The 10 Best Cities to Teach English in China

The People’s Republic of China is the most populated country in the world and it’s also the largest by territory. Imagine around 9.6 million square kilometers of incredible landscapes – sandy beaches and dense forests, snow-capped mountain ranges, and vast deserts. To put it simply, China is a wonderful place to explore.

What’s more, you’ll never get bored. Each of the 26 Chinese provinces has its own traditions, dialect, and cuisine – there’s so much to experience! It’s the ideal destination if you are passionate about different cultures. However, your lifestyle in China changes depending on your specific destination. 

There are 660 ultra-modern cities in China. Of these, 18 are home to over 10 million people, while 90 have more than 1 million inhabitants. However, if you don’t fancy such a hectic lifestyle, there are countless villages that offer a more traditional and relaxed way of life. With so many options, this country is one of the most sought-after destinations for English teachers. If you are interested in finding out more about Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), take a look at the Teach English in China Guide from The TEFL Org.

Finding your perfect place where there’s so much choice is not easy. To help you in your search, have a look at the list of Chinese cities suggested below.

  • Shanghai and Beijing – if you love urban city life

The 10 Best Cities to Teach English in China

Let’s kick off this list with two of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 20 million. With so many people living in it, both Shanghai and Beijing are very busy cities, and life there is hectic, but don’t let this put you off. These are also the most international cities in the country, which makes them a great choice for teaching English. They are also very westernized, which means that you won’t feel too much of a culture shock: there are extensive ex-pat communities that will welcome you with open arms.

  • Guangzhou and Shenzhen – if you want to combine modern with traditional

Although both Guangzhou and Shenzhen have over 12 million inhabitants, living in either of those cities is less expensive than in Shanghai and it doesn’t seem as hectic, perhaps because of their locations. Guangzhou is on the Pearl River, along the Silk Road, and surrounded by mountains, while Shenzhen is just a ferry ride away from Hong Kong and has a lovely climate: warm in winter and hot in summer – ideal if you want to avoid the snow-capped mountains.

  • Hangzhou and Nanjing – if you are looking for a peaceful environment and culture

Both cities are located near a lake, with stunning views and lovely boat trips. They are also smaller cities compared to the others seen so far, with less than 10 million inhabitants. To the western standard, however, these are still large cities that offer plenty of teaching opportunities.

  • Ningbo and Lanzhou – if you are looking for lesser-known, upcoming cities.

These are industrial cities, but they are quite different from one another. Located on the eastern coast of the country, Ningbo is home to over 7 million people and many international businesses. Lanzhou, on the other hand, is located in the northwest of the country, on the banks of the Yellow River, and it is where over 4 million people from distinct ethnic cultures have found a home. What these two cities have in common is that they are both developing fast and quickly becoming important hubs for the country’s economy.

  • Xi’an and Lijiang – if you are interested in UNESCO World Heritage sites

Xi’an is one of China’s oldest cities and it’s steeped in history, with the Terracotta Warriors Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site, located there. It is also the base of the country’s space exploration facilities, which makes this city very appealing to English language teachers. Lijian is located on the western side of the country, relatively close to the Myanmar (Burma) border. Lijiang is 2,400 metres above sea level and, although part of it is a modern urban centre of over 1 million inhabitants, the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Choose the right place for you

China is a very vast country that offers an incredibly varied landscape, an extensive range of different potential lifestyles. Before booking your flights, decide in which kind of place you want to be: is it the hustle and bustle of a metropolis with over 10 million people? Or is it a coastal location? Would you like to completely immerse yourself in Chinese culture? Or would you prefer a balance between modern and traditional? This is a choice that will require extensive research – have fun with it!



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