Teaching in China, Teach English Abroad, TEFL China Teaching in China, Teach English Abroad, TEFL China http://teachabroadchina.com Live and Work in China Wed, 03 Dec 2014 21:50:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Job tips for English speaking Asians in China http://teachabroadchina.com/asians-teach-english-china-native/ http://teachabroadchina.com/asians-teach-english-china-native/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 07:01:51 +0000 http://teachabroadchina.com/?p=1646 Why is it difficult for English speaking Asians to find a teaching job in China?

This is a question I get many times from fellow teachers of Asian descent.

Let’s face it. We Asians don’t make good poster boys or girls for schools that want to attract more students. Many schools in China want Caucasian teachers because many Chinese believe that only Caucasians can teach English. Having a Caucasian also brings in more revenue for the school. In other words, more Caucasians + more students = more revenue.

All is not lost, however. If you are willing to put up with lots of inconveniences and to sell yourself as a capable teacher, then finding a teaching job is really easy. Here are some tips that I have found useful in my job search:

  1. Be a chameleon. While we can’t change our skin color, we can certainly adapt to different situations. When I’m with my students I try to be as foreign as possible. I speak only English to them at all times. I try to teach them western culture and ideas. I try to be as western as possible. When I’m off campus I try to be as local as possible. I try to learn the local dialect and about their culture. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
  2. Promote yourself by promoting your assets. This goes hand in hand with point one. For me my asset is that I was born and raised in Hawaii. Who doesn’t want to be friends with someone from Hawaii? Everybody wants to go to Hawaii. So I try to use that fact to my advantage. When I introduce myself on the first day of class, I teach my students a Hawaiian song and hula that we teach tourists. I teach them a few Hawaiian words. I teach them about racism and use Barack Obama, who was born and raised inHawaii, as an example of a multi-cultural America.  Another asset is that I have to be bi-cultural. Many of my Caucasian colleagues, some whom have never been to China before, always complain to me about the Chinese and the Chinese way of doing business. For example, many Caucasians get upset when they are the last to know about a very important school event. They complain that it is very difficult to make plans ahead of time since there is so much uncertainty on the part of the Chinese foreign affairs office (FAO). I tell them that many times Chinese just don’t know what the school leadership is up to and therefore even they themselves don’t know the school schedule. Just enjoy the ride.
  3. Beggars can’t be choosers. Many schools in many Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, or even in the provincial cities like Nanjing, have a large expatriate community. These schools may also pay their teachers differing salaries depending which country they come from as well as their qualifications. For example, a Filipino American will get the same pay as his or her Caucasian counterpart whereas a teacher from the Philippines will be paid considerably less for the same amount of work. Therefore, it is more difficult for Asians to find a teaching job because of stiff competition and discriminate practices among Chinese employers. In smaller cities, however, the story is very different. Many of these schools in the smaller cities just don’t know where to look and don’t know how to find, much less hire, foreign teachers. That is why I highly recommend going to the smaller cities where there is a desperate need for foreign teachers and where teachers of Asian decent can bargain for a fair wage.

If you do decide to venture into a town where there are no foreigners, here are a few things to look out for at your new school.

  1. Unwanted fame. The Chinese may think of you as being Chinese – until you start speaking. Then they will know that you are not local. And if you are caught speaking English you may even be asked to tutor privately.
  2. Your school may have no idea how to treat a foreigner. This misconception applies to ALL foreigners who venture into a place that has no expat community. Sometimes you may find yourself wanting some expat company or just craving for something from home. If that happens, just remember that there’s at least one KFC in every small town in China and that there are many buses that you can take to a larger city that has what you need.

These are my personal tips that have helped me – an Asian American – to find a job and survive in China.

About the author Jada -

Outside the classroom but still tying in with English I am a TEFL moderator.  As far as having hobbies that have nothing to do with ESL teaching I like to travel (when I have the money to do so). I also like to write (when inspired). I also spend lots of time on Facebook as well as watching movies/TV programs.

Jada is also member of the Teach Abroad China Alliance. Click here to see her profile.

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Is it legal to have two jobs (or more) in China? http://teachabroadchina.com/is-it-legal-have-two-teaching-jobs-or-more-in-china/ http://teachabroadchina.com/is-it-legal-have-two-teaching-jobs-or-more-in-china/#comments Mon, 23 Apr 2012 08:32:44 +0000 http://teachabroadchina.com/?p=1638 “I make almost 30,000 RMB per month,” a new foreign teacher friend recently bragged to me. I was somewhat taken aback by this figure. As a university teacher here, I make less than 1/4 of that amount.

“How in the world do you manage that?”, I asked. “Are you so good at teaching that they just can’t throwing money at you?”

“Not at all”, came the answer. “I have four jobs. One main job and three jobs in the evening and on the weekends”.

Four jobs?  I could hardly believe it. For me, one job was enough to sap my energy away. The thought of four jobs made me feel tired.

The conversation came to a quick end. My new friend was on his way to teach evening classes at a training center across town. He looked a little tired.

Technically, foreigners are only supposed to have one job in China – for the company that provided them with the work visa. As usual however, the word ‘supposed to’ in this country doesn’t quite match up with reality. While four jobs may be a bit excessive, there are plenty of foreign teachers in China who ‘moonlight’ on the weekends. I suppose that goes for  Chinese teachers as well. With English being such a big business here, there is always a big demand for teachers in China.

Generally speaking, you are not going to encounter any big problems with taking on a second job in China. But you do need to understand that doing so is illegal and that if a school wanted to get rid of you, they could use your extra part time job as an excuse to terminate your contract.

You also need to be aware that in some cities in China, English training centers are engaged in a fierce competition for students. If your main source of employment finds out that you are moonlighting for the competition, you could find yourself in a very bad situation. If you are working for a training center, it’s a good idea to choose a second job that is well outside of that competition zone.

The best situation for taking on a second job is if you are working for a public institution. Universities and primary schools, for example, will offer you regular working hours and are probably far less likely to make you work on the weekends. This will allow you to take on some extra work without having to worry about conflicts. Usually, public institutions are also less likely to be asking you questions about what you are doing during your free time.

The most important point here is to make sure that your other job(s) are not interfering with your main job. As long as you can keep your schedules straight and conserve some energy for both, you probably won’t run into any big issues.

Of course, whether or not you should have some extra work also depends on why you came to China. If you are here just to make money, then being in a training center from sunup to sundown will fulfill that purpose. But if you are here to enjoy and learn about the culture, then you want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to really immerse yourself in it.

If you have some more tips (or warnings) about taking on extra jobs here, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Are Chinese people rude or are we just too ethnocentric? http://teachabroadchina.com/chinese-people-rude-ethnocentric/ http://teachabroadchina.com/chinese-people-rude-ethnocentric/#comments Wed, 04 Apr 2012 07:41:35 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1631 My weekly lunches with a foreign co-worker  have too often degenerated into a recap of all of the ‘rude’ behavior that we have observed (or been subjected to) since we last met. Like being shoved into the side of a bus by a crowd or having someone almost run us over with their scooter as we crossed a campus street. Or seeing someone spit right in front of our shoes on the sidewalk.

Sometimes we don’t even have to talk about such behavior in the past tense. It is happening even as we eat lunch. A boy lets a door slam in a girl’s face (and then they go and sit down to have lunch together). Or a boy is talking loudly on his cell phone right behind us apparently forgetting where he is. 

“Chinese people are just rude”, my friend remarked to me recently. “People simply don’t know how to be polite here”.

I thought about this statement for a moment before responding. A few years ago, when I first got here, I probably would have wholeheartedly agreed with him. The pushing, shoving, spitting, peeing, yelling, cutting, obstructing, etc, was at first overwhelming for me.

In fact, if you have been a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have often vented my feelings about this kind of behavior.

But after being here for a few years, something bothers me about calling this behavior outright rude. I’m not sure anymore that it’s fair to use that label.

“What does the word ‘rude’ actually mean?” I asked my friend. “Who decides what ‘rude’ means?”

This very question has been bothering me for a while now. Thousands of foreigners come to this country each year and very quickly condemn Chinese culture as rude and uncivilized.

But aren’t we making this judgement on the basis of a comparison between our cultures and Chinese culture? Are we not defining rude behavior as the opposite of the social norms in our countries?

And if so, is it not a bit arrogant to come here and tell the Chinese that they are rude?

I recently asked a group of students about the way that this uncouth behavior is perceived

“Do you notice when someone pushes past you to get on a bus or when someone cuts in front of you at the bank because ‘they’re in a big hurry'”?

Most of my students said no. Why would they notice or even care? After all, they have grown up in such a culture. These behaviors are just normal here.

Yet, I am unwilling to completely let the Chinese off the hook for their ‘rudeness’. Aren’t there some behaviors that should be condemned in every society? Like when an old person is knocked to the ground while everyone is rushing to catch a subway train? Or when a scooter darts out into the street without looking to see if a car is coming?  Or when a child takes is allowed to take a pee right in the middle of the vegetable section in the supermarket?

Or is that just my ethnocentrism kicking in again?

I suppose that at one time, like many other delusional foreigners, I somehow thought that I could contribute to changing the ‘system’ here. I thought that maybe I could help my Chinese students and friends to understanding that looking out for other people is also important.

Who was I kidding? And what was I thinking? This is not my country.

In the end, you either have to accept the way the culture is here or get out. And if you accept it, it probably won’t be along before it becomes a part of you.

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Are we teachers or entertainers? http://teachabroadchina.com/are-we-teachers-or-entertainers/ http://teachabroadchina.com/are-we-teachers-or-entertainers/#comments Sun, 15 Jan 2012 14:37:00 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1619 Or can we be both?

Most of my university students hate their Chinese teachers. I don’t blame them. And I don’t blame their Chinese teachers either.

I blame the system. In China, classes are taught around exams which means that they are predictably boring and sleep inducing.

That’s why foreign teachers in China are lucky. We can prepare lessons that are more creative and imaginative. We can push students to think critically and form their own opinions – something which rarely happens in Chinese classes.

“We are actually entertainers”, complained one of my colleagues recently after a particularly exhausting week. “It takes too much energy to keep them engaged”.

I don’t disagree with him about the entertainer part. As foreign teachers, we are expected to be different than our Chinese counterparts. For a couple of hours a week, our students want to be able to escape the drudgery of their other classes.

But being an entertainer isn’t necessarily synonymous with being a comedian. If you think you have to be an ESL Jay Leno then you’ll tire yourself out in no time.

Instead, I see myself as an entertainer in the sense that I am trying to entertain their minds with ‘out-of-the-box’ ideas and concepts. I want to stretch their imaginations in my class to the very limits. I don’t want them to just look at two sides of an issue – I want them to look at all possible angles.

How can I achieve this? It’s pretty simple, actually.

I continually ask my students questions. Lots and lots of questions.

I point at them in class and ask them to stand up. And then I start firing at them.

Many of my questions start with “What if…?” or “You said this so does that mean that…?”.

I challenge my students. I contradict them. I point out their inconsistencies. I try to get them to perfect their arguments and opinions.

I also enjoy switching sides from student to student just to confuse them a little bit.

For example, with one student I may act as if I’m completely in support of gay marriage but with the next student, I seem vehemently oppose it.

By the time the class is over, my students may feel mentally exhausted bit that’s only because I forced them to use a part of their brain that otherwise gets little exercise – their imaginations.

And yes, I do try to spice things up a bit with a light infusion of wit,sarcasm,and humor into our activities and conversations. The students responses often provide plenty of fodder for this purpose.

Naturally, it’s important to find topics and questions that are appropriate for your audience.

For middle school students, you could probably have pretty good success with topics like”should you be allowed to chew gum in class?” or “are you old enough to travel by yourself?”

For college age students, the possible topics are endless. In my classes, we have talked about everything from animal rights to premarital sex. For some more great topics, click here.

So don’t try too hard to put on a show for your students. All you really need to do is appeal to their interests and pique their curiosities. And once you achieve this, run with it.

They’ll be entertained and so will you!

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January 2012 China Visa Update http://teachabroadchina.com/january-2012-china-visa-update/ http://teachabroadchina.com/january-2012-china-visa-update/#comments Fri, 13 Jan 2012 03:03:31 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1616 It’s time for an update on the current visa situation in China. This post is based on emails that we receive here at the China Teaching Web as well as conversations that I have had with teachers and schools around China.

Choose carefully before you come to teach here. Due to the increased difficulties of obtaining a visa to teach in China (and finding teachers), schools are not just going to let you walk away from your contract. 

I have a friend who tried to break his contract recently (for what I thought was a pretty compelling reason) but his school threatened to take all sorts of measures to prevent him from leaving. It’s hard to find teachers right now and the school couldn’t afford to lose a foreign teacher for the coming semester. Of course, he could have just walked away, but this could make it difficult for him to return to teach in China in the future.

The Chinese government is cracking down on hard on teachers who are not working on valid work visas

Take a good look at your residence permit. If the city on the permit doesn’t match the city that you are teaching in, this could get you in big trouble. And don’t think that you can get away with teaching on a tourist visa in China. If you are caught doing this, you are on the hook, not your school. Teachers have been arrested,deported and blacklisted for this offense. If your school refuses to provide you with a valid working visa, you need to get out of that situation. It’s not worth the trouble.

Use some common sense and leave when BEFORE your visa expires. If you do overstay, DON’T give your passport to the first schmuck who says he can help you get a valid visa. Pay the FINE and get out!

We receive too many emails from people begging us to help them because they overstayed their visa in China. If their own government can’t help them, what can we do for them? The fact is, overstaying your visa in China (like any other country) is a crime. But unlike other countries, the consequences for overstaying are not overly harsh. You have to pay a fine of 500 RMB per day overstayed with a maximum of 5000 RMB. Of course, if you can’t pay the fine, they can arrest you.

We keep hearing stories about people in this situation who are giving their passports to special ‘agents’ who claim they can help them obtain a valid visa. BAD idea. Never surrender your passport to someone else.

Again, when you come to China, you need to make arrangements to get out on time. If you don’t think you can do that, then don’t bother to come at all!

For more information about overstaying please see this link: http://shanghai.usembassy-china.org.cn/acs_faq.html

Do you have story or word of advice to share with us about visas in China? Please leave a comment below.


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Teaching Western Etiquette in China http://teachabroadchina.com/teaching-western-etiquette-in-china/ http://teachabroadchina.com/teaching-western-etiquette-in-china/#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2012 07:25:22 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1605 Next semester, I have a unique opportunity. I will be teaching a class called ‘Western Etiquette’ and I am free to create the lessons myself. The stated goal of the class is to familiarize students with manners and customs in the West and help them to understand how they should behave if they go abroad.

This should be fun. After living here for a few years, we should have plenty to talk about class. I especially look forward to teaching about some of the DO’s and DONT’s in Western countries — but especially the DONT’s. Those are more fun because I can draw them directly from my experience living here.

They are already popping into my head. Here the top 8 things that people do here that they SHOULDN’T do in the West:

  • Walk up to another man (like your teacher for example) and say “Hey handsome, how’s it going?I have two or three boys do this to me at least three times a semester.
  • Tell your teacher that you can’t participate in the class outing because “I’m on my period”. Yep. I’ve heard this one more than once. TMI!
  • Tell someone that you’ve only met recently that they’re fat and should lose some weight. Okay, so this didn’t happen to me directly but I’ve seen it happen. Chinese people can be very straightforward sometimes and making a comment about someone’s weight isn’t necessarily considered rude here. 
  • Let a door slam in the face of the person who walking behind you. Recently, one of my friends actually saw a boy  at a local restaurant let a door hit a girl behind him and then to my friend’s amazement, they both sat down together. They were boyfriend and girlfriend…
  • Cut in line. Students of mine who try to cut their way through a line in the West (like they do here) will be in for a rude surprise. In my city, Chinese people barely even notice when this happens, it’s so common…
  • Pick the food out our teeth immediately after dinner while you’re still sitting at the table. GROoooSS! Need I say more…?
  • Answer your cell phone no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Voice mail for cell phones is almost unheard of here. It’s rude NOT to pick up you’re phone even if you’re being rude to the people that you’re with when you receive the call!
  • Play a song at full volume on your cell phone in a public place (like a bus or airplane) because you think that everyone else will enjoy it. I think people just like to show off their cell phones here or something…

Can you think of some more? I’d be grateful for some more ideas as I’m preparing for my class!

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Breaking your ESL contract in China http://teachabroadchina.com/breaking-your-esl-contract-in-china/ http://teachabroadchina.com/breaking-your-esl-contract-in-china/#comments Mon, 02 Jan 2012 04:14:18 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1601 Obtaining a work visa in China has become considerably more difficult during the past few years. It is no longer possible in most places in China to have a tourist visa (L-visa) converted into a working permit. And while it used to be possible to have this processed in Hong Kong, the Chinese government is now requiring teachers to obtain the mandatory Z-visa in their countries of origin. In other words, the days of coming to China to have a look around first before deciding where to work are over.

The most important consequence of this ‘tightening up’ is that most teachers now have to sign contracts without having the chance to actually see where they will be teaching. This can really put teachers at a strong disadvantage because they are forced to trust that people whom they have never met are telling them the truth about a school that they have never visited.

As a result, I am receiving more reports than ever (through this website) of teachers who want to break their contracts after being here for just a few months. What they encounter is not what they expected and they want out.

But how easy is it to get out of your contract? And what are the possible consequences?

Technically, you can walk away from your place of employment and contract without worrying about being hunted down and thrown in jail. In fact, while the school can void your foreign expert certificate, your residence permit will still be valid until its expiration date. In other words, you don’t even necessarily need to leave China in a hurry.

However, there is one huge disadvantage to ditching your job here without the school’s blessing – you may have a very hard time finding another job in the near future.

In order to obtain another valid work permit for you, your new school will have to request that your old school(the one with which you broke the contract) provides an important document called ‘a letter of termination’. This letter basically releases you from your old school and makes it possible for your new school to proceed with filing for a new work permit. Without this letter, your new school will not be able to hire you.

It is very common for a disgruntled school to refuse to provide this termination letter. While the school can’t stop you from living in China they can make it very difficult for you to find a new job.

If you aren’t planning on teaching in China again in the near future, this doesn’t really matter. In fact, you could go home,wait until your current residence permit expires, and then apply for a new job in China. However, if you want to get another job right away, you need to find a better way to get out of your contract.

From my experience here, I have found that communication is the most important aspect of working here. If you are unhappy with your working situation, you need to go and talk to your boss or FAO about this. You may not like these people (they are often not very likable), but it can’t hurt to try. And sometimes, you may be pleasantly surprised by the response you receive.

I remember when I once wanted to get out of my contract. I was only 6 months in but I was really unhappy with the place where I was living. I wanted to go somewhere else and start fresh. I communicated this with my supervisor and while they weren’t thrilled with my plans, they were grateful that I was giving them enough time to find someone else. In the end, they allowed me to go and provided the necessary documents for my next place of employment.

If you have a family emergency or you are suffering from health problems, you will often find schools even more sympathetic to your request to leave.

What if the school refuses your request and threatens to prevent you from seeking future employment in China? In that case, you’ll have to make a tough decision. But if you have to go, you have to go. Ditching your job is always an option.

There is one important rule that you should always follow when teaching in China. Never let the school take possession of your passport. As long as you have your passport, the school can’t do anything to invalidate your residence permit.

Do you have experiences with breaking your contract in China? Please share with us in the comments section below.

The opinions and ideas expressed above were not written by a lawyer and not should be construed as legal advice. Every situation is different. Please do your own due diligence before making a decision. 

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Five random lessons I’ve learned teaching in China http://teachabroadchina.com/teaching-china-five-lessons/ http://teachabroadchina.com/teaching-china-five-lessons/#comments Fri, 09 Dec 2011 03:38:46 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1595 Here are a couple of random lessons that I have learned while teaching in China. I have learned most of them the hard way:

– Don’t let the school get away with being vague in your contract – A few years back, I signed a contract which stipulated that the school would pay me extra for working over time. The exact amount,however, was not specified and I found out too late that the overtime rate was way to low.  Just remember, if the school has any leeway in your contract, they will generally use it to your disadvantage. Make sure that everything in your contract is crystal clear.

– If you want to get something done, do it yourself – Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that the people  schools assign to assist the foreign teachers are often clueless. They enjoy practicing English with you but they really have no idea how to help you. If you want something done (get your bathroom door fixed, have internet installed, get a tour of the campus, etc), you have to make your own way. Ask a student or another teacher to help you or learn a little Chinese and see how far you can get.

– Email is NOT the best way to communicate with your supervisor – China may have the most internet users in the world but most people here only check their email a few times a month if that. Face-to-face conversations are still the way to go here especially if you have something important to communicate.

– Papers and exams stay with the school NOT the students – I learned this lesson the hard way when my university recently asked me about the location of 180 essay papers from two years ago. When I told them that I had returned them to my students, the school insisted that I contact ALL of my students and retrieve them. My supervisor explained that in China the school hangs on to these items.

– NEVER give out out cell phone number in class - Unless you want to receive hundreds of well wishes on holidays, of course! I usually give my phone number to the monitors (or head teachers) and make them swear to keep my number secret. Otherwise, every time your student has a question or problem, you’ll hear from them. And you’ll hear from them even after you leave the school. I generally set up a ‘disposable’ email address that my students can use to contact me if they really feel the need.

What lessons have you learned teaching in China? Feel free to leave a comment below!
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Join the Teach Abroad China Alliance http://teachabroadchina.com/join-the-teach-abroad-china-alliance/ http://teachabroadchina.com/join-the-teach-abroad-china-alliance/#comments Mon, 31 Oct 2011 05:21:46 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1590 I am happy to announce the relaunch of our popular support group for teachers – the Teach Abroad China Alliance. If you are already here or you are interested in coming to China, please consider joining our free support group. Our main purpose at TACA is to provide a place where teachers can help and encourage each other.

Please go to

http://www.teachabroadchina.com/TACA to join.

If you are already a member, you should be able to login using your old username and password. If you have forgotten this information, please go to http://www.teachabroadchina.com/TACA/user/password.

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment at the end of this post. See you on TACA!

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September 2011 Visa Update http://teachabroadchina.com/september-2011-visa-update/ http://teachabroadchina.com/september-2011-visa-update/#comments Tue, 06 Sep 2011 11:22:07 +0000 http://www.teachabroadchina.com/?p=1587 Usually, common sense would dictate that you come to China first and have a look around before you settle on a place to teach. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, common sense is often not found in great abundance here – especially in the annals of China’s Foreign Experts Bureau.

You can come here and look around all you want but be prepared to go back home first before you can expect to obtain a work visa here. In other words, it is very difficult now to find a school that can change a tourist visa into a work visa.

My own boss confirmed this a few days ago when she asked me to help find another foreign teacher for our English department.

“Anyone you find has to already have a work visa”, she said. “We can’t help anyone with a tourist visa”.

Gone are the days when you could slip over the border to Macau on Kong to obtain your Z visa.

“What about someone who is in their home country right now?”

“That’s fine,” she said, “but that takes too much time.”

Time isn’t something that many schools have here. English is a booming business and the demand for foreign teachers has skyrocketed this year.

“Every school that I know of is looking for foreign teachers”, a friend of mine whose wife owns a training center told me.

If you’re in your home country right now and you plan on teaching here, you’ll need to get a job lined up BEFORE you come. Just make sure you do your due diligence. Once you get here, you’re more or less stuck where you are.

Any recruiting agent that claims they can get you a working visa upon arrival is probably lying to you. Don’t fall for it. Working in China illegally is a very unwise idea – and that is more true than ever now that the government is paying more attention to foreigners here in China.

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