Yangshuo is a smiling town in the north of Guangxi located about 60 kilometers from Guilin, on the banks of the Li River, near the confluence of the Yulong River.
It is set among the world-unique karst formations that have led it to be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
This characteristic has favored, starting in the 80’s, the development of a large amount of economic activity tied to mass tourism; activities that are still in the course of development and make up the backbone of not only the city’s economy, but the entire province.
The almost complete lack of pollution, the presence of numerous services and pleasant climate (for more information read our guide on living in Yangshuo) makes the city an ideal place to stay for even long periods.
If you’re thinking about staying there or even just spending a bit of time in this city and don’t have an income to count on, I think that the information that I will bring out in this article will be useful to you.
Types of work
Obviously I won’t dwell too long on jobs that I think western foreigners might find “unappealing”.
For example, work conditions in the fields, construction sites or factories (which are rare) are killer, both in terms of labor and hours of work, offer a pittance (around 300-400 Euro a month) and, usually, have no consideration for safety conditions.
Even jobs such as a clerk in stores, supermarkets and so on aren’t a real option, mainly due to the language barrier, but also for the reasons I just mentioned. Stores in China and, even more so in touristy areas such as Yangshuo, open at around 8 in the morning and close toward half past 10 at night, 7 days a week. Moreover, employees have only two or three days off a month.
Even here salaries are usually between 1,500 for novices to 3,000 Yuan, in the case of experience and proven ability at the job.
In final analysis, the work that a foreigner (western) might find doable and that I will illustrate in a minute, in my opinion are reduced to: teach English, work as a bartender in one of the local night clubs, or work for yourself.
I want to highlight that:
- I won’t go deep into the delicate subject of visas, for which you can find the information you’re looking for in this article;
- The following suggestions are taken from real stories experienced by people (some of which have become my close friends) I met locally that have made a living for years now working in Yangshuo.
Working as an employee
Teaching the English language
One of the main occupations that allows many to stay a while in the city, and maintain a rather elevated lifestyle is definitely teaching the English language.
In Yangshuo there’s a rather large English school which gives jobs to dozens of foreigners: Omeida College.
Although for those who don’t have English as their mother tongue it isn’t easy to get into a large and serious school for English that is recognized by the government and allows the possibility of getting a work visa (such as Omeida College), it isn’t impossible and worth taking a shot.
Of course, having a certificate showing your level based on the CEFR system (acronym for “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages”, recognized internationally), TOEFL certificates or past certified experience teaching the language, will make your attempt all the more likely to succeed.
Moreover also the season plays a role since in winder, for example, the dearth of foreigners brings the school to enlarge loopholes in their selections.
For more information in teaching English in China click here.
While teaching and getting a good salary isn’t easy if it isn’t your mother tongue; undertaking volunteer work in the field of teaching English is, on the other hand, open to everyone.
English schools for the Chinese that offer their opportunities are varied and not hard to find. However, quite often they are the ones that look for people since they have a very high turn over.
Volunteers will get food (three meals a day) and lodging in exchange for two or three hours a day (from Monday to Friday, usually in the early afternoon) to engage with the students.
I personally met several tourists of various nationalities that have taken part in this programs, and aside from their complaints about the housing conditions, they were enthusiastic about it.
This activity doesn’t allow you to have a work visa or a salary, but you have great flexibility on its length (which can go from a week to a few years) and will allow you to remain in Yangshuo virtually free for the length of your stay.
Bartender or waiter
The large numbers of locals in the city (concentrated mainly on West Street and its surroundings) also allows you yo find work as a barman or waiter.
Of course these opportunities are more easily realized in the numerous clubs run by foreigners, where knowing Chinese often isn’t obligatory.
However these jobs are usually “off the books”, because nobody (or almost) will give you a work visa or pay taxes on your salary; a situation that, especially for long-term jobs, won’t let you sleep in peace.
Let me remind you that the minimum penalty for this type of offense (working without a work residence permit or fail to pay taxes is a crime in China, as in the majority of countries) is expulsion from the country and interdiction for at least 5 years besides the freezing, followed by the confiscation, of your eventual bank account in China.
Moreover, the hours are devastating and will keep you behind the counter until 3 in the morning, with an acceptable salary (you can expect more or less 200 to 300 Yuan a day for working from 18 to 2-3 in the morning).
That notwithstanding, it’s an option that you won’t find everywhere in China (perhaps only here), and will let you get to know lots of people from around the world.
If you’re looking for a job in China, take a look at this article.
Real estate agent
The commercial and urban development that began in the 80’s as was previously mentioned led to a continued and exponential growth during the 90’s.
After a period of stagnation in the early years of the 2000’s, in the last ten years, the sites are allocated to big projects, thanks to the influx of substantial public financing (the miracle of five-year plans) for the construction of roads, rail lines, bus and train stations and general services.
The declared purpose of the government is to make Yangshuo one of the most important tourist destinations in China and grow its population by five or six times, making it pass from about 150 thousand inhabitants a few years ago to 500-600 thousand (a very optimistic, and according to him, well-informed local talks as though it could be up to even a million inhabitants) over the course of the next five to ten years.
Following this trajectory, once all usable space inside the city was exhausted, the construction of new roads and buildings moved to the immediate peripheries, creating entire residential neighborhoods out of nothing in just a few months.
This urban and demographic expansion (advocated and motivated by virtually limitless government funds) makes Yangshuo (and its surroundings) a very attractive area from the point of view of real estate investments, which has paid off considerably for those who first made their investments.
When there are auctions held for these new residential neighborhoods, buses and trains loaded full of buyers besiege the buildings to evaluate the deal, and in just a few days all is sold out.
I know people who bought ruined properties which, after a summary restoration, have seen a tenfold return in value in just a few years.
The same thing goes for areas now occupied by houses that look like little more than barracks but, from one day to another, change from their intended use and become prestigious areas where in a few years they undergo extensive demolition followed by rapid reconstruction.
Of course the risk of the bursting of the “real estate bubble” shouldn’t be underestimated (in all China there’s this same fear), but in the meantime those who are able to invest can reap god profits.
Needless to say, in these cases “insider” information is essential; but you also need to “make a splash”, advantageous real estate investment opportunities are numerous.
Hotels, restaurants and clubs
Although there’s already a large number of restaurants, hotels and clubs of various types, there’s still a little wiggle room for trying out business ideas.
As in all of China, clubs open and close at an impressive speed and it might be that your favorite club could be taken over by another business in just a week.
This volatility makes it easy enough to detect business opportunities and start new ones.
This is also the option for opening a club and is certainly something to take into consideration; keeping in mind also the Chinese predilection for Western styles and products.
In this field there’s also another option made possible thanks to the aforementioned volatility and the fact that many clubs are run by foreigners.
In fact I knew two people whose job was to maintain contact with foreign suppliers and local clubs for restocking products (in the case of Italy, for instance, milk, coffee, oil, wine, cheeses, etc) or even European-style furniture for the numerous new openings.
If these opportunities seem appealing and would like to know how to start a business in China, click here.
Working in a foreign country is certainly something special and enriching, opening one’s mind and giving you a better overview of global economic dynamics.
Regardless of the type of work you choose, seeing behind the scenes of the social fabric you get to see how people really live, and having to obey the laws just as they do, you come to understand how the country works and how it is organized.