1. A Comfortable Lifestyle
You’re never going to get rich teaching English in China (the exchange rate will make sure of that) but you can live a very comfortable life. If you negotiate your salary well, and stay away from daily doses of western food and bars, you can make your money go pretty far. A hot fresh plate piled with veggies, slivers of meat and rice or noodles will set you back about a buck. A trip to the fruit store might cost you $2-$3 but you’ll walk away with enough for about a week of daily eats. The thing that can drain your bank account quickly is eating western food, and buying western goods (like books in English). If you can avoid that then your salary will go a lot further than it would at home.
2. Getting to Know a Place
I’m a backpacker by nature, and I love traveling to as many places as I can. But there is something to be said for settling in a completely alien culture and getting to know a place. I’ve had lunch with a mayor, a wedding next week, and have friends of all ages. I wouldn’t have had any of those experiences if I just hung around for a few days. I think if I was in a small town in America, or an English speaking country, I might get a little more restless. But everything is odd in China so it can take a lot longer to explore a place fully.
3. Travel Time
Okay, I just said getting to know a place is great, but seeing new places is just as great. Luckily, with the school schedule you can do both. When you teach at a public university the schedule is 4 months work, 2 months off, repeat. It’s a perfect schedule. Plenty of time to venture off to other parts of the country, or other countries if that’s your thing. We’ve seen pandas, climbed China’s most sacred mountain and walked around Shaolin Temple amongst other things. And by the time your holiday is over, you feel rejuvenated again to get back to work. If I was king of the world, I would mandate a 2 month break every four months for everyone.
4. Creating Your Own Curriculum
With a few exceptions, like language mills and primary schools, you will be left entirely on your own for what you teach. You will get a subject, like “Oral English” but you won’t get any book, requirements, or guidance. It can be scary at first, but liberating. As long as you stick to the topic you can teach anything. I’ve had serious classes, such as teaching idioms and discussing moral dilemmas, but I’ve also had classes in which we watched the Daily Show, played taboo and made art. The freedom gives you a chance to be creative and always be interested in what you are teaching.
5. The Perks
Foreign teachers in China get a bunch of additional perks with their contract. The details differ, but the basics are the same. They include: free apartment, partial or all utilities paid, one round-trip plane ticket back to your home country per year (or the cash if you don’t go), free Chinese lessons, and an additional travel bonus at the end of the semester. We lived off of our air ticket reimbursement for the first few moths of living here, and its things like a free place to stay that can really help you save money.
Bonus Reason. Waking up with a Smile on Your Face
Okay, this might sound totally cheesy but it’s true. Living in China is kind of a perfect storm of fear/uncertainty/excitement/new opportunities. You can look in shock and horror as a mother holds her little baby whose going poo 5 feet away from where you are eating dinner, but then you turn around and see a farmer wheeling a cart of ripe, just picked, fresh strawberries that are pennies and amazingly delicious. Living in China is not easy at times, but that also means it’s never boring And waking up, knowing you will face something new and strange everyday is something that puts a smile on my face. How ’bout you?
Foreign Teachers, what is one of your reasons for living and teaching in China?
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