The salary you are offered, as I found out, has very little to do with your age, experience and qualifications. It has more to do with how little David can get away with paying you or how quickly he needs teachers. The average salary per month is 6,000RMB. Considering for every class David earns between 400RMB and 500RMB (with class size ranging from 16 to 20 students), from which you earn 70-80RMB, i think this adds extra weight to standing your ground if David does try and offer lower than 6000RMB per month.
This is the same for those with experience and those without. When I arrived I was getting paid (with 4 years teaching experience, TEFL certified and a Masters degree) less than somebody with only a Bachelors degree. Teaching in the bigger cities in China you can expect to earn around 10,000RMB per month.
With Benxi offering such a cheap standard of living (1,500RMB is more than enough for food, drink and regularly eating out each month) I think this is fairly standard pay package. Saying that, taking in to account the extra time you spend reading with students after each class, I don’t think it would be unfair to either ask for more, or make sure this time is part of your standard 22 contracted hours.
For some contracts, you receive a significantly lower amount of money the first month (in my case it was only 4000RMB). I expected this deduction was for time spent away from school during the first week getting your visa validated, getting your medical and visiting the police station. In fact you only start getting paid the day you teach your first ‘proper’ lesson. You will teach one or two trial classes (normal classes but with you as the teacher) before that, which you wont get paid for. It was a week between arriving in Benxi and teaching my first ‘proper’ class.
I believe David offers less pay the first month in order to recuperate money paid for obtaining the work visa. Knowing this now, I would have made sure I received the same amount for every month of my contract before signing it.
Accommodation throughout my time in Benxi was provided for free. Electricity, heat, water and maintenance bills were also paid for. David owns several apartments located within walking distance of the school. They are all liveable and have a varying supply of appliances. The apartment where most teachers live is very homely, having seen many generations of foreigners living there. Some of the apartments in Benxi have issues with cockroaches and other bugs, but this is something that affects all housing, even new developments.
I’ve seen many different levels of effort going in to preparing the accommodation in which new teachers will live. Depending on what you are bringing with you in terms of expertise and money making potential is a good indicator to the effort that’ll be put in to preparing your accommodation.
One teacher who arrived was put in to an apartment that hadn’t been cleaned for months. Noodle encrusted plates filled the kitchen and love stained sheets covered the bed. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a mother who arrived with her young daughter was given a much more modern apartment that had been cleaned thoroughly. Of course, their needs are entirely different to young solo travellers, but by giving new arrivals such differing first impressions, it can only create notions of differing levels of respect from your new employer.
Internet and phone bills are paid by the teachers living in the apartment. This is usually around the $10 mark each month. During the World Cup in 2010, David was extremely kind and installed satellite TV, so I was able to follow the dismal efforts of England. This was a very kind gesture.