The Good and Bad of Teaching in Shanghai, China

The Good and Bad of Teaching in Shanghai, China

Shanghai is an exciting, vibrant international city that is often people’s first choice when they decide to teach in China. But despite all the amazing things happening here, Shanghai isn’t for everyone. Some people have different needs and preferences when it comes to the city they live in, and sometimes another city will suit you better. Let’s have a look at some of the good and bad of teaching in Shanghai.

The Bad Things About Teaching in Shanghai

Some expats rave about teaching in Shanghai, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a perfect place to live. In fact, this city can be overwhelming or even underwhelming, depending on what you’re looking for when you live overseas.

The Pollution

Shanghai is a huge city, which means that pollution is a problem. Many locals, tourists and expats in China suffer from problems related to pollution, such as asthma and infections. When you live in Shanghai, you might find that you develop an annoying cough that won’t go away until you move into a less polluted area. Unfortunately, this is just something that you’ll have to live with. And if you already have asthma, the pollution can even be dangerous, so be careful.

The Crowds

You’ll find crowds almost everywhere you go in Shanghai. This is a city of over 24 million, with tourists and visitors flying in and out every day. So, you might struggle to find a quiet corner, or get frustrated by the lines at the supermarket. This is part of the Shanghai experience.

International Culture Takes Away from Authentic Culture

You can get anything in Shanghai and that’s both good and bad. Shanghai has a strong international culture, which means that the original Chinese culture, architecture, and influences are diluted. When you’re walking the streets of this city, you could be almost anywhere, and that’s a problem if you want to experience a slice of China’s authentic culture. The international aspect does make it easier to adapt to.

The Noise

Pollution doesn’t only come in one form. The noise in Shanghai can be overwhelming. Between the rumble of cars and trucks, the car horns, and the hum of crowds, the noise is almost constant. And on festival days, you can add the crack of firecrackers to the general din. If you like a bit of quiet, this is probably not the place for you.


Related: Teach in a town in China: Shaoxing


A High Cost of Living

It can be expensive to live in Shanghai. Rents, food, shopping, they will all cost more than in smaller cities. And if you’re determined to make the most of your stay, you could end up spending a good chunk of what you’re making.

The Good Things About Teaching in Shanghai

Of course, there are reasons why Shanghai is a popular international city and why so many teachers choose to come here. Here are some of the great things about choosing to teach in Shanghai, China:

You can Get Anything

Shanghai is truly an international city, which means you can get almost anything. Whether you’re looking for special toiletries, food for a special diet, or clothes of a certain size, you’ll find them more easily in Shanghai than in smaller cities.

You Don’t Need to Know Chinese

There’s a lot of western influence in Shanghai, so there’s a lot of English as well. Street signs, shops, menus, a lot of them will be in English, particularly in the areas that see a lot of tourists and visitors. This can simplify your visit a great deal.

The Food is Amazing

Food in China as a whole is incredible, but Shanghai takes it to another level. Not only will you be able to eat a range of Chinese cuisines, you will have access to restaurants selling western food as well. This means, when you have a craving for a familiar dish from your home, and you will, you’ll probably be able to find a place that sells it.

The Job Market is Huge

You’ll have your pick of jobs when you decide to teach in Shanghai. Everyone needs foreign teachers, which means that as long as you have a TEFL certification and a degree, you can teach anywhere.

The Pay is Better

You’ll get paid more for teaching in Shanghai than in most other cities. This is offset a little by the fact that the cost of living is higher.

It’s Easy to Travel

Shanghai is basically a transportation hub. So, if you want to travel to other parts of China or even out of the country during your holidays or off hours, this is a good place to base yourself.

The History and the Future

Shanghai is a city caught between a long and fascinating history and an exciting future. There’s nothing like exploring ancient shrines one day and wandering through futuristic skyscrapers the next. This is what makes this city one of the most compelling in the world.

If you want to teach in China, then you need to think about where to teach very carefully. Make this decision based on what you like and prefer and the kind of lifestyle you want to live. That’s the absolute best way to get the most out of the experience when you decide to teach in China.

Ready to take on Shanghai? Check out our teaching job in the city. If you are not sure which city in China is right for you, send us a quick message and we’ll get in touch with you.

About the Author

Gayle Aggiss is an ESL teacher and a dedicated traveller.She has taught in Fuzhou, China, and Hanoi and much prefer smaller cities to the larger options. When she’s not on the road, she live in Perth, Australia.  She writes about education, ESL teaching specifically, and you can view more examples of my work at