6 Things to Consider Before Taking a Job in China

6 Things to Consider Before Taking a Job in China
Jan 14, 2020 By Alistair Baker-Brian , eChinacities.com

Taking a job in China is nothing if not exciting, but like any big move, it requires careful consideration before you plunge in. In this article, I bring you six things to consider before taking a job in China, from researching where you’ll live to getting a visa.  

Taking a job in China

1. Know that it’s the right Job for you

Before taking a job in China, consider whether it’s the right job and industry for you. You may see working in China as a way to travel somewhere new, learn a new language and experience a new culture. These are all admirable reasons to come, but remember that most of the time you will also have to… you guessed it… work.

With this in mind, make sure that you’re taking a job that’s right for you. Prior to applying for jobs as an English teacher in China, for example, I found freelance work as an online business English teacher for adult students in France and Germany. If you’re new to an industry or role, this kind of casual experience may help you determine whether the job you’re considering is right for you.

This is doubly important when taking a job in China, as if you realize the role is not for you after you arrive, changing jobs can be difficult and changing industries even harder. Just ask anyone who’s had to transfer their Chinese work visa and residence permit to a new employer. And if you decide to pack it all in and go back home mid-contract, it probably goes without saying that your botched experience in China will be costly in more ways than one.

2. Research where you want to live

Outside of work, think about where you want to be. After all, if you honor your work contract, it’s going to be your home for at least a year, possibly longer. China’s first-tier cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen offer foreigners a cosmopolitan lifestyle with Western bars and restaurants aplenty. Second and third-tier cities, however, may offer a more authentic and immersive Chinese experience, with fewer English-speakers and more access to local culture.

Also don’t forget to consider the climate, as it varies greatly across the huge country that is China. If you like warm weather, consider applying for work in southern China. If you want winter sports, consider Beijing or other cities in northern China.

3. Research your potential employer

Posting a job offer with a fat salary and great benefits is easy. Delivering on it is a little more difficult. Researching your potential employer is therefore crucial before taking a job in China.

There are a few simple ways you can do this. The most obvious is doing a quick Google search. If the results include a load of previous employees’ negative experiences, that company should probably be avoided. If you’re applying for teaching jobs in China, as most of you no doubt are, check out TEFL Blacklist and ESL Watch, both of which feature teachers’ “horror stories” and tell you which employers to avoid.  

Another way to check the legitimacy of your employer is by asking to be put in touch with other employees, perhaps other expats as their experience may be closer to yours than local Chinese staff. If they’re unwilling to help you with this or have not yet employed any other foreigners, this should be a warning sign.

One final thing: remember to avoid employers who demand any payment before you start work. There are plenty of bogus jobs in China simply looking to scam money out of naive would-be expats.

4. Be prepared for your interview

Remember the basics of job interviews: dress to impress (the interviewer can still see you, or at least your head and shoulders, on a Skype or WeChat video call) and ask questions that show you’re interested in the job.

Bear in mind that if you’re applying for a teaching job in China, you may be asked to teach part of a mock lesson. To this end, make sure you have materials and/or a mini-lesson plan prepared. You may also be asked about how you would deal with certain situations, such as a student who does not behave or a parent who’s unhappy about their child’s progress (or lack thereof).

Before your interview, think too about why you want to work in China. Don’t be afraid to say that you want to see a new country, experience a new culture, learn Mandarin Chinese etc. This will suggest to the employer that you are open-minded and prepared to live in China for at least a year or more. After all, no employer wants to take on a foreigner who realizes they hate everything about China as soon as they arrive. This would only create an administrative headache for the employer as they would have to go through the whole lengthy hiring process again.

5. Insist on a Z-visa

You should also ensure your employer will get you a Z-visa, a legal requirement for expats to work in China. Try to confirm this if you have an interview, but avoid asking “Will you get me a Z-visa?” Instead ask questions like, “How long will it take to process my Z-visa?” or, “Could you provide me with a list of documents I need to provide in order to get my Z-visa?” This shows you are assuming they will provide a a work visa as a given.

Again, do some online research to try and ascertain the employer’s track record on this and DO NOT accept anything less than a work visa prior to arrival in mainland China. Your employer may be keen to bring you to China on a tourist visa on the promise of applying for a work visa once you’re here because it’s easier for them. But be under no illusions. It will not speed up the process and you cannot legally work in China on any other kind of visa.

6. Be prepared to wait

You got offered a job in China. Congratulations! Now the real fun of applying for the visa begins. As a minimum, your employer should ask you for a copy of your undergraduate degree and a non-criminal record check. These both need to be authenticated by the foreign office of your home country and your nearest Chinese embassy, which takes time and money. They may also ask for reference letters from previous employers and a doctor’s note to prove you’re fit to work.

Getting your Z-visa will likely take at least two months, and don’t be surprised if your employer asks you to provide more documents mid-way through the process. Chinese visa rules constantly change and can also differ between cities.

While the whole thing can be arduous and at times frustrating, it’s once again worth stressing that a Z-visa is the only way for expats to work legally in China. Again, the employer may want to bring you to China on another visa because it makes it easier for them, but this puts you as an employee in a very difficult situation. If they ask you to work during this transition period, you will be working illegally and without any legal rights as an employee. Think about what you would do, for example, if your employer refuses to pay your salary. DO NOT be tempted by the fact that other visas (such as an L-visa for tourism) take less time to process.

Before you take a job in China, you need to sit down and have a long hard think about whether it’s right for you. Among the hassle of processing the visa and settling into a new place, you may wonder if it’s all worth it. But remember the benefits you can reap: the work experience, the money and the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and language. Remember too, that thousands of foreigners come to China for work each year. You can rest assured that you’re not alone if the whole thing ever feels a little daunting.

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Good insight

Jun 10, 2020 19:34 Report Abuse



Woow love this, anazing china, just like u thinking and ur product

Apr 12, 2020 00:23 Report Abuse



Also think about any special dietary needs you may have. If you want dairy or gluten free stuff, or anything other than mainstream Chinese, then you should look for first tier cities with long established expat population, like Shanghai.

Feb 19, 2020 20:31 Report Abuse



Wahoo I love this tips. Thank you for the insight! Cheers

Jan 23, 2020 16:57 Report Abuse



7) be prepared to be screwed over. in my experience Chinese people think they are 'very clever' if they can screw a foreigner over, either scamming cash out of them or stealing any personally prepared teaching materials. 8) be prepared to be belittled and left out of communication loops. Locals will 'forget' to give you important information that would help you plan your time. Remember, you, the foreigner are mostly an incovenient necessity.

Jan 15, 2020 19:53 Report Abuse