7 Challenges of Working in China as A Foreign Teacher

challenges teaching in China

Teaching English in China can be rewarding, but there are also quite a few challenges you might face. After all, you will be living in a totally new country where you don’t know anyone at first. Every day, there might be several new things that you have to get used to.

Remember that what doesn’t kill you make you a stronger person?

Below are 7 challenges you might face teaching in China as a foreigner, and make you a stronger person:

Challenge 1. Language Barrier 

Though you don’t need to speak Chinese in order to live and teach in China, but knowing part of the language can tremendously help. A big part of your life there is trying to communicate with the people around you, who happen to speak a different language from yours. 

At the same time, knowing their language can be quite helpful when you try to teach them English. If you know the same word in their language, you will have a much easier time of teaching them your language!  

Challenge 2. Class Sizes

class size teaching in Chian

The classroom sizes are much bigger than what you’ve been used to. How big the class size could be?

Well, anywhere between 35 to 60 (for public schools). That’s two or three times as many students you are used to having for a single class.

Can you imagine that?

This isn’t a major issue, except you will need to learn all their names and try to give them each the attention and devotion that they deserve. The work suddenly adds up when, sometimes, you might have multiple classes!

It is a challenge but also an opportunity for you to shine. (Check out some classroom tips to help you get started.)

Challenge 3. Pronunciation of the English Words

There’s a predominant preference of American accent in China’s English education environment.

Many of the schools prefer that their teachers to have a standard English accent. If your accent is a little different, you may find it more difficult to adjust.

This isn’t to say that you will not be appreciated or be successful, but it may take you a little longer than others.

Challenge 4. Relationships Within the Workplace

workplace relationship teaching in China

You may expect to make ne

w friends with the other teachers right away when you arrive China, but that’s far from the truth. 

The difference between your culture and the culture of those who work there may end up posing a few challenges you were not expecting.

The best strategy here, is to stay open-minded and friendly to people around you, they will also show trust and respect in return.  

Challenge 5. Food Adventure 

Food could be an adventurous journey in China. It’s not the type of Chinese food that you are used to eating back home.

While you may be able to find a few fast food restaurants that serve your favourites, it’s better to venture out and try some new foods since you are here. I’d recommend starting from sweet and sour pork, wontons, dumplings, chow mein, spring rolls, and then move up your level to hot pot!

Guaranteed that you will go home with at least one new favourite dish!

Challenge 6. Little Organisation

In a perfect world, you would have your schedule ironed out way in advance. In China, everything is done differently.

Changes are expected quite often in Chinese culture

In some language training centres, you may need to plan a new lesson in less than twenty-four hours! This could be a big challenge for many first-time ESL teachers. 

If you need more structures and rules, make sure you communicate with your boss or colleagues. Try to speak out so that your needs for stability and strict schedule are met.

Apart from that, just go with the flow and enjoy your class and free time!

Challenge 7. Many Children are Coddled

kids in China are spoiled

For decades, the country of China enforced a one child per family rule, and while parents can have two children now, many are not. The children that have no siblings have been coddled and spoiled since they were born, and not just by their parents.

These children can be quite respectful in general, but they will also want to get their own every now and then. 

How can you manage your class effectively? On your first ever day, set boundaries for all your students and stick with them, so that you do not need to deal with too many tantrums as the school year goes on.

The kids will respect and be more disciplined if you are serious about it.  

Ready For the Challenges? 

These seven challenges might seem difficult as you are reading them, but they are all challenges that can help strengthen yourself both professionally and personally.  

You may hit a few bumps in the road when you first arrive in China, but as long as you keep an open mind and remember what drives you in the first place (it could be to help as many people learn English as possible, or to step outside of your comfort zone to improve your own capabilities), it will be a journey worthwhile!

You might also be interested in:

An expat’s point of view: trying to understand Chinese culture and language

Things you don’t know about Chinese work culture

14 Interesting Chinese Culture Facts 

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