5 Best Cities in China for ESL Teachers – David Smith

Want to travel to China to teach English? Find out why working in these Chinese cities will be so awesome!

Author: David Smith from Internships China

So, it is likely that you are either looking to become an ESL teacher in China soon or maybe you have already made the decision…

And, I don’t blame you.

First, teaching in China will likely be the most fulfilling teaching experience of your life. Second, it will also likely be one of the most fulfilling personal experiences of your life.

Traveling to another country to teach opens your eyes to so many different things – not just in the classroom but in the environment and culture you are submerged in, as well. The children are so eager to learn and excited to see you, they enjoy having fun in class with you, and their parents have a high sense of appreciation and respect for you. What more could you ask for?

And, then, you get to experience an entirely new cuisine, new views, new pastimes, and even make new friends along the way. Deciding to teach in China is one of the best career and life decisions you could possibly make, in my opinion. So, now that you are already keen on the idea, it is time to start considering which cities you might want to teach in.

There are several great options, which can make this a difficult decision. But, here are a few of the best:


If you are looking for a mixture of both the big city and the beauty of nature in China, you might want to consider teaching in Chengdu. As the largest city in Western China, it hosts around 7.4 million people. While it is a large city, it is still surrounded by an immense amount of nature and this area is actually much slower than the hustle and bustle you will find in Shanghai. The perfect mixture between city life and nature is a great way to embrace the large country you have just arrived in, but still have access to that time for relaxation that you will crave. The teaching salary is lower compared to other large cities, but the cost of living is also much lower. And, some would even argue that the quality of life in this location is much better. You are sure to enjoy a vibrant ex-pat community, great food, and of course, you can’t forget the largest Panda reserve in the world which sits just outside of the city.


Now, if the thought of the big city intrigued you and left you wanting more, then you might be looking for an area more like Shanghai. It is actually one of the most popular places in China to teach and continuously gets a large number of applicants. So, that means you will likely experience a more selective process and more competition. The biggest draw in this area is the easy access to modern amenities that many Western teachers enjoy back home. So, if you are worried about getting homesick, living in Shanghai might make for an easier transition. As China’s most modern metropolis, Shanghai is filled with nightlife, entertainment, and international culture.


Often regarded as the best place to live in China, Hangzhou is raved about my teachers. The perks include that it isn’t far from Shanghai – which offers many attractions – and it has the perfect and elegant mixture of old and new. People also rave about the great quality of life in Hangzhou, therefore more Westerners are attracted to this city for that reason. One of the main attractions you should visit if you choose to teach in Hangzhou is the city’s West Lake, which will stun you with all its beauty.


If hiking, nature, and just the great outdoors, in general, is your weakness then you might want to consider Guilin. In this quiet location, you can easily escape the hustle and bustle of the big cities and access some great hiking trails. Although the city is smaller, they still offer plenty of teaching opportunities and the competition is not near as fierce.


Beijing often gets a bad reputation because of its issue with air pollution. However, the history of this city might still intrigue you to live here. Beijing is filled with numerous ancient sites…so, if you love history and culture mixed with a little politics, you have found a great place.

They also incorporate modern architecture and lifestyle with their old-world style.

I’m sure there are a few other cities that could easily make it on this list, but these really are some of the best. China has plenty to offer – whether you are looking for the big city or the great outdoors.

Which city in China do you think you would like to teach in?

Further reading:

Is Doing a TESOL/TEFL Certificate Really That Easy?

Teach English Without a Degree? Discover how to start earning online, abroad or locally

Great Expectations – What Can You Expect When You Teach ESL Abroad?

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