Teaching English in Beijing: A Current Teacher Shares Her Experience
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Having been to Beijing twice in the past I know the appeal it has for expats (and especially teachers). It gives Shanghai a run for its money as the most international city in China and is home to tens of thousands of ESL professionals.
I wanted to learn more about the ESL scene there but the only issue was that I didn’t know anyone who was teaching English in Beijing. That (obviously) changed after being connected to Poppy and she was kind enough to answer some questions about how she ended up in Beijing, what her average teaching day is like, and what she loves about living in the capital city.
Why did you choose to work in BJ?
My partner got a job in BJ so we were always going to move there, I just needed to figure out what I was going to do for work. My career to date has been mostly focussed on creative event management (festivals, cultural events etc.). I also worked in education prior to securing my job here. I figured that I could teach English AND organize events in BJ : )
How did you land a job in Beijing? Is it easier or harder to land a job in the capital vs other Chinese cities?
I got in touch with Gold Star TEFL Recruitment, they were fantastic (for more on using a recruiter read this!) – I had 3 interviews lined up within the first 2-5 days of speaking to them. They were super friendly and professional (I am still in touch with Justen and Jim, Justen even invited me to his wedding!).
There are always lots of new teaching roles available for those who have the right qualifications and experience.
What is your average teaching day like?
My schedule is pretty flexible, I start at 10/ 11am, I spend 2 or so hours planning my lessons before heading out for lunch with colleagues. We usually spend some time over lunch sharing ideas, we’re always trying to come up with new classroom games/ activities.
Classes start from 4pm and end at roughly 7pm (sometimes later). I also have pre-school classes every Tuesday and Wednesday morning. I travel between centers (read more about training centers here) so I’m not always in the same place (which is really nice!). I don’t work on the weekends but I know most employers are very keen on teachers working over the weekend (especially training centers). Most teachers will have Monday/ Tuesday off.
What is your average weekend like (aka how is it being an expat)?
We try to go away once a month, so far we’ve been to: Shanghai, Tianjin, The Great Wall, Hong Kong, and various places in the Shanxi province. We’ve also managed to go to India, and Vietnam whilst being here – making the most of the long National Holidays!
When we’re in BJ we spend our time food shopping at local markets, cooking delicious meals (we are massive foodies), checking out the main sights (Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City etc.) and riding around the city on MoBikes (cheap bikes you can rent in BJ – I use them every day).
What is the best thing about living and working in BJ?
Tricky question, there are many positive aspects of living in Beijing. For me it’s the feeling that this is truly an experience like none other. Everything is DIFFERENT here, the sights, smells, sounds – literally everything. I love that my mind is expanding every day, and growing to accept that things are different and appreciating the beauty in the way things are here.
What is the worst?
From my personal experience, the language barrier makes it really hard to feel connected. Back home I’m used to having banter with the local shopkeepers, putting a smile on people’s faces but here it’s really hard. I’ve been taking Chinese classes once a week which has been really helpful and I’ve found I’m starting to get the gist of what people are saying but I’m nowhere near being able to have a deep conversation…. Yet 😀
If you’re thinking of coming to BJ – start learning Chinese right now – there are so many APPs and Youtube videos that will help you. I promise everything you learn will come in handy!
Another thing is, I’ve found it quite difficult to make friends here (I am a really sociable person too!). I think it would have been much harder if I had come here alone – so if you are coming alone – be prepared to get out there on DAY 1, add yourself to every Wechat group and go to lots of events.
What would you tell someone considering a job in Beijing?
If you’re someone who is ready for a huge change on every level, then go for it. This place will test you, and you will grow professionally and personally here. It’ll also be the time of your life.
You could leave here with:
- Wonderful experiences teaching English (view our open ESL jobs in China)
- Fluency in Mandarin (this is definitely possible; lots of Expats speak Mandarin – it isn’t as hard as it seems!)
- A greater understanding of Chinese culture (you can’t qualify the value of something like this!)
I’ve been vlogging my journey here so feel free to check out my Youtube Channel.
Instagram: Pop That China
Leave questions and comments, I’d love to hear from you!