Single Parent in China


Hi Jo, I am a black American female who is interested in teaching in Asia.I have been actively searching for an American female that lives in China to give me some feedback, so, needless to say, I am extremely happy that I ran across your blog.

My question is, is it feasible for a single black female to relocate to China with 2 toddlers as a teacher? My husband is not able to travel due to his profession and I have just recently started teaching and enjoy it. I have always wanted to travel to Asia and strangely enough, the lack of opportunities have depleted in the US has prompted me to think about moving with my children. also, would my children be able to adjust, they are 4 and 6?



First, thank you so much for reading my blog.  I want to say that Chinese society is not a world of convenience.  As an expat living in China no matter what country or color it can be a difficult and trying experience for that person.  Everything is slow and takes a lot of time to do or you just cannot do it at all.   Combine that with being Black American and having two children (two small children) it could be a living hell.

First, depending on what kind of teacher you want to be your hours could be extremely long and tiring. Plus you will usually have some extra activities you need to do for the school to help promote and advertise.  Depending on where you live your modern conveniences could be almost non existing, with the added fear of safety.  I don’t mean the safety due to crime, China is pretty safe in that aspect, I mean the safety of products.  China has a history of people developing fakes… from fake clothes, fake electronics… to fake rice and poisoned baby milk and foods.   There is a constant worry that maybe the food you buy is not real or safe to eat.

Second, you do not have the family to help you like the locals, therefore, you would have to hire a live- in Nanny or babysitter, which can be a bit pricey even for a foreigner that gets a higher salary than most. There is also the fact that you and your children cannot speak Chinese.  This will make it very hard for you and your children to adapt….I am not saying it is impossible; I am saying it is very, very hard.

To be a single parent in China is probably the as difficult as being handicapped in China.  You will be dealing with the color issue, the single parent issue, the foreigner issue and the language issue.  Honey, it could be a horrible experience if you are thin-skinned.  Your children will be poked, grabbed, stared at and pointed at the whole time they are here.  If you think that foreigners are a rarity, foreign children are even more rare.  So, it will really cause chaos when you are just walking down the street. Schooling will also be an issue.  Since they education system is so different here, your children maybe have a difficult time adjust to the preschools and Kindercare.

Another big issue are the hospitals, Chinese hospitals are not as efficient as Western hospitals and the children here do not get the proper immunizations. Due to the large amount of people here, you and your children will be exposed to sicknesses all the time.  The coughing and spitting that is constantly around and the santitary habits here leave a lot to be desired.  It can be a little bit difficult to avoid several sicknesses.   I can see how the bird flu and scars spread so easily and quickly over here.
But, although it is NOT something I would really recommend you do or that I would even do myself; if you really want to teach in China and you have the motivation, determination and patience to deal with the obstacles that you will have to face here and you feel your children will be able to handle the attention. Then pursue your dream. 

I am always a person that says follow your dreams and that nothing is impossible.  But be very, very careful; you do not want to be stranded in China with two toddlers. Make sure you have a job here first, a place to live and that the school will accept you have a family that you will bring with you. Make sure you have the proper visas and paperwork. Make sure your children are properly immunized, before you come and bring any children’s meds with you when you come.   I hope this helps. Good Luck.

until next time...


10 thoughts on “Single Parent in China

  1. C.S.

    I’d also worry about the schools. I’m told that bullying is common and acceptable, particularly for anyone who’s different. The education itself is focused on memorizing information for tests, so your kids would probably be at a disadvantage when you return home. I’d also be worried about the tacit acceptance, and sometimes whole-hearted endorsement, of cheating.

    I’ve heard much, *MUCH* better things from single parents teaching in the Middle East, particularly Oman, the UAE, and Saudi (if you can get a gig on an American military base where U.S. law applies).

    1. Depends on what kind of teacher you are…. If you teach English… then you dont have that problem… for the most part. The grammar they teach is not correct in the chinese education system.. but the spoken english is mostly what foreigners teach. As for other subjects… I cant comment.. because I teach only Business English.. and Spoken English.

  2. Pingback: Teaching:Not the Only Job for Expats in China « Life Behind The Wall

  3. bw

    I disagree that this would be so difficult.

    A fully qualified teacher, working at an international school, would be earning upwards of rmb30,000 per month with housing provided.

    If the children are of school age (pk3 +) they likely would receive tuition waivers from the school. Depending upon the city, an ayi that would clean, shop & prepare dinners could run you rmb2,000/mos. The ayi would be there to either meet kids at bus or pickup from school … and parent could come home to dinner prepared.

    While living in China, we had several single parent teacher friends, as well as single parents working in business (we were there as teachers with two kids) … it seemed no more difficult than life back home.

    Issues around health care in China I agree with, as well as the language … but kids pickup language very quickly … my kids then 5 & 7 were functioning in the language within the year.

    Now, if planning on going as a “teaching English” teacher, then I’d say no way.

  4. Wow, what a great response. As an African American and former flight attendant who has been to Shanghai and Beijing several times, I have to say that you are absolutely right. Of course, my 2-3 day layovers dont qualify me as an expert on China. But I saw enough to agree that being a single parent with 2 children will be difficult. Love your blog, btw.

  5. I love China and had an overall great experience living there, but knowing the language is essential for a single mom (in my opinion). Also I don’t think it’s a good idea for a short-term because there will be a lot of cultural changes for you. You children may adapt sine they are really young, but how long are you planning to stay?

    If you could learn the language and get set up with either a family member or a good friend there, I would not worry about it. If you won’t have support though, I would prepare mentally for all of the things she mentioned.

  6. Very much agree with this post – if you’re a qualified (e.g. Bachelor’s Degree, plus Teaching qualification) teacher and working at a high quality international school, teaching here in China would be a seriously difficult life.

    If you’re not in that position, I think it would be almost impossible for someone in your situation.

    Here in Shenzhen your outgoings would be:

    5,000 RMB a month for a place big enough for you and your children
    1,000 RMB a month for building fees and utilities
    2,000 RMB a month for someone to take care of your children while you work
    300 RMB a month in travel costs
    1,500 RMB a month in food costs
    Kindergarten/Schooling would then set you back around 2,000 RMB per month per child too

    So all told your costs, excluding clothing and other essentials would be nearly 15,000 RMB a month. Most unqualified teachers don’t clear more than 10-12,000 RMB monthly.

    There’s also I’m sad to say an enormous prejudice amongst Chinese educational clients (parents) against anyone other than white skinned folk teaching English to their children.

    I think you’d need to look at any offer of work here, very, very carefully before committing to anything.

    Great reply from the blog owner by the way.

    1. @shardsofchina… thank you so much for posting these costs. It is really hard to explain how different it is here compared to the states. In some cities the “unqualified” teacher only gets 6000 to 8000rmb monthly, with close the the same expenses. Thank you for reading.

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