The life of an English teacher in China is really quit easy. Only when you have been in China long enough to meet locals who work a ridiculous number of hours every week and have little precious time will you realize how good you’ve really got it. Teaching English in China requires anywhere from 25 to 35 hours of your weekly time; however, many jobs in China require anywhere from 60 to 80 hours every week for less than the average English teacher makes. As this NY Times article explains:
The hands that make the world’s electronics belong almost entirely to young people with dreams of their own, and a lifetime of contented industrial drudgery is not among them. Their precious time off is a rare chance to enjoy the present as they strive for a better future.
This type of working environment has led to dance clubs and other related venues to spring up near China’s busiest factories. For example, Foxconn is the company now infamous for making most of Apple’s products at a lower labor cost, working many of its employees to the bone. Because of this, Zhengzhou, the city home to the mini-city/ factory, has seen a great increase in the number of clubs where workers can come to unwind, or drink away their sorrows. Given the description of the work and living environment, the following description of the areas surrounding factories makes sense:
In the residential compounds, rows of brick dormitories house up to eight workers in rooms filled with metal bunk beds, a combination shower-toilet, and not much else. Perhaps that is why the world beyond the factory gates resembles a gigantic street fair. As dusk fell one night recently in Zhengzhou, Mandarin pop music blared from hair salons and couples strolled past stalls selling pirated DVDs, sliced watermelon and roses covered in silver glitter. A flatbed truck piled high with oversize stuffed animals drew a mob of young women like sharks to blood. “I want the green teddy bear,” cooed a teenage girl to her boyfriend, who dutifully handed over 10 renminbi, or $1.60.
Keep this in mind when you are offered a contract from a Chinese school to come and teach English in Shanghai or other great cities. As a foreign English teacher, you are given a great salary and minimal working hours in what is usually a great working environment, even by Western standards. You will undoubtedly meet people from Southeast Asian countries that come to work in even worse conditions and for less money than described above. The life of an English teacher certainly beats the need for street fairs surrounding your school!