How much vacation time will I get when teaching in China?
When living and working in a new country, you’re of course going to want some time out to relax and explore some of what China and its neighbours have to offer – and teachers often ask us how much vacation time they will have.
Below we outline the main public holidays, in addition to the holiday allocation differences between private language centres and public schools.
- New Year’s Day: January 1st
New year’s day is a public holiday that is celebrated by all countries that observe the Gregorian calendar, making it the most widely observed public holiday in the world.
- Chinese New Year: can fall between mid-January and mid-February
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is extremely important to Chinese culture and is to be celebrated at the turn of the Lunisolar Chinese calendar. This festival is celebrated with lion dances, dragon dances, fireworks, family gatherings, giving red envelopes and elaborately decorating homes and public areas. For most Chinese people this is considered a major holiday and a highlight of a year, and is a fantastic holiday to be a part of!
- Labour Day: 3 day holiday from May 1st to 3rd
Labour Day is a public holiday celebrated by many countries worldwide. The dates vary across the different countries but usually occur around May 1st. This holiday is associated with the start of Spring, along with the celebration of workers.
- Tomb-Sweeping Day: April 5th- April 7th
Otherwise known as Qingming Festival, this is a traditional Chinese festival on the first day of the fifth solar term according to the Chinese Lunisolar calendar. This festival is dedicated to people visiting burial grounds and graves to pray to their ancestors. This festival can also be called Ancestor’s Day and Chinese Memorial Day.
- Dragon Boat Festival
The Dragon Boat Festival is a holiday that pays tribute to the life and death of the Chinese scholar Qu Yuan. This festival varies each year according to the Chinese Lunar calendar however, will always fall on the 5th of the fifth month. The Dragon Boat festival is a celebration where many eat rice dumplings, drink realgar wine and race dragon boats.
- Mid Autumn Festival
This festival again varies each year, it is held on the 15th of the eighth month according to the Chinese Lunar calendar with a full moon at night.
This festival is to celebrate the end of the autumn harvest and has three fundamental concepts which they believe are closely tied together; Gathering, Thanksgiving and Praying.
- National Day: 7 day holiday from October 1st to 7th
The National day is a big celebration and the government organise festivities such as concerts and fireworks for the people to enjoy. Places such as the Tiananmen Square in Beijing are decorated and portraits of leaders are publicly displayed.
Chinese Public and International School Holidays
The school year in China is broken into two semesters. The first semester typically begins late August/ early September, and will last until January.
Most public schools close for 3 to 4 weeks for the Chinese New Year break, and many teachers use this as a great opportunity to travel – as do many Chinese, so ensure flights and train tickets are booked well in advance!
The second semester then begins around mid February, and then finishes in June.
Public school teachers then have 2 months off over the summer, before returning to work late August/ early September. During this time, many teachers opt to work for a summer camp to top up their income, or take the opportunity to travel or to head home.
Note that not all schools will pay a teacher’s salary during the long holidays, so do check this in your contract to save any surprises later on.
Private Language Centre Vacation Allowance
Teachers working for a Private Language Centre will typically have around 4.5 weeks of paid time off work; 11 working days of public holiday, plus 2 additional weeks. This allowance often extends should a teacher renew their contract for a second or third year. On occasion, a teacher may be able to negotiate additional leave directly with their employer.