If you’re thinking about making the move to China to teach ESL, you will definitely want to consider where offers you the best salary and package of benefits. But these numbers can be deceiving and it’s hard to find out what those numbers mean when you’re on the other side of the world.
Luckily, some clever people have set up huge crowd-sourced databases of living costs all over the world, so you can understand what that salary means. The most popular of these is Numbeo which looks at obvious things like rent and utilities, but also day to day costs like food, transport, entertainment, to give you a well rounded picture of how much you would spend.
So let’s take a closer look at the numbers. Firstly, what’s the cost of living in Fuzhou compared to living back in the West? Well, using Numbeo and by choosing some ‘average’ cities in western countries you can see the potential cost saving. And yes, if you’re wondering why Albuquerque is on there it’s because I’ve been watching Better Call Saul…
You can see from this that things like transport and eating/drinking out are considerably cheaper in Fuzhou and that makes a massive difference in how much money you have in the bank.
Living Costs in Different Cities
So China is obviously a lot cheaper in terms of living costs, but are all Chinese cities equally cheap. Let’s have a look.
Fuzhou comes out of this well. The cost of living in Fuzhou is roughly 25% lower than in Shanghai and 20% lower than Beijing. These are things like the cost of a meal in a restaurant, a bottle of beer, taxi fares, bus fares, cartons of milks. All of the essentials you’ll be buying most weeks.
But I know what you’re thinking: “aren’t wages in China a lot lower too?”. Well you’re right, they are lower, but they also reflect the cost of living AND crucially the working hours.
Teachers at York work around 31 hours a week which is much less than we’d be working back in our home countries.
The final consideration for salaries is: housing. How much of your salary is spent on housing? 30%? 40%? More? What about bills and utilities?
Let’s take a look at average rent costs across the same cities.
Woah, rent in China is cheap, huh? Well… Take a look at this…
It’s the same chart, but with rent for Shanghai and Beijing on there. So you can see that rents in those cities are at least as expensive as those back home, if not more expensive. Fuzhou, by comparison, is very affordable rent-wise.
The Advantage of Free Housing
Now, lucky for our teachers, rent is not an issue. At York we provide quality housing for our teachers because in Fuzhou it’s not just the cost of day-to-day expenses, rent is cheaper in Fuzhou by a lot. So what does that mean for you? Well, it means we can provide our teachers with good-quality apartments of over 90m2. Whereas a school in Shanghai or Beijing wouldn’t be able to provide you with a similar standard of living or their apartments could be miles away from your school or worse, a dormitory (and let’s not even discuss jobs in those cities that don’t offer accommodation).
At York we spend a lot of time and effort making sure that our apartments are right for you in terms of location, size, quality and facilities (yes, that means western toilets). It’s going to be a place you call home for the next 12 months, so why jeopardise your happiness and cheap out? It would only create headaches for us all in the future.
That means that instead of spending 30% or 40% of your salary on rent, instead you can use that money for other things. So yes, the salaries are lower, but you’ll have much more money left from your wage at the end of every month.
So what does it all boil down to? How much money does the average teacher at York spend/save each month?
Save More Money by Working in China
So you’ve done the math(s) and have decided that moving to China would be a good move financially. It’s a lot cheaper than living in the West even though the salaries are slightly lower. But let’s start with a question: how much of your salary are you able to save, living in the west? 5%? 10%? 15%?
Most people will find their expenditure could look something like this:
Does that look reasonable? For comparison we asked 10 York teachers where their expenditure went in Fuzhou and here are the results:
Instantly you can see that very little is spent on housing. The only part of housing that a York teacher pays for is utility bills which is hardly anything. The big headline though is that savings and vacations take up a lot of a typical teachers outgoings, which let’s be honest, is a nice thing to spend on. This is also a conservative estimate. Some teachers have been able to save a lot more with us, it all depends on the lifestyle you choose to live.
That means that each month a teacher with a salary of 9,000RMB could take home 2,700RMB in savings every month. Over the course of a 12 month contract with York that adds up to over 32,000RMB (or almost $5,000). Quite a decent amount.
Then think about this: any money earned above that amount goes straight into savings. So if you sign up as a second year teacher (starting on 11,000RMB and going up to 13,000RMB) then you could be saving up 80,000RMB a year (almost $12,000). That pays off quite a lot of student loans, or goes some way towards a house deposit or buys you round-the-world travel for a year or longer!
And don’t forget, all of that while STILL travelling in China and Asia, doing a rewarding job and experiencing life in one of the worlds most exciting countries.