Updated: May 4, 2020
Accepting a job offer in another country on another continent is exciting, isn't it? You probably can't stop thinking about all the new places you'll get to see. Asia awaits! There are, of course, some important things you must consider before accepting that job offer in China. Below, I'll elaborate on the tips that I followed before I found amazing jobs abroad (How I started TEFL).
In the past, some countries have received extremely bad reputations among some TEFL teachers, yes that’s right, the red giant. I have heard a lot of these stories, and after going through the process myself and knowing what needs to happen before you can start working in China, it’s actually sad that China has a bad reputation among TEFL teachers. For me, China has been an absolute blast!
Here are some mistakes that I’ve seen TEFL teachers make:
1. Believe to easily
The TEFL industry is extremely competitive. Schools are searching for the best teachers, teachers are looking for the best employers and recruiters are trying to make a living. The Chinese culture is very different from the western culture. It’s really not that uncommon to feel like you already have the job before you accepted the job. Try to relax and keep a cool head, you’ll find this especially when you are already in China and looking to move on to a new job. Do not accept anything that is said without looking at my next point.
2. Not doing enough research about the requirements to teach in China
Believing to easily means a lack of research. This is the biggest mistake that I have seen TEFL teachers make. It takes a while to get all the documents to legally work in China as a TEFL teacher. Do proper research before jumping on the airplane.
3. Moving too fast
This relates to the point above. Don’t move too fast! There are many, many cities in China to consider. As I’ve said before, the industry is extremely competitive. Recruiters and schools try to close the deal ASAP to secure the teacher they want, but will this be the best thing for you? Don’t move too fast. Look around and consider more than one job.
4. Jumping for ridiculous salary ads
The old saying; “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is!” comes to mind as I write this. Although TEFL is a great, fun type of work IT IS STILL WORK. I see many teachers wanting the sun and moon for free. Remember, you still need to earn your money. Some recruiters will advertise big salaries and then, after a while, drop the pay. Another thing to keep in mind, is that teachers from different countries get paid different amounts. For example, teachers from the US and the UK are often paid more than teachers from South Africa or Australia. Sometimes, the advertised salary refers to the highest offer the school is willing to make. The advertised salary may drop if your experience or nationality is not exactly what the school was hoping for. Don’t get discouraged when the offered salary is lower than advertised. As mentioned in the point above, apply and consider different options before deciding.
5. Wanting to live in the big cities only
Big city life is great! But is that the only option? Certainly not. There are so many great smaller cities across China. My first job was in a Tier 3 City, Shijiazhuang, Hebei province (Read about it here) and it was amazing. Don’t be fooled by the salaries. Bigger cities do pay more but keep in mind that the cost of living in the bigger cities are also higher. You can still save a lot of money when living in the smaller cities. Besides, the high speed train is super cheap, fast, comfortable and easy to go explore the big cities on holidays or off days.
Have a look at my safety tips below. They have helped me to stay on the safe side of things. This is not to be taken as law, but it helped me secure two amazing jobs in China and I hope it can help you too.
1. Know the needed documents
It's crucial to know the specific requirements to legally work in China. Doing research is the most important step to ensure you stay on the outside of the steel bars. Research different sources, phone the Chinese embassy, the Chinese Visa centre, DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) etc. and be knowledgeable about the entire process of obtaining the right type of visa. Whatever you do, don't try to teach in China with a student visa. It's not legal and you won't be able to change your student visa to a work visa while you are in China. It can't be done.
2. Speak to the foreign teachers that are currently working at the school you want to be employed at
The best way to find out what things are really like at a school is to speak to the foreign teachers currently working at that school. Ask as many questions as you can, and should you then decide to work at that specific school, you'll already be acquainted with your colleagues.
3. Get WeChat ASAP
Expats-know-expats, expats-help-expats. Anyone who hasn’t lived in China before will think “WeChat, it’s like WhatsApp right?” very wrong! Without WeChat, life in China will be much harder, because everything happens on WeChat. The Chinese people use WeChat for everything that means you will too. Once you arrive in China, you will have to get a new WeChat account linked to your new Chinese number, but it’s still worth getting WeChat asap to effectively communicate with your employer before you go. This will also help you to connect with current teachers and other expats in the area. Join as many WeChat groups as you can. These groups are great to get more information about anything you need.
4. Know the city
Do research on your chosen city as much as you can. A good idea would be to look at essential items you need and to ask some people, via groups on WeChat, if those items are available there or not. Perhaps you should stock up on those items when you pack your bags.
5. Get a good TEFL certificate
Completing a good TEFL course is important. It will gear you up to become a confident, well prepared teacher for your new journey. Starting my TEFL career I chose i-to-i TEFL. You can read the full review here. I also opted for the 20 hour practical course as I had ZERO teaching experience. I wrote a review on the practical course that you can look at here. I had a great time learning through i-to-i TEFL and would recommend them to anyone.
If, after all the research, you still feel unsure, get in touch with me and we can have a chat. Alternatively, you can read more about TEFL online teaching here.