During our heavy recruitment season, we work with many teachers who will be teaching abroad for the first time. Naturally, China does many things differently than the U.S. or other Western countries, and that includes contracts and benefits packages. If you are interested in teaching in China, you should know about the contracts that you will be offered so you can make an educated decision about which school is best for you.
Salary and housing
Unless free housing is provided by the school, contracts for foreign teachers will probably include a housing stipend. Housing prices differ depending on the location, and your school will take housing costs into consideration when determining salaries and stipends. If your school provides housing, check to see if it is a whole apartment or shared apartment- if you are bringing family members with you, you will want to rent your own apartment.
Your salary, to some extent, will also be adjusted depending on where you are. Just like most jobs, you will be compensated according to your experience and qualifications, but it is normal for teachers living in smaller and less expensive cities to have slightly lower salaries than teachers in more expensive cities, like Shanghai and Beijing. Housing and transport costs are more substantial in big cities, so at the end of the day your savings will most likely end up being about the same, no matter where you choose to live.
Most schools offer flight reimbursement of varying amounts, all enough for a round trip international flight each year. The typical contract for foreign teachers includes a reimbursement at the end of the teacher’s contract, or upon the successful completion of a school year.
Visas and Insurance
If you teach in China, it is very important to work with a school that can provide a work visa. If you bring family members with you, your visa will also cover them. The visa process can take anywhere from one week to a month, depending on the time of year and the school’s location (visa laws and regulations vary depending on the province.) When you have been hired, a representative from your school will walk you through the process and tell you what documents you need to send them. After you send the required documents, the school will apply for permission from their province to employ you. Once the school has the invitation letter, they will send you the paperwork so you can file for a visa in your current location.
Note- To employ a foreigner in China, schools need to provide basic health insurance. If you are working with a school that provides you with a work visa, then by law you will have insurance.
A major perk of living in China is the international experience, and an integral part of living abroad is learning a new language. Most schools generally offer at least a Chinese survival course and usually weekly Chinese lessons if you are interested. I also find that Chinese colleagues in schools and offices are eager to help foreigners improve their Chinese.
I get a lot of questions about vacation time in China. Chinese schools usually do not get a long break around Christmas, but most will give foreign teachers Christmas day off. The long mid-year break happens over the Chinese New Year in late January or early February, and teachers often have two to three weeks paid vacation during that time. Other holidays include a week in the beginning of October (the National Day holiday), a long weekend in September, and a couple long weekends in the spring. The school year usually begins in September and ends in late June.
I hope this helped answer some of your questions about living and working in China. If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities available, please reach out here or visit our website.