TEFL-The Survival Guide

Everything a TEFL teacher needs to know about working and living in China

So, you are thinking of teaching English abroad? China is now one of the most popular destinations for foreign/TEFL teachers and the demand for English teachers is huge! Sounds exciting, right? Or perhaps somewhat a little daunting? Don’t worry we have you covered! All you need to know from what you can expect,TEFL queries, any challenges you may face and any questions you may have are all answered in this one blog post.  To make this even easier for you we have compiled it all into sections so you can head straight to what suits you! Let’s get started!

This English class have had a visitor!

What’s it all about Teaching English in China?

We can all admit that one of our dreams is to get away from the hustle and bustle of our busy working lives. Yet, it is just not as easy as it sounds, is it? How would we manage without earning and working? Teaching English in China allows you to do this while immersing oneself in a truly once in a life time experience, engulfed in an exciting and historic culture. Furthermore, do you like the idea of learning a new language yourself, gaining a TEFL qualification, earning a competitive salary with free accommodation and health insurance, flights reimbursement and the chance to enhance young lives through teaching English?

As F&Y Consultant Ltd grows, we are helping people throughout the whole process to move abroad and teach in China. Whether you are a recent graduate looking for your next step, TEFL qualified/looking into TEFL qualification, an experienced teacher, a trainee teacher, looking for a new career path or simply interested in teaching and would like to know the steps you need to take to finding work in China, we have it all covered below.

Enjoying some free time

Why teach English in China?

Due to the vast economic growth in China, children are expected to learn English from a very early age, therefore English Language plays a very dominant role in their educational system. Rather than have qualified Chinese teachers to do this, China would much rather have English native speakers. In layman’s terms that’s great news for you! In return, you will receive a very competitive salary, housing and other great benefits. Not to mention the opportunity to work and live in China and to become one of the locals yourself.

China itself is like no other, from ancient historic ruins and mountains to neon-lit super-fast subway and metro systems, no matter what part you explore you will be deeply enlightened and enriched from your experience.  There is no need for the expense of a car in China as the transport is so affordable and reliable, this also means you can spend your free time exploring the sights!

TEFL teachers exploring the sights

Interested so far?

Can I teach English in China without a Degree?

Unfortunately, we do not have a solid answer to this question, to work abroad you must have a working visa and as you may have guessed…in order to attain a working visa you must have a bachelor’s degree. China has a very high standard in their education and of course expect the same level from foreign teachers. However, if you have sufficient experience in teaching perhaps in voluntary work which will lead to a teacher training certificate, then of course it is worth considering. F& Y Consultant specialise and advice you on how to work towards a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate. This will enable you to get that dream teaching job in China. Now it’s time to get a little technical so bear with us!

What is TEFL?

TEFL commonly known as Teach English as a Foreign Language is the professional practise of teaching English to those who do not use English as their first language. Completing this qualification will give you the freedom and opportunity to travel along with teach. So, back to business, what can you expect to complete in your TEFL course:

120-hour course is a combination of 20 hours in a classroom over one weekend, and 100 hours online which you have up to 5 months to complete

Modules include: Classroom management, Getting the students to speak, Introduction to grammar, Foreign language lesson, Controlled practise, Lesson planning, preparation and practise, Needs analysis and understanding levels, Pronunciation, Correcting errors, Teaching skills, Grammar practise

Prices to complete a TEFL qualification vary from £50 to £150

To make your life even easier F&Y Consultant can have your TEFL cost reimbursed back to you, depending on the school you are sent to.

Can I teach in China if I don’t have a TEFL certificate?

Now unlike the previous degree question our answer to this is not so ‘doom and gloom!’ Many second-tier cities, such as capital cities of provinces like Changsha in Hunan, do accept those with BA degrees and relevant work experience. Do not get put off by the words ‘second tier cities’, these cities have so much to offer from breath-taking un-touched nature, to busy market places and packed metros. You will certainly have the chance to live the tourist life here too!

Group of TEFL Trained Teachers
Group of TEFL Trained Teachers heading out for a meal

I don’t speak Chinese! How will I survive?

As you can very well imagine, if you are living in a place that solely speak Chinese you are going to pick it up very quickly. However, it is always better to be prepared! One way to do this is to set up lessons upon your arrival. This will give you the best chance to mix with the locals and immerse yourself fully into the Chinese culture.

To also point out, in many of the larger cities in China around 50% of the population are able to speak English at a reasonable level.  If you are still unsure, as I’m sure many of you are, these top tips should come in handy:

Order food and drink from a picture menu (most menus in China are now picture menus) Or if you’re brave and adventurous close your eyes point and hope for the best! #YOLO

Use the universal smile, no matter where you are in the world a smile is simply a smile, from this try and gage peoples’ expressions as much as you can

Download a mandarin phrase book audio and listen to this on the go

Memorize the words and symbols for metro signs, bus stops, stations, toilets

Keep a copy on you of your Chinese address to make sure you can always get back home

Download a translate app on your phone…this may get you out of sticky situations!

Remember most of all, although you will be the teacher, you will also learn Chinese from your students!

A question for the teacher

I have the language problem down, now I am seriously thinking about teaching in China but can I survive on a teacher’s salary in China?

This is the easiest answer in this entire blog, YES! On a teaching salary in China you will be earning above the average wage. Living costs are so low in China compared to the western world. To top it off you won’t be spending any of your wages on rent, utilities, and insurance. These are the top 3 ‘money suckers’ many of us face coming out of our wages! Instead, your salary will be going on cheap transport, cheap dining and of course cheap shopping. This gives you the opportunity to spend your spare time and money on socialising, sightseeing and doing whatever it is that makes you happy!

TEFL teachers enjoying exploring in their free time

Here is an example of the maximum one would spend living in China

  • Maximum living costs:
  • Bus Yuan per person
  • Metro – Yuan each ride
  • Taxi Yuan KM, Plus Yuan per KM for KM distance
  • Three meals in school dining hall Yuan per person per day
  • Meals out at a restaurant – Yuan per person
  • Clothes – per item
  • Health club/Gym – Yuan per person per year
  • Hobbies/interests/activities yuan per month

What can I benefit from living in China?

If it is the nightlife, sight-seeing, amusement attractions, restaurants or shopping you are after then China has it all…in vast amounts!

You can either choose between the swanky bars and restaurants in the bright lights of Beijing or the low-key fun vibrant bars in more rural areas, whichever takes your fancy you won’t be disappointed, yet very spoiled for choice! Eating out with friends is a big part of any culture and this is no different in China, there are many restaurants, street food markets and bars to choose from at a very affordable price, selling a very wide range of beverages from around the globe and of course local too! The cuisine is very adventurous with its flavour and is a very exciting culinary experience. If you want to experience the true local culture of Chinese food then try out the Chinese Downtown Markets, here you will experience street food combined with street entertainment.  The tourist attractions and natural beauty in China are absolutely breath taking!

The Top ten tourist attractions in China:

  • The Great wall (Beijing)
  • Victoria Harbour (Hong Kong)
  • The Li River (Guilin)
  • The Terracotta Army (Xi’an)
  • The Yellow Mountains (Huangshan)
  • West Lake (Hangzhou)
  • The Forbidden City (Beijing)
  • Giant Pandas (Chengdu)
  • The Potala Palace (Lhasa)
  • The Bund (Shanghai)

A huge benefit of living in China is having the opportunity to make new friends and share wonderful experiences together, you may find the friends you make in China will become your friends for life!

TEFL teachers enjoying a Christmas meal together

I’m convinced but what type of schools can I expect to work in?

F&Y Consultant have many links with schools in china, however let me talk you through 3 schools that may be a possibility to you.

Hunan Dizhi Middle School

Hunan Dizhi middle school Sports Day

Hunan Dizhi middle school is in the centre of Changsha city, the capital city of the historic Hunan Province, with a history dating back as far as the Zhou dynasty. Changsha is most famously known due to a rare collection unearthed called Western Han dynasty tombs, also known as the Mawangdui. Unsurprisingly, Hunan Dizhi Middle School is one of the most famous schools in Changsha, with its excellent reputation in secondary education. The school is very well equipped to manage 85 classrooms, 374 teachers and staff and 5173 students. This is a non-boarding school with lab and computer rooms, sports grounds, libraries and large dining facilities.

Shaodong School

Shaodong School gates

Shaodong school is a private school including pre-school, primary, middle school and high school, all of which has been approved by the Ministry Of Education. Shaodong school is situated around stunning scenery and popular tourist attractions, one of these is the incredible Shehu Mountain, a must see!The school itself is a very vast building and has recently undergone construction on both campuses with an investment of over 13 million Yuan on the old campus, and an investment of over 50 million Yuan on the new campus. The school consists of 127 staff, including 6 national special teachers, 87 senior teachers, 32 national key teachers and 2 foreign teachers. For this reason, the level of teaching and learning is at a very high standard.

Hunan Yiyang Regal English Training School

Hunan Yiyang Regal English Training School Reception

Hunan Yiyang Regal English Training School is located in Yiyang City, at the heart of Hunan Province. This school was established in May 2016 providing a non-degree program lead by a full team of international teachers. The teachers follow a specific curriculum customized for students of different ages and abilities in English. Class sizes range from 10 students or less and each teacher is equipped with a local teaching assistant, providing support in administration and teaching.

I want to teach in China but how do I get a work visa?

F&Y Consultant provide assistance in getting your work visa and are in constant contact with the school you are contracted to, that is our guarantee! Here are a few tips to make this clearer for you:

A working visa is only awarded to your employer if they have been accredited/approved to employee foreign teachers.

Typically, the requirements for a working visa are: English must be your first language, BA (Hons) degree and teaching experience/TEFL-there is however leeway for this.

Applicants must be aged between 21-55

You need to be approved as a foreign expert again your employer must obtain this for you

Now you are nearly set to go! All you need to think about now is what you are going to take with you across the globe!

What do I need to pack to take to China?

This could probably be the most daunting task of all, what do you take in one suitcase to start a new life in China? Don’t worry we are here to help. Here is a check list that should ease you into this mammoth task!

Toiletries: If you have any prescription drugs you need then your doctor can provide you with a certificate of clearance, first aid kit, any items you can’t possibly live without that may not be available to buy there: hair products, makeup, deodorant, perfume, high factor sunscreen, feminine products

Clothes: Clothing is very accessible and affordable in China. However, any items of clothing you are fond of you should take. Some schools may require certain clothing so it is always a good idea to check first. A water proof coat will come very handy in China and of course clothes to match the different seasons and weather.

Memorabilia: You are embarking on a life changing experience and will of course be very busy indulging yourself in this amazing experience. However, the ties of home comforts are very strong so remember to take photos of family and friends, or even your special ‘blanket’ or ‘teddy’… don’t be embarrassed many of us have something special along those lines!

Technology: remember you will need plug adapters and voltage converters. Take your mobile phone and perhaps a laptop or tablet including USB cables.

The most important thing to take with you is a smile and the openness to enjoy yourself, making the most out of this wonderful experience, broadening your horizons and of course enhancing your career for your future!

If this blog has awoken your adventurous side and you are tempted to find out more, let’s talk some more.


TEFL teachers sightseeing!

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