Ever wondered how to work in China but have no idea where to start and you don’t really feel like teaching English?
I have just finished 3 months working in China and in this post, I will give some tips on how to work in China away from just teaching English.
To read about my experiences working and travelling in China, please see my last post: Working and Travelling China
I managed to get a job with Dragonfly Outdoors, an outdoor education company based in Hong Kong. However, in their fall season they have just as much work in mainland China and that’s where I was based for almost all of my 3 month contract. My job as Program Coordinator, was to supervise groups of 2 to 12 Outdoor Instructors as they ran outdoor activities for up to 110 kids for a few days each week. It was a bit like a school camp for these kids. We took them kayaking, hiking, biking etc. as well as doing some awesome cultural exchanges at small local primary schools, and some traditional Chinese arts and craft activities, in many different locations across South East China.
In other words, this job was perfect for me! I got to work with half Chinese and half western staff in 4 different locations, mostly away from the BIG cities. As a traveller, the 3 month contract and the possibility of returning in the future was exactly what I was looking for.
China is crazy! It’s the largest country by population, 4th largest by land area and it’s economy grows by an epic 7% every year. In the developed world, 7% is unheard of. 20-30 years ago, China wasn’t much. Today they are about equal with the USA as the global superpower. In my opinion, they are the most powerful country in the world because the USA is so far in debt, while China makes a profit each year. The USA owes around $4-5 trillion to overseas countries; and more than a trillion of that is owed to China.
China is the rising superpower of the world and it makes me excited to learn more about this fascinating country.
More people are travelling in China each year, too. It’s a huge country with so much to offer. The people are lovely, the cities are crazy, the technology is awesome, food is delicious, and the nature is beautiful. Tibet is meant to be one of the most interesting and beautiful places on the planet! I haven’t been there yet, as it is still only possible to go as a part of a small tour group; you also have to get an extra entry permit on top of the Chinese visitor visa.
Like many people, my China adventure started when I googled “How To Work In China.”
Most of the available jobs are in English teaching. China is in desperate need of native-speaking English teachers and it is pretty easy to get these jobs if you’re interested. The main hang-up is that you do need a Bachelor degree to help you get the work visa. Contracts are usually from 6-12 months and the pay is OK. China is a very affordable country to live in, so your money goes a long way!
So I scrolled through lots of different English teaching jobs before I found one that was Outdoor Instructing in China and Hong Kong with Dragonfly, an outdoor education company. (Although Hong Kong is actually owned by China, they are very different, so it is easier to talk about them separately.)
I decided to apply and by the end of the following week I had the job! Woohoo!! Job hunting over already!
Outdoor education is growing fast in China and there are quite a few different companies hiring lots of western staff every season. Some positions are full time and some seasonal. There’s no need to speak Mandarin to get most of these jobs.
I was very lucky because my company, Dragonfly got me both the Hong Kong work visa and the Chinese tourist visa. Because I was working for a Hong Kong company and being paid in Hong Kong dollars, I didn’t actually need a Chinese work visa, which was nice.
In most cases, the company will organise all the visas you need. If you are like me, on a tourist visa, the only requirement was to exit China for 5 minutes every 30 or 60 days, depending which country you’re from.
Applying for a Chinese visa yourself is a little bit more difficult, but is still possible and has got much easier in recent years. The best place to apply is in a Chinese embassy in Thailand because it’s the easiest place to get it.
If you’re from the USA, Canada or Australia, you can now apply for a 10-year tourist visa for China. In exchange, Chinese citizens can get 10-year visas for these 3 countries. Not everyone will get 10 years but most people get at least 2 or 5 years. This allows you to spend 60 days at a time in China; all you have to do is a border run to get your passport stamped, and you can come back again.
Citizens from other countries, like myself usually only get 1-2 months at a time. Then you have to leave and apply for another in Hong Kong, which costs between $100 and $200 each time.
Absolutely! you can do this. Lots of people do. I saw a lot of different opportunities in my 3 months. Once you make some local friends and get added to some Wechat (Chinese Facebook) groups there are positions offered by the minute. Again, these are mostly for English teaching, modelling and Gogo (strip club) jobs. There are also a lot of expats in China with their own businesses, from bars, hostels and hotels, to breweries, consultancies, exporting, modelling. You name it; it’s there. And if it’s not, maybe you can start your own business. That’s a whole different story but entirely possible and rewarding.
You will find a lot of employment opportunities along your way, for sure, especially in the major cities and main tourist hot spots.
I spent a lot of time in Yangshuo, a busy little tourist town in the karst mountains in Guangxi province, about 400km (or 2.5 hours by fast train) west of Guangzhou.
This area is a mecca for rock climbers; people come from all over the world to climb here. Lots of people do free-lancing here, mostly for outdoor instructors, but other opportunities also exist, like bar work.
There are lots of volunteer opportunities across China, but one that I would particularly recommend is in a small village near Yangshuo.
Karstaway is doing some amazing work, teaching sustainable farming and crop rotation in a country that uses a lot of pesticides. They also offer the opportunity to learn Mandarin and to get involved with local people and communities in Yangshuo and other locations around China. I met Katy, the owner, spent an afternoon with them and can vouch for them! Contact them directly, or ask me, if you want to know more about volunteering.
As you can probably tell, China is one of my very favorite countries! My mum’s family actually lived in China for 3 or 4 generations up to 1949, and my grandmother often talks about how she was born in China. My great great great grandfather was Herbert Allan Giles, who wrote the first Chinese to English dictionary and helped develop the Wade-Giles system of writing Chinese. This was the predecessor to Pinyin which is now the input method most Chinese use for typing on their computers and smartphones.
In case you need to know, my Chinese name is 龙高飞 Pronounced Long Gau Fei, it means High Flying Dragon. My Chinese friends Anya, Shelly and Yunyun helped me choose it!
Please let me know if you have any questions. I have a few contacts now,so may be able to help you to get you on your way!
China is amazing and I recommend that everyone go there and experience it. I am going back; it’s just a matter of when. And now you know How To Work In China too!