5 Reasons to chose China over Korea
1. It’s easier to make and save money in China
Initial salaries in China tend to be lower, but after cost of living is factored in, the difference isn’t all that significant. What is significant is that China doesn’t discourage extra work the same way Korea does. It’s acceptable to teach private lessons or pick up an extra class or two at a training center. This can, and usually does, elevate a teacher’s salary much higher than that of their counterpart teaching in Korea. Private classes can range anywhere from $30-$50 an hour at a training center and there’s really no limit to how much a teacher can make if they form their own classes. It’s not too difficult to make an extra $800-$1,000 a month from private lessons. In addition, work opportunities are more varied. A lot of teachers come to China and end up working in different industries than they thought possible. I’ve seen teachers in Shenzhen act in commercials or get into marketing departments in major companies. There’s not as much of a ceiling on what is possible professionally.
Unlike Korea, China also does a better job of rewarding teachers with particularly strong resumes or work experience. A certified teacher should and does make a higher salary than a fresh out of water college grad. However, there are still benefits for teachers with thinner resumes: Chinese companies will now provide free TEFL training for those who want come teach straight out of college. The market is also less saturated, so candidates who might have trouble finding work in Korea will generally have an easier time getting placed in China. Quite simply, a population of 1.4 billion people has a greater demand for teachers, and this gives the teacher much more power and agency in choosing their desired teaching situation. Also, experience in China could be used on future applications to other more prohibitive ESL destinations like Korea or Japan if teachers are struggling to find work in those markets.
2. Jobs in China require fewer teaching hours and often omit office hours
In Korea, it’s common for public school teachers to teach around 20 classes a week and hagwon teachers 30. There is some variance in these numbers, but this is pretty standard. In China, public school teachers usually teach 16 classes or fewer and private academy teachers 25 or fewer. Factor in that many Chinese schools do not require office hours, and teachers in China often spend 30-40% less time in their workplaces. That’s an enormous difference in lifestyle.
3. China has more variety
Korea is smaller, so while small dialectical and cultural differences exist between cities, traveling between them won’t provide the kinds of starkly different experiences available in China. China has over 50 different native ethnic groups spread across 23 enormous provinces. It’s easy to go from lush mountain forests to barren deserts or coastal paradises in a matter of hours. Eight major cuisines can be enjoyed compared to Korea’s (albeit delicious) one. Shanghai and Hong Kong are more international than Seoul, so finding a wider variety of expats and non-Chinese restaurants is also easier.
4. Things are generally less expensive in China
Anyone who has ever tried to buy fruit in Korea can vouch for this. Food in China costs far less, but it doesn’t stop there. Utilities like electricity and gas are a fraction of what they are in Korea. Taxis are 30-40% less. A subway ride is under fifty cents.
5. The major tourist sites are more impressive and numerous in China
Sadly, many of Korea’s greatest historical monuments were levelled by the Japanese during their occupation of the country. The government has done a decent job of restoring some of these palaces and landmarks, but it’s harder to find the genuine buildings and structures from Korea’s history. China, on the other hand, still has an absurd amount to see and experience, so much so, it would be impossible to get to all of it in four or five years for most working people. Also, since China is a huge landmass, it features a lot more natural landmarks, from caves to treacherous mountains. Most people are familiar with the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors, but those are the tip of the iceberg. Almost every city or town will have some spectacular site to visit.