Located in the south of China on the banks of Lake Dian, Kunming is the perfect destination for teachers who are looking to experience life in a smaller Chinese city. Away from the hustle and bustle of larger metropolitan areas, such as Beijing and Shanghai, teaching English in Kunming allows teachers to enjoy immersion into authentic Chinese culture in the capital of the Yunnan province. Additionally, the city is a major transportation hub, making frequent travel throughout southern China and the rest of Southeast Asia easy and affordable.
Teaching in Kunming
Most placements for teaching in Kunming are in teaching English as a foreign language. In recent years, China has become a huge magnet for young teachers who are native speakers of English, as the country strives to raise the language fluency level of its citizens. Many schools do not even require international teachers to possess a TEFL/TESOL certificate or any prior teaching experience, as long as you are a native English speaker and willing to learn how to teach English in Kunming. Public, private, and international schools frequently look to higher Western teachers for K-12 teaching positions, and there are additional openings tutoring at language schools and for private companies. Simply put, the opportunities to teach English in Kunming are plentiful.
If you are interested in teaching other subjects beyond the scope of ESL, then your options become more limited, because Mandarin is typically the medium of education in Kunming. Some international schools and private institutions teach classes in English, so you could have luck applying if you want to teach other subjects, such as math or science.
You can teach English in Kunming for a variety of time periods, ranging from just a few months to indefinite amounts of time. The number of available job openings in Kunming allow for great flexibility on behalf of the teacher, whether staying for as short as a semester as part of a world adventure or planning on making a new life as an expat teacher in Kunming. The best times to apply for teaching jobs in Kunming are summer and winter, before the start of each new semester.
Life in Kunming
Living in Kunming will prove quite a big cultural transition for most teachers coming from Western countries. Even though it is quite a small city by Chinese standards, the fact remains that there are over 6 million people living in Kunming, and this can prove to be quite chaotic for expats new to living abroad. It is also important to bear in mind that China is a developing country, and Kunming is no exception. While the city is quite modern and well industrialized, you will also notice that poverty and luxury take on quite a few different forms in Kunming. Don’t worry though, while adapting to your new home may be a challenge, you will soon fall in love with Kunming and the friendliness of the people who inhabit this great city.
Kunming is divided into several districts and boasts a variety of historical landmarks, public parks, and waterfront areas on top of its more modern commercial, residential, and university regions. Kundu square is the central hub of nightlife and entertainment, with a plethora of bars, clubs, theaters, and restaurants providing teachers with a continuous outlet for leisure and fun.
The city is already a major regional transportation hub with two main railway stations and an international airport, and is continuing to build an intricate system or urban and high-speed railways to add to this reputation. Do not hesitate to explore the whole city as well as nearby regions and countries while you teach English in Kunming!
Salaries & Costs
Kunming is cheaper than other major cities in China, and teaching jobs tend to pay fairly well compared to the cost of living in the area. It is definitely possible to save up some money while teaching abroad in Kunming, if you lead a relatively conservative lifestyle. Salaries tend to range from $500 to $2,000 a month, and often will include additional forms of compensation, such as housing, flights, and paid vacation.
It is important to remember that while teaching abroad in Kunming necessities such as food, water, and clothing will be quite cheap, however items which are deemed luxuries, such as imports, electronics, and the like, will be proportionally more expensive. As an expat in Kunming you will be able to live quite comfortably, only be smart with your wallet!
Accommodation & Visas
Many employers and local educational institutions will help aid international teachers in securing housing (some will also even provide accommodations free of charge as part of your compensation). Rent is generally affordable throughout the city, but obviously will be more expensive in the more central and popular areas. Again you will be living in a developing country, so while you will be made comfortable, do not expect a five star hotel by any means.
You will need a special visa to live and teach English in Kunming, and your local employer or program provider will have to endorse you throughout the process of obtaining a visa. China has fairly strict visa regulations because it is a communist country, so securing the proper visa can often prove an arduous task. Communicate openly with your host school about what is expected of you in the process.
GoAbroad Insider Tips
Teaching abroad in Kunming will be a grand adventure in one of China’s most charming cities. There will certainly be challenges in adapting to a drastically different culture while also dealing with a significant language barrier, but you will find locals to be very friendly and hospitable, wanting to learn from you as you wish to learn from them.
Now is a fantastic time to visit China, and as a teacher in Kunming you will be working hand in hand with local residents to break down walls and facilitate cross cultural interaction!
Read our comprehensive guide on teaching abroad in China.