Starting a new job is exciting! Especially in a new country. New place, new people, new salary.
But moving abroad requires you to spend a little money. How much can you plan to spend and make as an English teacher in China?
Let’s address some of the main questions expats ask regarding money in China.
1. What are the startup costs?
You’ll need to buy your plane ticket to China. This price depends on which city you fly out of. You should also consider whether you want to buy a one-way or round-trip ticket. Unless you have a specific event you need to be home for, I recommend booking a one-way journey to keep your options open. A lot of schools in China will reimburse this cost once you arrive.
When you rent an apartment, you could have to pay up to three months’ rent upfront, which can be a doozy. My husband and I freaked out over this expense, but it really isn’t that different from back home.
When you sign a lease in America, you typically pay the first and last months’ rent, plus a security deposit. The amount ends up being about the same, even if the method is different.
Keep in mind most schools give you a stipend for living, so you will receive the money to cover those three months’ rent retroactively. A lot of schools will even provide you with free accommodation, which makes everything a whole lot easier.
Then there are the small expenses. I spent about 50 USD on a Chinese phone plan. Depending on where you live, you’ll want to buy a bus pass and/or metro pass.
2. How much does an apartment cost?
The amount you pay for an apartment depends on your city and district. Of course, it also depends on the neighborhood and size of the flat.
My husband and I paid around 800 USD per month for a two-bedroom apartment. We could have found a smaller place and paid less. But we shared an office at work, so we knew we’d need a little personal space at home or we’d go crazy.
Most people paid 600 USD or less for a one-bedroom apartment. This was in Shenzhen, which is a Tier-1 city. If you live in Beijing or Shanghai, you’ll probably pay more. But in a Tier-2 city, you’ll pay less.
Even though you likely receive a stipend from your school for housing, you are responsible for paying your own utility bill.
3. How much will I make every month?
Your salary will depend on what kind of school you teach at. For example, private school teachers usually make more than public school teachers.
I taught at a public primary school and started at 10,500 CNY (1,640 USD) per month, along with a 3,000 CNY (469 USD) housing stipend. About halfway through my stay, the law in our district changed, so our school was required to give me a raise. Wahoo!
4. Other than money, what are the benefits to teaching in China?
As with any job, there are perks other than the paycheck.
Cost of living is very low. If you live in a Tier-2 city, things will be cheaper than in Tier-1 cities. However, I lived in Shenzhen and was still shocked by how affordable everything was. For the first time in my life, I could afford regularly-scheduled massages!
Many institutions provide free or cheap meals. My school gave us free breakfast and a cheap lunch. Some of my friends worked at places that also served dinner at 5:30 every day. The convenience and affordability were wonderful.
My favorite perk was the travel opportunities. Between vacation time and weekends, I got to see so much of Asia!