Changing Jobs in China

Word of the week: tiào cáo


Most of the time in China people will assume you’re either a student or teaching English. Even in the relatively cosmopolitan cities of Beijing and Shanghai it’s not unusual to be asked nǐ shì lǎo shī hái shi xǔe sheng? (are you a teacher or a student?)

Teaching English usually pays quite well and the same amount of money gives you a much higher standard of living in China than it would in London or other western cities. The work load is also quite light. Even at professional training schools a native English speaker will usually get away with a lot less hours (and stress) then their ESL teaching counterparts in Japan.

teaching can, among other things, be a rewarding experience

teaching can, among other things, be a rewarding experience

But staying in China doesn’t mean staying in one place. For English teachers it’s extremely easy to tiào cáo. That is, jump from one job to another. tiào means jump (as in tiào wǔ, dance) and cáo is a trough from which an animal eats. So if you tiào cáo then you are metaphorcally jumping from one trough to another and changing where you get your food from.

the trough on the left says "high salary" whilst the man is shouting "over there is not bad!"

the trough on the left says “high salary” whilst the man is shouting “over there is not bad!”

But when you tiào cáo (change your job) in China it can quite literally mean you get your food from elsewhere. That’s becase it’s easy to not just change your job but also change your city.

So in a country the size of China you could potentially jump thousands of kilometres whenever you tiào cáo. Many people who originally go to China as students or employees in other industries also tiào cáo and become English teachers. Unfortunately if you tiào cáo too much it might not look so good on your CV / resume when you finally go home. That is assuming you do go home…


Teaching English in China can be a great way to experience another culture, see the world, make friends and earn money. For more information from click here.