What is better: teaching in the Middle East or teaching in China?

We have been asking our followers on

The Middle East is a great place to teach and we have been placing teachers there for many years and will continue to do so, however teaching in China is often a more attractive option, sometimes offering better salaries and packages than the Middle East, yet teachers do not want to go there.

Fears Associated with Teaching in China

Some of the core issues or concerns mentioned with regard to living and teaching in China were:

  • difficulties with internet and social media access
  • living conditions
  • food quality
  • time difference compared to that of the Middle East
  • health and safety concerns
  • social scoring program
  • long flight to China from RSA

Teaching in China

We have spoken to many of our teachers in China and they have assured us that securing a VPN to allow for easy internet and social media access is a breeze. As for living conditions, we work with schools which strive to provide good, clean and safe living space for our teachers (accommodation is part of all of our teachers’ benefits).

Whilst Chinese food may not be for everyone, western food options are readily available and western supermarket chains and department stores such as Walmart make it easy for you to access more familiar goods and ingredients.

When it comes to health and safety, it is no more dangerous or risky than being anywhere else and certainly no more dangerous than South Africa. To the best of our knowledge, none of our teachers (mainstream or TEFL) have ever fallen seriously ill or been victims of any kind of crime in China. In fact, one of our teachers even went so far as to say that she has “never felt so safe”.

As for time difference and long flights, that just comes with the territory of travel. You shouldn’t have to make the long trip back and forth from RSA or the UK too often and once you have done it a few times, you will get used to it. The time difference is not too severe and we suggest figuring out some rough schedule with your family before you leave so you know when you are available to chat and catch up with them.

The rather controversial Chinese social scoring and merit system is only applicable to Chinese citizens and not to expats so you need not worry about that.

Many of our Facebook followers also raised concerns about the South Africans that got stranded in China.

And finally, just to provide you with a little extra knowledge and insight, we reached out to some of our teachers who have moved from positions in the UAE in the Middle East, to schools in China. This is what they had to say about their experiences in China compared to the Middle East:

  • Adapting to life in China is definitely more challenging than adapting to the Middle East. Life in the ME is way more Westernized than China, but I have found life here to be more rewarding. Although expat communities in the Middle East are bigger my experience is that having fewer fellow expats here has made me more open to learning more about the culture I am in.
  • Life in China is so comfortable. You can get anything you want delivered right to your doorstep!
  • The South African community in China is amazing. Anything that you might need, whether it be treats from home or advice from someone who knows where you are from, you will find it in abundance. Many Saffas import items from home and have their own little businesses. The entrepreneurial spirit of the Saffas in China is awesome!
  • International schools in China tend to pay more than those in the Middle East. Due to the lower cost of living in China, saving is so much easier than in the Middle East. Housing in most cities also cost less.
  • The climate and landscape really does make a difference. I never thought it would until I moved from the Middle East to China. China is home to some of the most beautiful places in the world, and the culture and its history is so ancient and captivating.
  • Many teachers make the move from SA to get away from a place where they feel students are disrespectful and they are overworked and underpaid. In my experience, students in China are motivated to learn, which was not my experience in the Middle East. Some of the things that happened to my friends teaching secondary in the Middle East were downright scary.
  • Accommodation here is cheaper than in the Middle East. You can easily afford living on your own.

We hope this article has helped answer your questions about China and that next time you think of teaching overseas or recommend it to a friend, we hope you will consider China!


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