Published: 03 August, 2014  |  Last updated: 19 August, 2014

Teaching English in Wenzhou, China

Wenzhou, China


Report submitted on 03 August, 2014 by Chuck.

Teaching English in Wenzhou, China:

How can teachers find teaching jobs in Wenzhou, China?
Honestly I’m unsure how new comers find jobs here, the Internet I presume.
There are full and part time jobs available year round and these are spread by word of mouth through foreigner’s forums in a Smartphone APP called WeChat (Weixin in Chinese).

The main English teaching jobs available are:
Full time English language school positions, part time English language school positions, agencies (send teachers to different locations), teaching at kindergartens / pre-schools, teaching at state schools, teaching at colleges / universities, private teaching (not through a school, agency, etc.)

What are the minimum teaching requirements?
Sadly skin color and nationality are the biggest keys to getting a good job. This isn’t always true of the private English schools run by foreigners as they know how to appreciate a skilled teacher, but Chinese are a bit racist, preferring Caucasian native speakers.
First time teachers usually have no trouble finding a job with just a bachelor’s degree. TESOL is appreciated but not required. With it you may be able to negotiate a little higher salary.

What teaching requirements would you recommend?
Two+ years of experience (recommended, not required), TESOL, native speaker are going to get you into the best jobs, but don’t let it hold you back from trying.

What are the levels of payment?
Public Schools (Primary – Univ): 5,000-7,000RMB (approx. US$815 – US$1,140) per month.
Private Learning Centers: 7,000-9,000RMB (starting) (US$1,140 – US$1,500) per month, experienced teachers can negotiate upwards of 13,000-15,000RMB (US$2,150 – US$2,500) per month.
Private lessons: 150RMB (US$26) per student in a class of six to eight students. This is typically for one and a half hour classes.
One on one classes vary by teacher and situation, but usually in the 450-500RMB (US$75 – US$85) range for 1.5 hours.

How many teaching days a week is normal?
5 days per week.

How many face-to-face teaching hours a week is normal?
10-25 hours per week.

What is the normal arrangement for holidays?
Chinese holidays are awesome if you’re a public school teacher! Two months off in summer, one off in winter (negotiate to get paid for the winter month). Unfortunately many “three day holidays” actually take away weekend days. You’ll only actually get one day off. Some private learning centers don’t follow all of the holidays, or significantly reduce them.

What advice would you give to someone considering coming to Wenzhou, China to teach English?
1) I started in a private learning center which was a great place to start with no experience. They have all of the lesson plans to get you started and there are often several other foreign teachers willing to help walk you through the first few. After a few days/weeks it’s all routine.
2) If you teach at a public school you may not receive any direction at all. Schools may not supply a text book for you to teach from, they may not even set goals for you to achieve. This can be intimidating for the new teacher, but frankly having a blank sheet means you have tremendous freedom! Find a friendly Chinese teacher in the English department, ask them what chapter they’re working on and plan games around the same vocabulary they’re teaching. The Chinese teachers do all of the boring work, and seldom have time to introduce games, your job is typically to improve oral pronunciation. You don’t need to teach a lot of new vocabulary, just get them to open their mouths and use what they already know.
3) Learn how to shop on Chinese’s version of eBay is a resource for your favorite, hard to find foods and teaching materials (plastic fruits and veggies for example costs tremendously less than in USA)! I started out asking Chinese colleagues to help me buy things, then paying them in cash.

What are the positive aspects of teaching English in Wenzhou, China?
Decent pay, low cost of living (lifestyle depending), small city, easy to navigate with a great bus system. Subway system is scheduled to open in late 2017. Expats number less than 3,000 in the whole city so you’ll have the chance to make friends while living in predominately Chinese environment.
The countryside is amazing! You can reach it by bus (and ferry), or if you’re a cycling enthusiast you can go by yourself or join one of the many clubs. There are also hiking/camping/canyoning clubs, and I’ve started a kayaking club that plays in the local city canals, journeys into the mountains for easy whitewater trips and for the more adventurous there are waterfalls and tougher rivers.
The local people are usually very polite to foreigners!

What are the negative aspects for teaching English in Wenzhou, China?
Drivers follow a very selfish system of “me first” attitude. It’s dangerous to be a pedestrian, cyclist or even another driver. After seven years, this has grown on me (When in Rome…) and I’m nervous of ever getting behind the wheel again in the States.
Foreign food goods aren’t super available, but each year we have a little more. This year Carrefour opened a supermarket which helped tremendously but it is still far more expensive than shopping online.
Not many people speak English. Bus system used to have maps at every stop but those are being removed in favor of commuters using Google Maps and such (but Google is blocked on occasion).

What are some of the teaching challenges for English teachers teaching the local people in your area?
Beyond the normal challenges of ESL, I’d say racism is a problem. Throughout China other Asians aren’t treated fairly, “native” English speakers are the first choice but the schools often won’t consider hiring anyone that isn’t white.


Living in Wenzhou, China:

Are there any visa or other legal requirements to live in China?
In WZ the local Public Security Bureau is not yet requiring a letter from police at home of good standing. I heard in Beijing and some other large cities this is required. It wouldn’t hurt to go ahead and bring it with you, but it isn’t required as of summer 2014. You need a bachelor’s degree to get your Z-Visa (via a Chinese “Expert’s Certificate”).

What is the cost of living like in Wenzhou, China?
Depends tremendously on your lifestyle choices. Local food is cheap, western restaurants (there is a slowly growing variety) are more expensive. If you frequent bars, then you’ll spend more, just like everywhere else in the world. Bottled drinks like water, Coke, juices are very cheap, about a quarter of the costs of America. Housing is your largest expense and in Wenzhou it’s hopefully hitting a bubble. The price has nearly doubled from 1,800RMB (US$300) per month in 2008 to 3,400RMB (US$560) in 2014.

What are the usual accommodation arrangements and how can you find accommodation?
Schools typically provide housing. Private learning centers usually provide private housing but some put two teachers together (I’m not sure if that’s policy or the teacher’s sharing space in order to save money). Public schools usually have housing on campus and have strict rules regarding visitors.

Other than teaching, what positive aspects are there for living in Wenzhou, China?
FOOD! There is a growing variety of international restaurants. I’m personally burned out on Chinese food at the moment and am thankful for the growing variety. Carrefour just opened a supermarket here as well, but still cheaper to shop online on Taobao.
Locals are usually kind and friendly.
A lot of bars offer free drinks to foreigners.
Not being able to read Chinese means I’m not tempted by advertisements. Some friends and I were discussing this. We spend far less money on “things” because we aren’t tempted to.

Other than teaching, what negative aspects are there for living in Wenzhou, China?
Personally I’m thrilled here and can’t complain too much, but I’ll try to think of a few things my pals have mentioned.
Drivers are terribly selfish and don’t respect pedestrians or cyclists.
Hard to find some cooking supplies (over come by shopping online, but that’s all in Chinese and challenging)
A few teachers have experienced schools deceiving them on housing, paying them late, demanding extra work hours (these are in the minority of teacher experiences)

What advice would you give to someone considering coming to Wenzhou, China to live?
If you’re coming for your first English teaching job I suggest the private English training schools like WEBI, EF, Kings, etc. They already have teaching materials prepared and a training system to get your up to speed. Public schools may just give you a set of goals but nothing else. The big differences are the days off and work hours.
Get Weixin (WeChat) and make a lot of friends. It’s an app for your smartphone. QQ is almost equally important (for your PC) but less so now that WeChat has grown in popularity.
Ask the ladies in your new workplace to help you shop online. They love shopping anyway, you just hand them the cash and they’ll pay by credit card for you.
Don’t ask older people for directions, look for younger people or students. The police gave me a ride one time when I asked for directions.
Learn to speak 3-5 words of Wenzhou dialect; foreigner, your nationality and thanks. If you’ll use these people’s attitude toward you changes favorably every time! I got out of two driving citations because I understood the police say “foreigner” and replied that “I’m American”. In both cases the police beamed a big smile and waved me to go ahead, meanwhile the Chinese drivers all got tickets. My wife couldn’t believe my fortune.
Lastly, always carry a small packet of toilet paper in your pocket. Seriously! Most restrooms don’t have toilet paper.

What things do you miss most (other than family and friends) from your home country?
The convenience of favorite foods back home, my dogs, American “common sense” (it’s different in China), my old sports clubs (just not the same here).

What things would you recommend to new teachers in your area to bring with them from their home country (e.g. things that are difficult to get in your location)?
Deodorant. Hey, it’s hot and hard to find.

What do you think you will miss most when (or if) you leave Wenzhou, China?
My church and friends there. Having to get used to driving in a civilized manner again… (When in Rome, … so I learned to drive like the locals)

Additional comments:
I find that I can save money best by keeping a simple lifestyle and not hitting the bars often. Shopping for favorite foods hasn’t been as simple here as it is in Shanghai for example so there is less temptation to spend your cash. But that is now changing.

No, you don’t need to take your passport out with you every day. I keep a copy in my wallet but almost never need it. You will need your real passport at the bank and usually when you travel away from the city where you live.

If you leave China (this counts visiting Hong Kong) you must register again at the local police station when you return. You should register within 24 hours. Ask your school to help you if you aren’t sure where to go. This spring the police made several home visits to foreigners that are legally living here but had done some travel and not registered again when they returned. Two were fined 5,000 RMB (US$820)!


About Me and My Work:

My Name: Chuck

Nationality: American

Students I’ve taught in China: Toddlers (2-4 years), pre-school / kindergarten (4-6 years), junior high school (12-15 years), high school (15-18 years), adults, business.

Where I teach: I teach in a public junior middle school and I also teach privately at home. Previous experience I was teaching in WEBI a private English Training School. And this summer I’m currently teaching toddlers on a bartering deal. The school is letting my two little ones attend the school for free and I teach for free, saving me 5,600 RMB (US$920) a month. Teaching here for 7 years.

How I found my current jobs: Prayer, God did the rest.

My school facilities: The bad: I’m disappointed at the large number of students. Sometimes projectors won’t work properly. I’m the only foreigner and I miss a teamwork environment.
The good: Excellent Chinese colleagues that do their best to make me feel welcome. They’re knowledge of grammar rules surpasses my own. The school gives me time off to care for my family if I need it. I planned to leave after next year but they like me enough to offer me a pay raise and extended contract with minimal class schedule.
Unsure: They offered me no books or lesson plans. No one reviews my classes to offer any constructive criticism. This was a negative at first but over the years I’ve come to enjoy the freedom and flexibility. I’ve created a huge number of PPTs for lesson plans.

Teacher support at my school: None.



Teacher support at my school: Lesson observations.
Teacher support at my school: Lesson observations.

Do you teach English in China?

Tell us about your experiences – click here to submit your report about teaching English in China.

6 comments on “Teaching English in China – Wenzhou”

  1. Hey Chuck. Awesome article and insight, I have a questions what is the name and maybe contact details of the church you attended in Wenzhou? My fiancé and I are going there to teach and we are really trying to find an english church to join when we there and make some good friends.

  2. Iysha, ‘strive at’ should be ‘thrive in.’ I’m sure you’ll do just fine teaching English in China though because Chuck is apparently doing just fine and he said, ‘They’re knowledge of grammar rules’ where it should be, ‘Their knowledge of grammar rules’

    To think, I have no degrees, no teaching experience, and no TEFL/TESOL. Qualifications are often times largely overrated.

  3. Hi. My name is Iysha Parisien. I live in Canada Ontario.
    I am very interested in teaching in China. My only concern is that I don’t hold a degree. Is it possible to find a teaching job without a degree?
    I love children and I love to travel. I also love to learn new cultures. I think I would strive at a teaching job. For the last 17 years I’ve worked with the elderly and I think it’s time for something new.

    I thank you for your time.

    Best regards,

  4. Hi there,

    I’m looking at vacancies in China to teach English.
    I have a University Diploma as well as the TEFL/TESOL 150 hrs master certificate.

    I’m a South African Hindu.

    What I want to know is there anyone you know that I may contact(schools/friends) who are teaching/employ foreigners with just a Diploma and TEFL?

    I understand some places in China allow you to teach without a
    degree, as long as you have the TEFL/TESOL.

    Kind regards

  5. Police never stop us. No laws are yet established allowing or forbidding it. I try to encourage our club to wear or take a PFD/life vest with them but some still won’t. We have a club of about 60 active members that enjoy flat water kayaking in the city. 20 or so enjoy whitewater. Rainy season is late spring and summer. Typhoon season is June to October. In the winter there isn’t enough water in most rivers, no whitewater at all. So fall till spring were usually paddling in the city canals. The sea is just 30 minutes away but honestly I’ve seldom been. The beaches are trashy, the water muddy.

  6. Hi, I’m considering taking a job in Wenzhou, and I love kayaking. I noticed you mentioned kayaking in your post. How easy it is to do in Wenzhou? Do the police stop you frequently? Where do you store your kayak? Also, can you buy a kayak in Wenzhou? Thank you so much for your time and help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *