I wasn't going to actually write something about this company, but I felt like I actually should warn some people about Helen Group. Where do I start? I want to make on thing clear, I don't have anything personally in the company and there are some nice Chinese people in the company. But, I'm sure they are getting ripped off, just like 99% of the teachers. I'll get into what I mean by "99% of the teachers. I just moved here to Taiwan about a month ago for a way better paying job and only did 8 months of a year contract. I don't regret leaving this company, but do miss the life that I had built in Shenzhen, where I was assigned. If Helen had been a better company to work for, I'd be in Shenzhen right now. I'm not the only teacher that quit working for this company in the 8 months I was in Shenzhen and I'm sure I won't be the last. I'm not doing this out of spite towards Helen Group and its employees, this is a warning to future teachers who would like to enjoy their teaching experience in China. China is an interesting country to be sure, both good and bad. However, if you want to enjoy your teaching experience, find another way to do it than going through Helen Group.
For one thing, like everyone else has stated, this company makes promises and will keep very few of them. I was promised more pay than I actually received after arriving in China. I worked in Shenzhen, China which is an expensive city, like Shanghai and Beijing. However, my pay was not enough to cover your expenses while living there. Not only did they lower my pay after arriving in China, they don't pay you for holidays. However, they say that they will pay you have, but once you get into China, that will all change. I was one of the lucky people in Shenzhen, my pay was even better than about half the teachers Helen employed. I heard that some teachers made 4000 RMB or less, especially no native English teachers Helen regularly employs from other countries and not English speaking country. They end up paying them s*a*e wages because they know they can do it because they are not native English speakers. Also, if you do not have a Bachelor's degree, they will try and also give you a low wage. All this while one of the coordinators (I will not mention his name because I actually like the person) gets paid two or three times what they rest of us make, all because he has a PhD in some worthless major. I actually had over 3 years experience teaching in Korea, have worked in education in the past and have been in management, so I had way more experience that this person. Also, the things he had to coordinate were a joke. Meetings about our school and training on how to be a better teacher. I never learned one useful thing from these meeting and these meeting were mandatory or we would get docked on pay. A waste of time.
Second, this company will also promise you things you are guaranteed for your apartment, but you will never see any of these things. Things like a microwave, free Internet as well as some basic things will be stated in your contract, but you can forget ever getting them. You'll pay for your own Internet once you get to your apartment and they'll say that the microwaves are coming, but they never will. Also, some apartments are even worse than mine. I was lucky, my apartment was not all that bad, but I did have a roommate. I don't really mind having a roommate and my roommate was actually a pretty good person, but I had nothing in common with him and it would have been better to live alone in some ways like I did in Korea and do in Taiwan, all this provided by the school. I've heard stories of people having some really bad roommates with this company, but that's not even the worst of it. Some apartments are horrible in terms of living conditions. Again, I was lucky, but I've heard horror stories. Some apartments had serious vermin problems, and what I mean by vermin, I mean rats. I had c*c*roaches in my apartment, even in my room. This can be expected in Shenzhen and I have c*c*roaches in my kitchen here in Taiwan. But, rats?!?! A fellow employee told me he actually had rats in his apartment. It's like throwing dice. Some people get lucky and have good apartments like I did, but the other half will not be so fortunate. Another fellow employee that I know didn't have air conditioning in his apartment. If you know anything about Shenzhen, or China for that matter, you will know that air con is a must. In fact, when they asked the company to fix the air con, Helen Group told them that they must pay to fix it out of their own pocket. And when they couldn't pay to fix the air con in the living room, the company told them to break the other air con in the bed rooms. Great company policy, right? You need to know your place in the Helen hierarchy. All this while the coordinator gets a nice salary and unshared accommodations. Oh way, and all expenses in the apartment paid.
And you can forget about traveling or eating well. You're low salary will not allow for it. If you save enough, you might be able to see some nearby cities, but the only traveling you'll do is to get your Visa done in Hangzhou where the company is based out of, and Hong Kong where you'll do the final step of your Visa, at the last minute by the way, so you'll never know if you're allowed to stay and teach in China. And, if you are working in Shenzhen, why do you have to do your Visa in Hangzhou? Because you're Visa is based out of Hangzhou and not the city you actually work in. I'm sure there is some sneaky reason that they do this, that's my only guess. Actually, that's what I've heard and read. And, your salary will be so low, you'll be eating at home or at your school. Forget going out to enjoy the night life or a good restaurant, you'll never have enough money to do any of this. All the money you'll make will go to towards traveling to your school, your phone bill, utilities and just being able to eat at home or some street food. Granted, China can does have some really good food places for cheap, but it would be nice to be able to actually go to a nice restaurant or go out and drink at a bar or night club. You'll never have enough money to do any other this or travel. I mean, isn't this one of the reasons that you came to China, to experience the culture? The only culture you'll get will be through your school or the China friends you make that might invite you over to their homes for dinner. Also, they'll never deliver on the free Chinese lessons. Actually, I take that back, they'll finally get around to it, about 6 months after you arrive in China. Now this is just a rumor, but I heard that the coordinator gets his vacation and travel paid by the company, only because he has a PhD, but I was a more experienced teacher than this person.
I never made it until the end of the contract, but the are suppose to give you 5000 RMB towards your plane ticket, or so they say. Let me explain why this is not a good deal, I'm from the USA and flew out from Oregon (I'm actually from Minnesota, but stay with a friend before traveling to China). However, my ticket came up to way more than 5000 RMB. This is only about $815 US. My ticket to China was more than $800, but just to Hong Kong. I flew into Hong Kong because that's it's next to Shenzhen and this is where I was to work. One week before I was to leave for China, they told me I needed to fly to Hangzhou. So, in addition to going to paying to fly to Hong Kong, I was now expected to get another ticket to Hangzhou, which cost me an additional $200 to 300. Also, I paid for extra luggage, so I had to pay for all that as well. A fellow teacher just went back to New York after finishing his contract, but told me he had to ask Helen repeatedly to reimburse him for the plane ticket back to the USA, this after he paid just to make it back home. He wanted to change jobs, but Helen cancelled his Visa because he didn't agree to resign with them. Class act all the way on the part of the Helen Group.
Once you arrive in Hangzhou, you will have to travel to the city where your school is located. Guess who pays for this initially? You guess it, you. To be fair, they will reimburse you, but after paying for the trip from your country to China, why am I expected to pay to get to the city where I was assigned my school. Helen Group will just assume you are a foreigner and have all the money in the world, so this shouldn't be a problem for you at all. When I told them I was broke, they thought maybe we were going to have a problem. Why couldn't I pay for it? After all, all us foreigners are rich, right? I eventually used my credit card. This is not the last time you will be expected to do this, you'll have to do this when you go to Hangzhou for anything concerning your Visa, and to Hong Kong as well. Keep your receipt. However, you'll pay more for your trip to these places than the Helen company will. All this while you are making really low pay.
My final rant will be this. At your school, you'll also be expected to keep track of all the hours you put in at your school. You'll be the only foreign teacher at the school that does this. None of the other foreign teachers had to do this each month and the director at my school thought, "Why do you have to do this"? You'll also find that other teachers at your school will be making more than you are. Even another teacher that I knew that was employed by another agency made more than I did. The teachers employed directly by the school are making even more. I've heard of examples where the other foreign teachers making twice as much as you will working for Helen. I wonder who get all the extra money? I can only guess. Forget getting paid for holidays, or days off, or summer and winter break. To be fair, Helen paid me half for winter break, I suppose they didn't want me to starve to death. But during this last summer, my last pay check was a big f*t 0. I also had another month of summer break and I spoke with a teacher working for Helen that said they throw him a bone and he got about 2000 RMB. But remember, you have to pay for your expenses like getting to your school, food, utilities and phone bill. I guess Helen Group justifies this because you have a roof over your head and, get this because they actually told a teacher this, you get to eat for free at your school.
Well, I'm sure that there are a few more things I could mention, but I'll either let you decide or find out for your self. But if you read this and still decide to work for Helen, don't say you were not warned. I wish I had looked up this company before taking the job through this company. I'm in Taiwan now, but wouldn't rule out teaching in China again. I actually had many tutoring jobs on the side and was able to make good money that way. In fact, I made more money tutoring then working for Helen. However, I worked way harder than I needed to and would have been happy just to work at one school and tutor for a little bit instead of making a career out of tutoring just to make ends meet. Anyways, I hope this helps people that would like to teach in China. China can be a good place to teach and I found Chinese people to be really nice. However, you're time there will be living slim or frustrating, unless you have an unlimited amount of money from your home country or a pension to live off of. In that case, you are doing it for the experience. Still, there are better ways to do it than going through the Helen Group. I still to this day get offers from China for better pay and living situations. You have been warned if you are reading this.