A Good Choice for First Time EFL Teachers in China

China – The Right Choice for First Time EFL Teachers

So, being TEFL certified, you have a strong theoretical background and a few hours of practical teaching behind you. Now the job search begins. I incessantly began comparing countries and each one’s pros and cons. The thing is, I could not make a decision based on information published in 2011. Times change and policies in countries regarding EFL with it. In an attempt to help those of you in a similar situation, I have compiled some handy information mainly regarding why China is a great choice when you are a first timer.

Why the Country You Choose Matters

As a first time EFL teacher, one of my main concerns was finding a school or institute that would be willing to spend enough time on training me in their various systems and make sure that I understand and am able to implement their specific approach to teaching. If you look at the different policies and approaches ESL/EFL countries have, you will find a big difference between what each country looks for and regards as a native English Speaker. There is a consensus between natives from USA, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. China, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, private schools in Korea and UAE consider South Africa as another native English speaking country, while Japan and Korea have strong objections against hiring South Africans. If you find that your country and company only hires USA citizens and you happen to be from New Zealand, tough luck, because they will most probably treat you as a second-class teacher.Nadia in China

Hence, the fact that you need to make a choice regarding which country you want to teach is a crucial decision that most teachers fail to properly research.

China’s Attitude Towards EFL Teachers

As one of the biggest producers of TEFL jobs, China has a big demand for native speaking English Teachers. The pressure to supply this demand makes for competitive salary packages, added benefits such as health insurance and travel insurance, housing benefits and school loans and much more. As a first-time teacher, you want to know that you will be offered a good deal that is secure and offers you a comfortable living in a foreign country. Packing up your bags to move to a completely different setting is a big sacrifice on your part and usually companies in China know this. In general, there is a high regard and respect towards foreign teachers here, so if you follow the right routes, such as making use of a good recruiter such as On the Mark Education and researching the schools and institutes in your own time, you will be sure to land a comfortable job with a good infrastructure. This is especially concerning training, mentor-ship programs and senior teacher who are available for guidance.

One of the goals of the Chinese government is to ensure that each child in the school system gains access to English conversation and language learning every day. This is quite the task to achieve. The market for recruiting and appointing qualified native English speakers is clearly still very strong.

It’s Who They Are That Matters Too

Apart from the fact that there is a high demand for native speakers, it is the Chinese culture that also makes a big impact on why this is a good choice for newbies in the EFL world. As a nation, they show understanding, honesty and are open to new experiences. My Chinese colleagues are extremely helpful and always try to correct me in the nicest ways possible. They are generally soft-spoken with foreigners (even though they can be INCREDIBLY LOUD AT TIMES) but that just comes with excitement and amazement at some event or such.

Other EFL teachers that I have met have previously taught in other places before coming to China. The thing that struck me was the behavior of employers in other Asian countries towards non-USA teachers. These teachers had to adapt an American accent and were told to be dishonest about their backgrounds. In China, while there is some preference towards UK and USA teachers, being an English teacher from neither of these countries does not matter as much as long as you are a qualified EFL teacher who has proven proficiency in English on a native level.

Therefore, if this has not made you want to pack your bags and head on over here, then I have failed miserably. That is okay though. I am in China and enjoying every second of it!

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Hear from Our Teacher in Thailand – Elysa Grotsky

Before Coming to Thailand

Why did you want to teach in Thailand?
I wanted to teach in Thailand to expand my cultural awareness, meet local Thai people and immerse myself into their culture, society, and ways of thinking to feel like part of their community. I wanted to learn about Thai customs, Buddhist ideas, and why people do things the way they do.  As a 24-year-old from Ontario, Canada with no prior serious commitments back home, jumping into this opportunity felt like the right thing to do at this point in my life. Teaching English in Bangkok, Thailand also provided me with a convenient hub to travel during my spare time (which I have a lot of!)

How was your experience finding a job through On the Mark Education?
My experience finding a job through On the Mark Education Consulting was smooth, helpful, and reliable. I was placed in an International Kindergarten in Bangkok and am working as a Nursery Teacher. I love my job more than I expected! Although overwhelmed when first browsing jobs in Thailand on my own, being connected to schools in Thailand by Mark made the application process a breeze.

What website did you use to book your ticket to Thailand?
I booked my one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand directly through China Airlines.

Teaching Life in Thailand

What was your first impression of Thailand upon arrival?
When I arrived in Bangkok as a first-timer, I immediately witnessed the hustle n’ bustle of the city (not really a surprise though). Driving from the airport to my hotel, I could see the humidity in the air. I was surprised to see that the insane heat didn’t stop people from wearing pants and thick sweaters! Bangkok seemed like a unique, hectic, exciting, overwhelming city with changing landscapes, and I was ready to call it my new home.

Street View in Thailand

What was the biggest culture shock about Thailand and/or in your current city?
The biggest culture shock about Thailand was that pedestrians do not have the right of way when crossing the street. The cars will just keep coming and you always have to look both ways for mopeds zooming past. In the first month of living in Bangkok, I quickly learned that it is useless to wait for the cars to stop and let you cross because they usually won’t. You just have to go. Stick your arm out to let drivers know you are crossing, take a deep breath, and just go.

What’s your favorite memory of life in Thailand?
It is difficult to pick just one favorite memory to date of life in Thailand. The most memorable experience that comes to mind is motor biking through the mountains of Chiang Mai. My boyfriend and I rented a moped for 200 Baht ($8 CAD) for the entire day. We decided to take a day trip and ride around the Samoeng Loop (great for beginner moped riders like us!) Along the way, we saw waterfalls, lush jungle, wild elephants, small villages, and a breathtakingly gorgeous view of the mountains.

What do you like most about working for your school?
What I enjoy most about teaching at my International Kindergarten is that it has given me a confidence that I never had before. I have always had a strong passion for helping young kids and watching them learn, progress, and develop. My job as a Nursery Teacher has challenged me in the best way possible, and allowed me to engage with, play with, and teach kids in a way that can influence them for life.

Dining in Thailand

What do you do when you have days off in Thailand?
When I have days off in Thailand, my boyfriend and I will usually take night trains or day buses so we can spend the weekend in a new place. We love exploring different countries, cities and provinces to see what they have to offer. Our constant urge to try new foods, meet new people, and see new sights has allowed us to learn and understand more about Thai culture. However, on the weekends, we stay in Bangkok we run errands such as paying our bills and cleaning our apartment, or relaxing by the saltwater pool.



What three things do you wish you would have known or brought with you before you arrived?
Learning beginner Thai (it would be much easier to connect with Thai locals and bargain at markets)
No need for power adapters if you’re from Canada/USA at least!
Bring a carry-on sized travel backpack for side trips (to avoid paying extra checking fees)

Did you have the opportunity to save any money? What percentage of your salary were you able to save?
I definitely have the opportunity to save some money each month, however I usually choose to spend the majority of my salary on travelling and other luxury items such as wine and cheese (which I have on a regular basis back home in Canada). My boyfriend and I also pay a bit more for an apartment with an on-site pool, gym, and rec room. If I wasn’t travelling, buying expensive comfort foods, and living in an apartment without amenities, I predict I could save around 60-70% of my salary each month.


Traveling and Exploring Your New Home

My Different Life

If I had to sum up my time in China with one word – It would be different! Different from the life I had experienced before; different from the life I had in Africa and different in every place you visit in such a vast country. The sheer size of China makes it almost inevitable that things will not be the same as you travel around its many provinces, but nothing could quite prepare me for the unique, strange and exciting things I would come across in my Chinese adventure.

I was based in Beijing throughout my year teaching English in China, I was lucky that I could travel within and outside the highly populated country extensively. Beijing is a city that is truly at odds with itself. Travelling into the old parts of the city (known locally as the Hutongs) you feel as if you have transported into a distant past. The almost impossibly narrow streets wind their way around the city like an ancient maze; but hidden amongst these cobbled paths are a range of trendy micro-breweries and coffee shops that reveal your first taste of how modernized and western China has allowed itself to be amongst its truly Eastern façade. The range of European designer stores and super cars driving around the CBD shows this ‘new’ China even more; but the past is unescapable here and a visit to the iconic Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and The Great Wall reminds you exactly where you are!Disneyland Hong Kong

One of the first places I visited upon reaching Beijing was of course, The Great Wall of China. There are many different places within Beijing you can go to to experience the Great Wall… I say experience because its not just a place for iconic selfies which appeal to modern tourists but also to actually climb and stop at intervals to enjoy the rich views which consist of nature at its best…trees, hills, sunrises and sunsets. Many tourists don’t know of the various “Great Wall” options and opt to visit the insanely busy “Badaling”; I visited the more beautiful (scenically) and quieter “Mutianyu”.

The other mega city in mainland China is Shanghai, another place that shows the differing sides of China. While Beijing might be the political capital of China; Shanghai is definitely the fashion, social and modern cultural hub. The way the Bund River winds through the city with its unique architecture on either side, is reminiscent of any modern European city. A walk down the riverbank is enough for you to forget exactly which country you are in; though you are soon reminded as soon as you get a whiff of the street markets serving traditional Chinese street food; which do consist of body parts in animals you would rather forget existed, citywide. A 20 minute bullet train ride took me to a smaller, quieter part of China called Suzhou. I woke up to the beautiful serene sight of Jinji lake and spent my days walking around, visiting parks and temples and taking boat rides in Jinji lake exploring other parts of the land and forests. I spent my nights visiting bars and restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed this solo trip.

My Amazing Hong Kong Trip

Disneyland Resort Hong Kong

Taking a short trip of the mainland brings you to Hong Kong and Macau which I enjoyed with a guy I was dating at the time. It is the playground of the rich and hopeful souls trying their luck on the tables of Las Vegas style Casino that line the main strip. While Macau is a place to chance your luck; Hong Kong is a place to celebrate it. It is a spectacular sight to see some of the most powerful financial institutions and hotels in the world line up against the backdrop of the night’s sky. A short trip across the harbor there is an absolute must for anybody traveling to this part of the world.

During my time in China I have had battles with taxi drivers; difficulties with ordering the simplest of items and times. Not one to give up though, I learnt how to navigate my way through the city and jump into taxis and learn the very basic words and phrases to get around and order food!  Being able to order Pizza to my home was a triumphant moment for me!I have also had a unique insight into real Chinese life. I got to know the people and its culture and the many delights it has to offer; this includes their love for “hello kitty”, selfies and occasionally eating a pigs brain in their traditional dish called “Hotpot”. My experience in China is something I will treasure and something I will always take with me in my adventures to come. Apply English teaching jobs

Hear from Our Teacher in Thailand – Ayla Miller

Before Coming to Thailand

Why did you want to teach in Thailand?
I left my job in New Zealand to travel and my money didn’t last as long as I hoped. I wasn’t ready to go home yet so I started looking for teaching jobs as I had completed a TEFL course before I left. Thailand was a nice central place to base myself as I wanted to travel around South East Asia when my contract was up. Plus it’s a beautiful country with many natural attractions.

How was your experience finding a job through On the Mark Education?
The experience with On the Mark was wonderful. I looked at a few other agencies but On the Mark replied to my emails almost immediately and the communication was professional and friendly.

What website did you use to book your ticket to Thailand?
I booked my tickets with AirAsia.

Teaching Life in Thailand

What was your first impression of Thailand upon arrival?
First impressions of Thailand was it was super hot. Leaving the airport was like walking into a giant hair dryer but after a while your body adjusts. I went straight to Khao San Road and it was just as eclectic as I had hoped. So many things to see and do. The food was incredibly cheap and the city never seemed to sleep. It was exactly as I had hoped!

riding scooter in Thailand

What was the biggest culture shock about Thailand and/or in your current city?
The biggest culture shock was the lack of English spoken in my school. It was very hard to communicate with the teachers and students at first. Another trivial thing we noticed was that when eating out, the food never arrives at the same time.  Also the usual driving rules do not apply here!

What’s your favorite memory of life in Thailand?
My favorite memory will be playing with my students after school whilst they were waiting for their parents to pick them up. I got to take off my teacher hat and just have fun with them. It really helped build closer relationships and made them try harder in class.

What do you like most about working for your school?
My school was really professional and always tried to make sure the students were happy and having fun. They also provided me with a free and delicious lunch everyday. My head teacher would also always leave snacks on my desk in between my classes which was always a really sweet surprise.

My colleagues in Thailand

What three things do you wish you would have known or brought with you before you arrived?
I wish I could have brought more gifts from New Zealand to give to my teachers when I left. I also wish I brought a laptop as it wasn’t always possible to use the computer at school and I wish I had some English picture books because the school only had Thai story books.

Did you have the opportunity to save any money? What percentage of your salary were you able to save?
Yes, I lived on one and a half months salary the whole 4 months so I saved 2 1/2 months wages. That wasn’t even trying! The food is so cheap and there isn’t much to spend your money on in rural Thailand. I even rented a scooter for all 4 months and went on some short adventures in the countryside. Petrol is so cheap this is definitely a great way of seeing whats around.