Posts tagged Beijing
This is the first post in a two-part series inspired by questions and advice requests I’ve received from Americans who are seriously considering moving to China to teach English. This post is on standard qualifications and compensation. The next will be on how to be an effective English teacher in China and what common classroom challenges to expect.
What’s my background in this area? I spent my second of two consecutive years in China teaching in Beijing Geely University’s Foreign Languages College and at a branch of New Oriental Elite Kids. Geely University is an expensive, pretty new but large university on the rural outskirts of Beijing for students who did not get into prestigious public universities. New Oriental Elite Kids is an expensive academy for students aged 4-18 to take small classes and private lessons outside of their regular schooling. New Oriental is an international language education chain famous within China. I took these two jobs to provide me with income, stability and an extra year of Beijing life while I got my public relations career together.
A lot of this series’ content may sound negative because I want to warn of China’s high percentage of sketchy English education employers and attitudes toward work and education that most Americans I know disagree with. That said, I loved living in Beijing, my teaching memories from there are mostly positive, and I endorse teaching English through a good employer as a means to first-hand China access. Please note that China varies quite a bit by region and city, so my experience in Beijing may not directly translate to what you can expect in other cities. China’s cost of living and inflation are also increasing rapidly, so my advice from nearly a year ago may be out of date.
First, I’d like to point out a few great online resources:
- U.S. Embassy guide to teaching English in China
- Popular, useful English-language sites specific to Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu: The Beijinger, Shanghaiist, GoChengdoo
- My Tips for Students on Finding Post-Grad Jobs Abroad series
- My blog’s China category
- For my Facebook friends, my notes from June 2008 to June 2010
The following are typical qualifications of English teachers at full-time, reliable employers in Beijing:
- Citizen of an English-speaking country
- Bachelor’s degree, not in a major related to teaching or Chinese
- Passport and diploma copies confirming the above two
- No Chinese language ability
- 0-1 years teaching experience, including tutoring
- Usually you must be from the United States or United Kingdom and be Caucasian due to accent and racial discrimination. However, Geely University hires non-Caucasian teachers.
- Geely University also hires teachers who are not from English-speaking countries but are completely fluent in English through a lifetime in English-language immersion education. This is the exception, though.
This is the sort of compensation and assistance you could expect or demand with the above qualifications in June 2010 in Beijing:
- A work (Z) visa and foreign expert’s certificate, arranged but not paid for by your employer
- An English-speaking point person at your employer to heavily assist you with navigating initial immigration requirements
- Very basic health insurance to cover major accidents or injuries
- At a university, a free or nearly free on-campus apartment to yourself with subsidized utilities
- At a school other than an academy, two-month long vacations in summer and winter that both pay partial salary, (half in my case, which was paid at the end of the break)
- University working hours: 20 class hours per week during weekdays plus preparation and meetings outside of class
- Academy working hours: 30-40 class hours per week on evenings and weekends plus preparation outside of class and minimal meetings
- Public university pay before taxes: 3,000 RMB per month
- Private university: 7,000 RMB per month
- Academy (no housing included): 11,000 RMB per month or 150 RMB per hour
You should expect lower salaries and levels of competition for jobs outside of Shanghai and Beijing.
Keep in mind when negotiating that in June 2010, in order to have housing, healthcare, and entertainment comparable to what many 22-year-olds with college degrees experience in the U.S., you would have to make at least 9,000 RMB per month or free housing plus 7,000 per month.
Don’t accept a promise to get you a work visa after you enter China. This is difficult to impossible to do within the country. It will also severely limit your further employment options in China if you arrive in the country without one. Also, you should consider it a job offer red flag if an employer offers to drastically increase your pay after a set period of time. This is standard for sketchy jobs that don’t last long but not standard for work in China in general.
You can negotiate better compensation than what I suggested above if you have a certificate or major in teaching, especially in teaching English as a foreign or second language; experience teaching English as a foreign language in a classroom; or a degree higher than a bachelor’s. I don’t think my ability to speak Chinese to my students was as much of an advantage as these other qualifications, but it might have helped in landing me work.
Do you have any questions? For those who have taught English in China and have anything to add, let me know in the comments.
This post should be about how much fun I had at China’s first gay beauty pageant, Mr. Gay China. I should have embedded a slideshow, video, or both of performances as well as provided links to reviews in media outlets around the world. Instead, this post is about how police shut down the event before it even started.
It snowed about a foot or two in Beijing yesterday, a rare occurrence in a city with such dry winters. I happened to be walking distance from the Bird’s Nest for a temporary weekend job, so I strolled on over to take a few pictures.
After living in Beijing during every season but spring, I’m never complaining about weather on the United States’s northwest coast ever again. Okay, maybe I’ll complain if the occasional blizzard shuts down a major airport, but I’ll take Seattle’s worst season over Beijing’s any day. It’s not that Beijing’s weather is horrible, but Seattle’s weather is pretty good on a worldwide scale.
Carsick Cars was one of three great bands I saw Saturday night at 愚共移山Yugong YiShan, Beijing’s self-proclaimed best live music venue. I love this band because members lack the glamour of many live performers; they are simply really good musicians.
This past Sunday, I finally made it to the exhibition “Christian Dior and Chinese Artists” at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing’s 798. I had heard it was great but was skeptical. Was this exhibition going to be one big, classless advertisement for Dior? Fashion has an obvious connection to art made public by many museums, so how was this unique?
Sometimes I believe in the concept in Fight Club that you have to “hit rock bottom” in order to truly appreciate life. I didn’t hit rock bottom this weekend, but I came pretty close. Three days ago, I was pretty sure I’d be on a plane to Seattle by now. Now, I know I can eventually renew my visa and stay in the country. The events I’ve written about in this post are the icing on the cake, and the reason I don’t want to leave Beijing anytime soon. Times like this make me so happy I happened upon this city as my post-graduation home.
Friday night, I tutored my awesome Korean sibling students for two hours, as I do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I taught the 16-year-old one of my favorite songs, “The Best of Me” by The Starting Line. Right after tutoring, I met up with my friend Chris, another expat from the Pacific Northwest. We had delicious, authentic pizza with almost authentic Caesar salad and this Chinese-Italian shrimp thing, oh, and my first draft beer ever. (For those of you gasping, I’m much more of a cocktail person.)
Saturday afternoon and early evening my work hosted our most successful exhibition opening since I’ve been here. The show looks excellent and we had a great turnout, both in terms of numbers and prestige. It was the 2008 Pierre Huber Creation Prize Nomination Exhibition. This year, all of the nominees were 2008 graduates of the China Academy of Art New Media Department. Pierre Huber himself attended the opening and congratulated us on the visual appeal of the show, and we announced the prize winner and runner-ups at the opening. I found out who they were before almost anyone else because I helped our director translate “first prize” and “runner-up.” Saturday night, my co-gallery assistant and I could not find the celebration dinner that the rest of our coworkers and VIPs attended, so we had dinner together right by where I live. The food was delicious, and I had fun chatting with him because he’s one of my favorite coworkers.
Sunday, one of my other coworkers helped me clear most of the hurdles to resolving my visa crisis. I basically get to chill out while the public security bureau is closed for the next seven days for a national holiday. Sunday night, my roommate’s work in 798 hosted five hours of rock concerts to kick off the 798 Art Festival. It was a blast, and I ate hot pot with a few friends after.
Many people discuss how China, especially in its major cities, is changing rapidly. I thought I’d illustrate this by highlighting some of changes I’ve observed between Beijing when I was a student living here three years ago and now:
Three years ago, street food vendors were prevalent all over the city, especially near universities and tourist attractions. They are pretty much gone by now.
When I was a student here, most restaurants brought a complimentary house tea with every meal the same way American restaurants bring water. Now, I have yet to visit a restaurant that does this.
I see less blatant poverty now. I still find beggars near clubs at night, but that’s about it.
It could just be where I spend my time, but Beijing seems more diverse in terms of nationality. When I was a student, all the international students at my university were from France, the United States, or a variety of Asian countries. I now know students from three different African countries who are studying at my old school, and it’s pretty common for me to meet Europeans from outside France.
Probably the most noticeable changes have been in transportation infrastructure. When I was a student here, Beijing had three subway lines. When I moved here in late June, it had four. By the Olympic Opening Ceremony, this number had escalated to its current seven. Subways have mandatory x-ray security checkpoints for anyone carrying a bag, which I hear will disappear soon now that the Olympics are over.
Subways and buses in Beijing talk a lot, announcing every stop along with general riding information. When I was a student, only subways spoke both Mandarin and English; now most buses and taxis as well as many major street signs are also bilingual.
Subways and buses are much less crowded now than when I was a student. The only times I’ve been in sardine-like subway cars since moving back were during morning rush hour and on a national holiday. More often than not, I’m able to sit on a bus now.
Public transportation ticketing has changed. When I was a student here, you literally bought your bus or subway ticket from a person who gave you a slip of paper. At the subway station, I would buy my ticket at the window, then hand it to a different person immediately before walking down stairs to the train. Now, all subways have magnetic tickets that can hold various amounts of fare, much like passes in the United States. You can use the same passes on the bus. Using a magnetic pass on the bus means one ride costs two fifths of what paying cash does. Subways are also cheaper than when I was here. when I was a student, a single ticket was four Chinese dollars, and now it’s two.
No taxis had seat belts in their back seats when I was here before. Now, most still don’t have seat belts, but some do. A funny/terrifying story related to this: One of my friends told me that shortly after seat belts began showing up in taxis, when her friend reached to put on one, the taxi driver literally said, “You don’t need it.”
Have you personally witnessed transformation in Beijing or China? Please share!
My life in Beijing has not been the same since a Chinese person stabbed an American to death at the Drum Tower before committing suicide by jumping off it. It’s in a part of town I visit frequently. My favorite bar street and 饺子 [jiaozi] restaurant as well as one of my favorite art companies are all located within a ten-minute walk of the tourist attraction.
The first time I have seen the Drum Tower since the tragedy was Friday. I was stuck in a taxi during a major Friday-night traffic jam; the Drum Tower is close to quite possibly Beijing’s most overrated bar street, (not the better bar street I mentioned as my favorite, also in the area). I knew seeing the tower would disturb me; I had not predicted it would be emotional torture. I consciously knew that there was no greater chance I would be killed there than anywhere else in Beijing; the BBC reported common knowledge that murder, especially against foreigners, is extremely rare. However, I couldn’t fight the anxiety and sadness seeing the tower evoked simply because someone from my home country had been killed there.
Before tragedy struck at the Drum Tower, it was just another tourist destination in Beijing. Now it is a prominent reminder of the violent potention of nationalism and racism, and how my physical appearance makes me vulnerable in the place I’m making my post-graduate home.