Okay! So you’ve contacted Top Notch ESL about Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in China. We’ve answered any of the questions that you have and even got you an interview with one of the many private schools that we work with across China. You’re interview went off without a hitch (hopefully you read our interviewing tips and tricks beforehand) and the school just extended an offer to you! Now comes the first committing step toward teaching English in China: signing the contract!

Just like any other contract you must sign you want to read the TEFL contract carefully and make sure you understand all of it. Don’t worry though, one of the perks of working with an agency like Top Notch ESL is that we are there for you throughout the entire TEFL hiring experience. We will be there to answer any questions you may have and be the mediator between you and the school to make sure that any concerns you have are taken care of.

The TEFL contract itself is very straight forward and has a limited amount of legal jargon. Still, some aspects of your TEFL contract may seem foreign because, well, it is foreign.

Breaking Down the TEFL Contract

First, the TEFL contract will be for one year (99.9% of TEFL contracts will be for one year). Your teaching hours, which you discussed during your previous interview(s) will be laid out in plain detail. The same goes for your salary; it will be plainly stated how much you will be receiving per month-after taxes.

Signing a TEFL contract in China
Chinese public holidays for 2015.

Perhaps biggest difference between a Chinese TEFL contract and a western contract is the holiday schedule. You can typically expect to get paid national holidays. You can expect about 3 weeks of total holidays (sometimes more) spread throughout the year. But here is where China differs from the West. After, or before, most holidays you will have to work an extra day (or two). For example, for Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, in mid-February you will more than likely be expected to work a day extra before and after the 7 day holiday. This is a national standard.

Sick days and personal leave days are a little different as well. The Chinese are very hard workers, so giving paid sick days or personal days is something that is very rare. It varies by school and is something you should discuss with your school before signing the contract. But in general expect to not be paid for any sick or personal days you may take.

Any necessary visa extensions or paperwork that needs to be handled will also be outlined in the contract. Here, again, the situation varies, but more than likely all visa requirements will be taken care of by our agency or a combination of your TEFL school and us.

Another section, though less common, of the TEFL contract is the housing arrangement. In the smaller cities schools might offer to provide housing accommodation for you at no cost. It’s best to confirm, but housing is usually in a one bedroom with all appliances (air conditioning, heater, washing machine, bathroom, etc.). The only exceptions being a dishwasher and dryer, (I have not seen a dryer in China yet!) Chinese typically hang dry their clothes. Also, the bathroom is usually a ‘wet room’ with no bathtub or separation between the shower and toilet- this is typical throughout China as well- even in the larger cities.

Other expectations and requirements of your TEFL job will be outlined in the contract as well. Early termination, and causes for dismissal will also be in the contract. Of course, be sure to read through and ensure that you understand all that is expected of you before signing.

Making a year-long commitment to anything should not be taken lightly. But after going through the application and interview process you should feel well prepared to make the transition to China. Remember that our job doesn’t end when you sign a TEFL contract. We will continue to make your move to China as painless as possible by assisting you with getting settled in. Things like getting a Chinese sim card, finding an apartment, and getting a bank account are all things that we help our teachers with on a regular basis. Top Notch ESL, will be there whenever you need us throughout your stay in China, whether it be for only a year, or 5, or more!

So sign that contract and we’ll get started on all of your visa paperwork to get you over to China to start your next (or first) adventure! You can visit our YouTube channel to watch some videos about life in China and read some more articles on how to set yourself up for success for teaching English as a foreign language in China. And remember to pack the right things, get a VPN, and brush up on some Chinese as well!

Once you sign the TEFL contract you're one step closer to this