The Top Cities To Teach ESL (TESOL) In China

Moving to China to teach ESL is a great idea if you are interested in a long-term stay. The benefits of taking one of these jobs are plenty as most programs offer free housing, flight reimbursement, and a generous salary.

As long as you have a college degree and are a native English speaker, you shouldn’t have a problem finding job opportunities in locations all over China.

Once you land a job, you can look forward to some massive career development, a bit of a culture shock and plenty of chances to travel around China and beyond.

If these benefits sound too good to resist, here are some of China’s top cities that you should consider for a job.

Teach ESL In Fuzhou


It’s a city of several million people but you probably never heard of it. Located in the southeastern province of Fujian, this city exemplifies the REAL China.

Honestly, it’s as real as it gets so if you want to be in a place where there are lots of western comforts and English speakers, this is not the city.

Fuzhou is where I took my first ESL gig, and I am so grateful that I chose this city. Being thrown into the midst of real Chinese life was hard at first, but as I adapted, I felt way more confident about my travel skills and my overall character.

Hardly anyone spoke English in this city, so I was forced to learn the language if I wanted to order food in a restaurant, find the bathroom, get home from the bar or buy a train ticket out of town.

I met tons of locals who had never seen a foreigner before and was able to make quick friends and get fast invites to tea ceremonies and parties. The school I worked at, York School of English, was a great company for newbies to the ESL world as well.

They had someone pick me up from the airport, provided a translator for doctor visits and post office runs and set everything up for me in regards to my working visa. They gave me a rent-free apartment and partial flight reimbursement too!

Teach ESL In Xiamen


This city is only a 30-minute train ride south from Fuzhou but offers quite a different experience. Xiamen is a fantastic balance between authentic China and western comforts.

The city is one of the cleanest and most visited by Chinese tourists as it has plenty of western style restaurants and a huge, green park running through it. In fact, many of my co-workers would take weekend trips here just to eat some of their favorite comfort foods and soak up the sun in the green areas.

Another great reason to teach in Xiamen is that it’s connected to a small, pedestrian-only island that has quite a few beaches so that you have somewhere soothing to relax on the weekends or your days off of work.

Teach ESL In Beijing

Photo Source: Travelercorner.com

Photo Source: Travelercorner.com

This city is one of China’s most well known and is perfect for the person who likes a bit of the hustle and bustle. It’s kind of like the NYC of China with a whole lot more history!

Finding a job in Beijing will most likely be pretty simple as tons of schools are looking for teachers. One of the benefits of working in this city is the amount of expats who live here. You will probably find a lot of English speaking friends and connections from all over the globe.

Plus, the city is so international that English will be quite widely spoken and there will be plenty of western restaurants and amenities. Beijing is full of culture and art, from both Western and Chinese influences, so you will never get bored here.

One thing to note is the pollution in the city. It’s no secret that the smog that engulfs Beijing can be dangerous and irritating so if you have asthma or other medical issues, you may want to consider teaching elsewhere.


Photo Source: Kuklybrac.com

Photo Source: Kuklybrac.com

Shanghai is the perfect place for teachers who can’t quite let go of the western influence that they are used to. There is plenty of Chinese cultures here, but it is not as evident as in Beijing. The city itself is beautiful; full of skyscrapers, luxury boutiques, and French restaurants. However, it can be easy to forget that you are actually in China.

There are plenty of English speakers to be found here, and the networking opportunities are pretty fantastic for anyone looking to bolster their career in both teaching and beyond. The night life is wild, and you will be sure to find something to fill every waking minute of your days. While Shanghai can be an exciting place to teach, keep in mind that it is quite tempting to spend your paycheck out on the town so make sure you have some self-control.

Teaching ESL in China is an excellent way to really understand the culture, pack in some more travel and boost your career. What do you have to lose?

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.