Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated May 01, 2021
By Mike Cairnduff

Teaching English in Beijing

Beijing is a great place to teach English.

It’s the cultural capital of China, so you’re guaranteed to have an authentic experience.

You’ll get to see the majestic Great Wall, discover the Forbidden City and try delicious Peking duck.

And from a teaching perspective, Beijing is home to some top schools and eager students.

Before you sign a contract, however, there are some important things you need to know.

So, here are my five top tips for teaching in Beijing.

1. Stick to a budget

While teaching salaries are generous for foreigners in Beijing, the city is one of China’s most expensive places to live in.

In fact, it’s one of the world’s most expensive cities for expats.

You could spend 60 yuan a day on meals or spend 300 yuan per meal. It depends on where you go and how you choose to spend your money.

Stick to a budget when you're teaching in Beijing

Stick to a budget when you're teaching in Beijing.

Once you’ve settled in and received your first salary payment, I recommend creating a budget. It’ll be easy enough to do once you’re there as you’ll get a feel for the cost of everyday things.

(You can also get a feel for the cost of living in an average Chinese city here.)

I’m not trying to put you off teaching in Beijing. Quite the contrary – I absolutely adore the place and think it’s a brilliant city to start your overseas teaching adventure.

I just think it’s important for you to know that as a trade-off for being in one of China’s greatest cities that has the highest salaries, living expenses are higher than in most other Chinese cities.

2. Bring some money with you

If you want to teach English in Beijing, I recommend bringing a fair bit of money with you.

You’ll need a comfortable buffer of cash to see you through until you receive your first pay.

If you teach in a public school in Beijing, housing will be included as part of your salary package. This means you’ll never have to worry about forking out rent money.

However, if you want to teach in a private language institute (also known as a training center), accommodation generally won’t be included.

Bring some money to Beijing with you

You'll be better prepared to teach in Beijing if you're cashed up.

If you don’t move in with a fellow TEFL teacher who’s already in Beijing, you’ll need to rent your own place with the assistance of the school.

The initial rent payment can be quite high. This is largely because rent is typically paid every three months.

There may also be a one-off real estate agent fee on top of that.

So, before you head to Beijing, ask your school how much money you should bring with you.

3. Do your TEFL course before you go

If you don’t have a TEFL certificate, which is one of the requirements to teach in China, some schools will invite you to do the course in Beijing as you start teaching.

I strongly recommend against this.

Why? You might be a few modules into the course and decide that teaching is not for you (remember, you’ll also be in a foreign environment).

Do your TEFL course before arriving in Beijing

Do your TEFL course before arriving in Beijing.

Complete the course in your own country, i.e. before you’ve paid for flights and signed on the dotted line.

That way, you’ll be 100% committed to teach in Beijing.

A TEFL certificate is also required as part of the Z visa process for China so you can work in Beijing legally.

If you need TEFL course inspo, you can compare a bunch of discounted courses here.

Can't be bothered comparing? Check out my review of the best online TEFL courses here.

4. Bring some special things with you

If you want to teach English in Beijing, you need to make sure that you’re all ready to go once you arrive.

So, have a laptop or notebook with all the latest software on it.

Sure, the latest computers are widely available in China, but the last thing you’ll want to do is look for one when you arrive. This is particularly the case if you’re starting work not long after you touch down in Beijing.

While it’s a smart idea to bring at least a week’s worth of lesson plans, I wouldn’t lug heavy English grammar books with you.

Instead, your curious students will be much more interested in authentic things like:

  • Photos of your loved ones
  • Foreign currency
  • Restaurant menus from your hometown
  • Interesting videos and electronic music files, or even a small musical instrument!

A musical instrument may help in your classroom in Beijing

Chinese students love a 'show and tell'.

Toiletries (like shampoo) and over-the-counter medications (like pain relief drugs) are available everywhere in Beijing.

However, if you’re a bit fussy like me and only like using certain brands, you’d best bring your own. Deodorant can be hard to find so I always bring a few cans with me, and then once I’ve settled in I know where to find more (e.g. Walmart).

It also wouldn’t hurt to learn a little bit of Mandarin before you go, even if it’s just how to count money in Chinese. So, have a language learning app on your phone ready to go.

You can discover more of the best China apps for your phone here.

5. Get a VPN before you go

Have you heard that the internet is censored in China?

This means that many of the websites and apps you rely on, like Google, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, won’t work while you’re teaching in Beijing.

The thought of not being able to use Google to search for essential things makes me shudder!

To get around this, you'll need to download a virtual private network (VPN) app on your phone before you touch down in Beijing.

Accessing YouTube in Beijing

Want to access YouTube in Beijing? Don't forget your VPN!

Leading VPNs that work in China include:

If you don’t have the time to compare, you can jump straight to my review of the best VPN apps for China here. You’ll see that ExpressVPN comes out on top.

Getting a VPN before you arrive in Beijing will ensure you have access to the sites you want to use.

If you leave it until after you arrive, it may be very difficult, if not impossible to arrange this, as the sign-up or payment page could be blocked.

I hope you liked these tips!

Got any questions or comments about teaching in Beijing? If so, leave a note below and I’ll get back to you. If you want to read more, I’ve put together a whopping 91 tips for teaching in China more broadly.


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