I’ve seen a lot of other blogs and sites posting their lists of top English teaching destinations and I wasn’t completely satisfied. Most of their lists are primarily based on how much money you can earn and save. This short list is different because I’m placing emphasis on the overall destination that includes the fundamentals of salaries and saving potential but also delves into the things that matter on a more daily basis. Things such as food and quality of living. I should also note that while this is a top 3, I am not ranking them above each other.
Yes, I bet you knew this one was coming. South Korea really does have it all.
Salary and benefits: Starting salaries of 2.1m KRW ($1800USD) are not bad at all. Then you throw in paid accommodation, severance pay, a paid flight home, and pension. These benefits make South Korea, financially a very attractive destination.
Saving potential: HIGH! Teachers can save up to or even more than half their monthly salary if they manage their money well. Not to mention that when you leave you will get your pension and severance pay which combined will be thousands of dollars. Quite a few people go to Korea to wipe out their student debts, then stay on longer to save up for a post-grad degree.
Quality of living: I talked about this in another post but I’ll say it again. The life of an English teacher in Korea is very comfortable. You can afford to eat out a couple times a week, go on a weekend trip or two, have nights out on the weekend, and still save money. The cost of living may be slowly rising but it is still low compared to neighboring Japan. There is a vibrant expat scene in Korea which further adds to the appeal to life there. Korea has tons of opportunities to immerse yourself in the local culture, play in rec sport leagues, learn the language, enjoy the nightlife, and generally thoroughly thrive.
Food: Korean food is awesome. Seriously. I am missing Korean food so much haha. Brilliant BBQs. Spicy kimchi. Tasty dak galbi. You will love the food. An interesting fact about Korea is that it has one of the highest amounts of restaurants per capita in the world which results in a country where there are streets literally lined up with restaurants. One of my favorite is the famous Food Street in Gangnam. To top it off, eating out is relatively cheap and meals often come with free side dishes to accompany your main meal. If you haven’t tried Korean food yet, go to your local Korean restaurant and thank me in the comments.
This country is increasingly featuring on more top English teaching destinations and for good reason.
Salary and benefits: Teachers make anywhere from $1000-2000+USD a month in Vietnam. A lot of teachers have a main job and then supplement it with side jobs in the evenings or on weekends to top their wages up. Some of the bigger schools offer bonuses and severance pay.
Saving potential: High. Being paid in USD helps a lot. Having spoken with teachers who currently work there the consensus seems to be that they save on average a third to a half of their monthly income.
Quality of living: Vietnam is VERY cheap. Teachers in Vietnam can afford to eat out, have a nice apartment, go on weekend trips, party on weekends, and still save a good amount of money. What I like about Vietnam is that it offers you a similar kind of life to Thailand but edgier due to it being less developed, which I think brings more excitement. In the big cities there are plenty of expats and lots of social clubs to join and things to do on evenings and weekends. I have a feeling Vietnam will be my next teaching destination in part due to the quality of life on offer to expat teachers.
Food: Vietnamese food is famous worldwide and for good reason, it is simply delectable! Everyone has heard of pho, the rice noodle soup, but my favorite Vietnamese dish so far is the banh mi! A simple baguette filled with vegetables, pork, sometimes a fried egg, and pate that is simply amazing, and for as cheap as a single dollar! Street food is another one of my favorite things about Vietnam; you’re never far from it and it is always cheap and diverse. On the other end of the spectrum you can find world class food in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for a fraction of the cost it would be back home. Simply put, food is one of the highlights of teaching in Vietnam.
Arguably the best place to teach English in the world, but that is not to say it is easy to find a job there. Most jobs are limited to teachers who are certified to work back in their home country.
Salary and benefits: It depends on the type of job you have but generally in excess of $2000+USD, tax free. Benefits include an annual travel fund for flights, severance pay, free healthcare, moving allowance, etc. At the top end of the jobs in ESL in the UAE, university jobs, I saw salaries of over $5000USD a month! This, combined with my previous experiences of visiting the UAE, make it my ideal place to work once I have a masters under my belt and can enter the university teaching job market.
Saving potential: High. If you’re making at least $2000, and most are making more than $3000, you can save some serious cash. Just a year or 2 in the UAE could set you up financially.
Quality of life: First off I should address the concern some people may have because it is an Islamic country. The UAE is one of the most liberal Islamic statics in the world. Woman are not required to wear the veil or anything like that, but you should dress sensibly in most public places. It is nothing like living in Saudi Arabia or other hard-line Muslim countries. There are bars and clubs but they are restricted to hotels and a few other select places. Alcohol can be bough at certain government stores once you have a permit and can be consumed at your apartment. Expats seriously enjoy living here. They often end up working there until retirement. Lots of opportunities to watch world class sporting events like the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix or the Abu Dhabi Open. Unlimited options for people who love to go shopping at the mall (this country has more malls than you could imagine haha).
Food: The UAE, but especially Dubai and the capital Abu Dhabi are very cosmopolitan cities and thus you can find just about any food on the planet in either of these cities. That said, Arabic and Indian food would be what I would think to be the best choices on offer due to the local specialties and large Indian expat community. Food is more expensive here because a lot of it has to be imported, but you are being paid premium money so you can afford it. The UAE also has many large Western supermarkets full of international food and food from home for those of you who love to cook at home.
Other great English teaching destinations
Columbia: More and more English teaching opportunities are opening up in Columbia as it develops more. Safety has improved a lot also. Definitely a place I’d consider going in the future.
Spain: Pleasant climate, living in Europe, easy to adapt. Those are just some of the reasons that make Spain a great place to teach.
Czech Republic: Teaching in a city like Prague would be a dream. The students are keen to learn, the locals are friendly, there are liberal social policies in effect, the fact Prague is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and its location in Europe make it ideal as a base to explore other nearby European nations.
‘Top’ destinations that did not make my list
China: A vast and growing job market for English teachers but not somewhere at this time I particularly fancy teaching in. Reason? Primarily the high level of air pollution and the prospect of big brother always looking over your shoulder…
Japan: High cost of living. It seems harder to enjoy life in Japan as most things are expensive and so you must be careful with your spending if you aim to save money.
Saudi Arabia: Harsh and uncertain living environment, especially for women. While the money can be hugely rewarding…I place a higher value on freedom than money at this time. Not to mention the politics of this country.
What did you think of my top 3 picks? Are there other destinations that I have not thought of that you think I should consider for the future? Did I unfairly dismiss China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia? Let me know in the comments 🙂