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Don’t Mind if I Cheng-Du! Insider Tips on Teaching English in Sichuan, China

Don’t Mind if I Cheng-Du! Insider Tips on Teaching English in Sichuan, China

  • Tuesday 30 May 2017

Rosie has lived and taught English abroad for many years. She recently visited China to get a feel for what it's like for teachers who work and live there! Needless to say she found the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable!

A travel-lover, Rosie has spent over a decade in the English teacher training and placement field. Her favorite places are in Asia; she's most happy with a bowl of something spicy and chopsticks in hand.

What is it like teaching English in China?

Smack dab in the middle of the Middle Kingdom lies the city of Chengdu, an often overlooked (and incredibly underrated) destination to have your own teaching English in China experiences. While it’s 13 million people are certainly impressive, I found myself more drawn towards its furry residents. That’s right: Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, is also home to 80% of China’s panda population (certainly living up to its street cred as the Land of Abundance).

In between bee-bopping to the bamboo, slurping noodles, and staring at the local women (they’re known to be the most beautiful in China!), you can find plenty of jobs in Chengdu for foreigners — especially foreign teachers. Ready to teach in the heart of China? Here’s everything you need to know to teach in China’s secret city: Chengdu.


Surf the Chinese Web

Many of your favorite social media sites — like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter — AND Google are all blocked in China. Wondering how to survive life without your precious memes? Download a virtual private network (VPN) before you travel on your devices. This strategy is highly recommended, as once you’re under the blanket of China’s Firewall, it’s way more tricky to negotiate it! Popular service providers include:

  • Landen
  • PandaPow
  • Astrill

If you want to go ultra-Chinese while you teach in China, consider trading in your old standby social media sites for the locals’ versions — Weibo for Twitter and Renren for Facebook (brush up on your Mandarin first or you might get confused). When it comes to browsing, you’ll learn to love the local search engine, Baidu.com. Lucky for you, its maps functionality is comprehensive — the perfect default for getting un-lost a lot easier.

Know the Lingo AKA Mandarin

While we don’t expect you to waltz off the plane fluent in 5000+ Chinese characters, it is helpful to understand some simple phrases before you teach English in Chengdu. Casual greetings such as “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Please,” “Sorry,” and “Thank you” can go a long way to making you feel more at home and to the locals appreciating your efforts.



Schools provide all meals on work days, meaning you’ll only need to feed yourself on the weekends. Convenience stores, like WoWo and FamilyMart are on every corner, where you can pick up essential supplies. Markets are easy to come by, as are late night kebabs (chuan), and corner snack shops.

Eating out is inexpensive and a great way to discover new dishes, flavor combinations, and levels of Chinese culture. Say “ZaiJian!” (goodbye!) to pan-Asian stir-fries and cold buffet rangoons. It’s your lucky day, as Sichuan province is known nationally for wokking up some of the best Chinese cuisine.

To be honest — your real job in Chengdu (besides brightening the minds of ESL students as a teacher in China) should be to try as many local foods as possible. Don’t even think about leaving without sampling hot pot, mapo tofu, twice cooked pork, and the original kung pao chicken.

Eating Out with Friends/Coworkers/Students

Unlike foreign lands, if you’re faced with a dining setting like the photo below… the plate is used for the bones or discarded parts of your dish. It’s not considered rude to place these byproducts proudly on your plate.

Much like back home, dining out is a social event. In China, food is almost always served from large, shareable plates that rotate on a giant lazy susan in the middle of your party. It’s great! Use your chopsticks to fill your bowl and politely place any inedible parts on the plate to the side. If you need to, rest your spoon in the groove beside the top of your chopstick holder.

Pro Tip: If you’re eating a shared dish that comes with a dipping sauce. It’s proper etiquette to only dunk once… so don’t dip into the sauce, take a bite and then re-dip!*

*Actually, this is just a general life tip.

Spicy & Sweet

If you love spicy food, then you’ll relish Sichuan-style hot pot, the traditional dish of the locality. With this delicacy, it’s not as important to understand the contents as it is to taste everything. You can order ingredients a la carte to suit your table, such as tofu, pork, yam, and lotus root. We recommend a combination of vegetables, proteins, and noodles. If you’re not into bull intestines or throat, then it’s easy to skip it!

Desserts aren’t commonly eaten in China by the locals, but the adorable bakeries and occasional red bean bun (doushabao) never hurt anybody.


Beer is the most common drink served with dinner, while wine is not so common. A large bottle is often shared between two or three, serving small glasses per person. The beer is very much to accompany the food as opposed to get you ready to party.

Chinese tea is world-famous and available EVERYWHERE. Making your tea of choice special is pretty easy. Fancy some floral infusions? Then the Chinese will hit you up with some actual jasmine flowers. Word.

Fear not coffee lovers, freshly brewed coffee is in high demand. Supply is plentiful and you won’t be disappointed. For super-
fans you’ll get your hand on Starbucks with ease, but it’s gonna cost you. And…they can spell too!


A Chat with Teaching Interns

I was able to meet with a few teaching interns in Chengdu and they sent me packing with a lot of ideas and advice for future ESL teachers in China. I asked them:

What type of person makes for the happiest teacher?

  • Open-minded and those ready for a challenge.
  • Those who are ready to make new friends.
  • Explorers.
  • To be out of their comfort zone and to relish that.
  • Positive people who see the silver lining if things aren’t as they imagined.
  • Those that are accepting – of China, their placement and everything that goes with it.
  • Problem solvers.

It’s clear to me that the best teachers are adaptable, flexible, and open to the adventures that China holds for them. Pandas or not.


Placement schools for Premier TEFL programs are around Chengdu city and the surrounding areas. Expect to receive a semester curriculum to follow at your schools at the minimum. In certain cases, some schools even offer pre-made lesson plans.

We recommend all teachers give students a needs analysis on your class in their first week of teaching to determine what they’re keen to learn and areas you can see need improvement. This could be as simple as greetings, for example. Spending time sculpting lesson plans to suit your students’ interests, degree subjects, or desires for using English will not be ill spent. Using the Premier TEFL classroom activity ebook can help keep things fresh too.

Accommodations while Teaching English in Chengdu

A bus journey from your school to the city center could cost as little as 35 RMB. Often, school accommodation in university placements or colleges is on campus; for kindergarten, primary, and secondary schools, your accommodation may be a short walk away. Talk about convenient!


Click here to visit our China webpage.

To organise your own live abroad experience, give us a call on 021 4277094 or 01 6965135, email info@shandontravel.ie, request a call back using the red button or call into our shops in Clonakilty, Bandon and the Grand Parade.

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