This guide has been prepared to give New Zealanders basic information on the business of working in China so they can be better informed before committing themselves to a particular job. The detail relates specifically to teaching English but the general principles will apply to anyone considering working in China.
The Chinese economy is booming but doing business is as competitive as ever. And China is no longer a cheap place to live and travel in. To land a good job it is no longer enough to simply be a foreigner in China or to be able to speak a ‘bit of Chinese’. Gone are the days when a new arrival could wing it on nothing more than good luck and the ability to speak English.
Most New Zealanders do enjoy their experience in China. But unfortunately some have arrived under contract with promises of generous salaries, bonuses and other amenities, only to find themselves in tenuous situations.
Now the official warning. The advice contained here is simply that. We do our best to ensure that the information is accurate but we cannot vouch for, guarantee nor take responsibility for any events arising from following this advice. It is the responsibility of each individual to decide what pertains to their own situation and to familiarise themselves with their legal obligations while in China. This responsibility applies equally when traveling in any country.
We cannot be liable for any errors made by New Zealanders who may interpret this advice, which may be different or perhaps even changed by the Chinese authorities at any time.
The embassy is not permitted to become involved in individual cases, conduct an investigation nor act as a lawyer in legal or contractual mishaps experienced by New Zealand citizens.
We do not maintain a list of employers or teaching institutions and can neither investigate nor certify employers or schools. It is up to each individual to evaluate potential employers before signing contracts. Prospective teachers are urged to deal directly with the school and current or former teachers of the institution.
If you do experience other problems, the consular officers at the New Zealand Embassy in Beijing or the Consulate-General in Shanghai may be able to provide guidance.
Also check out the Safe Travel website (external link) for general travel advice.
We suggest that before departing New Zealand, you prepare yourself mentally, physically and financially. Much of this preparation is commonsense and good tips can be found in the many guidebooks available.
The currency of China is Renminbi (RMB) and the country is still very much a cash society. The banking system is not as advanced as in New Zealand and even the most straightforward transaction can be time-consuming and expensive. Ensure you arrive with sufficient cash and have access to funds - US$ is the most useful. New Zealand currency is unlikely to be readily converted.
Credit cards and ATMs are not widely accepted in China. Usually only major shops, hotels and friendship stores are able to offer credit card services.
Medical care in much of China is basic, especially outside of major cities. While routine health services may not be as expensive as in New Zealand, emergencies can be costly especially if service is sought from a foreign/private clinic or a medical evacuation becomes necessary. Many hospitals may not accept overseas health insurance and demand payment before treatment. It is very important for individuals to make sure that they have arranged their own medical insurance or have sufficient funds available in case medical care is needed.
We strongly recommend that all travelers to China have some form of internationally recognised medical insurance.
Foreigners may be entitled to a form of medical cover through their employer. This should be clarified at the time of acceptance of employment. It is important that you understand the nature and scope of any coverage as the quality and extent varies considerably.