Teach Abroad

The Best Cities in China to Teach English

Photo of Richelle Gamlam
Richelle Gamlam
Topic Expert

Richelle has been living, working, and teaching in China for the last four years, from high school English teacher to college admissions consultant.

China is a massive country full of diverse culture, unique dialects and varying teaching and living conditions. While most teachers typically gravitate towards Beijing and Shanghai, there are so many other cities to choose from.

A vast country full of bustling cities, serene mountains, and small villages, China is a fantastic place to teach abroad.

The process of selecting a place to live can be a bit overwhelming, especially when agreeing to move for a year or more! To make your decision a bit easier, we at Go Overseas have come up with a list of the best cities in China to teach English.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Hangzhou
Photo credit: Alession Lin via Unsplash
  • Best For: History and culture
  • Population: 8 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Average Salary: 8000 - 12000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: West Lake fish and braised pork belly
  • What to See: Hangzhou Lake and tea plantations

Looking to live and work in a beautiful, serene city full of history and culture? Then Hangzhou is the place for you. An hour outside bustling Shanghai, Hangzhou is the perfect mix of old and new.

Spend your free time not teaching walking around Hangzhou Lake, stop by a traditional teahouse, or take your Chinese coworkers to KTV and spend the evening belting out pop songs.

Surrounded by other big cities like Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing, you’ll be able to easily explore much of China on your weekend breaks. Famed as the most beautiful place in the world by Marco Polo, you’ll be the envy of many Chinese and foreign friends by calling this city home

Full of local schools, universities, and ESL academies, you’ll have no problem finding a job in this city either.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Chengdu
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  • Best For: Foodies and panda lovers
  • Population: 14 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Sichuan dialect
  • Average Salary: 6000 - 8000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Mapuo dofu (spicy soft tofu), spicy Sichuan fish, and hot pot
  • What to See: Chengdu Panda Reserve and Leshan stone Buddha

Do you have an intense love of spicy food? Are you a little obsessed with pandas? Consider teaching English in Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu.

With an entire cuisine named after the province, Sichuan is home to some of the best food in China. It's also a small sleepy city with a vibrant expat community, and an affordable quality of life. For English teachers who want to live in and explore Chinese culture away from the bustling east cost metropolis cities, Chengdu is an ideal spot.

Plus, it's home to Chengdu’s Panda Reserve, the only place in the world known for successfully breeding pandas every year, so get ready to show off some Pandas to visiting friends and family members!


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Guilin
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  • Best For: Outdoors enthusiasts and adventurers
  • Population: 5 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese
  • Average Salary: 8000 - 12000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Yangshuo beer fish and Guilin rice noodles
  • What to See: Elephant Trunk Hill, Rice Terraces, and Li River

Do you love to hike and enjoy the outdoors? Do you want to make sure you live and teach in a city where you can be active and explore nature on the weekends? Then Guilin, a city in Guangxi province, may be the match for you.

A beautiful city situated on the Li River, Guilin is a few hours from China’s famous rice terrace fields, as well as many mountains and scenic lookouts. Take an hour long bus ride to Yangshuo where you can go mountain biking, swim in a mud cave, or party in the many expat bars.

As for jobs, you're sure to find one -- even if the choices aren't as numerous or varied as those in bigger cities. In the end, Guilin is the perfect mix of city and adventure; a city where you can spend your weekdays in the classroom and your weekends exploring the great outdoors.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Harbin
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  • Best For: Festivals and international culture
  • Population: 10 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Average Salary: 5000 - 8000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Russian cuisine and candy coated hawthorns
  • What to See: Ice and Snow Festival, Siberian Tiger Park, and St. Sofia church

Looking to live in an off-the-beaten-path city with a culture all its own? If you can brave the frigid winters, Harbin might be the perfect fit. Famed for its Snow and Ice Festival in the winter and its beer festival in the summer, there’s always something to do.

Once a part of Russia, Harbin is now home to a mix of Chinese and Russian culture and has a different feel than the rest of China. While teaching here, you can wander cobblestone streets and visit old cathedrals, then warm up with Russian sausage and a bowl of borscht.

With northeastern China serving as the standard for Mandarin Chinese, you’ll also have no problem learning the language here -- which is good considering locals speak little to no English.

With a small expat community, it will be easy to make foreign friends, and there are plenty of opportunities to find a job at an ESL academy (private language school) or as an oral English teacher at a local elementary school.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Beijing
Photo credit: Vincent Guth via Unsplash
  • Best For: Politics, language, and ancient history
  • Population: 20 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese
  • Average Salary: 10000 - 16000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Baozi (buns), jiaozi (dumplings), and peaking duck
  • What to See: The Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Forbidden City, Summer palace, Tiananmen Square and much more!

Do you love learning about international politics? Are you a huge history buff? Do you dream of learning Chinese? Then you belong in Beijing! A giant cosmopolitan city, and the seat of power in China, Beijing is a place no traveler in China can miss -- and an even more fascinating city to put your bags down in and live.

Beijing is also the standard for Mandarin Chinese, making it an ideal location to learn Chinese. Some schools in the area even offer Chinese classes as part of your teacher package, make sure to ask for that.

In your free time, spend your weekends hiking the Great Wall, wandering the Summer Palace, or riding a bike through Beijing’s hutong neighborhoods.

Oh, and the jobs? As one of China's largest cities, there are jobs of every variety. From large crams schools that will accept teachers with little to no experience, to smaller private academies, public schools, or language schools specializing in business English, you're sure to find a job that's a great fit for you and your qualifications.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Nanjing
Photo credit: Jennifer Chen via Unsplash
  • Best For: Recent history and culture
  • Population: 7 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Nanjing dialect
  • Average Salary: 8000 - 12000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Hairy crab, and tangbao (meaty soup dumplings)
  • What to See: Yuejiang tower, Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, and Presidential Palace

As China’s “Southern Capital”, Nanjing is packed with history and Chinese culture -- so much so that it's known as a city of culture. A beautiful, pleasant, and relatively small city just north of Shanghai, you're bound to fall in love with China while wandering around Xuanwu lake or exploring the Presidential Palace.

When not teaching, spend your afternoons studying Chinese or learning to play mahjong with the retired locals in one of Nanjing’s many parks.

Generally speaking, Nanjing has fewer jobs than Shanghai, but still enough demand for English teachers that you'll find a position quickly. A lower cost of living means you'll make that teacher salary go further as well.

For those who want to teach in a city, but without the bustle and crowds of Beijing and Shanghai, the old southern capital Nanjing may be the perfect place for you.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Shanghai
Photo credit: Zhang Kaiyv via Unsplash
  • Best For: Big city lovers
  • Population: 23 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Shanghainese
  • Average Salary: 10000 - 16000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), and shenjianbao (fried soup dumplings)
  • What to See: The Bund, Financial District, and Yu Gardens

A fast-paced cosmopolitan city with people from all over the world, Shanghai can be overwhelming for some, but just the right fit for others. After all, there's a reason why Shanghai, one of China's most international cities, is popular among expats and teachers alike.

In Shanghai, you can maintain an urban lifestyle. Grab a drink at a bar in the French Concession, or spend your evening wandering the Bund, admiring the view of the towering Financial Center sky rises. Have your fill of Chinese and Western cuisine, then commute home on one of the largest subway systems in the world (you know, once you get the hang of it!)

Naturally, with an internationally-minded population comes opportunities to teach English. Especially for teachers interested in teaching adults or business English, Shanghai is packed with teaching jobs and career opportunities.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Shenzhen
Photo credit: Anton Strogonoff via Unsplash
  • Best For: Warm weather, shopping
  • Population: 14 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese
  • Average Salary: 10000 - 14000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Fried spring chicken, and braised pork with soy sauce
  • What to See: OCT Art and Design Gallery, and Dongmen Shopping District

Do you have things to do, places to go and people to see? Do you dream of bright lights, a big city, and a busy schedule? Do the cold winters of Harbin make you cringe? Then Shenzhen, a city nestled between Guangzhou and Hong Kong, might be your match.

An extremely new city by Chinese standards, Shenzhen is a major economic center a short subway or ferry ride away from Hong Kong. Warm in the winter and hot in the summer, Shenzhen is ideal for those of you who shy away from the cold. Better yet, it's full of restaurants, bars, shopping, and KTV, so you’ll never run out of things to do.

.... Or opportunities for work. Shenzhen is home to numerous international schools, ESL academies, and kindergartens, so you'll have a great variety of options when you start your job hunt here. You'll also have no problem meeting other likeminded expats.


The Best Cities in China to Teach English: Kunming
Photo credit: Athena Lam via Unsplash
  • Best For: Non-mainstream Chinese culture
  • Population: 6 million
  • Language: Mandarin Chinese, many local minority dialects
  • Average Salary: 5000 - 8000 RMB/month
  • Famous Foods: Steaming pot chicken, Over the Bridge noodles
  • What to See: Stone Forest, Green Lake

Are you curious about China’s diversity and non-mainstream culture? Do you see yourself in a small city surrounded by China’s countryside? China’s “Spring City”, Kunming, is for you!

With near perfect weather and little pollution, Kunming is the only city in Yunnan province. While teaching here, you can spend your weekends biking around Green Lake, hiking the Stone Forest, or slurping Over the Bridge noodles.

On breaks, head outside the city to hike Tiger Leaping Gorge, or watching a Lijiang minority culture performance. A year in Kunming will give you insight into aspects of Chinese culture and diversity unknown to teachers who choose to work in larger cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Furthermore, there's a small, close-knit expat community, and tons of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture. Considering this, schools and students will be elated to have you -- a native speaking foreigner -- teaching English.

Which City is Right for You?

The first step in choosing where to teach in China is to decide what kind of setting you’re looking for.

Would you like a big city, small city or countryside location? Big cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Shenzhen are packed with teaching jobs, and you’ll be able to command a high salary. If you’re looking for a fast-paced environment, a large expat community and a wealth of jobs and opportunities, a big city might be for you.

Smaller cities like Nanjing, Hangzhou and Chengdu have a slower-paced more immersive environment. With smaller, tight-knit expat communities, it’s easy to have friends from China and abroad. While there are less jobs to choose from, there’s also less competition. This can lead to a more relaxed and lenient work environment, as well as a closer bond between teachers and their host schools.

Smaller cities like Nanjing, Hangzhou and Chengdu have a slower-paced more immersive environment.

You may also want to consider getting off the beaten path, living in a city your friends back home have never heard of. Consider Kunming in Yunnan, or Harbin, up near Russia. You’ll have an incredible and unique experience, and you'll be able to have your first pick of the teaching jobs in those cities. Locals will also be extremely excited to have you, and will really take the time to introduce you to Chinese culture and the unique aspects of the area you’re in.

Finally, you can always find a job in the Chinese countryside, working for a local school. While your salary may not be high, you’ll have an extremely immersive experience. It may be more difficult to find a teaching job outside of the city, but there are plenty of programs like the Peace Corps and Teach for China that will place you in communities that really need your skills. Your school may not have ever had a foreign teacher before.

Enjoy China, Wherever You Go

A vast country full of bustling cities, serene mountains, and small villages, China is a fantastic place to teach abroad. Best yet, it has something for everyone -- whether you want the energy of Shanghai or a more laid back and serene town in the countryside.

No matter where you go, you'll explore a new and exciting culture, try exotic foods, and get a chance to learn one of the world’s most in-demand languages. From Harbin to Kunming, teaching in China will be the experience of a lifetime.