out individually in front of the class. You could make them lose face, or become embarrassed in front of their classmates. Always practice patience and compassion with your students. You will be rewarded with loyalty and good behavior.
If you are a woman working as an English teacher in China, you are in luck! All of your favorite products are available in China’s big cities. If you want to use local products, you will surely find some that you absolutely love, but be a little careful not to use anything with whitening lotion. You also might not find your brand of personal feminine products in China, so it is advisable to bring some from home.
If you are lucky enough to find love and a relationship during your time in China, do not show public affection. It is considered especially rude to even hold hands in the street. Save your private moments for behind closed doors. China, in general, is very safe for women. Public transportation is regulated and the streets of all of the major cities are not dangerous.
I have not heard one story of anyone having any sorts of issues in China, with catcalling, harassment or anything else. Having said that, it is always best to keep your wits about you when traveling after dark and alone. It is also not the best idea to get drunk in public, as this kind of thing is frowned upon by local Chinese people. Again, you want to respect the culture that you are a guest of. Act accordingly and you will have no problems whatsoever.
Getting started teaching in China is easy! Be prepared to show your college degree, get your TEFL certification and start applying for positions. There are plenty of jobs all over China, and many of them even offer plane tickets home and accommodation. All of the money you make is play money! Don’t be scared to travel alone- there are plenty of teachers here that you can make friends with.
Ella, Content Manager for trekbible, is a writer and content specialist with a predilection for learning and exploring new places and cultures around the world. With family scattered throughout the U.S. and South Korea, she loves to see cross-cultural influences around the world. Her favorite thing to do on her travels is to taste the local cuisine of each destination.