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Living in China

Educate. Experience. Explore.



Teaching in China demands a high degree of flexibility, adaptability and optimism.  The Chinese culture differs greatly from western cultures, especially in the area of communication.  For westerners this difference can be frustrating and annoying.  Fore example, We (Westerners) are used to talking to the right person to get something done.  In China, you may not ever be able to talk with that “right” person directly, but may have to go through the school’s established hierarchy to receive a satisfactory answer. 


Being in another country, whether with a group or independently, can bring on deep feelings of loneliness. You should prepare yourself for this before your departure; plan activities and ideas to push you through that initial culture shock and longing for home, friends and family. The best way to combat these emotions is to immerse yourself in the Chinese culture by constant interaction with your students and fellow teachers.  Making friends in China is easy, and the relationships you develop will open up doors to new experiences and opportunities.  


Learning the language is another key factor affecting the quality of your stay in China.  Mandarin Chinese classes can be arranged with your host school.  Most of your fellow Chinese teachers are more than willing to provide you with cultural and language classes during your stay. You should expect to offer them a chance to practice English one-on-one with you in exchange. Being able to speak with the Chinese people in their own tongue allows you to understand their unique view of the world and enter their society more as a fellow resident than as an uninformed foreigner.


Although prices in China are rising, the cost of living still compares favorably to most industrialized countries. You will be amazed by how comfortably you can live and how strong your purchasing power is. You can afford a lifestyle you are unlikely to be enjoying at home: get a housekeeper, travel every month, enjoy frequent restaurant meals and nights on the town.


Eating local food and buying produce from the Chinese markets gives our English teachers an amazing insight into the Chinese diet and a glimpse at traditional Eastern medicine. It also leaves them with money in their pockets for massages and traveling!

- Milk (1L) : 10 RMB 

- Eggs (12) : 7 RMB 

- Carrots (1kg) : 6 RMB 

- Chicken breast (1kg) : 18 RMB 

- Rice (1kg) : 8 RMB 

- Bottle of water (1.5L) : 3 RMB 

- Bottle of Chinese beer (.5L) : 6 RMB


China has a wide range of regional cuisines and eating out is the best way to discover this variety. Chinese people eat out frequently and often entertain friends and colleagues in restaurants instead of having them into their homes. Whether you're enjoying a meal with friends, working out at the fitness club, or getting a massage, you'll find that leisure activities are often very affordable in China. 

- Three course mid-range restaurant dinner : 80 RMB 

- Quick restaurant meal of rice or noodles : 25 RMB 

- Large steamed dumplings, a common street food : 5 RMB 

- Housekeeper (2 hours) : 30 RMB 

- Massage (30 min) : 40 RMB 

- 1 month fitness club membership : 300 RMB 

- Movie ticket, international release : 65 RMB


China has excellent, yet inexpensive, public transport and even taxi rides are quite reasonably-priced, if sometimes harrowing. Chinese people often commute by bicycle, but this mode of transport is only for the bravest. 

- Metro ride : 3 RMB 

- Taxi rate per km : 7 RMB 

- 20-min taxi ride across town : 30 RMB 

- City bus : 2 RMB


The cost of having clothes tailor made is very affordable. Once you discover the joys of custom-fit clothing, it may be difficult to go back to the rack! 

- 1 tailor-made button down shirt : 100 RMB 

- 1 tailor-made skirt : 100 RMB 

- 1 tailor-made business suit : 300 RMB  and T-shirt : 50 RMB 

- 1 Pair of jeans : 200 RMB


To give you an idea of how an average volunteer English teacher in China spends his or her stipend, here is a sample monthly budget : 

- Gross Income (Stipend) : 5000-6000 RMB   

- Accommodation : Free     

- Utilities (Electricity, gas, water) : 250 RMB    

- Internet: Free 

- Phone : 150 RMB    

- Food : 800 RMB (In some schools meals are free)    

- Insurance : Free     

- Remaining Disposable Income : 3600-3800 RMB 


Note: China cost-of-living estimates are approximate averages for large Chinese cities. Prices do change and vary from location to location.

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