Mike Cairnduff from Hello Teacher!

Updated November 16, 2018
Mike Cairnduff

Torn between choosing China or Japan for your next teaching abroad stint?

Here’s six reasons why China is the better option.

China is cheaper

Where can you buy a bottle of water for 20 cents and a meal for just a few dollars? Certainly not Japan!

No matter what country in the West you’re from, you’ll find everyday items are much cheaper in China than in Japan.

In fact, you can easily live in China on just US$10 a day. That’s because many schools offer accommodation and utility bills as part of the salary package.

You’ll only need to fork out for food, drinks and transport. And maybe the occasional shopping splurge!

You can save more money in China

Because things are cheap in China, you can save a lot of money.

Dan McElroy and his partner Jess recently taught English in a small city in rural China. They each managed to save a whopping US$10,000 in just 10 months.

“It’s crazy how little we spent on day-to-day life,” Dan said.

“Our school provided housing, utilities, and meals if we wanted, so we had very few expenses. It made saving money easy!”

Some teachers fall into the trap of eating lots of Western food and drinking imported beer at inflated prices. This can put a big dent in your savings.

If you can steer clear of most foreign items in China, you’ll be well on your way to saving up a nice little nest egg.

There are less foreigners in China

Although foreign investment is pouring into China at an unprecedented rate, the expat community is largely confined to the big cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

Unless you're in a big city in China, you won't see many foreigners.

You’ll see less foreigners in China than in Japan.

Outside the big cities, you could go for days or even weeks without spotting a foreigner (with the exception of your teaching colleagues, of course).

This is quite different to Japan, where hordes of foreigners visit Japan each year to travel, work or study.

Spending time with the locals in China arguably makes for a more authentic experience.

You’ll learn a lot about the country and its rich culture, and you could even learn some of the language. As a result, you’ll be a much more rounded person when you return home.

The food is more varied in China

If you’re a sushi or sashimi lover, you might disagree with this statement. But for everyone else, China truly is a culinary delight.

All over China, delicious street food is cooked fresh in front of you for just a few yuan. It’s a perfect option if you’re on the run.

For those wanting to sit down, restaurants offer loads of choice at different price points. Chinese people love eating out so you’ll find restaurants on practically every street corner.

What’s great about China is that each province, and often each area within a province, has its own specialty dish or dishes.

Visit Beijing for its delicious noodles and dumplings, Chongqing for its world-famous spicy cuisine, or Fujian for its sweet ‘n’ sour fish. Yum!

Teacher John Mandina likes eating Chinese food. “I like the food. It’s broken up into areas and all areas are different,” he says.

Although John teaches in Jiangsu province, which is known for its sweet food, he prefers spicy food. “I actually prefer Sichuan and Hunan food best because I enjoy spicy food,” he says.

Chinese food is delicious - another good reason to choose China over Japan as your teaching destination.

When it comes to variety, Chinese food comes out on top.

There are more teaching options in China

Armed with a bachelor degree in any field, as well as a TEFL certificate (which is easy to get), China offers countless teaching abroad opportunities.

Whether you’re looking to teach 16 hours a week in a public university or 30 hours a week in a private center, you’re bound to find something that suits your lifestyle and budget in China.

The approximate starting salary for a full-time teacher in one of China’s countless private centers is RMB 12,000. That’s almost five times the average salary.

You’ll also have the opportunity to tutor on the side while working in China. Just remember to run this past your school in case your contract doesn’t allow for it.

China is still developing

Japan is a developed, modern country. In this sense, it’s probably not unlike the country you’re from. So why even go abroad?

China is special as it’s a developing country. Its doors have only been open to the outside world since the 1980s, and therefore offers an incredible mix of old and new.

Change happens quickly in China. One day you’ll look out your apartment window to see a rice paddy field, the next a booming construction site.

If you like a fast-paced lifestyle in a culture that still values family bonds and harmonious relationships, China is the perfect choice for you.

Do you agree that China is a better choice than Japan? Have your say below.

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