TEFL Panda Blog
All about Living & Teaching in China
When deciding whether or not teaching English in China is for you or not, a lot of the advice you might read can be rather vague.
It will be a great experience. A wonderful adventure. One of the most memorable periods of your life. And a fantastic thing for your personal development.
All of those are true, of course. But how do they manifest?
What are some actual, deep, identifiable benefits of teaching English in China?
Here are 3 of them.
Get in with the locals
Sure, you could always visit China as a tourist. Travel around. See the sights. Go home again with a bunch of nice photographs.
But you’ll definitely have been on the outside of society. You may have seen some of the real China, but did you experience it? Did you live it? Probably not.
Teaching English in China allows you entry into real Chinese life. Schools and businesses are the lifeblood of a country, and working in them for a year gives you the kind of understanding that walking around with your camera for two weeks never can.
Personal and CV development
Although some people fall in love with China during their time teaching English and decide to stay after their initial contracts end, many do return home and move on to the next stage of their lives.
But that doesn’t mean the benefits of the China experience have ended.
You’ll likely return home a changed person in certain ways. It may be a new outlook on life, or it may be increased confidence in yourself.
Whatever changes you’ve gone through personally, your CV will also be changed forever. Spending time teaching English in China shows the kind of initiative and desire to challenge yourself that employers love.
Your time in the Middle Kingdom can help you find work even after you leave.
Build a network
Personal and professional business in China is done primarily through existing relationships and networks.
Good teachers are highly respected in China, meaning your students will want to help you out as much as they can. This could be in such everyday things as topping up the credit on your phone, getting the flat tyre on your bicycle fixed, or showing you around the local fruit and vegetable market.
While you may not be thinking of doing business while teaching English in China, the relationships you build during your time there could also become useful at some point in the future.
Although no longer at its peak, China’s economy still makes it an attractive place for foreigners to make money. If you one day decide to try it for yourself, building relationships and a network is something that will be massively beneficial.
Teaching English in China gives you the time and opportunity to do this naturally; especially when teaching adults in private training centres.
Getting to know your students on a personal level is a great thing to do; both to make your time in China run as smoothly as possible, and also as potential business networks in the future.
There’s no doubt that teaching English in China is a great experience, a wonderful adventure, and will be one of the most memorable periods of your life.
But the potential benefits may run deeper than you realise.
One of the best things about living and teaching in China is the abundance of markets and local places to do your shopping.
However, many of them are missing something you’ll be used to seeing back home: price tags.
Bartering is a big part of the shopping experience in China and, for many people, half of the fun. However, as a foreigner, you’re a prime target for getting ripped off.
Lessen the chances of this happening with some of our handy tips for bartering in China.
Care less, win more
It’s probably best we start with the single most important thing to remember when bartering in China, or anywhere else in the world.
Whoever cares least about the transaction is in the position of power. If this isn’t you, you need to at least act like it is.
Never be enthusiastic about the item. Be aloof, look interested in other stalls, and show how easy it would be for you to walk away.
Walk away, get called back
If your vendor isn’t giving you the price you feel is fair and the negotiation is going nowhere, be prepared to walk away.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the deal is dead. In fact, it’s often used as part of the bartering process. A vendor seeing a potential sale walking away can cause a change of heart and a sudden price drop.
If it doesn’t, just keep walking, happy that you haven’t overpaid for the item you were looking at.
Know your price, go in low
Before starting to barter in China, you should always know how much you’d be prepared to pay for the item and commit to not going over it.
When asking how much something is, expect the opening price to be very high. Your counter offer should be somewhere around a third, or even a quarter, of this.
The final price will usually be a little higher, but remember: you will never, ever buy for lower than your first offer, so always go in low.
Learn some words, gain respect
Vendors in Chinese markets will never expect you to speak fluent Chinese, but a few words and phrases can go a long way.
Asking how much in Chinese, duo shao qian?, means making a good first impression, and exclaiming an item to be too expensive, tai gui le!, can help to bring the price down.
Offers and counter offers will usually be made by keying numbers into a calculator, but some basic Chinese, and of course a smile, can help keep these numbers low.
Deal with people, everyone wins
Although bartering in China can be a serious business, it’s important to remember that the vendor is a person too.
While nobody likes to get ripped off, there’s no reason to drive people into the ground over amounts of money that are insignificant to your living circumstances.
Yes, vendors are professionals, and will try every trick in the book to squeeze every last bit of cash from you, but some reading of the situation goes a long way in ensuring you can both win.
Barter hard for your 200rmb saving on the fake designer handbag in the tourist market. But don’t argue with the old lady on your street for a 2rmb discount on your vegetables.
Bartering in China is as much a part of everyday life as eating and sleeping.
We recommend getting used to it, getting good at it, and knowing when and when not to do it.
All teachers in China know that at peak times getting a taxi can be tricky. With an estimated 40 Billion Taxi rides having taken place in 2013, the market for the Chinese version of Uber is one that these big players are fighting tooth and nail for! With Didi Da Che and Kuai Di Da Che having merged this year they now operate a business worth an estimated $6Billion.
With hundreds of millions of users in more than 300 Cities (yes there are more than 300 cities in China), Didi is an app worth getting for all ESL Teachers in China. It works the same way as Uber but can give foreigners living in China a few extra challenges! Firstly Chinese cities are very busy places so it can be hard to identify exactly what car is there to pick you up! Secondly if they need to call you then you want to be able to give them a pinpoint location.
If your new to China and Chinese then We recommend giving your Didi Da Che taxi driver a Lu Kou (路口) or road mouth location (between 2 roads) and then you can read off the pinyin!
Teaching salaries in China can vary greatly. Teachers have been known to earn from as little as 2000RMB/month to well over 15,000RMB. So how can the value of an ESL teacher be so different from school to school?
The questions we would probably ask are these;
1) How many hours are you teaching per week?
2) What are your qualifications and how much teaching experience do you have?
3) Where is your school located and what type of school is it?
4) Have you found a job through an organisation or agent that is skimming their bit off the top every month?
So 1 and 2 are quite self explanatory. You may think that your salary in places like Shanghai and Beijing would be higher than in much smaller cities or in distant suburbs away from the city centre. Although this is sometimes true it is not always the case.
As China’s wealth has filtered from her 1st tier cities into 2nd and 3rd tier cities and even some quite rural pockets there is a demand for ESL teachers and quite simply a lack of supply. While schools in Shanghai have an abundance of teachers to chose from, an international school in a 3rd tier city does not have such the luxury. So simple economics shows that yes you can sometimes earn a higher salary in more remote areas or in smaller cities where living costs are much much lower. This
If you have landed a job in China and are earning 2,000RMB-5,000RMB per month then there is a good chance that the company you have come out with are taking a nice chunk off the top! Some are up front about this and some are not, There are of course also charity style projects which is a different case entirely and remember you should never pay an agent to find you a job in China!