My name is Rachel, an ESL teacher from Mexico. I would like to share my personal experience in China as an ESL female teacher. China hasn't been that great for me, first as a "non-native" foreigner and as a woman. Maybe, that is only me, so, I am not really trying to offend anybody with my story but again, this has been my experience. Please take a note, so you don’t have to live what I had lived through.
By pure luck, I ended up working for one of the worst agencies in China. I believed their lies and came here virtually broke which is never a good thing when you venture in a country so far away from home. Without knowing the laws and the few rights we have as foreigners, I ended up working for what it seemed centuries for these people. I tried to get out and find "loopholes" in the system, but I didn't find any help. The few Chinese who wanted to help me, didn't know how, the rest of the Chinese didn't care because evidently it wasn't it their benefit to do so, and the foreigners I knew, just didn't help me in any way. Later, I found out that they actually knew what sort of an agency it was but they were not interested in giving any sort of warning. Others knew how to "get out" but wouldn't share these "loopholes" because they were too busy to help others. Everything was a "secret." I also went to the local PSB department, SAFEA, a government office that deal with grievances and they all refused to help me. One of the officials at the PSB department actually called one of the owners to inform her I was there trying to get out. They pay on a regular basis to some employees at the PSB and SAFEA to keep them quiet and do their shady deals.
I regretted so many times going to China and working for these people. However, now I can tell you that unintentionally, they had given me a doctoral degree on how to survive China. So, I am happy to help other foreigners in China in any way I can.
Here it is a long review of the agency I used to work in Changchun. Sorry if that is too long, but this is how they work this agency and other ones in China. At the end, you will see a YouTube link from the owner from this agency. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, share this video to help me warn others.
JILIN YOUNOVO/TIAN SHUO EDUCATION
Changchun, Jilin Province, China.
NOTE: The owner posted a promotional video in Youtube a week ago, and it had such a backlash from all the teachers who used to work for them that she disabled the comments, still the video went viral in Facebook among teachers warning others about her agency. In less than a week, she had to removed her video and closed her Youtube account. If that agency were as reputable as they claim, they wouldn’t have a problem putting themselves out there to be reviewed.
1. This agency has so many pseudonyms that is actually hard to keep up with them. Just remember, Mamma w*n* is the owner, Maggie is the daughter, Kara and Chloe are their main minions who recruit teachers, and Jali, aka Lailah is the one in charge of housing and jobs. The other recruiters don’t really count, they just work there for a while, then they move on or get fired. Every 8 months or so, there is a new staff, except the untouchables who were mentioned before.
2. There is no welcoming to begin with. They will rush you into the office (Jilin Younovo Education/Tian Shuo Education, Room 398, Floor 3, 3766 Yatai Grand Street, Changchun, China 130041) to sign a contract, take your passport, and take you to your next destination.
3. Do not be deceived by their fake smiles and sweet voice. Whenever they see you, you are just money and western s*a*es they can boss around and abuse.
4. The second thing they will require you to do is to hand in your passport and school documents. They will keep your original documents and delay returning of your passport. They will keep your FEC (red booklet), though it belongs to you, you will never see it. There have been cases where they had kept the passports from certain teachers. Their reason is to keep it “safe.” The real reason, they will need your passport to cancel your residency permit. WITHOUT your passport, your residency permit cannot be canceled.
5. They will give the worst accommodation you have ever seen in your entire life, even if you come from a 3rd. world country which it was my case, I had never seen apartments in such pitiful conditions.
6. They will deduct 2,000RMB for that luxurious accommodation which you will have to share with everyone who works for this agency. NOTE: depending on your nationality, you will have to share your own bed, YES, your bed with another teacher, regardless of your sex).
7. Under no circumstances, they will give you any sort of cleaning products, even though, their apartments are filled with dirt, grease, and roaches.
8. During the first week after your arrival, someone from the agency will take you to open a bank account but they will keep the contract and that person will give his/her phone number. They will be able to get notifications about your transactions unless you change the phone number. Conveniently they neglect to mention this information.
9. In the contract, it is mentioned that you will have to teach certain number of HOURS to reach the amount of money it was promised. HOWEVER, what they avoid to mention is that they will LITERALLY COUNT the minutes you had taught. For example, if you taught 22 classes of 40 minutes each, in one week, you will only get 14.6 hours of pay. And they will pay one week of payment for the first week. Even if you change schools, the drill will be the same. So, expect to be deducted for that week.
10. Maggie (the owner’s daughter) has a policy that new teachers have to work in Changchun for the first 6 months of their contracts. So basically, it would be impossible to reach your full payment unless you work 7 days a week, teaching in several schools all over Changchun. The other option is to teach in a kindergarten.
11. If you decide to leave Changchun because who wouldn’t like to experience a -40°C winter, you just have to remember that your original contract will be voided because the “school” wants a full year contract. Therefore, your contract will be extended for one more year to that date. If for any reason, you get fired or move to another city, then another contract must be signed, extending it for another year to that date. You could easily end up working for at least 3 years. But lately newbies have to sign initially 2-year contracts, they will tell you that is a Chinese requirement (another lie.)
12. Regarding salaries: The agency fee for finding you a job, will be 60% of your salary. YES, 60% or 70% of your SALARY (depending on your nationality) as the owners of this company think teachers DO NOTHING. There is no way around it. This is how they work.
13. Your salary will be paid every 15 of each month. If the 15 falls under a national holiday, expect to be paid 2 weeks later. Why 2 weeks? No one knows. If the 15 falls on a weekend, your salary will be paid the following working day. And under no circumstance, your salary will be given in advance.
14. If you happen to be a “non-native” teacher, expect your salary to be cut in half of what other teachers make. They will constantly tell you that your dark skin is a problem and how schools don’t want you because of your complexion, your nationality, your accent, and so on. They will find plenty of reasons why you are not good enough, so please thank them for their generosity as they are the ones doing you a favor by hiring you. By the way, you will never see a black person working for Mamma w*n* and Maggie. If you are black, don’t even bother applying for a job with this agency.
15. 90% of the schools pay at least winter vacation but obviously you will never get one RMB from this money, unless, you have the best relationship with the school managers. Then they usually demand the agency to pay the teachers for the winter vacation.
16. The agency claims that it is ILLEGAL to give insurance to teachers. This is a lie.
17. You will be FORCED (YES, you read it correctly) to sign a letter giving up your right to get a release and a recommendation letter, even if you finish your contract. Obviously, the release and the recommendation letter can be given to you if you pay around 10,000 RMB or up to 50,000 RMB (again, it depends on your nationality.)
18. If you are a woman, expect to be treated different. Do not expect equal rights and if you ever raise your voice, the main owner (Mamma w*n*) might kick you or hit you and put you in your place. You have to understand that you are not or will not ever be their equal.
19. If you find yourself in any sort of distress, do not count on anybody at the office to help you out. You are on your own. If you don’t find the school they appointed you, that is your problem. If you are sick, s*c* it up, you will have to teach or expect your salary to be deducted.
20. For the first week, you will have to figure out by yourself the transport system, how to buy food and water, how to find the nearest supermarket, etc., you name it. Whatever you need to transition into this new culture, don’t expect them to help you.
21. Teachers are expected to pay for all housing bills. Maggie and family own all the apartments in Changchun given by this agency. Though, from time to time, they move teachers from one apartment to the other to either upgrade you or downgrade you depending on your behavior. That means if you are fighting back, demanding to get your own money, a better accommodation, etc., you will be place in the worst apartment which believe me, they have from bad to worst. Their version is that the owner is “selling” the apartment.
22. You will also HAVE TO PAY for your own visa fees, courier services, photos, medical tests, EVERYTHING. This agency doesn’t pay for ANYTHING.
23. Please note that they are some very LOYAL employees from this agency as they get money to recruit teachers or they could also get their own release letters if they bring someone they know to work for this agency. NICE, uhh?
24. Most of these foreigners working for these people WILL NOT tell you the truth about this agency. Other foreign teachers will tell you not to mess around with the owners. The reason is that they are pretty well connected to the local authorities (PSB and SAFEA.) At one point, during my forever contract, I reached for help to both government offices and their officials called Maggie to tell her I was there trying to get out.
25. They send teachers to work all over China, though it is required by Chinese law to transfer the documents to the new school, so the teacher will work there legally. Well, don’t count on it, they will never do that as that would mean losing the control over the teacher.
26. The company creates a sense of paranoia where you feel you cannot trust anybody, either for real reasons or not, working for this agency, you will not find any peace of mind.
27. The owners constantly threaten people to blacklist them, deport them, or put them in jail if they do not BEHAVE or COMPLY to their demands.
28. Maggie and her mother want you to be completely dependent to the agency. They will prevent you to know anything that will actually be useful to your life in China. They will not share any extra information, you don’t need to know.
29. If you finish your contract successfully, they will find ANY NUMBER OF REASONS to be deducted from your housing deposit (2,000 RMB.) I wouldn’t count on it. In my case, they kept 4,000 RMB.
30. Both Mamma w*n* and her daughter, Maggie, seemed to be very well connected with the local authorities; and going to them will be pretty useless as they won’t help you, but they will call Maggie to inform them about your situation. So, if at one point of your contract, you want to leave, it will be virtually impossible to get another job without their “release letter.” Many teachers in the past had just gone back to their home countries.
31. Reading and knowing all of these, if you still want to go ahead and sign with these people, mark my word: YOU WILL REGRET IT!!!
32. If you still decide to go ahead, just don’t choose the 21st. Century building as your accommodation in Changchun. They have two of the worst apartments in that building, don’t be fooled by the outside appearance. The bills are ridiculously high and both apartments look dreadful. To be honest, every apartment in Changchun is shocking.