Who in their right mind would think traveling to a third-world communist country would be a vacation? Well, I've never claimed to being in my "right mind," but that's what has made my life interesting. Living in China is like time travel, fifty-years in the past. It's a culture which takes some definite acclimation, but with the right sprinkling of attitude and a dash of courage,  you can adjust and live like royalty here.

Teaching availability

English is a required course for students in China, from primary school to university. English TeachingCredit: Rick Potterteachers are sought-after in almost every city in China, small and large. If you've nailed a position before leaving your country, that's great. If you haven't, don't worry, it's no problem finding work here.

Expected salaries

How much money you wish to earn is up to you, and what region of China you plan on living. The larger the city, the more pay, and vice versa. For example, in a small city, you might recieve a monthly salary from 3,000 to 6,000 rmb ($485 to $970). Larger cities pay a monthly salary from 10,000 to 25,000 rmb ($1,616 to $4,042). Not bad for only 16 to 22 hours a week!

Types of institutionsQingping, YangshuoCredit: Rick Potter

For every school, there are about five English training centers. Many of these centers are global, while others are independently owned. There's really no difference in the pay schedules between the two. Working at a training center, an English teacher works Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, since those are the times students are mostly free from schools. Working at a training center has its advantages and disadvantages. In my case, I became the Headmaster (Principal) of the center, but worked six days a week. I made a nice income, but had little time to travel.

In my opinion, schools are the place to be. They provide not only good income, but you enjoy holidays (with pay) and weekends off, giving you time to travel. In addition, schools provide you with a private dormitory, free meals, and time off with pay during exam weeks. It's a great opportunity to sock money away, pay off student loans back home, travel, and other entertainment.


All foreigners sign a contract with the institution they teach for. Don't be alarmed at how vague and ambiguous they are, there are always a dozen loopholes for you to escape it if the situation arises. Remember, TIC (This Is China, as foreigners say). The main things you want to pay attention to are: specific salary, payday time, overtime pay, and the total number of hours expected to work. One thing to keep in mind, all contracts here are negotiable. Don't be afraid to negotiate your salary based on your qualifications or experience.

Time to travel

Cities are much larger in China as they are in other countries. A visit to a friend across town might take two to three hours with public transportation. Plan accordingly. China is rife with tourist destinations: The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tianmen Square, Emperor's Palace, The Queen's Garden, Happy Valley, Windows of the World, Shanghai, Beijing, Macao (Las Vegas of China), Hainan (Hawaii of China), Disneyland, and nearby Hong Kong. Checkout http://etours.cn/top-10-must-sees-in-china.

A city with training wheelsLi River, YangshuoCredit: Rick Potter

If you're reluctant to throw yourself into a large strange city at first, I confidently recommend making, Yanghuo your first stop. This quaint city located in Guilin, Guangxi, is western friendly, even the main street is called, West Street. It's a destination that foreigners from around the world work and visit. Yangshuo is rife with entertainment: rock climbing, bicycling, martial art classes, silk making, hiking, river swimming, waterfalls, bamboo river rides, horseback riding, nightclubs, western restaurants, Mandarin classes, and much more. Almost all proprietors speak English and provide English menus and brochures. It's an artists inspiration and a writer's retreat.

As mentioned above, it's a small city, so the salary is minimal. But with this in mind, you can easily find a position as an English teacher in one of the many English Emersion schools located there. Students live at the school, and trust me, they'll become your friend forever. The schools there provide free meals and a dormitory, just like schools in larger cities. Many travel to Yangshuo just to save up enough money before hitting the road again. It's a perfect place for R&R and excitement. If you decide to go there, drop me an email, and I'll be happy to answer your questions, as well as, refer you to some schools there.

In conclusion, don't scratch China off your list yet. Try it first, then make your decision. It's a beautiful country with opportunities to work and travel for all. Good luck, and I hope to hear from you.

Living in China
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Insight Guides: China
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The front cover is shot from Yangshuo, Guilin