What’s It Really Like to Live in Asia?


What’s It Really Like to Live in ASIA? expands the conversation to the continent of ASIA. Do you live in the Far East, southern or western Asian nations?

Do YOU Have comments & insights to share with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in ASIA? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

TELL us your thoughts:
• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in ASIA?
• Do you recommend living in ASIA OR are you counting the days

Scroll down to Join In the Conversation!


See all the continents included in the
What’s it Really like to Live Here Series
Asia / Africa / the  Americas /Europe / Middle East


90 thoughts on “What’s It Really Like to Live in Asia?

  1. Could anyone tell me about life in Yangon Myanmar as a single woman? What are the dating options as a single mid 20’s African American woman, or should I just forget about it and collect cats for the next two years?


  2. Hi everyone

    I’m considering a move to Jakarta or Singapore, having worked in Europe for a few years and the UK for too many years before that! Any advice for me as I’m single and have a 9 year old daughter. Is it likely that we’ll be able to enjoy lots of social / cultural activities and still be able to save a significant amount? Also, I’m asthmatic; would this be a bad move considering the traffic situation?

    Any useful comments much appreciated!


    1. Jakarta is a great place for kids and parents, many social activities and groups, plus affordable nannies. If you are into cultural activites, within the city there is a limited amount to do which you can do within a few months. But if you are willing to go out for weekend drives or small trips to some of the islands then there is enough to see.

      As an asthmatic I have not had any issues, but most people don’t spend much time walking around outdoors, and I doubt you would either.

      Savings, entirely dependant on the school you work for, which area you decide to live in and your years of experience, but possible.

      Best of Luck


    1. I haven’t lived in Qingdao, but I’ve been there a few times for school trips and I have several friends who live/lived there.

      I’ve been in China for a handful of years now, and Qingdao seems to be getting worse every year. Last year, it was a reasonably dusty, dirty, polluted Chinese city. This year, with the massive construction projects at every corner, it’s an incredibly dusty, dirty, polluted Chinese wasteland of a city. There is a small expat community. You can visit the beach (I wouldn’t swim in the water though) and there are several large shopping malls.

      I suppose it’s not a bad first posting, but I would think long and hard before moving there and I would exhaust every other option first.


  3. I am currently in the process of applying for a teaching post in HCMC, Vietnam. Can anyone let me know their thoughts please.


  4. How about Bangladesh……has anyone lived in Dhaka? My wife and I are off there in August. We are looking forward to returning to the developing world after a very drab experience in Korea.


  5. New to this but here goes …

    I have until recently lived in Kobe, Japan for 5 years as a teacher/administrator and can honestly say it was an amazing experience. My partner and I seized every opportunity to experience everything that this great country has to offer. We have traveled extensively throughout Asia and Japan cannot be compared to anywhere else as it is sooooo unique to the people, customs and culture.

    Upon arrival we bought a motorbike and traveled extensively throughout Japan, even though our Japanese was limited, we were embraced by the Japanese people. People would literally go out of their way to help us if we were lost or needed a helping hand ordering from a menu. They say that gaijin will never fit in and will always be outsiders, well not from our experience! The experience is what you make it and we have left behind many Japanese friends that loved in particular the Brits! My advice is to get out of the ex-pat bubble and go out of your way to make the most of the cultural experience and mingle with the locals.

    The yen was very good to us and we saved a shit load of money and managed to travel everywhere. We were actually better off as we did not need a car, as public transport is second to none. Cost of living is higher than UK but it can be cheaper to eat out and of course the all you can eat/drink is well worth it!

    Tokyo ok Kyoto Loved it! Hiroshima Great! Nagasaki Great!
    Kobe FANTASTIC!!!

    Why did we leave then I hear you say! well 5 years is a long time and you never know whats on the otherside but we are looking for a new cultural and teaching experience.

    Have been offered a position in Sozhou China – Any thoughts out there!!!!
    Constructive of course:) bar the pollution !


    1. Do you mean Suzhou? If Suzhou, it is a weekend getaway for many from Shanghai or so I have been told. More expensive than some of the towns around but a lot cheaper than Japan.

      It is on the bullet train about 30 min from Shanghai and other cities so you can explore by train. Has a well known walking street and some really nice parks. Decent size expat community and a wide range of restaurants. International quality hospital in case of emergency. Could do a lot worse in China.


    2. I have been to Suzhou, a couple of times with school field trips. It is a small town, by Chinese standards. I think the population is in the neighborhood of 8 million. I can’t imagine that the expat community is all that great, especially compared to that of Shanghai and Beijing.
      My impression of Suzhou was that it was small (felt like a farm community after living in Beijing), dirty, and smelled to high heaven. They call it the Venice of the Orient, all I smelled was dank water and stinky tofu (which they are known for).
      Think long and hard before taking a job in a small city in China. It can be difficult to get into an expat group if you have to commute 30 minutes each way by bullet train 🙂


    3. Wow. I would never give up a position in Japan for Suzhou, but what’s done is done.

      Suzhou is your typical dirty, dusty, polluted Chinese city, offset slightly by the many pleasant gardens (it is known as the Garden City). You could fill a few weekends looking at the gardens and there is a nice shopping plaza that was a built a few years ago. Not a very big expat community though, and most of it is Korean. This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but don’t expect a large, English speaking expat population.

      The best thing about Suzhou is that there is a direct train to Shanghai, China’s best and most cosmopolitan city. When the small town feel (and mindset) of Suzhou start to wear on you, Shanghai is a great weekend away.

      I’ve been in China for a number of years now. I would never accept a position in Suzhou, but I know a few people who have lived there and they didn’t mind it terribly (though they have all been eager to leave by the end of their contracts.)


    1. Hi Robin,
      Like anywhere, the Philippines has it’s ups and downs. Living and working conditions are going to vary a lot depending on what school you work at.
      That said, I love living in the Philippines. Coming from North America, I figured that the climate would be pretty tough on me. Quite the opposite. Sunny and 80’s through the winter months is amazing. Plus, living near the beach where I can swim year-round is an added bonus.
      For most people, adapting to expat life is quite easy. Everyone speaks English and most modern conveniences are available at a fair price. People back home are always a little surprised to hear that I can pick up lime flavored doritos at my local grocery store.

      Filipino food is generally thought of as some of the worst in SEA, but food from other countries is readily available. Food options in Manila will keep you entertained for a few years at least.
      For some reason, the Philippines is the cheapest country in SEA to fly in and out of (maybe with the exception of KL with it’s AirAsia hub). I find that expats spend most of their vacation time outside of the Philippines. Skyscanner dot com will become your homepage, if you move here. $49 for a weekend in HK, yes please!
      For most expats from the west, living/working with Filipinos takes patience. Efficiency, quality, and problem solving skills are valued differently here. That said, I think that most westerners (myself included) tend to miss the complex and unique Asian culture that exists here.
      If you have questions about specific schools or places, post your email address and I’ll send you a message and answer as best as I can.


  6. If you are considering moving to Vietnam, DO NOT! I thought it would be a nice adventure, and I’d lived in Shanghai before so I thought it would be somewhat similar. Although VN people are lovely, the cities are absolutely filthy beyond anything you’ve ever experienced except maybe poorer parts of India. Men and children openly urinate on the streets and people just throw their trash on the ground. You step over dozens of gobs of phlegm spit and occasional piles of excrement (both human and animal) all day long. Fish scales and guts, chicken feathers and remains on the edges of the sidewalks, etc. The cities are overcrowded and the noise and pollution is overwhelming. Also, after sever repeating stomach ailments I went to the French hospital, where the doctor told me not to eat VN products (including produce) as they were pumped full of chemicals and hormones that are illegal in Western countries and banned by the WHO. I’ve had several upper respiratory ailments (in addition to stomach ailments) due to the heavy pollution and the mold that grows on my walls and even on my clothes in my closet during the rainy season. ALSO what your interviewer will not tell you is that the VN govt. takes 30% of your salary and housing allowance off the top. You would think that since the price of living here is somewhat cheaper that would be ok, but unless you want to live in a tiny cold water flat with no heating (and it does get cold here in the winter) expect to pay at least $700 for a one bedroom apartment. Don’t expect to get packages mailed to you. If you do get them, it will involve taking the day off of work to go to the central post office, waiting for hours, and possibly paying a bribe, I had my iPhone stolen from my classroom. My school offered no help or compensation, and they discouraged me from going to the police.


    1. TAK, it was great reading your thoughts on Vietnam in comparison to shanghai. In the last year I’ve visited VN twice (hcmc and Hanoi). I loved it both times. Next year I’m moving to shanghai, so now I’m looking forward to it being that much better!


    2. This is the most ridiculous bit of rubbish I’ve ever read about Vietnam.

      We have been here for three and a half years and have never had such a comfortable experience (have been teaching internationally for 14 years). Although not the most hygenic of people, the Vietnamese are definitely friendly. As for rubbish on the streets…no more than in any big developing world city…excrement on the street – really?

      This teacher must be working at the school that has completely fallen apart and is obviously jaded. The school was taken over by Cognita and over 50 teachers were either pushed out or left willingly.

      If you are considering SE Asia, Saigon should be top of your list. It is a very pleasant AND easy city to live in.


    3. Thank you… I needed to hear that! I have visited before and happy to be going… we live in rural Thailand… and being away from the city and just away from stuff in general is rough.


    4. I accepted a job starting in Aug 2013 in Saigon. I am looking forward to it. Thanks for the words of encouragement.


    5. Lived here for 2 years in 2011-2013 and loved Saigon, still miss it, this is so not true. What you are saying. Vietnam is clean and hygienic compared to where i live now (Jakarta) I don.t eat streetfood here but in HCMC I enjoyed it !


  7. I live in Thailand. My husband and I have been here for 3 years. We brought our 10 month old and had a our daughter here. The pay isn’t great for international school teaching but life is easy!!! Too easy!
    Whatever you want in Thailand you can get!
    We love the Thai people… although our colleagues have mixed opinions… there is sometimes a bit of animosity between westerners and Thais because westerners have been here forever! Usually visiting as tourist or visiting with their Thai wives… Most of the foreigners at our school are western women married to Thai men, so sometimes the stereotypes just don’t fit.
    We have a car, driving is easy.
    We are leaving Thailand after this school year,
    We are going on to Vietnam, we know things aren’t going to be as easy but it’s time for us to see different scenery.
    Recommendations: Go to Thailand with your eyes wide open, know that the salary packages are, and what your benefits are. Remember that you can get anything from great medical service, food from around the world, Designer clothes… if you throw money at it! Don’t forget the amazing nannies, maids and well any help, our son has a driver to bring him to school every day!
    We love Thailand and it will always have a very special place in our hearts! We feel so comfortable here (we even had a baby here!)


    1. Is it too late to change your mind about moving to VN? The standard and ease of living here is far below that of Thailand and the government is far more oppressive and beurocratic.


    2. Vietnam is great. I never saw anyone spitting or urinating in the streets. I have only visited China for a month and saw the spitting and heard the hawking up phlegm often.

      People are friendly in Vietnam and very helpful. The friendliest I have met and I have been to Thailand where people are very friendly too. I feel you can get to know the Vietnamese on a level it seems hard to get to know Thais. Though saying that I love Thailand and Thai people too.

      My school actually quoted us the salaries after tax so we got what we were promised. We also managed to save one salary as it is so cheap there, even though we weren’t in the best paying school. We went on holidays and lived well.

      Life is very easy there, you can have a helper, your estate agent pays your bills for you, you can send your money home via online banking. I wasn’t in a great school or I would have stayed longer and would consider going back. I still have friends there.

      My husband has asthma and never had any respiratory illnesses whilst there. I know some people were starting to say the pollution was increasing compared to what it was years before. In no way is it like China.

      We paid $800 US a month for a spacious 2 bedroom furnished flat. Our landlord was great and we are still in touch with him. I don’t know where in Vietnam TAK was but doesn’t sound like the Vietnam I experienced at all.


    3. It sounds like you lived in Bankok, no? Am wondering about the traffic and air pollution and if you felt these negatively affected your health, well being or experience there in general? Would welcome any comments re Thailand/Bangkok from all!


    4. Bangkok is the best. I’m here now. Traffic is rough, but name a really big city that doesn’t have traffic problems. The BTS (sky train) and MRT (subway) help a lot, but you have to plan a bit. Taxis in BKK are great and cheap, but sitting in traffic can add up. Again, plan. As for air pollution, the air quality is not too bad and getting better. If you’re very sensitive, you should visit first. Most people don’t have problems. Most taxis use CNG, which is helping the air quality. There are some rough days, but it’s definitely better than LA. Bangkok is an amazing city. It does have a “seedy” side, but you can avoid it easily if that’s not your thing. What’s great about BKK is that you can have everything you have in the West and yet still experience a cool, chic Eastern influence to things. You can shop in BKK and find Prada, Chanel, etc. You can eat in amazing restaurants and find all your favorite foods (even country-specific items like Marmite and H&P Brown Sauce). You’ll pay more for those things, but make up for it in other things like massages (you can get a 1-hour massage for $5 USD). If you want to live cheap, I know people who live on less than $1000 a month, eating local food and watching their pennies. Likewise, if you want to live a “high life” you could easily spend 10 times that. One thing I really like about the city (and Thailand in general) are the sweet, kind, gentle Thai people. They are very compassionate and considerate. They are polite and giving. It’s a wonderful place to live. Also, remember that different schools pay a wide disparity of wages. The top schools (NIST, ISB, Bangkok Patana) pay more than most US/UK schools. Likewise, the bottom end of schools pay poorly ($1500 a month). You can have a good life on either salary, but need to consider what you want. Also, keep in mind how easy it is to travel here. BKK’s airport has direct flights to all cities in Asia…every easy to get in and out. You can hop a 1-hour flight to the beaches of Phuket or the mountains of the north. All the major cities of the East are just a relatively short flight away. Hope this helps. Let me know if you want to know anything specific


    5. This is super helpful! Thank you so much. Do you have any insight into the way US workers are taxed in Thailand? I have heard about graduated scales, paying up to 30%, and a possible agreement between the US and Thailand for US workers to get taxes refunded if the stay is only two years… perhaps someone knows a good online source where the actual tax scoop can be found?


    6. No problem. Taxes…well, it seems it changes daily here. I have paid Thai taxes the entire time I’ve been here. It changes from month to month. As I understand it, “county” rules apply; each province is allowed to apply the tax rules differently. Depending on where your school falls, it might have different rules. Some have been allowed to forgo taxes, and then they must leave at the end of a 2 year contract. I have always paid and never had a problem. Taxes can be as high as 20% (I paid that a few months ago) to as low as 7% (what I paid last month). Honestly, I kinda look to my check to see what I’m getting paid each month, and it’s hit or miss. Some of my friends who have not paid taxes end up wishing they had so they wouldn’t have to leave after 2 years, if that’s any help. Best of luck!


  8. I live in Xiamen, China just across the straight from Taiwan and this is a great city to have small kids. It is clean and easy. I think Taipei with kids would be okay too but it is bigger and lots of scooters and traffic. Any other specific questions?


  9. We’ve lived in China for four years, two of those in Chengdu. At the end of the year, we’re moving on to SE Asia. At this point, not a day goes by where we’re not counting down the days until we leave.

    Chengdu is a filthy, dirty, polluted, DUSTY city. There are parks and greenery, but expect all the plants to be covered in layers of brown or grey dust from the pollution and constant construction. You can’t expect to sit on a bench without getting your clothes dirty. You’ll blow black snot out of your nose. The consulate has rated the air quality as hazardous for the past week. We wonder constantly what the pollution is doing to our infant child.

    The people in Chengdu are generally friendly, though expect all the usual Chinese spitting, urinating, and defecating in the streets. The food here is widely considered the best in China; that’s debatable, and having lived near Shanghai, we prefer that style of cuisine. If you’re interested in traditional Sichuan cuisine though, it’s everywhere and it’s inexpensive.

    There are a good number of Western amenities available, including import sections in supermarkets and restaurants catering to expats, including the ubiquitous Peter’s Tex Mex (6 restaurants and counting).

    Travel opportunities in China are very good, but book your tickets and hotels very early, or you’ll be in for a shock.

    Censorship is a huge issue. Buy a VPN for internet usage.

    Despite what I wrote, we are very glad we had the opportunity to work in China for four years. It’s a great place to get a start in international teaching. That being said, we’re very glad to be moving on at the end of the school year.


  10. I have lived in Shanghai for a few years and work at a decent school with amazing students. Even though things are pricer than you would expect, you can still save quite a bit of money……of course, depending on how you live. As in much of Asia, safety is not an issue here.

    That being said, the struggle you have to go through to get the basics (e.g. a train ticket, decent toiletries, a seat on the metro) can be a little bothersome after a while……and while a maid is cheap, it can be difficult to find a dependable one if you do not plan on learning the language.

    Travel has been a particular problem for me because all my holidays coincide with 900 + million other people. Travel here needs to be planned well in advance or you will contend with an unimaginable nightmare. Don’t think you are going to hop on a train on a whim.

    The weather……. not seeing blue sky on a regular basis can be a bit depressing. If you are use to living in crapy weather, than the dampness of the summer and winter will not make a difference to you.

    We all are aware of the cleanliness factor here, but the reality is frightening. Really vile.

    The people are ok, but hardly as hospitable or friendly as in other parts of Asia.

    It has been an interesting and educational experience, but i will be happy to move on to greener pastures and a warmer climate


    1. I concur, as I lived in Shanghai, too. But trust me when I say that Vietnam is much, much worse! If you want to stay in Asia but want a warmer climate, consider Thailand.


    2. I disagree with this post. I lived in Vietnam for two years and it was the best place to work and live. Great food, friendly people, easy access to everything you need, great travel, great money, easy life and incredible experience.


  11. I’ve lived in Jakarta for 12 years and although there are some positives, I’m ready to move on due to one major factor – traffic. Until you live here, you have no idea just how badly the congestion restricts and diminishes the quality of your day-to-day life.


    1. The school in Ulanbatar ( sp?) was recruiting at the London Fairnand seemed to be highly recommended by Associates and people who worked and were interviewing to work there.


    2. I just left Mongolia. The international school is a good school, but I hated actually living there. Plan for 6 months of winter, a hideous city that’s hard to move around in. It’s expensive to actually travel there, and difficult. People are so-so. Locals you work with are lovely, but average people, not so much (in UB–its different outside town). Also lots of anti-foreigner sentiment–mostly aimed at the Chinese, but plenty to go around. ALso hard/expensive to leave. There are daily flights, but EVERYTHING is a 12 hours layover in Beijing or Seoul. I should add, if you’re the outdoorsy type, you’ll have LOTS to do, but it can be expensive to get around if you don’t have a car. The country itself is stunningly beautiful


  12. My family and I have been living in Beijing for just over two years now. I don’t regret our move from the UK for a minute, though there have been days when I wonder what the heck I am doing here.

    Initially the culture shock took me some time to get over. The language barrier continues to be a burden but in the suburbs of Beijing (I live in the Shunyi district) you find yourself in a little bubble of a community where English isn’t all out lost.

    That said, getting about in a taxi or at any of the market places you’ll want to have a small grasp of Chinese if you are to make any headway. Learning your numbers and a few directions go a long way, especially if you’re the kind of person that enjoys bartering.

    If there is one thing that will drive us away from Beijing its the pollution. An average rating of 150+ for the year is not something you will enjoy, with days sometimes peaking at 350+ and recently the headlines reported a reading of 750! That’s insane and you really do wonder what harm you are doing to yourself and your children.

    Schools do keep children inside when the pollutions spikes (exact policy varies from school to school) and it gets quite frustrating when you are stuck indoors for a prolonged length of time.

    On the flip side, Autumn and Spring are amazing seasons in Beijing. Spring in particular seems to spring (sorry) from nowhere and in less than a week the trees are covered in blossom and you find yourself wearing a thinner jacket. These are definitly the best times to visit the city.

    Winter is severly dry and very cold. If you have skin conditions then Beijing won’t do you any favours. Meanwhile, the summer is intensely humid and hot. We stayed in our first year here and have vowed to never do it again (though it is not so bad if you have a pool to jump into!).

    Getting about in Beijing can be hard work. The subway is crammed to uncomfortable levels, though the locals to make way for children and my wife has frequently been given a seat so our children can sit on her knee. Taxis are under huge demand so good luck finding one that is happy to take you where you want to go. It seems most drivers don’t actually care about their job description, they will only take you if you happen to be going the right way or the fee will be high enough.

    Getting a taxi from Shunyi downtown is easy, but getting back is a nightmare!

    On a positive note, our lifestyle here is amazing. We have an ayi who looks after our children while we work. For not a lot of money each month not only are our children looked after, she cooks and cleans for us. Plus, she speaks no English so our children get some extra time to practise their developing language skills which is another benefit to living here.

    We’re here for another year but I think we’re ready to move on. China is one of those places that has many positive notes, but can also wear you down over time. There have been a number of occasions where I have been so frustrated and angry I could have stormed out, if only it was that easy!

    As I said at the start, I don’t regret my time here. It has been an enriching experience and a great start to our international plans. Beijing has a lot to offer expats and the money here is very competitive. If only they could sort out the pollution…


  13. I definitely agree that teaching in Asia will be a highly different experience, depending what country you choose. I taught in Japan for a while, but had the opportunity to travel in a lot of other Asian countries, and they’re all extremely different – with the exception of being stared at, perhaps, as a blonde female.
    I love Tokyo, and I love Japan. I see some people posting about how expensive it is, but I don’t think so. I actually saved much more than I’ve saved living anywhere else. .. you just have to know where to shop. Stay away from expat places, and that goes for renting an apartment, as well. If you want to live where all the other foreigners live, you will pay through the nose! Of course there are bureaucratic issues, but those are everywhere …
    I recommend teaching in Japan!


    1. I agree totally. I lived and taught in Tokyo for four years and whilst my apartment was in a groovy area close to the main train line, I shopped locally at the little fruit and veggie markets which were cheap and with good quality produce.
      The opportunities to travel to other Asian countries was amazing. Travel within Japan is expensive IF you insist on using the Shinkansen, which we mostly always did as it is such an experience. The sights, experiences and people in Japan are quite different and a few years there is a wonderful opportunity.
      I saved loads of money, travelled well, lived well and would recommend a stint in Japan if you are prepared to be discriminated against because you are American/Australian by older Japanese males. The younger residents are all wonderful. The older generation of males WILL never forget the War and the part some countries played in it.


    2. Worked in Japan for 2 years. Did not resign. If you like conformity and the inability to be flexible (the nail that sticks up will be hammered back down!) and xenophobia then by all means go. Add in the ongoing nuclear situation too. Oh and a new government that serms hellbent on devaluing the yen.

      Yes Japan is safe clean efficient polite (honne and tatemae) and cultural. Yet there are more negatives than positives I feel.


    3. I suppose there are positives and negatives to any place but Japan was a huge positive for us. We were near Tokyo for 2 years and left reluctantly. We are now in Germany and enjoying it but we would go back to Japan right now for the right position.

      We never felt discriminated against or hammered down and the friendly people, amazing food and excellent public transportation made for a very enjoyable lifestyle.


  14. As a teacher in KL I can say it has everything, and is very affordable. Socially it has been more difficult: business and development seem to be the main interests of educated Malaysians I meet and if this is also your main interest, you will learn of many schemes. The society is very multicultural, the city is a real meltingpot. that’s interesting.

    Work has been less rewarding, which may reflect the circumstances of my employment or be a cultural feature of how schools are run here. Do not expect open, democratic processes and 4 year startegic plans on the notice boards. The students are excellent, and colleagues are exceptionally hard working. Do your research carefully before applying for work here.


    1. Thanks MalaysianExperience, I will take that on board. Would you be willing to say what school you are at?


  15. Does anyone have any thoughts to share about Malaysia? Kuala Lumpur in particular? I would love to learn a little more about what it is like to live there and which schools you would recommend.


  16. I live in Taiwan, but in a city other than Taipei. Though my husband and I work for a tier 2 school and make half the salary of TAS (the tier one school in Taiwan), we can still save one of our salaries. This is amazing considering we have 2 kids and don’t seriously try to budget.

    Taiwanese students are very driven, like many other Asian cities. This means that they are wonderful in class: so respectful and eager to please. Yes, we have challenges getting students to speak up (since they aren’t encouraged to do so at home), but with encouragement and some scaffolding, I don’t have any complaints on this.

    Taiwan has wonderful hiking accessible from any of the cities and lovely beaches in the southern half of the island. The pollution isn’t bad outside of Taipei.

    Expect the usual expat challenges of bureaucratic confusion and crazy traffic (especially the thousands of scooters that are the preferred mode of getting around).

    People here are often quite friendly, and this is the safest place I’ve ever lived. Women can be running alone at 10 at night and not have any hint of a problem. Also, Taiwan has national health care that is inexpensive, high quality, and quick.


    1. I lived in Kaohsiung for 5+ years. I enjoyed it.

      Now I’m in Beijing. It’s ok…except for all the Chinese people! haha. As someone who lives in Taiwan, you’ll get my jokes…. You think driving is crazy in Taiwan? Doesn’t hold a candle to Beijing. SO much worse and it’s all cars! We thought pollution was bad in Kaohsiung, hence the Kaohsiung Black Lung. But I tell you, I can literally taste the pollution in Beijing!

      I found Taiwanese to (mostly) be very friendly and open. In Beijing, everyone seems to have ‘lemon face’ and nobody wants to even try to talk/help you. I’ve been here more than a year now, so I think I have a feeling for the place.

      Not to mention no FB, youtube, slow internet, etc etc etc.

      I would like to go back to TW. TAS would be my dream school.


    1. We’re in Singapore now after Japan and Thailand. We love it. Our package allows us to live in a spacious apartment and we can travel, eat out etc. The bureaucracy that people complain about has more benefits than negatives. Our work permits were done quickly and painlessly. Can’t say the same for Japan or Thailand. It’s a small place, but there are so many unique places, it’ll take us years to see them all and peel back the many cultural layers there are to explore. We love it and can’t see a reason to leave.


    2. You are lucky. I live in a shoebox apartment and I am poorer here than I was as a student! Only three schools, we know which ones, offer decent packages. You must be in one of those.


    3. Hi. I am seriously considering accepting a job in Singapore but am concerned about the high cost of living. Can you please tell me the 3 schools you think offer the best packages? many thanks…..


    4. There are a few schools that offer good packages, top being United World College, followed by Tanglin Trust. Other schools are not bad, but shop around, their benefits vary, but you can find excellent health care benefits at some like Nexus International, but better housing allowances at others. Friends work at Overseas Foreign School and Saint Josephs Institution International and are very happy.


  17. As someone who has lived in Asia (Eastern) for 9 years, it depends what you are looking for in terms of lifestyle and teaching experience. It could vary from almost a western type of lifestyle with an Asian flavor to an experience of all the hustle and bustle of a developing nation and all the “challenges” that go with it (Which I love). There is such a variety of experience, sites, foods, people, etc. You could find just about anything you are looking for here in Asia.

    Another consideration, if it is what you are looking for it is, although I have been paid less then what I was earning in the States, we have been able to save a significant amount of money (non-teaching spouse and two children which was IMPOSSIBLE in the States. Come to East Asia, I am sure you will enjoy it.


  18. I lived in Pakistan and found it one of my favorite places, ever, to live.
    Being a lover of art, I found it the epicenter of all things ancient & fascinating in that regard. Whether you wish to have an all hand-tailored wardrobe or purchase the availability of home decor and/or architectural artifacts, Pakistan is the place to live and enjoy.
    Driving on the “other” side of the road can be challenging, but I could and did as a woman (whereas in Saudi a woman cannot drive). Although tall & blond, I never felt threatened in the crowded markets but I also dressed appropriately. My children were safe & never did a threatening experience occur.
    If you love having help at home, Pakistan is affordable and the service people we employed were kind, efficient and trustworthy. That was the case for all my colleagues as well.
    The beauty of the city was outstanding in Lahore, but I will say that the lifestyle in Karachi and Islamabad IS somewhat different, and others will hopefully speak to their experiences in those cities.
    I thoroughly enjoyed my job, and was paid well. We traveled extensively as a family, and also walked across the border w/ India (an adventure, to be sure). Flights were easy to obtain, and the school had many events which transferred sports teams and MUN, arts functions, etc. to nearby nations. I was glad to have my children participate in these international experiences.
    All in all, I loved living and working in Pakistan and would recommend this lifestyle to any and everyone.


  19. I live on Jeju island in South Korea. If you love the country life, are willing and able to buy a car, and love to hike, this is a good place. People do stare but Koreans are pretty open and friendly and polite. What you will not find are any western amenities. The two bigger cities have some things going on, but the three schools within the Global Education City complex are totally isolated and this can be very stressful for single folk.

    If you are a single woman, I would not recommend this or any other place in Asia. Many Asian women are attracted to western men, but Asian men rarely date western women. Single western men generally go for the Asian women. While there can certainly be life without dating, the complete absence of the possibility can be a bit depressing.


    1. I concur with what you’re saying about being a single woman in Asia. Most expat men in Asia are there to meet an Asian woman, and many of the Asian women are very eager to date/marry a Western man for the money and the visa opportunities, so that completely wipes out any dating pool a single, Western woman might have.


  20. India is often left out of the Asian discussions. Overall, it is a mixed bag. International schools (New Delhi/AES, Mumbai/AEB) have excellent packages and you are central and able to travel to many areas of the world (SE Asia, Middle East, etc.). Pay is 55-65K plus housing and living expenses. For a married couple, you can easily save 60-70K a year. Monthly expenses are about $1000 and salary is tax free.

    On the plus side, it is colorful, full of tradition, spiritual, and experiencing strong economic growth. Although news stories/Slumdog hightlight the crime, I have always felt very safe both in major cities and rural areas. The negatives are that you deal with terrible pollution, extreme poverty, brutal heat from late April-early October, and social inequality. It is also the worldwide epicenter of dengue and other mosquito borne diseases. For some, the food is amazing. For others, you will long for red meat. You are able to easily get around the country with English. While I personally have enjoyed living in India, I find that people either love it or hate it.


    1. i loved living in India for the six years I was in Bangalore. I have to agree that it is a love or hate place – I worked with some people who couldn’t hack it.

      One caveat, it is tax-free if you are American or British, but not if you are Canadian. I paid the full 33% tax. Having said that, I still managed to live well, travel a lot and save. I believe that all employees, even foreigners, now have to pay into a government “provident fund” which we were told would be reimbursed when we left. I have yet to see my provident fund contributions.

      India is a wonderful place for culture, travel and food. People are friendly and I made many lasting friendships with my Indian colleagues and neighbours. These things more than made up for the mediocre money.


    2. I lived in Bangalore for 12 years and loved the place. I am a British citizen but had to pay tax, though it was only around 20%. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay into the bottomless pit of the government provident fund! I left when the government ordered that foreigners be paid more so any newbies will certainly be earning more than enough for Bangalore!!!!!!!! (I was able to save 1000 pounds a year and that was on a pay half that which must now be paid).


  21. I’d say it’s impossible to generalize across Asia. I live in Thailand, and think it’s amazing, but I wouldn’t be happy in many countries in Asia. Thailand is unique…very western and eastern at the same time. It has all the modern conveniences of the West (food, shopping, etc) but the people are still very Asian (polite, kind, relaxed). The cost of living is amazing, and Thais love and embrace westerners. Thailand has some of the most amazing beaches, hotels, mountains, rivers, etc., so if you love the outdoors you can have all that you could possibly want. If you’re a city person, Bangkok is a wonderful, diverse city, with shopping and name brands and great food. I think I have the best of both worlds here. Again, though, each country is very different. Schools in Thailand pay good, but not as much as some other parts of the world. With the reduced cost of living, though, I think I live better than I did in the States. I think everybody should travel to Asia and go to a few different countries, realizing that each is its own unique place.


    1. I am considering a post in HCMC. Can anyone tell what the quality of life and experience is like there.


    2. I’ve only visited HCMC, so my response might be lacking some aspects. I think HCMC is an exciting, vibrant city. IMHO, it’s a “mini-Bangkok” with great shopping, nightlife, etc. Money seems to go far in HCMC, though not as far as in the north of VN. The people seem great there as well, though not as friendly as some other Asians in SEA.


    3. I have lived in HCMC and I really liked it. It is very cheap and the people are really friendly. For me the friendliest I have ever met. I am black and I was told that the Vietnamese were really racist. Well when I would just sit in the park, after 10 minutes, I would have at least 5 people talking to me, wanting to practice English and asking about my life.

      You can get everything delivered there, so when you do your shopping you just tell them to take it to your place at a particular time and it’s there. You don’t pay extra for delivery. However because it is so cheap you can give everyone good tips.

      Our estate agent also collected and paid all our bills. I don’t have a clue where you would go to do that.

      HCMC doesn’t have loads to do but there are some things and there are nice bars. it is a good place to travel from and you can get buses to many places from there.


  22. I live in Southern China and have lived in Taipei. I love living in SE Asia. Money is good (if you are at a decent school) and travel is excellent. The city I live in isn’t big ( 2 million) and very liveable but not much to do. We have small kids so that is fine. It is clean and safe here. Taipei was also great but a big city with lots of traffic and pollution. Asia is huge but I would say one of the big pluses for living here is travel.


    1. It’s clear you’ve gotten used to living in Asia when you comment that 2 million people isn’t a big city. Truly in China and much of Asia, a city with only 2 million is on the small side.


  23. Me and my wife have now been in Jakarta Indonesia for 6 months or so, and are really enjoying our time here.
    We are in a good school, and although not the best paying school in the area we still manage to save alot. With lviing expenses of about $1000 USD a month, plus a combined salary of over $4000 a month we live comfortable and still send about $10000 back home every 3 months.
    The school pays for a great apartment which is close to the school, and we have all of our bills and tax paid by the school. Which basically means we pay for food, travel and entertainment.

    The only downsides are that pollution in Jakarta is horrible, and there are a mix of people around, some very very nice, and some not so much.

    Traffic is also a big issue, but taxis are cheap and if you can stay patient you will eventually get where you are going.

    Most people we meet speak some english, especially in the service sector (Shops and restauraunts).

    Also there is a good expat community here, with alot of different nationalities around, which mean various restauraunts and bars/pubs can be found.

    Overall we are enjoying this part of asia more than we did south america (Although we miss the blue skies, and open spaces)


    1. I also live in Jakarta and have very different living expenses. I guess you could live on $1000/ month if you didn’t ever travel or eat out? Once you get released from that initial bubble and have to pay some more living expenses like bills etc, it does tend to add up. Jakarta is a wonderful city and the best part is the people. One of the happiest and friendliest I have met.


    2. I am also moving to Jakarta. I have lived in the Middle East and we did not see blue sky very often. I have been told that, although polluted, I can expect to see blue sky more in Jakarta than I did while living there, simply because it rains more. I expected more people to say the heat is prohibitive, but I haven’t really read that as a complaint from anyone as I poke around various blogs and forums. I am wondering how much the the lack of cleanliness will bother us or where/when that may be an issue.


    3. Where in the middle east are you? I am in the ME, in Abu Dhabi and the sky is a beautiful blue most of the time. Especially now the weather is cool.


    4. I should have been more specific: Cairo. Having spent time in Dubai, I also concur that the air in the UAE is much better.


    5. Why do you like Jakarta more than South America? The reason I’m asking is that I’ve been in Asia for a while and am now thinking of trying Latin America.


  24. Japan is also very cold, literally and figuratively. The Japanese people polite yes, but xenophobic and sexist. You will always just be another “giagen” to them. And with the election of the new nationalistic, right government, don’t look for things to warm up anytime soon. The food is good but like most of Japan, it too is rigid and lacking in creativity. The romance of Japan is not a reality. Japan is a better place to visit than to live. Our guests have had good times and do not stay long enough to start figuring out all the social slights. We have started to call our selves tourists when we go out, and we are treated much better than if we say we live in Japan. Tokyo is one of the most soulless cities in the world, and if you watch the movie Happy you will understand.


    1. Just out of interest.
      What is the pay like in Japan? it is somewhere we have debated (My teaching wife and i) about going.
      How much can you save a year?


    2. Pay is not bad but know cost of living and travel is very high. If you are disciplined you can save. We have been in $30K range depending on travel, but we are teaching couple without dependents. Also, watch the value of the Yen if you are paid in it, as the new government is hell on devaluing it. Oh, taxes take a bit too about 22–25% and some even at the end of contract.


    3. I agree about Japan – the romance is NOT a reality. It is a better place to visit than to live. There are many rules to life in Japan and it can be frustrating and confusing. Unless you learn Japanese you will live outside the culture – English is not available everywhere and there are certain things you can’t enjoy as much if you don’t speak or read the language. There are many good things about Japan – safe and high quality food, kind people, excellent shopping, efficient public transportation, and lots of culture and history. It is a great place to raise kids. Teaching couples can probably live well and save money, but Japan is so expensive it’s hard to enjoy life and save.


    4. Felt compelled to offer a more positive view of Japan. We loved our 2 years there and would have enjoyed staying longer had circumstances permitted.

      We lived 30 minutes west of Tokyo which offered us the best of all worlds; our own little neighborhood of shops and friendly people, yet a short train ride from the action and bustle of downtown.

      Yes, there was a bureaucracy and dealing with the government could be a bit tedious (but a welcome change to Egypt and China) but the medical service and service in general was always top notch. Everyone seemed to take pride in doing their best, from your doctor to the cashier at First Kitchen (mmm butta soyu fries).

      Japanese food is amazing and mostly reasonably priced. Was there a lack of diversity? Maybe, but who cares? It was amazing and if you learn to appreciate Saki then the world is your oyster.

      In any case, just wanted to offer an alternative experience. Love it and would jump at the chance to go back.


    5. I thought you wrote a very candid review. I looked for but couldn’t find the movie you recommended – do you have any further details? Thanks!


  25. We have lived in Busan, South Korea for almost 2 years now, and it’s an interesting place.

    South Korea has come a very long way in a very short time. Fifty years ago, Korea was a very poor country; I’ve spoken with older people who told me stories about how hungry they were as children and how in the old days North Korea used to be be better off than South Korea. Now, of course, South Korea is wealthy, very modern (at least in the cities), and very technologically advanced. I think the rapid development has given Koreans (especially the older ones) a kind of culture shock.

    South Koreans have worked very, very hard to develop so quickly. People here spend less time sleeping than in the US, and children are also encouraged to stay up late studying. Education is valued, and students are pressured to work very hard. Oddly enough, public education is not considered as valuable; the students sleep in class and then after school go to expensive tutoring centers where there “real” learning is done. The education system is standardized across Korea, and is geared towards scoring well on a national test taken at the end of high school (you can read about it here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2011/11/south-korea-education-annual-college-entrance-exam-required-silence.html). The pressure (and, I think, lack of sleep) have contributed to one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, particularly among young people.)

    Conformity and homogeneity are valued and strongly encouraged. Everything is standardized and it is considered bad to stand out in any way (other than excellence your field). There is only one acceptable standard of beauty, for example, and many Koreans believe that homosexuality does not exist in Korea. Appearance is very important and plastic surgery is very popular.

    There are very few foreigners in Korea. Well, there are a lot of foreigners, but it’s a vanishingly small percent of the population. Western goods can be difficult or impossible to come by, particularly if you aren’t in Seoul. If you are caucasian, children will stare at you as you walk down the street. If you’re female, sometimes old men will approach you and ask if you’re Russian (a friend explained to me that they are hoping that you are a Russian prostitute). If you are black, *adults* will stare at you. Most people will be very friendly, and many will want to practice their English with you. However, even if you stay for many years and learn perfect Korean, people will still stare at you and be astonished that you speak Korean at all. Metaphorically, you’ll be welcomed as an honored guest, but you’ll never fit in well enough to be part of the family.

    Koreans strongly value interpersonal skills. For example, it is considered rude not to actively listen to someone who is talking to you, which means that Koreans will continually nod and say things like “yes” or “I see” as they listen to you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with you, but is meant to signal that you have their attention. Conflict is considered to be very negative, and often even if someone disagrees with you they will go along with what you are saying while face to face with them, and then (seemingly) change their minds later. This can conflict with Western standards of communication, and is something to be aware of.

    Korean cuisine has a strong emphasis on seafood and also on lots of vegetables that look (to my American eyes) like weeds. Koreans don’t usually eat much meat (though Korean barbecued beef is *delicious*), but that small amount of meat is in everything — it would be very difficult to maintain a strict vegetarian diet in Korea.

    The population is very dense; even very wealthy people live in (extremely fancy) apartment buildings. The apartments tend to be smaller than American apartments and can feel cramped. However, there are several advantages to the population density. Because people live so close together, it becomes economically feasible to bring a fiber internet connection to an apartment complex. The internet here is wicked fast. Because everyone lives in huge apartment buildings, there is more public green space than in most American cities. Since the big cities are fairly new, Koreans have done a good job planning their cities to include lovely parks, walking paths, and other green spaces. On a related note, if you have a small child, Korea has *tons* of playgrounds. Last summer my friend’s children scouted out twenty or so within 5 blocks of our apartment building.

    Unfortunately, if you have older children there’s not a lot for them to do, unless you pay to enroll them in an after school academy (and more school isn’t necessarily what your kids are looking for). Most of the kids here are exhausted from their strenuous academic loads and what social lives they have is at the expense of their already too limited sleep.

    Korean traffic is insane. Most of the drivers are very skilled, and have excellent spatial awareness (I suspect them of eyes in the backs of their heads). Most accidents are small fender benders; serious accidents are rare. Which is a good thing, as most people don’t wear seat belts. Unfortunately, red lights are regarded as a suggestion and not a requirement, which can make crossing the street hair-raising. Taxi drivers are particularly bad about running red lights. My coworker was hit by a car last year (while in a crosswalk with a green light) and had to spend several days in the hospital. Being female is considered to be an adequate justification for being a bad driver, which bugs me on several levels.

    As far as crime goes, Korea is a very safe place. Small children routinely ride the subway by themselves and walk the streets until 10 or midnight with no problems. Apartment mailboxes don’t lock, and no one will steal your mail. I (a woman) feel safe walking my neighborhood alone at any hour. (The port would probably be a rougher neighborhood, with a bunch of drunk sailors wandering around, but Haeundae is fine.)

    We’ll be moving on to Poland at the end of this year; partly because I’m not super happy with my current school and partly because we are hoping for a more international atmosphere. Bluntly, that means that we miss western groceries and my 12 year old daughter is tired of being stared at all the time. *shrug* I’m really glad we’ve had the opportunity to live here, and I hope this brain dump will be helpful to anyone considering living here.


  26. My wife and I have been living in East China for the last 7 years. The pace of change can only be described as furious. It is a fascinating place with some definite frustrations. The big Eastern cities in China are centers of optimism, growth and displays of wealth and poverty. The people tend to be a bit difficult to get to know until you learn the language well. Chinese is not an easy language for “Westerners” to learn as there are virtually no cognates. Reading Chinese also takes a lot of dedication.

    China has many travel opportunities for any type of traveler. The sophisticated crowd will enjoy cosmopolitan Shanghai, while the adventure traveler can trek in the foothills of the Himalayas or travel along the ancient silk road. Prices vary according to tastes and place.


  27. Japan is all about tradition. The Japanese are polite to a fault to your face. It’s one of the richest cultural experiences that my family and I have ever shared. While expensive to travel around Japan, Kyoto and Tokyo are must sees, they are the perfect contrast to each other.


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