How to teach English in China

Teaching English in China

(c) Thomas Galvez

Blog post sponsored by EF English First

I often get questions on how to teach English in China. To help answer these questions I have recently had the chance to contact EF English First, one of China’s largest English language training schools who has been recruiting in China for over 20 years. The following is almost everything you need to know before you start teaching English in China.

What are the requirements to teach English in China? 

Maybe it is best to start with the second part of the question first. In the past, the term “native speaker” was used as one of the requirements for being an English teacher in China. Some companies still may use this term. However, it’s not 100% correct. EF hires teachers on legal working Z visas. One of the guidelines that we follow is passport status. If you are a passport holder from the USA, UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, then you will be eligible to teach English in China. It doesn’t matter if you were born in this country or not, you just need to be a passport holder from one of these countries. For South Africans and people with dual citizenship, this could be subject to change, so it is advisable to contact your hiring company. (But it can vary from province to province)

The other requirements can be as follows:

1.    You will need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field. The degree must have bachelors on the certificate, either in English or the Latin equivalent. Recently it has become common for candidates to be required to provide an original hard copy or a certificate of authentication from a notary.

2.    TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate. TEFL certificates can be found online, but sponsorship is available through EF English First, and the full cost will be covered if you meet visa requirements. If you are taking an online course, make sure that you take the option for 120 hours. A 120 hours TEFL certificate is now the minimum requirement for a legal working Visa. However, in most cases, you can complete the course in much less time than this.

3.    The ability to obtain a clear criminal background check. Your company will provide more information on where you can get your background check, but you need to have no prior criminal offences. If you have any minor infractions, then it’s important to consult your recruiter or company.

4.    Experience. The amount of experience needed often depends on company or province. Some companies offer more training and can help hire less experienced people. However, some provinces have different visa rules which may require a minimum of 2 years teaching experience.

5.    Finally, you must be able to live in China for at least one year. For some internships, this may be less, but many companies will prefer a longer term commitment.

How long is the visa process and what should I expect?

The visa process can seem daunting; especially if you are going through this alone. If you work for a company like EF, full support is often provided. An experienced company can take you through the process step by step, which often makes things smoother. All being well, the visa process takes around 2 to 3 months.

Where in China can I teach English?

Almost anywhere! Many cities and provinces across China are looking for English teachers. You just need to assess your options and do some research on the city. Make sure that you can live there comfortably, and you are eligible for a visa in the city. You will be a long way from home, so make sure you have checked the surrounding area and you think you will be happy there.

What salary and benefits package should I expect?

Salary and benefits can vary depending on company and city. In the smaller cities, it I common to be paid less than in the larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. However, this doesn’t mean you will have less money in your pocket. You can still live comfortably in China, and most teacher salaries are very comfortable. Your benefits package can influence your salary. It is common for public schools to provide accommodation and pay less. Some companies can offer up front flights or more vacation time. The important thing is, you need to take into account your experience.

Things to Remember

If this is your first time in China, make sure you choose your company wisely. Choose a reputable company like EF who can provide you with a legal working visa. If you teach on the wrong visa or break the rules, this could stop you from getting other visas in the future. Make sure that you will be happy in China and you have chosen your city wisely.

Finally make sure you can meet the following criteria.

•    Have a Bachelor’s degree

•    Have a 120 hour TEFL Certification

•    The ability to obtain a clear background check

•    The ability to live abroad for at least one year

•    Applicants must be citizens/passport holders from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand to meet China’s visa regulations.


How to get over jetlag, wish I knew!

Our own playarea onboard – Thank you Finnair!

Me and our 10 month old daughter arrived back to Guangzhou a week ago, but it took us a whole week to get over jetlag and back to normal.

I felt it was easier to go to Europe, we would wake up early but it was easier to get baby to sleep in the evening. But now that we came back to Asia, she wanted to stay up until midnight no matter how tired and woke up a lot at night.

Now that we are back to normal it feels like heaven! Sleeping babies truly are the most beautiful sight!

So I don’t unfortunately have any tips for getting over jetlag. We tried to nudge the rhythm to the right direction, but it usually backfired with a crying and grumpy baby. In the end it was time that helped.

Do you have any good tips to get over jetlag? I’ll collect best tips for next year’s holiday. 


Moving with family to Guangzhou

Moving to China can be an adventure, especially if you are moving with kids. But luckily there are a few things that will make your family’s transition to new life a bit easier.


First of all, the women in your family can join Guangzhou Women International Club which offers variety of events, but most importantly a web of connections and friends. Need to find a good doctor or where to buy a certain item? GWIC ladies know for sure!

WeChat is a must

If you only have one application in your phone in China, it must be WeChat. Keep in touch with friends, make new friends, join useful groups, pay at stores and restaurants, top up your phone and so much more. We have groups for parents in Guangzhou and parents of kids of different ages. Want to join a play date or find out the best playgrounds around city? Ask in WeChat and you’ll get an answer in seconds.

WeChat also has a few local second hand groups if you want to make affordable and environmentally friendly purchases.

What to bring

You can find most international items from Guangzhou, but imported products are often more expensive than back home. If you need, bring infant formula, medicine and comfort food with you. Also if you wear big size shoes, those are hard to find in Guangzhou. 

This Summer I’m taking back second hand clothes for my daughter, medicine, Finnish food and chocolate, a few books. Most of our day to day items are easily available in Guangzhou or through Taobao online store.

Friends make a home

Through my expat friends I’ve seen that when all family members get new friends, it’s easy to immerse into a new place. Luckily the international crowd is super friendly here and there are sport groups, lunch dates, play dates, short trips and much more for you to experience.

Learning a bit of Chinese

For me personally learning Chinese has shaped my whole life here, but for all expats it’s definitely beneficial to learn some Chinese. It will help you to get a taxi or show respect in business meetings.

If you are interested in private Chinese classes, send me a message through my contact form.


Chinese lessons in Guangzhou are continuing in September

Learn Chinese in Guangzhou

I’ve gotten emails asking when do I resume teaching Chinese and I thought it’s best to share the plans in a blog post as well. Chinese lessons are continuing in September!

I’ll arrive back to Guangzhou a bit earlier than planned, on the first week of September. After that I’ll need to find a nanny and then I can continue teaching Mandarin. My estimate is that I can continue lessons in mid-September.

I’ll be offering one on one or small group lessons for beginners and elementary level students. Most of my students are keen to learn the basics of spoken Chinese but I have students who are fascinated by the Chinese characters as well. In any case the lessons are always tailored to your personal needs with a flexible schedule.

If you want more information about Chinese lessons in Guangzhou or want to book a meeting with me, get in touch through my contact form!


Summer in Finland

It’s the last Summer month in Finland and we are in the middle of our holiday. Next in the agenda is to visit Tampere and Helsinki!

My home town is small and one day is enough to visit all then”sights”. Now that my mother’s vacation is over and my little brother will be back to school next week, the days will be quiet for me and my daughter. Luckily in Tampere and Helsinki I’ll be able to meet more of my old friends.

We’ve already visited Lahti, Kuopio and Porvoo in Finland, also made a quick trip to the capital of Estonia, Tallinn. I’ve been concentrating on second hand shopping as China doesn’t really have flea markets yet. 

For a few days temperature rose to 25 Celsius and we head to the beach where I used to swim every Summer when I was a kid. Water was around 19 Celsius, pretty warm I’d say!

My little brother (one of them, I have two brothers and a sister) is super into sports and we have done nice long walks with him and Anna in the baby carrier.

We have also been to the forest to pick blueberries as its a must activity for all Finns during the Summer! You ain’t no Finn if you haven’t braved some mosquitos in the forest while eating and picking berries! 

Anna has made friends with two dogs and a cat so far. She is clearly an animal lover! The cats run away while dogs like her company. Let’s see what our two cats will do when they realize Anna can crawl much faster now, they need to be careful!

It’s been a great holiday so far and we are going to enjoy the last month to the fullest as well. I’ve had some mild case of reverse culture shock, but I believe visiting bigger cities like Tampere and Helsinki will at least partly cure it. 

Until next time!