I am making this post to education people on why they should be wary and selective when choosing a job in China as an ESL/TEFL Teacher. As an ESL Teacher in China. I feel I can give ESL teachers some proper insight on what to expect when coming to China.
All over the ESL boards and websites; you'll often times see posts of cities, towns, and villages that are in serious need of an English teacher. However, this post is more so a cautionary message to be wary of scams and what to expect and compensation that you should expect as a teacher in China.
I'd like to state; to those who have never been or worked in China before you may feel that this post may judge a lot. I thought that as well when before and when I first arrived in China. But it is not without justification or reasons. This is from personal experiences from myself and other teachers I know.
China is a very complicated and confusing country. So opposite of english speaking countries in the ways of how things are done. Manners, generally are non-existant outside of places like Shanghai and Suzhou (for this reason you will not get the true cultural experience in Shanghai or Suzhou). But I will tell you. Do not be naive when you arrive to China. They will take advantage of you as a new comer to China if you do not throw your weight around a bit.
50% of ESL jobs that are promised to people that are living abroad looking to teach in China are usually offered through "recruiting agencies". These recruiting agencies offer you less money than what would would make if you just saved up your own money and came here and applied at schools yourself. The general compensation offered by recruiting firms is '5000RMB'. Which, at the time seems like a lot of money. But, as a foreigner in China. You should be making anywhere from 8,000 - 20,000 RMB easy. I know they butter it up by saying they offer "room and board" but don't be fooled by this either. The living accomedations are less than adequette and if you are in Northern China. Expect to freeze your butt off for 7 months out of the year.
Usually when being recruited by these recruiting firms. You have to jump through an endless about of hoops just to get the results you are seeking and they are just the middle men. After you get to where you are going. Your treatment may improve or decline. Often times it's the lesser. I know many teachers who have come to China who have had a terrible first experience.
Luckily for me, when my recruiting firm in beijing started dicking me around. I bailed and found work on my own. But, even bailing will be a huge fight with them. Because, they will try to force you into a position you are less than comfortable with.
My personal experience with these recruiting firms and schools that they recruit for was a less than positive experience as well. Before I came to China. I was set up with a nice public school in Rugou. Which is 2 hours north of Shanghai. A week before I get there. They tell me, they no longer want me working for them because of my wife nationality. This clearly blew my mind. Because I had no idea Xenophobia and Racism were this bad in China. My wife is Japanese, and I told them I would not go to their city without my wife. So they basically told me "FU you Japanese Sympathizing Scum". This made me a angry and obviously less trusting of any other prospects that the recruiter wanted to send me to. 2 days before I was supposed to start the school year. They tell me they found a school for me in Xinjiang province. If you are not familiar with Xinjiang. It is not a safe region of China for anyone is not of Urugur ethnicity. Radical Islam has taken hold of that region. After doing my research, the night before I said I couldn't do it because I wouldn't put my wife in that kind of danger just for a job. Needless to say, this resulted in a huge argument where the recruiter started attacking my wife. Since then, I have not heard anything from them.
Also, do not trust this "You can work on a business visa" stuff that they are always telling you. That is not true. Business Visa are the shortest lasting visa's and if you get caught working on a Business Visa you will get deported. There are way's to obtain employment on of Tourist Visa's but the business or school is definitely dodging the law by doing so. However, most legitimate schools will provide you with a work visa if you fit the requirements for one. But obtaining employment legally or otherwise is possible. In bigger cities like Shanghai or Beijing, they require you to have a degree. But in other cities and towns, that law is a lot fuzzier.
Next thing you need to look out for is agreements constantly being recanted or renegged on. Very and Contractual agreements often times do not mean anything to places in China and you'll find that often times, they do not fulfill their end of the contract. So leaving is a lot easier than you would think. The breach of contract will more often than not come from their end of the agreement, not yours. However, expect them to try to "save face" by lying about the breach of contract. Chinese people have a huge problem with "face" and always lying to save face.
You need to be on the look out for legitimate schools and illlegitimate schools. China is notorious for what they call "Liar Companies" where they will set you up with an interview and everything will seem all fine and dandy. Then you'll have to find out that, they've never even had a legitimate license to operate. I can't tell you how many interviews I went on before I actually found a legitimate company.
Trust me, legitimate private schools will always have at least one visible foreigner on staff at the time of your interview to show you that they are legitimate.
If you work for a school, I suggest going private. For two main reasons. You will get paid what you're worth and usually they offer bonus incentives. You'll be treated as an employee and not a slave.
The down fall of private schools however, is you have to do some digging to find out if their a real school or not.
The problem with public schools in China is usually they pay a lot less with crap accomedations (because the Chinese government rather spend it's exuberate amount of funds on making their buildings look nice rather than the schools). You'll get treated a lot more unfairly because the people that work at public schools in China work for the Government and the government here is terrible in the way they treat people.
Now that I'm done listing the negative aspects of being an ESL teacher in China.
Here are some positive aspects.
If you are living in China and making the pay you're supposed to be making as a foreigner. You'll find that life here (other than the lack of manners and people everywhere) is actually quite easy. Things are way cheaper and worrying about where your next meal is coming from will never be an issue.
If you're working at a good school. Expect to have a lot of opportunities for travel and time off.
No matter where you are. You will find other foreigners and many people with similiar stories like yourself of their trials and tribulations in China.
Taxi's are everywhere in the cities and the transportation to and from work is very good.
Food everywhere, just be wary of some of the street food. You might end up with a bad case of the runs.
In conclusion, If you are willing to put up with all the BS to work here and have a little bit of good. Welcome to China.
P.S. Don't give anyone money who is begging for it. They will swarm you and often times are not as poor or homeless as they let off to believe.
This has been your less in "Not Being Naive in China" haha.
Thanks for your posts. Teaching in China is a boom market that attracts many foreigners to look for jobs. Meanwhile, please pay attention to the scams in the education industry. The employers should have the permits that allow them to employ employees. And for private school, they should have permits for employing full-time employees.