Hangzhou is a dynamic city, where ancient architecture mixes with breathtaking natural views and a bustling economy. Hundreds of international teachers find Hangzhou to be the ideal location to live, work, and teach abroad in China. Teaching jobs in Hangzhou appeal to foreign teachers because of its inexpensive cost of living, compared to larger Chinese cities, and its surrounding greenery and natural beauty, including the famous West Lake. Hangzhou is also full of friendly faces and international travelers, making it an easy place to secure a teaching job, network with other professionals, and make long-lasting friendships.
Teaching in Hangzhou
Historically, Hangzhou has garnered international attention due to its pristinely maintained natural areas and impressive architecture. As the world moves into the digital age, Hangzhou is modernizing at an escalated speed, which means that English is being introduced to the population rapidly. Fortunately, this means that ESL teachers are in high demand, especially those that are native speakers, and the number of English teaching jobs in Hangzhou is only growing.
Not only are there an abundance of English language schools looking for TEFL certified teachers, but there are a plethora of tutoring opportunities, teaching jobs at public and private schools, and freelance translation positions available outside of the classroom too, which all offer the opportunity to save money by teaching in Hangzhou.
Teaching jobs in Hangzhou are most commonly available at public schools. Those who obtain teaching jobs in Hangzhou at public schools will usually work Monday through Friday, during standard schooling hours.
In addition to teaching at public schools, a growing industry in China is English training schools. These schools focus only on English language education and are open outside of normal schooling hours. Typically, teachers at English training schools are expected to teach all day (approximately eight hours) on Saturday and Sunday and at least three days during the week. Classes taught during the week are always in the evening as the students still need to attend public schools during the day.
Education is highly valued in China; high school aged students are expected to outperform their peers to compete for scholarships to universities, making school a highly competitive environment. With so much pressure to learn English, even children as young as four or five years old are being enrolled in English language programs. Hence, teaching in Hangzhou may entail working with students across a range of ages.
Requirements. Interestingly, knowledge of the local Wu dialect or even of Mandarin is not a necessary requirement to teach in Hangzhou. However, a TEFL certification is required for most English teaching jobs in Hangzhou. Luckily, aspiring teachers can earn TEFL certification in Hangzhou upon arrival, or through a variety of online programs and TEFL programs in other locations all over the world. If you hold a bachelor’s degree, even if the degree is not in education, schools may ask you to teach subjects other than English, such as basic science or math courses. Experience in multiple subject areas is therefore a huge bonus when employers are considering multiple candidates for any one teaching job in Hangzhou.
Annual Schedule. The school year in China is a two semester system; a two-week winter break and a one-month summer break separate the two semesters, with national holiday breaks throughout the year, including Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, May Day, Chinese New Year, and National Day. The ideal time for applying to teach in Hangzhou at public schools is in the summer, prior to classes starting in September, while English training schools hire teachers year round.
Life in Hangzhou
An hour outside of bustling Shanghai, Hangzhou is the perfect mix of centuries old culture, tradition, architecture, modern convenience, entertainment, and job opportunities. Renowned for historic structures, the natural beauty of the famous West Lake (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and its famous local cuisine, Hangzhou consistently ranks amongst the best cities to teach English in China.
As an international teacher, connecting with peers who are also teaching in Hangzhou will never be easier. There are numerous athletic and social clubs for expats and foreign teachers to join. Popular athletic clubs in Hangzhou include rugby, soccer, hockey, volleyball and rock climbing. Many TEFL-certified teachers are intrigued by China, due to the high number of English teaching jobs and the culture that emphasizes academic achievement as well as personal connections, so you will be able to find plenty of other expats and English-speakers in Hangzhou. As Hangzhou continues to industrialize, the need for English language instructors will only continue to grow too.
Home to its own regional Zhejiang provincial cuisine, there are hundreds of low-cost food options to try, from street vendors serving BBQ, jiaozi, and baozi to small coffee and tea houses that line the streets. Moreover, these local haunts can introduce teachers to new and interesting people.
Hangzhou is currently in the process of building their own subway network, which will consist of 10 lines and should be complete sometime in 2016. To date, only three lines have been completed and are open for use. Until the metro is fully up and running, residents use cabs, Uber, bus, or the ever popular e-bike to get around. An e-bike, or electric bicycle, can be purchased for around $250 for a used model and $500 for a new one. At this price point, it’s no wonder why e-bikes are the preferred mode of transport between foreigners and locals alike.
Salary & Costs
Those who teach English in Hangzhou can expect to earn $1,200 to $2,000 each month; public schools represent the lower end of the latter range, and private or foreign language-specific institutions make up the higher end. Living and teaching in Hangzhou, even though it provides access to all the amenities of a big city, is far cheaper than living in larger cities in China, such as Shanghai or Beijing, making a teacher’s salary an extremely livable wage. Private tutoring sessions can boast fees up to $35 per hour, depending on the age of the students you’re tutoring and the family’s budget, so these are a great addition to any regular salary.
Even within the city’s center, rent is affordable. A one bedroom apartment costs $500 a month, and living with roommates or other teachers can cut that cost down considerably. Meals from street vendors are extremely affordable, at around $5 for an entire meal. Therefore, though your salary may be less for teaching jobs in Hangzhou. compared to the populated cities of Shanghai or Beijing, you may end up saving more money because of the lower cost of living. If you are feeling a little homesick, Hangzhou boasts a substantial selection of foreign restaurants. Keep in mind that any foreign product is going to cost significantly more, namely coffee, alcohol, and cheese products.
Furthermore, most of the sights you’ll want to take time to see in Hangzhou are the natural areas or architectural landmarks, so you’ll be able to enjoy much of the city’s aesthetic attractions without spending a penny. Other popular attractions, like the Tea Museum or the Umbrella Museum, offer discounted rates throughout the year. All things considered, the most expensive part of living and teaching in Hangzhou is joining in nightlife activities.
Accommodation & Visas
Whether you choose to earn your TEFL certification in Hangzhou or in the thousands of other possible locations around the globe will make your experience of teaching in Hangzhou quite different. Depending on the route you take, accommodations may be offered to you or you may be more or less “on your own”. TEFL certification program providers often provide housing for their students, with an option to extend if they are able to secure a teaching job in Hangzhou. If you decide to teach in Hangzhou at an international school, then you will likely have housing provided as part of your salary, with a lower wage to balance out this benefit. Housing organized through employers or schools are often more centrally located and affordable.
If you are planning to earn your TEFL certification in Hangzhou and then seek out a teaching job, you will likely apply for a tourist visa prior to your arrival, which will allow you to stay in China for up to ninety days. Since TEFL certification courses range from two weeks to two months, your visa will likely last for the duration of your program. However, once you have completed your certification, you will have to work diligently to find an English teaching job in Hangzhou to remain legal.
Once you obtain a teaching job in Hangzhou, your employer or school will sponsor you so you can obtain a longer work visa that will allow you to teach in China for up to two years before renewal is required. If you decide to begin teaching in Hangzhou right off the bat, and earn your TEFL certification before arrival, then this is the route you will likely take as well.
Benefits & Challenges
Save & Savor. Due to the low cost of living, teaching in Hangzhou is a great option for those interested in starting their career as an international teacher. Even on a starting teacher’s salary, international teachers can experience all the city has to offer, from ancient sites of beauty to protected natural areas to the hustle and bustle of street stands and shops. Teachers will barely feel like they are restricted by a budget, as they will still get to soak up the rich culture of a thousand-year-old city every day.
Tremendous Tutelage. Many teachers decide to teach in Hangzhou without knowing a word of Mandarin, bringing with them only their dreams to see the world and impact the nation’s future generation. Hangzhou is a friendly place where visitors can begin to learn conversational Mandarin with street vendors as well as local colleagues and friends. Those who choose to teach abroad in Hangzhou will come away better teachers, more well-rounded individuals, and with new language skills in their wheelhouse.