Blunders to Avoid as a New Foreign Teacher in China

Blunders to Avoid as a New Foreign Teacher in China
Jun 08, 2021 By Andrea Hunt ,

Unfortunately, when you’re on the other end of the earth and have never been to China, it’s difficult to understand how things work here. There are many wonderful and genuinely helpful recruiters and schools that will treat you with the respect you deserve, but there are plenty of potential pitfalls along the way. Here are some ways to make sure you avoid the common blunders as a new foreign teacher in China.

Blunders to Avoid as a New Foreign Teacher in China

Time and time again, we hear stories of scam artists and dodgy schools in China that lure in foreign teachers with impressive sounding salaries, rich benefits and even visas that never come to fruition. Would-be expats often only realize they’ve been duped later, sometimes after paying exorbitant fees to the company that sounded so helpful but turned out to be nothing more than a washed-up dude on a computer in his bathrobe.

Here are some common blunders to avoid to ensure you hit the ground running as a new foreign teacher in China.

Never Pay to Work!

It may sound obvious, but never, ever pay a recruiter to find you a teaching job or give a company money for the pleasure of working for them. While gap year students may indeed pay to tag turtles in Southeast Asia, there is absolutely no reason to work for free in China. Some companies advertise “volunteer” teaching experiences where applicants pay up to 1,000 USD to work for six months in exchange for room and board. Other times, a recruiter may try to charge teachers a “job placement fee.”

Would you pay to work for free in your own country? Of course not! If you find yourself considering any of the above options, don’t. You can find a teaching job in China without paying. You are a valuable commodity here, so don’t sell yourself short.

Do Your Homework 

The easiest and most common mistake new foreign teachers in China make is not doing their homework. There’s a lot of information out there on the internet, and doing your homework will help you to avoid problems and pitfalls on arrival. Since it’s hard to imagine what life is like on the ground in China when you’re sat applying for jobs in the comfort of your home country, many people commit thoughtless errors. Some sign year-long contracts for places they can’t even find on a map. Others show up with nothing but a foreign credit card, only to find out they are very rarely accepted here.

Definitely do some research on where you want to live in China and, if possible, consider visiting beforehand to scope out some cities and schools. There are actually many advantages to looking for work while already in China.

Also be on your guard against dodgy schools and education centers. There are various red flags to look out for when searching for employment in China and ways to do due diligence on your prospective employer. This is not to say that China is full of scam artists and evil school masters, but being prepared and well informed will ensure you have the most rewarding experience and reap the best benefits.

Plan for the Unexpected

If you’re arriving in China “fresh off the boat,” make sure you have some money, you know how to get where you’re going and you have a backup plan. IF something happens, for example, no one is at the airport to pick you up like they promised, at least you can find your way to a hotel in town. Research how to get yourself there from the airport and how to get yourself a sim card on arrival. Make sure you have enough money for a ticket home if the absolute worst comes to worst.

Pay Close Attention to Your Contract

Always read what you’re signing. Many new foreign teachers in China are so keen to land their first job, they happily sign away a year of their life for a seriously underpaid and frankly exploitative role. The teaching week in China is around 20-25 hours, and any extra office hours should be laid out in your contract. Also make sure that you’re clear about how much annual leave you’ll get and that your general labour rights will be met. Read this for more of what to look for in your first teaching contract in China.

Bring Materials

Don’t assume your school or language center will provide all the teaching materials to you. It sounds silly, because schools should have their own books, right? But much of what you’ll be teaching is what the Chinese call “Oral English.” This means that you’ll likely have to come up with your own materials to stimulate conversation with your students. It’s therefore best to bring a few English grammar books, some conversation topics, exercises and even some games or children’s books. If in doubt, check out these awesome online resources for ESL teachers in China.

The English teaching sector is still strong in China so there’s definitely room for a few more young pretenders. Even if you’re just coming for the experience, you might find teaching is your calling. As Henry Brooks Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

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Keywords: new foreign teacher in China


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Hand over money to a teaching recruiter and we can guarantee you’ll never hear from them again. How can you tell the genuine schools from the disingenuous ones? Well, it can be extremely difficult, especially if someone doesn’t has any experience. Bottom line: get your Z visa in your home country or country of current residence

Sep 20, 2021 10:59 Report Abuse



Don't be suckered into answering questions like 'do you like China'. People are looking to be offended by your answer if you don't give the one they like. Then you are the 'bad laowei'

Jun 09, 2021 01:08 Report Abuse