Day 100 - Pleasant Surprise

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

I had a fight with someone last night. It was weighing on my mind most of the day. One fun fact did float my way, which got it off my mind: I have the next two days off thanks to grade 2’s track and field days. Oh man, that’s so awesome. I can get so much work done, hit the gym, and just relax. Maybe I’ll hit up a hutong.

How to Get a Job in China Teaching English

So you’re thinking of packing up your things and moving overseas to teach English, are ya?

If you were to google “Jobs in China,” you’ll find there are 362 million results, any of which could be a scam or the genuine article. How to make heads or tails of it?

Well, if you’re anything like me, you’d probably rather have people chasing you than having to go through the slow, unenjoyable process of researching each result that pops up on your search result. How? Easy!

The Café

Just hop on over to Dave’s ESL Cafe. It looks like it’s been thrown together without an eye for design, there’s lots of stuff all over the place, and who trusts this “Dave” character?

The answer is you. You should. I have no connection with Dave whatsoever, but this is the best first step in getting jobs. It really cuts down the leg work. Just click HERE or go to and click the link on the left, “Post Resume.” If you live in North America, you can upload your resume, specify the countries you’re interested in, and go to bed.


Boom, you'll wake up to find somewhere between 5 and 20 e-mails all fighting for you as an English teacher. It should be stated that schools usually want the following qualifications:
  • Experience teaching kids
  • North American Accents
  • A Bachelors (or greater) degree
  • A TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA teaching certificate
  • A formal teaching degree
DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED if you are lacking any/all of the above! Having all of them just means you can be more choosy, and will be more likely to end up with a better job. The only real requirement is the easiest to get: The ESL (english as a second language) teaching certificate.

Take note that speaking mandarin is not a requirement.

Back to those e-mails: Some schools will ask you to create a lesson plan for them, some want you to perform over Skype as if you were teaching a class, and some will just be a straight-up interview. If teaching adults as if they were children isn’t your idea of fun, you don’t actually have to do it. “Why?” you may ask? Well, that’s because…

Your Odds Are Phenomenal

Just to put it into perspective: If every single Canadian - man, woman, and child - were to decide to leave the country and teach English in China, and every Chinese person were to be students, each class would have 38 people. But, given that a very small percentage of adventurous, open people are even going to consider leaving their home country for the chance, the odds are still stacked heavily in your favor. You will be…

The Prettiest Girl at the Dance

This means if someone approaches you and wants you to jump through hoops that you don’t actually want to… Don’t. Recruiters are like busses: another one will be along in 15 minutes. There is an ebb and flow for recruiters throughout the year, with most places trying to get new teachers to start in either February or September. These are the typical breaks for schools, so don’t get discouraged if you’re applying at those times and getting lower-than-predicted numbers. You’re still pretty to me.


Be skeptical of their promises. Unless you have something in writing, don’t trust everything they are saying they’ll give you. Hell, even in writing, it may not necessarily stick. I had one recruiter imply that she would sleep with me in an attempt to close the deal of bringing me to their school - that’s just how bad they want you. Private mandarin lessons on weekends, my foot!

Some of the deals will be quite real, though. Like I described in my last post, the situation can be amazing! But how can you know who is real and who isn’t? Well, that’s where finding an agent might be useful.

Agents and Teaching Nomad

Inevitably, among the throngs of recruiters, you will also be contacted by agents. Personally, I was picky, and sifted through my suitors until I found one that I felt I could read well enough to know if they were trustworthy. I don’t know Chinese customs, and I don’t know how to read someone who doesn’t speak my language. That’s why I ended up getting a recruiter who was originally from the United States.

Teaching Nomad was the agency that I went through, and my agent was Sophia. She helped me vet the jobs coming my way, and sought out jobs where I wanted, with the details I wanted. What did I want? I wanted daytime working hours, Monday to Friday, optimally part-time so that I could have more time to write and learn the language. Again, I have no connection to Teaching Nomad other than them finding me a job. No kickbacks here!

When deciding what you want, remember that the less convenient it is, the more it will pay. So, evenings, weekends, and split days off (not having both days beside each other) will net you higher pay.

I then interviewed with all of the schools she filtered my way, and chose from among them. But what do they do in these interviews?

The Interview

As briefly mentioned above, some will make you jump through plenty of hoops like performing for them over Skype, submitting a lesson plan, and examples of teaching materials. None of this is required, and some of the schools do it just to seem like they’re a premium option. Don’t buy it. Often, it could just be posturing.

I didn’t perform for any of them, and wasn’t interested in doing that. Remember, prettiest girl, that leverage is in your favor. So, what was my standard interview?

The first half was usually them asking me questions about my qualifications and what my experience was. The main point of this appeared to simply be hearing my accent, as I had little direct experience, and didn’t even have my TEFL at that point. Speaking of…


It seems like the baseline number of hours they want you to have for your certificate is 120 hours. Don’t trust the advertised time it says it’ll take on the certificate. I completed my “150 hour” one in 5 hours - and it didn’t require in-class lessons either. Just hop on Groupon or similar service and get one that says 120+ hours. Mine was 150h for $40 CAD, but seems to have expired at time of writing. (Here)

What is the difference? This is one of the areas that made me freeze up and over analyze, so let me be simple: TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) are basically the same thing. CELTA seems to be the same as well, but for whatever reason it is viewed as the higher-tier of the three. Ultimately, just choose one. There’s little difference in real-world outcomes between them.

Questions for the Interview

Questions you’ll probably want to ask are about job perks. Here are some questions to consider during the interview, and in your selection process:
  • Is housing included? If so, how far is the provided housing from work? What if you don’t like the provided housing? Will they give you a housing allowance to find another? 
  • Do they have a monthly transportation allowance to get to work and back?
  • How long into the job will you have to wait for your first pay-cheque? (This will affect how much money you need to have beforehand, and should be presented as such)
  • Do they have any sort of travel/flight allowance, or relocation bonus?
  • Do they have re-signing bonuses for returning teachers?
  • Is there a contract completion bonus?
  • What are the penalties for breaking your contract? (if it’s a fee, it’s very hard to enforce. Some places will simply hold onto your pay for a month at the beginning, or offer a large contract completion bonus)
  • What health insurance is there, if any?
  • Are mandarin lessons included in the contract?
And most importantly:
  • Will the School provide you with a Z-visa? (The visa to legally work in China as a foreign expert)
  • Will the school help with the process to obtain a work permit and residence permit?
The Z-visa is what will gain you entry into the country, and is used in the process to obtain working and residential permits. Some less legitimate companies will be willing to have you work there under a visitor's visa, which will require you to leave every 60 days in order to renew it. You can literally leave and return the same day. And before you ask, yes, this is actually somewhat common, though I wouldn't recommend it.

Bear in mind that the length of contracts do tend to be anywhere between 9 months and as many as 15. The reason they might go for a shorter contract is so that they won’t have to pay you for the summertime.

What If Things Go Wrong?

I had a friend who came here on the drop of a hat. He was living in Shanghai and working his job, but fell sick. He could have called in sick, but due to the sickness, he slept through his alarm and missed the window to call in. This one mistake resulted in them terminating his position.

Be aware that your visa will be tied to your school, which can make things a little bit sticky if you lose your job. Nightmare situation. What did he do?

Well, that’s the benefit of having an agent. They will be your fallback if anything happens with your school, which will normally your first line of defense. With Teaching Nomad’s help, he was able to get a vacation visa to extend his stay, the find another position within a month.

You’ll hear all sorts of horror stories, some of them true, some of them exaggerated, but all are manageable. Once you’re physically here, you’re here. It will be fairly easy for you to find another position, and resume your plan of teaching in China.

Remember: when push comes to shove, you can always hop over to a neighbouring country, or simply leave.


The odds will ever be in your favor when looking for jobs in Asia as a Westerner. China has a competitive culture where everyone wants to speak English, and this will help you find a job in no time. Give yourself a flexible timeline for departure, allow some wiggle room for potential visa hold-ups, and finding the deal that best suits your interests.

Remember: Foreigners are still somewhat rare, and Chinese people like them. Take a leap of faith. You’ll be glad you did!

If you liked this post, check out more HERE and PLEASE SHARE IT!
The following helpful comment was from Reddit user Sandwich_Breath:

Talking to foreign teachers at the school is a big one. Though keep in mind some employers monitor their employees' email accounts. Get a feel for the hours, workload, pay, vacation, and location (sometimes they lie about the school's location because many schools are remote and undesirable). Ask about the penalties for canceling a contract and get that in writing. Try to pick schools with many foreign teachers. Working as the lone foreigner is much riskier.

Try to get recent photos of the school and apartment (if they offer one). Employers may send inaccurate or doctored photos of your residence.

Check reviews of the school on and online black lists.

Don't be afraid to turn down job offers. The demand for English teachers is huge in Asia.
Every foreign country has its risks, but China is one of the riskier ones IMO. Shady employers are more common in China than Korea or Japan, and there's less support for foreigners should things go awry. China is very interesting, but it's essential you do your homework before making the plunge.

Take it from me - I took a job at a university and it was definitely not what I thought it was. I was lied to about some basic things. When I tried to leave, they put a guard outside my dorm and prevented me from leaving until I paid them $400. I paid them and eventually found good work at another school, but it was a huge hassle and kind of scary.


Day 99 - Day to Day

Monday, May 16th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains


As the weeks have passed, the walkway on the way to the gym has been getting progressively worse. First it was one brick-slate that was kicked loose, then a second, then a couple scattered around.. It was looking pretty torn up and ratty. That is until today! Finally, they have them cemented in place with the particular spots sectioned off. Glad to see they’re finally cleaning the place up a bit.

Non-Carden Side

I Finally Found It
On my way to school, I see Non-carden AJ. I wave to him, and he half-heartedly waves back. Those guys have been acting progressively weirder as time has passed on. They don’t try to talk to me, and seem to feel as though I’ve snubbed them. Not intentional, I just run into them less often. Oh well. 

Day 98 - Facebook Page!

Sunday, May 15th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Wake up at 8:20. Gotta tutor from 9-11. Not bad, gets it out of the way, though I’m glad it’s not a regular time. Would kill potential late nights on Saturdays.


Animal girl talks about her chickens, and we finish the story of the little mermaid. It ends much nicer than the real story. Instead of dying and turning into sea foam, she somehow gets blessed to become an air spirit and is granted a soul after 300 years of good deeds. Sure, why not.

Day 97 - Mountain Climbing

Saturday, May 14th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

There’s a school field trip today. Two small parts of me wanted to say no. First was the one that wanted to sleep in, as the trip required us to be at the school at 6:45am. 

The second part was one I detest, which calls me to avoid people, stay in my house, and not try new things for fear of embarrassment. This stems from when I was a kid and was picked on quite a lot, even into my high school years. Now, however, even if things do go bad (rarely), it doesn’t bother me, yet the lingering urge to avoid situations still lingers. Luckily, my drive to try new things and take advantage of free trips are more powerful.

Day 96 - Word Picture

Friday, May 13th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Earlier this week, we had a brief meeting talking about what would be on the next grade 2 test. Seems like stuff that most of my kids should be able to pass right now, but with the next few weeks of prep, they’ll do amazingly.

My Grade 2s

First class, we open by teaching them the poem that they’re going to have to memorize and recite. It’s a somewhat lame poem about your conscience, called “The Voice.” The Carden method often feels a bit outdated… I always kind of picture it being written by a turn-of-the-century southern states schoolteacher. Who uses the word smock? 

The second class gets it a bit nicer, not having to copy down and practice recitation. Instead, they work on their workbooks and still whined. A star explodes. Afterward, they get to play a game. Man, they are pumped. I think it’s telling how little fun they have when playing a small word game - involving spelling - can really get them amped up.

Day 95 - Really Expensive Cat

Thursday, May 12th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Class Procedure

At the beginning of class, the kids have to line up in the hall. One line for boys, one line for girls. They gain entry, one-by-one, as they answer a question in English. It used to be based around our Oral English unit, but that’s been abolished

So... I just kind of wing it. They then gather their things and have to stand behind their desks until they answer yet another question in English. After that, they can finally sit. Through this, I’ve gotten some interesting insights. A few of them had said that their favorite weather was “rainy” and “cold.” Well, those 8 kids will be happy today!

It’s dropped down to the teens and was thundering all last night. 

Day 94 - Yelling at the Ground

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Taobao Dealz

Last night, I received an order of protein powder that I got on sale. 2 tubs for ¥420, when 1 had been ¥300! Nice. These places tend to throw more stuff in when you order enough, so I received another 750ml shaker bottle. Thing is, both Helena and Aurora had been eyeing that sucker up.

Creative writing. Take these sentences, make them your own, kids!

Aurora had guessed closer when I made them pick numbers, so she gets it. Catch: Before going to bed last night, I had told her that I “changed my mind” and was going to keep it. Jerk move? Maybe, but at least it makes the gift more of a surprise. Helena got a daily pill dispenser and sample packet of protein as a consolation.

Day 93 - It's the Fuzz!

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountains

Persistent Women?

Ran out of protein powder yesterday, and the smoothies are noticeably less filling without it. Classes go quick enough, and lunch is finally here. The Chick from last night sat a table over, but no words were exchanged. I had told Shimou about the situation and she said “girls don’t stop just because you have a girlfriend!” Haha sure, right, then I won’t give this girl any openings to do so.

One side of the small bridge (next to my gym)
School of Life

I keep thinking about the idea that I had heard in one of the “School of Life” videos, The Horrors of Children on youtube, and relating it back to the kids I'm teaching, as well as my own childhood. The phrase is as follows: 
As a parent you will always have to put an end to a lot of the fun [...] for the sake of protecting your kids - and you'll be hated profoundly as a result. Indeed, the more you love them, the more you're going to act in their long-term interests, and the more hated you'll be at points. Unlike all those fun loving parents, whose lack of care buys them short-term votes.

Day 92 - Hitting On

Monday, May 9th, 2016
Smog Level: 1/3 Mountains

Given that it’s mother's day back home, I call my mom around 9am Beijing time, 9pm home-time. We have a pleasant conversation, and make fun of the family cat for getting fat. She's a grump.

A Chinese?

On the way to the gym, I’m listening to the audiobook on the modern history of China. I keep hearing the phrase “a chinese” and not “a chinese person.” I don’t know why, but it sounds vaguely racist to refer to someone as “a Chinese.” Try this on for size: “A Chinese just bought a hotdog from me.” “He was a Chinese?” “A Chinese just bet me that I couldn’t eat this hotdog in one bite” They sound a little off, don’t they?

Day 91 - On Dating

Sunday, May 8th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains

Keeping Names Straight

I keep thinking about something Tad said when we had gone to trivia. When prowling the hutongs, he said something like “The Director is a damn genius!” Which lingers, for some reason. If you ever wonder how I keep the names straight between what I use on the blog, and in person.. it can be confusing. Especially with Chinese people: I will sometimes know their Chinese name, their English name, the English translation for their name, AND the name I use for them on the blog. Once or twice, I've slipped up.

Power of Labels

Anyway, I was thinking about that phrase and using the term “The Director” instead of his real name. While doing this, I noticed that the feel is so much more... imposing. Using a title makes him seem more powerful and dominant, older, and you’d think he was physically intimidating. It’s funny how a title can change the image. In reality, he’s quite light hearted, smaller than me, and only a couple years older.

Day 90 - Enter Animal Girl

Saturday, May 7th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains - AMAZING REJUVENATION

Chinese FlowersProgress! The gym finally has more than just a smith machine for squats. They’ve just acquired an actual squat rack. Now we’re in business!

Jǐu Líng Hòu

Last night Shimou and I had talked about the pre-90’s and post-90’s generations. I guess that’s the distinction they make in China, similar to the West's term "Millennials." The griping about Millennials sounds to me like similar complains that all older generations make about the coming generations, but this time they have the capability to be even louder on an individual basis.

Day 89 - Coach's Misadventures

Friday, May 6th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains - AMAZING REJUVENATION

Every morning after I drink, I always feel regret. Last night was tame, and none of it was regrettable, yet I’m stuck sifting through my memories looking for something.

One of the two working elevators is on the fritz again, stuck on my floor. The door continually opens and closes on an unending cycle.

On the bus, I consider whether the usual chicken-egg situation of guilt/regret is because I did something stupid, or if the regret come first, and I look for anything that might be considered stupid. I decide it’s the feeling first (this time at least) and suffer through this hollow regret.

Day 88 - Cinco de Mayo

Thursday, May 5th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains - CRUSHING DEFEAT


If you're wondering what happened to the loneliness, I stopped taking it so personal that everyone was busy, and developed my own routine. I was impatient. Slowly, people have warmed up, let me in, and started inviting me to things. The occasional social outlet pops up from time to time, and allows me to get through all of my professional, and self-appointed work. Focusing is doing wonders for that, by the way. 

Technical Error

Aurora returned the USB full of music on it because it can’t be read by her computer. This is the second time that's happened here, but it worked for Mary.. Weird. Aurora had handed it to the smallest girl, who walked up and gave it to me, and skipped away. So adorable.

Day 87 - Scaring Old Men

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains - MAGNIFICENT

Why I'm Cash Poor

As previously mentioned, money’s getting a bit tight. Of my 8500 salary, I had to pay back half my 5k advance, and the 3k I owed to Shimou from fronting me money in Bali and in the first couple months here. The last straw was buying my cellphone (¥2200) and one of my tutoring students cancelling 4 hours worth of tutoring. Coming up ¥800 ($160 CAD) lighter than expected can have that effect sometimes. According to my math, that left me with ¥800, plus whatever tutoring offered.

In Defense of the Cellphone

Having a largely dysfunctional one in China can make a bit of a difference when it comes to translation, maps, and generally getting around. Ignoring the basic frustration of a clunker phone, the piece of mind that comes with being able to reliably access maps when you get lost is worth it. But maybe that’s all just rationalization.

Day 86 - On Being Photographed

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016
Smog Level: 3/3 Mountains - GLORIOUS

Political Correctness

In the cafeteria, we talked about some of the subtleties of not being offensive in English. In particular, we talked about talking about gay people. Don’t say “a gay” or “the gays” when talking about the LGTB community. I’m definitely not the most PC of people, but that much I know. The terms can change quickly, and there’s no real authority to issue these tidbits of information, but we thought it was good to explain this to our Chinese friends.

That far middle thing is brown-sugar bread.
Aurora asked why. Best explanation I can come up with is that speaking in that way takes away their personhood and defines them by a single, mostly-irrelevant feature. It’s the same reasoning behind mental illness: don’t say “a schizophrenic,” say “a person with schizophrenia.” Sometimes this can be a mouthful.

Day 85 - Desert Rain

Monday, May 2nd, 2016
Smog Level: 2/3 Mountains

Desert Rain

Dan says that Beijing is a literal desert when it comes to rainfall. I never bothered to look it up, though this is only the 2nd time it’s rained since I arrived two months ago. Probably for the best, considering how much it pools in the uneven ground and slick sidewalks. Large brown puddles collect along pathways, sometimes forcing you to make a choice between hopscotch, a really inconvenient path, or a wet shoe. I can imagine some of the overpass walkways might collapse if it were to rain too much.

Labour Day Labouring

Yay, Facemasks and rain. Looks Post-apocalyptic.
Today was spent holing up in the apartment and aptly spending “labour day” working away on writing articles and editing. My efforts on focusing have really been working out, allowing me to enjoy my work more, feel less stressed, and get more done with less time. Not interrupting myself somehow makes the work more enjoyable. I find this strange, since the work itself doesn’t change.

Day 84 - Minor Celebrity

Sunday, May 1st, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Skype date with my cousin and his girlfriend. It runs a bit long, but I enjoyed catching up and getting some SEO advice from them. Drew, my cousin, had been a big help in the last couple weeks I was in Canada, and we haven't spoken as much since I'd left. Next up leave to Chaoyang Park

Chinese Family

In the cab ride over, Shimou says that she likes to hear me talk with my family. She says that we seem to respect each other and communicate well, unlike Chinese people. She feels that Chinese people are too close to their family - so close that they seem to lose the need to be civil or polite with one another. “They just act however they want,” she said.

Day 83 - Kafka-Esque

Saturday, April 30th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

A nearly empty gym where I clean up the weights. Alone, it takes me only a few minutes to put them away. Why can’t the staff do this, if the patrons can’t be bothered?

Delayed Massages

I have been inviting Dan to come with me for a massage with the blind people for some time now, and it’s never quite worked out. Today's the day! We trod over around 2pm in the muggy 30ºC weather. I had been listening to brief summaries of famous authors and philosophers right before, so I bring up the topic of Franz Kafka. If you’ve ever read him, he’s pretty… bleak. 


It makes sense when you know something about his personal history. He once asked for a glass of water, and his father got so angry that he put him out on the balcony and left him there all night. “The Metamorphosis” is about a man who wakes to find himself a dog-sized insect, whose family learns they can do quite well without him, and slowly come to resent him. Like I said: bleak.

Day 82 - Beatings Will Continue...

Friday, April 29th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

I found out after finishing my morning classes that I don’t have afternoon classes. Those poor love-struck grade 1’s, how will they survive without seeing my fuzzy face? I was sitting in the office, waiting for my next class when Luigi and I chewed the fat over writing and how we approach it.

A Traditional Chinese Stove, I guess
Approaches to Fiction

I tend to approach fiction writing with abstract, large concepts, and zoom in from there. He said he does the opposite: start with an individual and expand them from there. I’ve never tried it. He also informs me that there’s a fiction writing contest coming up in a few weeks. Maybe I'll finally get around to writing some of the ideas I’ve had kicking around.

Day 81 - The Great Chicken Heist

Thursday, April 28th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Couldn't fall asleep, last night, despite exhaustion. I was late for the bus stop, which the busses knew and held off from showing up. Barely made it to class on time.

On the upside, today should be easy because it’s just a spelling bee! Right??

Spelling Bee

The spelling bee is actually somewhat heart wrenching. Some of the most studious kids were disqualified within the first round because they got bad luck on their assigned words, and some simply misheard me. Some of them cried when being disqualified, including one of the more upbeat, but slower, kids. I was surprised, as he has never cried before and isn’t one that I would expect. I hold back my feelings and focus on continuing the game. The winners were three of the higher performing kids, but not the ones that usually score the best. Slightly surprising.

Day 80 - Slowing Down and Cold Brew Tea

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Social Engineering

On my way to the gym, I see one of the motorbike couriers from, one of the third party delivery companies. You order something from a store, the store contacts them and hands it off, then JD brings it to you. There are a lot of these companies, and they seem to just get flagged through any security there is. It occurred to me that if you were Chinese-descent, had a their jacket and a package in hand, you could get almost anywhere with a good enough bluff.

Towering on a Smoggy Day
Cold Brew Green Tea

Lately, I’ve been brewing green tea cold. It was at the suggestion of one of my good friends, Mike. By brewing it cold, you can remove the bitterness that hot-brewed tea will have once it's cooled. It’s a pretty good workout drink, giving some energy, hydration, and a clean, earthy tea flavor. Try it out!