I found my first job teaching English to first year students at a government-run college in the heart of the city of Guangzhou. The school was great, the salary was pretty good for the number of hours I had to teach, and they offered free accommodation! One of the reasons people choose to teach English in China is that schools provide foreign teachers with paid accommodation, but I’m going to tell you how to negotiate a higher salary and find a better place!
Live on Campus vs Find Your Way – TEFL China
It has been the convention that all teachers (local and foreign) are given an apartment to live on campus, but with the sprawl of campuses being built in more remote areas, many have opted for a place in the city off-campus. As a foreigner, you might be able to negotiate for a slightly higher salary for choosing to rent your own apartment. And if you do choose to rent your own, do your research and don’t be surprised at possible price gauging.
Salary – TEFL China
At government schools, your salary should include medical insurance. Most will also indicate a holiday and airfare allowance. When I left Guangzhou in 2010, the typical salary at a government college or university was between 5000 to 7000 Chinese yuan per month for about 12 to 16 hours of class each week (Earn 8,000-12,000 with English First!). This number fluctuated depending on the location of the school (more for cities, less for country-side), your qualifications (an advanced degree and an advanced TESOL certification will get you more), years of experience, and negotiation abilities (this is where your knowledge of Chinese culture would come in handy). Inflation has increased exponentially in the last few years, and you might be offered more. Their initial offer (or the amount posted on the job ad) is typically low, as most schools expect the foreigner to negotiate. If you get the vibe that this is possible, you can give a reasonable counter offer and justify it, and the school will usually meet you half-way. This process is a very delicate dance, and I would be very careful, especially if I were not confident in my negotiation skills.
Now, when you convert 7000 yuan (it is also called the “rmb” for renmenbi or “the people’s money”) to Canadian dollars, you are going to think, “How am I supposed to live on 1,000 bucks a month?” It’s actually quite possible to have a decent lifestyle because the standard of living is much lower than Canada and there’s no rent if you live in their accommodations. You just might not be able to quickly pay off debts, if you have any. And, remember, this is based on 12 to 16 hours of class each week. There is plenty of time for part-time jobs if that is what you want to do. I would first ask the other foreign teachers in your school whether it is even possible to find extra work outside of the school – your contract might restrict you from doing so, but a lot of teachers might be doing it anyway. In 2010, the university where I was working at was offering 120 to 130rmb per extra hour of teaching. Their justification for this is that they offer a lot of extra services like pay for your accommodations. If you did one-on-one tutoring or worked for a private company, the rate started at 250rmb per hour, which, again, depends on how well you negotiate and sell yourself.
Taxes – TEFL China
Like Canada, the amount of taxes you pay is scaled according to your salary. Some schools will pay your taxes for you and offer you a lower salary, while others may just deduct it from you. Before I left Canada, I looked into my tax situation. Because China and Canada doesn’t have a free-trade agreement, and I maintained my ties in Canada (e.g. kept my health coverage), I ended up having to pay taxes to both countries. I would look into this prior to leaving Canada so that you won’t be shocked when you find out how much you owe the government in the following April.