Teaching english in big cities or small cities?


Many ESL teachers have been struggled to decide where they should teach. Some prefer big cities, since there are many foreigners living in city and easy to access everything that they need. International community and convenient life are really attractive for them. However, the salary in the big cities has been kept the same for many years, not like small cities they have been keeping increasing their salary to attract more foreigners to work there.

One of the recent teachers I have talked with complained about the salary in shanghai and beijing, he said it’s just too low and many of his friends have given up to teach in China. I have to admit that it’s true that the schools in big cities they don’t pay a lot to ESL teachers, since they don’t need to pay and can even get good teachers. Many ESL teachers want to work in big cities is also a reason to make the salary low compared to the cost of living. As we all know, the cost of living in big cities are really expensive. For example, it cost at least 4000RMB to rent a one-bedroom apartment in shanghai or beijing, but it only cost no more than 2000RMB in a Tier two cities like shenyang. It’s a big different.

I think there is a big misunderstanding about the cities in China for foreigners. Many foreigners only know cities like beijing, shanghai, guangzhou, shenzhen. They think cities except that are all small cities, no foreigner community and hard to get the services such as gyms, bars. That’s wrong. I can a Tier three cities or even Tier four cities is as big as a capital of state in the United States. There may be not a lot of foreigners, but very easy to access gyms or bars. And the people are there in small cities are very friendly.

The most common salary in shanghai is 20,000RMB right now, most of the schools don’t offer free apartment or housing allowance. There are many schools who are in small cities can also offer 20k, sometimes even 25k and with free apartment. The 20k is really different value in two cities. In Shanghai, you may have nothing left after one month with 20k, but in small cities, you may save 15k after one month. So that’s pretty clearly if you want to save some money to pay off your bill or debt. However, if you just want to enjoy the life in China and no need to save money, then big cities are great options.

Therefore, don’t just look at the number when you find a job, look at the cost of living in that place.

Generally, small cities have better wage compared to big cities and have more to explore. I know there are many ESL teachers who like to go small cities, especially those cities in south part of China or close to the coast. They have fresh air, lower cost of living and beautiful sight. Last month, I have an American teacher who got a job in Linhai, zhejiang. The school paid him 25k after tax with free apartment, which is a great offer. Although the salary is good, not many teachers would like to go since they only want to work in big cites. I had asked several other ESL teachers, but the answers I got were no. Fortunately, the school got a good teacher and the teacher got a good pay.

In conclusion, when you are looking for a ESL job in China, please think of what the most important thing to you, money or the city, then it will be much easier to make a decision.