Interested in teaching in China? Today´s post is not written by myself, but by Sarah Bennett, an expat in China who has been living there for over 2 years.
Moving to China to teach English can be a daunting project. Even choosing somewhere that will make you happy is a challenge because of the sheer size of the country. Once you narrow down your city choices, choosing a school can be a lot easier, even though that can still be difficult!
Here are the most important questions to ask yourself when trying to find the right Chinese city for you!
1. Do you want a modern or an ancient city?
Everyone has their own ideas of what they want out of their Chinese life. There is plenty of opportunity to go to a more modern city, with subways, skyscrapers and cinema complexes. Somewhere like Shanghai or Guangzhou would be good cities for this. If you’re after somewhere more traditional, with more historical monuments to visit, you can’t go wrong with Beijing, Xi’an or Hangzhou, where there are plenty of beautiful historical sites to see.
2. Are you interested in shopping cheaply in Asia or are you more interested in getting off of the beaten track?
Hong Kong is the epicenter of shopping paradise. The Chinese often hop across the border to buy cheaper goods, so why shouldn’t you? (Of course, as long as you are armed with your work (Z) visa, otherwise you can’t get back into mainland China). Cities like Shenzhen, Dongguan and Guangzhou have easy transport access to Hong Kong so if you’re interested in this, consider these cities.
As for off the beaten track locations, you can do no wrong with provinces such as Inner Mongolia and the Muslim-dominated region of Xinjiang. Both are in the far north and north-west of China and although they are slowly being Westernised, they are still a long way away from being overly modern. Check out cities like Hohhot, Ordos and Baotou in Inner Mongolia and Urumqi and Kurla/Korla in Xinjiang.
3. What kind of climate are you after?
China’s climate is as diverse as you can get. Are you after hot, dry summers and dry and cold, cold winters, or hot and humid summers and damp and mild winters? One thing to also consider in regards to the climate is the famous Chinese “smog” which is prevalent in cities like Beijing and Chongqing in the summer.
You need to head north to cities in provinces Hebei, Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia to pretty much be guaranteed snow in the winter . Here you will also experience a dry summer. For humid weather, with sticky summers merging into warm autumn weather and no snow whatsoever, head south to the provinces of Fujian, Guangxi and Guangdong.
4. Where can you best learn Chinese?
In the provincial capitals there is usually a larger number of Chinese people who can speak enough English to get by, as well as usually having a higher proportion of expats. If you’re looking to learn Chinese, it’s best to get out of the main cities and go into the 3rd or 4th biggest city in a province. I lived in Zhangzhou, Fujian and Ordos, Inner Mongolia where there were fewer English speakers and I was happy with how much Chinese I learnt.
5. How about great local scenery?
With a wide range of climate, comes great scenery. Fancy mountainous landscapes? Head to Guilin, Guangxi and the surrounding areas. Want the sea and beaches? Head to Xiamen, Fujian. Looking for lush forests, try Chengdu, Sichuan where the pandas come from. How about the desert, with camels and sand surfing? Try the province of Inner Mongolia where you can find the Gobi desert.
6. Where can I find some great Chinese dishes?
No matter where you are in China, you will always find some fantastic dishes available. The best places are always just around the corner, in dirty, dingy-looking restaurants, yum!
And finally, where can I have a great time?
Undoubtedly, anywhere. As long as you are willing to open your mind and embrace all the experiences that you come across in China, you will be rewarded with a truly memorable experience.
Bennett from The Further Adventures of Bennett planned to spend 6 months teaching English in China and left 2 years later. She can currently be found residing in New Zealand, having swapped teaching children English for babysitting dogs and cats.
To read more about Bennett’s Chinese experience, head over to Amazon “Add Your Brick to the Great Wall” which is a collection of experience and advice for anyone wanting to work, live or travel throughout China.
What are you looking for out of your Chinese experience? Leave a comment below!