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Teaching English in China: Shenzhen Vs Guangzhou

Did you know that teaching in China can be significantly different depending on the location? If you’re planning to move to China or currently living there and thinking about teaching English in China, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the differences between Shenzhen and Guangzhou. There are substantial cultural differences between these two areas, as well as economic and environmental ones, so before you make your move, take the time to learn about each area’s specific qualities and decide which one will be best for you!

Teaching English in Shenzhen

To teach English in Shenzhen means experiencing life in one of China’s most modern cities. Shenzhen’s Pearl River Delta city is a bustling metropolis with a population of 20 million people. It may be best known to outsiders as being just across from Hong Kong, but it has its own identity and personality. Shenzhen is ideal if you want to live and work in southern China!

Due to its proximity to Hong Kong, many people find that living in Shenzhen is more manageable than life in other parts of China. It’s also home to some of China’s most famous beaches and one of Asia’s largest shopping malls. Many people living in Hong Kong come to Shenzhen on weekends and holidays, as it’s just a thirty-minute train ride away. 

What makes teaching English in Shenzhen great? 

The city of Shenzhen has plenty of things to do when you’re not working, making for an excellent work-life balance. Teaching jobs in Shenzhen come with some great perks. After all, you’re living in one of China’s most modern cities, known for its tech-savvy culture and love of lifestyle innovations. It makes sense then that any English teacher who lives in Shenzhen will find that their salary more than covers all kinds of luxuries such as shopping, traveling, and enjoying delicious cuisines from all over the world.

There’s so much to see and do in Shenzhen, and it makes it an excellent city for English teachers who want to live as part of a vibrant community. If you’re looking for a fun weekend activity or something interesting to do with friends during the Golden Week, there are plenty of things on offer!

Teaching English in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is a great place to start teaching English in China and among China’s most visited places. It is the capital city of Guangdong province, and it is famous for shopping, Cantonese cuisine, and the Canton Fair. 

History shows that Guangzhou has grown from a trade port to a manufacturing hotspot. This means a mixture of history and modernity adds to the many things you could experience in Guangzhou teaching English.

Guangzhou offers a variety of things to do. New teachers have the flexibility to learn, experience different cultures, and enjoy the excellent nightlife. Some of the top things to do in Guangzhou include:


  • Ascend Canton Tower
  • You could visit the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall
  • Take a Pearl River cruise
  • Tour the museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King
  • Take a trip to the Baiyun Mountain Park

Here are some reasons why it’s one of the best places to pursue your teaching career:

  • Easy transport system – the subway, trains, buses, and taxis make it easy to get around Guangzhou.
  • Cost of living – it’s one of the cheapest places in China for foreigners to live with a Western standard of living. 
  • Climate – the warm and sunny climate makes the weather in Guangzhou perfect for living. Plus, it is not too hot.
  • Local food – there is a variety of authentic Chinese food, with many Western-style options.
  • It’s a safe city – some cities like Beijing experience safety issues, but Guangzhou’s local people are generally friendly and welcoming. 
  • Nightlife – there are plenty of bars and restaurants to go out to at night and relax from a long day of teaching. It’s lively!

It’s also a pretty big city, with many things to do. It’s an international hub for manufacturing and trade, attracting foreigners from beyond Asia. You can get a good balance between experiencing Chinese and Western cultures here.

Qualifications To Teach English In China

The main factor in determining if you are qualified to teach English in China is your country’s relationship with the Chinese government. You must have a valid passport from the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand or South Africa, and residents from these countries can teach English in China legally.

To teach English in China, you must have obtained your TEFL certification (or equivalent) and TESOL certificate. It is also recommended that you have at least one year of experience working as an ESL teacher; however, it is possible to work without any teaching experience.

It is also required that you obtain a visa to teach in China, including an Alien Employment Permit (AEP) and a Z-visit visa. The AEP is received through your school and should be applied for at least ten days before you begin working, and it is valid for one year after its issuance.

Lastly, you must educate yourself on other government requirements like medical exams and criminal record policies. You don’t want to get stuck when you have all the other provisions in place.

When comparing schools, it’s also essential to consider teacher-school contracts. Consider your reasons for teaching in China, and ask yourself if you want to make a long-term commitment. Most teaching jobs in China are one-year contracts, but the contracts can be higher or lower in some cases. At the end of your contract, it is up to you to decide whether to renew or not. Understanding the duration of your contract helps you plan your stay in China well.


Even though these two cities are relatively close, they have many differences and benefits that could interest potential English teachers looking for employment in China. The cost of living may be slightly higher in Shenzhen due to its larger population and more extensive entertainment options, but it has more learning opportunities for English teachers. On the other hand, those who prefer smaller communities and a slower pace of life may find their home in Guangzhou.

You can’t go wrong with either city as both offer a high quality of life and good opportunities for English teachers looking to teach in China.