The Pros And Cons Of Being An ESL Teacher in China

In the social media, internet lighting speed world we live in, it is becoming very difficult to decipher fact from fiction when you’re thumbing through your newsfeed or browsing the web. If mainstream media is to be believed, we are living through an era of fake news, and everyone has an agenda.

For this reason, I have decided to document a more balanced argument for teaching in China. Hopefully, at the end of this post, you will feel that you are more enlightened, and you can make your own mind up whether it is for you!

My background

Before I dive into the pros and cons of teaching English in China, I thought it would be a good idea to give you an insight into my background. This way, you can decide how much you trust my advice/opinion.

My name is Jonny. I have lived in China for the last three years, and I have spent my entire time in the ESL industry. I began teaching English in China with English First, one of the biggest companies in the country. Teaching at EF, I have had the opportunity to teach adults and teens, as well as dive into further qualifications to improve my teaching. I have lived in 2 cities, and I have traveled extensively across the country.

I am no means a “China expert” as I believe few people qualify for this role. But I have had my fair share of experiences that I can share. So without further ado, here are my pros and cons to teaching in China.

The cons

1. POLLUTION

This is something that you can learn to live with and isn’t always as bad as everyone thinks. The reason why pollution is top of the list is that China would be almost perfect in my eyes if it wasn’t for the smog. Most of the year, it is fine. It can get annoying checking apps and be wearing a mask from time to time. Despite the pollution, I am still happy to live here, I have just had to spend a hundred bucks or so on an air filter at home, which makes life a little easier.

2. LOCAL DIALECTS

Before coming to China I didn’t realize how many people spoke different variations of Chinese and local dialects. If you speak a little Mandarin or use body language and basic English, you will do more than survive. It becomes annoying when you actually start to speak Mandarin more fluently and you still find it difficult to understand people in the more provincial cities. Yes, you can learn the dialect, but there are so many, it may not be worth it.

3. SERVICE

When you are out and about in China, the service will vary. But you may find that things can go from one extreme to the other. In some shops and restaurants, the staff won’t even acknowledge your existence as they watch their TV show’s on their smartphones. While, at the other extreme, they will follow you around the store either trying to sell or being overly friendly. This is something that you can get used to, but at first, it can be more than a pet-peeve.

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The pros

1. STUDENTS/PEOPLE

Despite cultural differences, bad service, and the occasional communication breakdown, it’s the people of China, especially students that make the whole experience worthwhile. Chinese people are famous for their hospitality. You may find your students or the parents of your students feeling the need to invite you round for dinner, or take you out for a meal. They will do their best to share their culture with you. Chinese people are usually proud of their hometown and will bring you cultural delights and tasty treats to try.
In class, many shake off the shy stereotype. Once you get to know your students they can be talkative, fun and they often love to learn!

2. CONVENIENCE

China is arguably the most convenient country on the planet. Everything is a click away, or just a few doors down. You can order food on your phone and it will arrive within the hour. You can be buying clothes or electronics online and receive the order the same day. You pay for almost anything using your phone and use the same apps to connect with friends and make calls. As China develops, it seems that everything is more accessible with very little effort.

3. THE COUNTRY

Whenever you have a bad day, you think of leaving or daydream about teaching in another country, all you have to do is check your pictures and remember what keeps you there. China has some stunning scenery, picturesque parks, and amazing architecture. Every city you visit, every new food you try and every national holiday will make you fall in love with China just that little bit more. Yes, teaching is an amazingly rewarding job, but it becomes even more rewarding when you get out there and actually see the place.

Conclusion

There are more pros and cons of teaching English in China. The job itself has a few more of both, but ultimately, everything seems to balance out. In fact, in my opinion, it tips more in the favor of cons. People who don’t like China will complain about the spitting, the noise, the traffic etc. People who love it will tell you a million and one stories from their teaching, travels, and life. Your list is personal to you, but I think this general outline will get you started. I think you should teach here and make your own list, but that’s up to you!

1 thought on “The Pros And Cons Of Being An ESL Teacher in China

  1. Is there anyway to contact the author of this article? I would like to talk with someone who has been in China in more detail! Thank you

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