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Teach English in Harbin, China

Harbin, often referred to as the "Ice City," stands as a glittering jewel in China's northeast. A harmonious blend of Russian and Chinese influences due to its proximity to Russia, Harbin presents a unique cultural tableau not found elsewhere in China. The city is renowned for its breathtaking Ice Festival, which attracts artists and tourists from around the globe each winter. But beyond its icy sculptures and Russian architecture, Harbin offers a rich tapestry of history, culinary delights, and a warm-hearted populace keen on learning and embracing new cultures. For the budding ESL teacher, Harbin promises an environment that's both challenging and rewarding.

Reasons to Teach English in Harbin

  1. Cultural Immersion: Harbin offers a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in a blend of Russian and Chinese cultures. From the Russian-designed Saint Sophia Cathedral to the bustling Zhongyang Street, there's a wealth of history to explore.

  2. Harbin Ice Festival: As an educator in Harbin, you get a front-row seat to one of the world's most spectacular winter events. The city transforms into a wonderland of ice sculptures, lanterns, and winter sports.

  3. Demand for English Educators: With the city's increasing international exposure, there's a growing demand for English teachers in schools, universities, and private institutions.

  4. Affordable Living: Harbin offers a relatively lower cost of living compared to other major Chinese cities, allowing teachers to save more while enjoying a comfortable lifestyle.

  5. Natural Beauty: Beyond the urban landscape, Harbin is surrounded by pristine nature. The Songhua River, which freezes in winter, becomes a playground for ice-skating and other activities, while the summer months reveal lush parks and scenic spots.

  6. Warm and Welcoming Locals: The people of Harbin are known for their hospitality and keenness to interact with foreigners. As a teacher, this makes the experience of living and working here even more enriching.

  7. Diverse Food Scene: Harbin's culinary scene is a delightful mix of Chinese and Russian cuisines. From hearty dumplings to Russian bread, there's a plethora of flavors waiting to be explored.

  8. Opportunities for Professional Growth: Many educational institutions in Harbin offer professional development opportunities for their teachers, ensuring that your time here contributes significantly to your career trajectory.

Understanding Harbin's Education Landscape

Harbin's educational framework is continually evolving, reflecting its aspirations of becoming an influential center for learning in northeastern China. A mix of public schools, private institutions, and international schools forms the educational tapestry of this city. While the public schools follow the national curriculum set by the Chinese government, international schools and private institutions often offer courses tailored to global standards, making them particularly attractive to ex-pat families and those seeking an international education for their children.

Due to Harbin's growing economic status and its increasing interactions on the global stage, the demand for English proficiency has surged. English is considered an essential skill, and parents are keen to ensure their children receive the best English education possible. This has led to a rise in English language centers, after-school tutoring classes, and an increased emphasis on English in regular schools.

Eligibility and Requirements to Teach English in Harbin

The requirements to teach English in Harbin will be similar to the standard requirements for teaching English in China, however, here are the specific requirements for Harbin:

  1. Bachelor's Degree: Like the rest of China, a Bachelor's degree (in any field) is mandatory for teaching in Harbin.

  2. TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Certification: A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or equivalent certification is typically required, especially if you don't have prior teaching experience.

  3. Native English Speaker: Teachers should be native speakers and hold passports from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, or South Africa. Non native English speakers can still work in China as a subject teacher, or teaching assistant/manager.

  4. Clean Criminal Record: A background check is mandatory to ensure the candidate has no criminal history.

  5. Medical Examination: A comprehensive health check is usually a part of the visa process.

  6. Previous Teaching Experience: While not always mandatory, having prior teaching experience can be an advantage, especially for positions in reputed institutions or higher salary brackets.

Salary and Benefits for Teaching English in Harbin

Teaching English in Harbin can be a financially rewarding endeavor, especially when you factor in the lower cost of living compared to larger Chinese metropolises.

  1. Salary: English teachers can expect to earn anywhere between 12,000 to 20,000 RMB per month, depending on qualifications, experience, and the institution.

  2. Accommodation: Many schools and institutions offer free or subsidized housing for their teachers. If not, the relatively lower rent in Harbin can allow teachers to find comfortable living spaces without breaking the bank.

  3. Airfare Reimbursement: It's common for schools to reimburse round-trip airfare after the completion of a contract.

  4. Health Insurance: Most reputable institutions will provide health insurance coverage for their foreign teachers.

  5. Contract Completion Bonus: Some schools offer a bonus upon successful completion of the teaching contract.

  6. Paid Vacations: Besides the national holidays, teachers often enjoy paid vacations, especially during the Chinese New Year and summer breaks.

  7. Professional Development: As mentioned earlier, there are opportunities for teachers to partake in professional development courses, seminars, and workshops, further enriching their teaching journey in Harbin.

Living in Harbin

Living in Harbin is an experience that encompasses rich culture, history, and a touch of the exotic. As the capital of the Heilongjiang province, Harbin is often called the "Ice City" due to its famously chilly winters and renowned ice festivals. But beyond its frosty exterior lies a city that brims with life, offering an array of experiences to its inhabitants.


Harbin is best known for its cold winters, with temperatures often dropping below freezing. The city becomes a winter wonderland, especially during the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which attracts tourists from all over the world. Summers are warm and can be quite pleasant, providing a stark contrast to the colder months.

Cultural Heritage

Harbin's unique location in northeastern China, close to Russia, has deeply influenced its architectural styles and cultural ambiance. The Saint Sophia Cathedral, a stunning piece of neo-Byzantine architecture, stands as a testament to this influence. Walking along the Zhongyang Pedestrian Street, one can witness a blend of Chinese and European architectural marvels.


The city's culinary scene offers a diverse mix of flavors. From the hearty Harbin sausages, a nod to its Russian influences, to the local Guobaorou (sweet and sour pork), there's a wide array of dishes to explore.

Cost of Living

While Harbin is a significant city in China, the cost of living is relatively lower compared to metropolises like Beijing or Shanghai. Rent, transportation, and everyday expenses are affordable, making it an attractive place for teachers to save while working.

Recreation and Nightlife

Harbin offers an array of recreational activities, especially during the winter months. From ice-skating on the frozen Songhua River to visiting the Siberian Tiger Park, there's always something to do. The city also boasts a vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and entertainment venues offering a mix of local and international flavors.


Harbin is well-connected with a comprehensive public transportation system that includes buses, trams, and taxis. The city's railway station serves as a significant hub, connecting Harbin to other major Chinese cities.

Teacher Stories

Sarah from the USA:

"When I first decided to teach in Harbin, my friends and family were curious about why I'd choose such a cold place. But Harbin has been an incredible experience. The warmth of the people more than makes up for the chilly winters. I've loved introducing my students to American culture, and in return, they've taught me so much about Chinese traditions, especially the significance of the Ice Festival. Plus, having Russian influences around adds another layer of cultural immersion."

Liam from the UK:

"I came to Harbin primarily because I was intrigued by the fusion of Chinese and Russian cultures. Teaching English here has been rewarding. The students are eager to learn, and they've got such a strong sense of community. I've also made lifelong friends among the local and expatriate teaching community."

Naledi from South Africa:

"Harbin has been a surprise in so many ways. Coming from a warm country, the cold was a shock, but it's been worth it. The food, the architecture, the festivals, and most importantly, the people, have made this journey unforgettable. Teaching English here has been a fulfilling challenge, and I've grown so much, both personally and professionally."

Ethan from Australia:

"I've always been an adventurer at heart, so when the opportunity to teach in Harbin came up, I grabbed it. It's been a whirlwind of experiences, from ice skating on the Songhua River to relishing the local dishes. My students are fantastic, and it's been a joy to share my Australian background with them while soaking up all that Harbin has to offer."

Aoife from Ireland:

"Harbin felt like a world away from Ireland when I first arrived. But it quickly became home. The city's unique blend of cultures, the vibrancy of its festivals, and the dedication of my students have made every moment special. It's been an enriching journey, teaching English and learning so much in return."

Moving Towards Teaching English In Harbin

Taking the leap to teach English in Harbin can be one of the most rewarding decisions of your professional journey. Beyond the classroom, the city offers an eclectic blend of Chinese and Russian cultures, set against the backdrop of its breathtaking winter landscapes.

From fostering global connections with students to immersing oneself in the city's rich cultural tapestry, teaching in Harbin is more than just a job—it's an adventure. If you're looking for a teaching destination that challenges and enriches you, Harbin awaits.