What is it like teaching English in China?

I worked in China as an English teacher and unfortunately can’t write anything positive in respect of work. But privately I met nice people and made good friendships. I’ll write about both aspects.

Now about my experience: First of all, I met too many people with same concerns and facing same problems.

I worked in a city called Daqing for a big chain/franchise company therefore I thought I can’t make a mistake deciding for such a well-known brand. That was a mistake.

  • even you work with same conditions you end up noticing the terms and conditions of your colleagues are differing yours. This varies from salaries, office hours, your apartment, treatment etc. Shortly in every aspect. And they’re not small differences.
  • They promise you a lot at the beginning and are extremely kind but it changes after short while and you see their real faces: they find a point in which you are weak or are afraid of and keep you ‘in their hands’. They will suppress you making work for them. This will effect your salary, off days, holidays, working hours. You’ll need to comply with their wishes.
  • The management lies to parents about you and you have to comply with that as well. Sometimes, I faced awkward questions from parents and found out that the school had been telling those things about me. I tell you, it can be very embarrassing!
  • They change things as they feel like: we were called to meetings and all of a sudden working conditions changed, they take it for granted that you go along with everything they change, because in Chinese culture you have to accept what comes from top, without any question. You end up feeling like a slave. I guess this is due to the political regime of the country.
  • They lie a lot in order to keep you going. What is in your favor is being put off with lies and wrong promises, but what is in their/companies favor (this will effect you negatively) will be changed instantly without considering that you are an expat.
  • Some friends were cut off salaries because of the way they were speaking about or commenting about things and were not paid this amount back at all. (You have to forget about human rights and the western way of thinking and livin in that place.)
  • We were asked if we can bring friends to work as a teacher and were promised a good amount of money like 20000–30000 RMB. Colleagues went along and arranged for their friends to come and work. After reminding the owner they were told they can receive 2000, but it must be a mistake, they’ve never promised 20000. Such ‘mistakes’ can happen in every respect easily, according my experience.
  • They don’t declare holidays in advance only last second so that you end up not being able to plan for a get away. And they change holidays as they please: another branch had one month summer holiday we had only three days and this including our weekly off day! Imagine…. The winter break during Chinese New Year was also cut off. Putting all the blame either on parents or other reasons. But we used to have a “foreigners group” and were meeting occasionally. They either ignore that we expats are meeting and hanging out with other expats working for other schools or just ignore it. During those gatherings you exchange experiences, of course.
  • The apartments they rent for you are in terrible conditions. The buildings are old, smelly and you’ll face damp patches on the walls not only due to humidity but also poor plumbing habits. You have to take into account that you have to live with cockroaches and other bugs. Believe me, I don’t exaggerate, it is as I faced things.

It’s a constant fight to get what is your right. Another important aspect is that only 1 off day is not enough. You end up feeling constantly exhausted.

The city and the people are dirty. People are constantly spitting everywhere. And peeing on streets are very common as well. In summer the stinky smell is killing but also during cold period it’s not a lot better.

When you go to restaurants you see that they eat and throw the rest either on floor or on table. It’s disgusting to eat in that environment. Anyway, restaurants, bars are not like back at home. It’s common that most expats are constantly sick due to above mentioned reasons and the food you eat. When you eat out you have to know there is no hygiene in their kitchen and when you buy from supermarket meat or fish you end up having constantly stomach/gut issues.

There’s nothing to do in that city. It’s extremely boring. I met couples separating, people ending up in depression, because conditions are tough. I would have ended up same if I wouldn’t pay the penalty in my contract. I paid one month salary and left instantly. A friend has kept to his contract and resigned two months prior, but faced difficulties. Which looked at first like they try to increase his salary and give better conditions, but the negotiation period became hard and time elapsed not changing anything. Only his nerves suffered.

On private level, as I stated earlier, I made very, very good friends. I met very kind and helpful people. But working and living conditions were more important to me so I left earlier than initially planned.

I didn’t want to believe it can be that bad when people were speaking about their experiences in China. I had checked online comments, but there were less comments about Daqing. Only when you face things yourself you know what it means… If I can help anyone avoiding making the mistake going there, I’ll be happy.

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