So what is it really like teaching English in China?  We caught up with one our First Leap China ESL Teachers, Joseph King from London, now teaching and living it up in Beijing for the past 5 months.  Let’s check in with him and see what he has been up to for the last 5 months.

Tell Us About Yourself and Why You Decided to Teach English in China?

Hello to all those reading this, my name is Joseph King and I am an English language teacher in China. I am from London in the UK where I have lived for much of my life and I am 22 years old.  I consider myself as someone who stands out, is charismatic, and strives to experience new and interesting things out there in the world today. This goes in hand with my passion of travelling as I am interested in seeing and finding out about the vast cultures that exist in the world.

In What City do You Work & What Do You Enjoy About Living There?

I live and work in the city of Beijing, the capital of China.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time living in Beijing. Having come from a big city [London], I am used to some of the hastiness that characterizes a bustling city, like the tall skyscrapers around Beijing, the large quantities of people and the busy subway system that exists, does not startle me.


I enjoy the large amount of freedom that I have in Beijing due to how relatively cheap and affordable things are, in contrast to London. The Public Transport System in Beijing is amazing, the trains are of very high quality in comparison to London with full AC and TV entertainment in the carriages, with these trains getting to most parts of Beijing with efficiency. 

How Long Have You Been in China, and How Have You Adjusted to Life?

I have been in China for 5 months. My life has adjusted by eating a lot of Chinese take away food (which is very cheap), having to slowly learn and speak Chinese, being stared at and having grown numb to the sound of the constant hurling up of mucus.

Inside the Forbidden City – Beijing, China

What Were Your Initial Impressions of China? Did Anything Surprise You Good / Bad About China – Based on any Preconceived Notions?

Having done a great deal of research before moving out to China, most of the surprises foreigners find overwhelming did not have much of an effect on me such as the differences Chinese people behave in public such as the loud spitting, and the way people get on and off the subway trains. What I have found most surprising is how well the air quality has been in Beijing. My preconception (as most people) was that the air quality would be horrid but as of now the air quality has been pleasantly very good.

Describe the Company You Work for, and What It’s Like Being a Teacher There?

The teaching company I work for is called First Leap. It’s an English learning centre for 2-15-year-old children, thus covering a large skill set with a wide range of abilities, they are one of the biggest English teaching institutes in Beijing. It is and has been a very interesting experience being a teacher at First leap, lots of support and training has been provided which has been a big help with settling down in China and becoming a competent and skilled teacher. I work in a very positive working environment with group of foreign and Chinese teachers that have been very nice and fun.    

What’s Your Impression of the ESL Industry in China and the Local’s Interest in Learning English?

My impression of the ESL industry in China is that it is a rather lucrative industry with lots of opportunities but alongside a great deal of shady practices. From meeting people who are in different ESL companies their experiences have varied immensely with some seeing their contracts not being fully obliged to, with others being immensely short staffed and over worked too those who are given barely any work to do. A lot of this comes down to the reputation of the ESL company and how long they have been around. Due to the growing demand of Chinese people wanting to learn English the more greyed area of this industry is becoming less common, with the industry only becoming bigger over the next few years. Now is a great time to secure a job over in China for a very attractive pay package.

How Have You Grown in Your Role as an ESL Teacher Since You’ve Been in China?

I have become much more confident as teacher, learning what works and what doesn’t work. I have seen that building strong relationships with my classes has really helped not only making the teaching experience much more enjoyable but also helping to make teaching easier to do. I have seen my own skill sets grow as well, with simplified talk and explanation becoming easier to do alongside improved organisation skills.

Hanging out with my housemates – Summer Palace (Beijing)

How Have You Grown Personally Since Living in China?

I have grown Personally in China by becoming a more responsible adult by being around the presence of children which has made more authoritative and aware of my actions. Additionally, I have taken a more active role in my monthly budgeting, prioritising where my money should be saved and put towards. I have also taken the initiative to learn Chinese, an ongoing slow process that has seen me encounter my fare share of hurdles I have had to get over.

Tell Us About Some of the Fun You’ve Had in China – from Travel Opportunities, Nightlife, New Friends, Activities, etc.?

One of the many perks of China is the amount of freedom that you have with the high amount of disposable income that you gain.  So far, I have ventured around most of Beijing’s tourist attractions with my housemates, experiencing the cultural marvels that Beijing hold such as the beautiful Summer Palace.

I travelled to another Chinese city called Nanjing, to see how it differs to the bustling city of Beijing that I am based in. It was very interesting experience due to the history from the Second World War where unfortunately a large amount of atrocities occurred. I also travelled to Seoul in South Korea which was a very fun city with so much to do there. It was incredible seeing how different Seoul as a city is compared to Beijing which isn’t far away. Seoul is a very beautiful city, enclosed around mountains and it was over-whelming having the notion that I was so close to North Korea which was just behind the northward mountains of the city.

What’s Been Your Most Memorable Moment About This Whole Experience?

I would say one of the most memorable moments of my whole experience in China was being on the Great wall and overlooking the beautiful scenery surrounding the Great Wall. Being up on the Great Wall gave me a sense of nirvana, being at one with nature, and a clear imagination of what life looked like on the Great Wall hundreds of years ago. Additionally, the Great Wall was very interesting to be on, and seeing how curvy and uneven it is on the mountain top was astonishing. The Great Wall was overwhelmingly cool and is a place I plan on going back to in 2018 to explore further.

The Great Wall of China

What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who is Considering Coming to China to Teach English?

My advice would be to thoroughly research all areas of China and the cities that you are looking, or are interested in teaching English at and see how it makes you feel.  Also start forming ideas of what to expect out in China and be aware of the scams that are typically targeted at new comers to China.

Want to Join Our First Leap Family?

We want to thank Joseph for sharing his experience with us coming to First Leap to teach English to kids in Beijing.  If you are interested in learning more about teaching in China and about joining the First Leap family, please click on the link below. We are always looking for teachers to fill positions at our centers all across China!

Apply HERE