Best cities to teach English in China in 2023

China’s global presence is booming, and with it, a huge demand for English education.

Think of it as a golden opportunity for educators globally.

If you’re up for an adventure, keen on soaking up a new culture, and aiming for some serious career growth, teaching English in China could be your calling.

But here’s the catch: China is massive, and each city has its own vibe.

Picking the right spot is key to making the most of your journey.

Things to consider when teaching English in China

Starting your adventure teaching English in China? Exciting times ahead! But remember, the secret to a great experience lies in carefully considering all the factors that come into play.

Job opportunities and demand for English teachers

One of the pivotal factors influencing the choice of a city for teaching English in China is the abundance of job opportunities and the dynamic landscape of the ESL market. 

As the country continues to integrate into the global economy, there is a surging demand for English language proficiency. 

Cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, and Chengdu boast vibrant markets teeming with language institutions, international schools, and private tutoring opportunities. 

However, it’s crucial to stay attuned to the current state of affairs, including the recent ban on private tutoring for school children, a policy implemented to alleviate academic pressures. This shift in regulations has reshaped the ESL landscape, emphasizing the importance of adapting to the evolving educational climate when considering potential cities for teaching English.

Cost of Living

Housing expenses vary significantly across cities, with metropolitan areas such as Shanghai and Beijing generally having higher rental costs compared to the more affordable living options in Chengdu. 

In Shanghai, for instance, a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can range from ¥6,000 to ¥10,000 per month, while in Chengdu, the same accommodation may cost between ¥2,500 and ¥5,000. 

Daily living costs, encompassing meals, transportation, and entertainment, should also factor into your decision. 

In major cities, a meal at a local restaurant might cost around ¥30 to ¥60, whereas in smaller cities, you could enjoy a satisfying meal for ¥20 to ¥40. 

By carefully weighing these financial considerations, prospective English teachers can strike a balance between income and expenses, ensuring a comfortable and sustainable lifestyle in their chosen city.

Cultural and lifestyle considerations

Major cities like Shanghai and Beijing are much more cosmopolitan, with an array of cultural amenities, international cuisine and vibrant nightlife. 

In contrast, more remote towns like those in Yunnan or Sichuan are much more serene and laidback – but they lack cosmopolitan conveniences, entertainment options could be more limited and you might need to speak a bit of Mandarin to get by!

Quality of life factors, such as air quality, transportation infrastructure, and access to healthcare, also vary between urban centres and quieter locales. 

It all comes down to personal choice and priorities, but do make sure you consider what you want out of your teaching English in China experience – because it’s a country of contrasts!

Top cities for teaching English in China


Situated on the banks of the Huangpu River, Shanghai is a symbol of China’s rapid modernization. 

Boasting a perfect blend of tradition and innovation, Shanghai’s perfect for anyone wanting a modern Chinese experience while still enjoying plenty of home comforts!

Shanghai’s status as a global city does reflect in its relatively higher cost of living. Rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre are higher, but in cheaper areas they can cost from ¥4,600 per month. 

But the city’s cultural scene is nothing but dynamic, featuring iconic landmarks like The Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower, as well as a myriad of museums, theaters, and art galleries. 

Then there’s the food. In Shanghai, you can get virtually every cuisine, with plenty of local Chinese restaurants and street food stalls. 


The Forbidden City,Beijing,China

The capital of China, Beijing beckons English teachers with a blend of historical grandeur and modern vitality. 

It’s not quite as high-tech as Shanghai, but in Beijing ancient landmarks like the Forbidden City harmoniously coexist with contemporary marvels. 

The job market for English teachers is thriving, with a myriad of opportunities in language schools, international institutions, and cultural exchange programs.

Rental expenses for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can be from ¥5,000 per month.

Of course, there’s plenty to do in Beijing. Visit historical sites like the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, enjoy the city’s dynamic food scene (Peking Duck, anyone?) or sip some cold beers in one of the local Hutongs.

Beijing is quite chaotic, but teaching here is a Chinese experience like no other! 


cityscape of modern city shenzhen

Shenzhen, a city at the forefront of China’s economic boom, is a popular hub for English teachers. 

With a rapidly growing demand for English proficiency, especially in the technology sector, educators can find abundant opportunities in language schools, multinational corporations and private tutoring.

Shenzhen’s cost of living, though rising, remains competitive compared to its counterparts in Beijing and Shanghai. A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can cost from ¥4,400 per month. 

What sets Shenzhen apart is the impressive balance between the cost of living and earning potential. The city’s proximity to Hong Kong adds an international flavour, and its modern urban planning means that all of your home comforts will be met. 

It’s popular with expats, so you don’t need to know all that much Mandarin, but there are enough essences of Chinese life. 

The climate’s pretty good, too! 


Chengdu, Sichuan, China at Anshun Bridge.

In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, teaching opportunities abound. 

Language schools, local institutions, and cultural exchange programs offer a range of options for educators.

Chengdu is also one of China’s most affordable cities, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre from around ¥1,700 per month. 

This affordability doesn’t compromise lifestyle, as Chengdu is renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, teahouse culture, and delectable Sichuan cuisine – don’t miss the hotpot!

Plus, the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces are arguably the most beautiful parts of China, and Chengdu has excellent rail and bus links to both. 


hangzhou china

Just two hours on the train from Shanghai, Hangzhou is an excellent option for those who want the mod cons of a big city, but sare still looking for an authentic Chinese experience. 

This city, known for its scenic West Lake and burgeoning tech industry, is seeing a surge in demand for English language skills, particularly in sectors like technology, tourism, and education. 

Hangzhou’s living costs are generally lower than in Beijing or Shanghai; for instance, a cosy one-bedroom apartment in the city center can be rented for about ¥2,800 monthly. 

The city is increasingly friendly to expatriates, with a growing international community. While learning Mandarin is beneficial, it’s not essential for navigating daily life.

Are you ready to teach in China? 

These five cities are among the best places to teach English in China for a mix of authentic culture and plenty of conveniences. 

However, if you’re looking for more of an adventure, you might prefer to teach in lesser known cities or even in the countryside – China’s a huge country, and there are thousands of towns and cities to choose from! 

Take a look at my China archives for more of an idea of what can await you in this compelling East Asian nation.