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Known as "China's Silicon Valley". A coastal megacity in mainland China, of 12.5 million people, with a subtropical climate


Chinese cities are classified on a 4 Tier system, with each of the country's 634 cities falling into a specific tier. Which tier a city falls into is assigned based on 3 main factors - GDP, Population, and Politics. Each city is ranked on a scale of 1-3 on these factors and these are then averaged out to come up with a score. Beijing and Shenzhen both fall into a Tier 1 category, while Qingdao and Hangzhou would fall into Tier 2. 

What does this mean to you? 

Tier 1 cities usually have a higher cost of living and a larger population. Schools in Tier 1 cities tend to offer higher salaries and more housing allowance to make up for the increased cost. You can expect Tier 1 cities to be hubs of industry and business and a great place to network and meet like-minded young expats from all professions, not just ESL teachers passing through. Shenzhen, which shares a coast with Hong Kong is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of the East. 

Tier 2 cities are still bustling and heavily populated, but you can expect to spend less on housing, food and entertainment in these cities. Your salary and housing allowance might be slightly lower, but so will your cost of living. For anyone who has lived in Korea, think of Tier 2 cities as the Gwangju's, Daejon's, and Daegu's of China! 

If you're not sure which city is right for you, make sure to read our descriptions above and ask your Teacher Representative for advice and suggestions.


Shenzhen is incredibly modern and seems to have something new being built or opening every day. The city is huge and there are so many things to do here! The downside is that Shenzhen doesn't seem to really have a culture of it's own because it's so new. It's like a giant melting pot of Chinese people from all over the country. I spent the last 5 years living in Spain and travelling around to different European cities with tons of history, so this is a big change for me. There are some cultural activities you can do around the city, and it's very easy to travel to other parts of China by high speed train or plane if you're looking for more. One thing I do really like about Shenzhen is the amount of green space. There are some beautiful parks here where you can escape the city life and the streets have wide sidewalks lined with trees. That was not something I was expecting in a Chinese city.

— Courtney G., Shenzhen

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