What Would it Take?

calculator6923345There’s more than a few places in this world where many of us would not be willing to live & teach. I had my reasons for wanting to avoid Pakistan, but the salary/package was so attractive I could hardly say YES fast enough. I loved Pakistan & my bank account literally grew exponentially. The Congo wasn’t on the top of my list, either, but the package was so absolutely alluring I couldn’t say NO, and again, I banked a ton of moohla & got in some outstanding travel adventures.

When I did finally land a job at my top-pick school, I took a 60% pay cut for the “privilege” of working there. It wasn’t long before I started to feel I was being taken advantage of, especially since the cost of living was far, far from cheap. I went from banking thousands a month to putting away a measly few hundred, if I was lucky. As a trade-off, I had completely derailed my progress towards financial security.

While money isn’t my top priority, it’s an important factor considering international teachers have no pension plans like teachers I know back home. So, while I want to see the world & live internationally, I do need to continue planning for the future.

Would I go back to Pakistan today? How about Kuwait, Liberia, or Egypt? From the comfort of my desk I will say NO. But, sitting across from a recruiter & in the excitement of the moment, bolstered by the promise of a great salary? I have the feeling I would say YES!

I think it’s fair to say we all have a figure in our head of what constitutes a great salary. Of the places in the world where you would not be willing to live & teach, what sort of salary/package would it take to get you to change YOUR mind?

Name your place & package:

32 Responses to What Would it Take?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have taught in Islamabad for 7 years and don’t regret it at all. Leaving this year will be very difficult, in fact. The school takes great care of us, the city (notwithstanding recent road construction) is beautiful and green and the housing is very comfortable. We do sometimes have what we teachers call “security days”where we teach from home via moodle, and we are sometimes asked to stay away from certain places, such as a high profile mall or restaurant. We are well compensated for any hardship we might face and the admin/board are working towards improving that compensation. As well, there is very little personal crime here…I don’t know anyone who has been the victim of street crime or had their house broken into. It is too bad that people make their career decisions based on CNN and other less than accurate sources. There is a very pleasant, rewarding and lucrative career to be had here in Pakistan.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    When I accepted a position in Pakistan, all I heard from other international teachers how dangerous it was and how the teaching environment would be “miserable” since the students are mostly Pakistani.

    In fact, the students are some of the most respectful, hard-working kids I have ever met, and the school and living situation is excellent. Yes, security is sometimes an issue, but it was also an issue in my old school district in the US. The savings potential (which is quite high) is not the main reason I took the job, but it does help knowing that I will be able to pay off my student loans and retire early if I so choose. In this case, I am happy to trade a bit of personal freedom for financial security.

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  3. John says:

    Central and South American schools pay very poorly. it’s not what you earn, but what you save that matters. I find that during the school year I don’t have a whole lot of time to be touring my host country. So the hardship posts aren’t that bad especially when you earn enough to go somewhere nice during the long breaks, and still put money in the bank for retirement. Your employer is always going to extract his/her pound of flesh, and the places that pay a lot actually expect you to work for it. One person said to me a number of years ago “don’t waste your time trying to inject first world habits and ideals into third world countries, Help your students learn, that is your job”. Thus I don’t talk politics, religion, or “back home we use to do it this way”. Follow the curriculum, enjoy the “aha” moments when the lights turn on in the students heads, and deposit the pay check at the end of each month.

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  4. Sketcher says:

    Wow! Some of you are saving more than I earn. I have taken a huge pay cut to live and work in Spain. I earn just enough to support my life, basically. Not able to save and I struggle to buy flights to go home to the UK. There are no annual bonuses and staff pay out approx 200€ per child who attend the school.
    With all that said. I love my job. The staff are friendly and supportive, the children are lovely. You are never going to make any money here and you won’t save any for your retirement. Surely money isn’t everything. Cultural experiences, quality of life… ?

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  5. Anonymous says:

    What you describe could be any one of 1000 or 10,000 schools in the Middle East. If you come and teach in the region, you need to be prepared for all you have outlined. Those of us who come from democratic countries have to adjust to the mindset and expectations of countries ruled by monarchs and monarchies — no such thing here as freedom of speech, unions or right to protest, for example.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Correct, but when you can’t look at yourself in the mirror in the morning because you have become part of the problem, is the money worth it? When you walk down the hall at school and don’t manage student behavior because it’s just more trouble than its worth are you really being the person you want to be? When your boss tells you that “it doesn’t matter if students can read at grade level” are you working at the kind of school that you thought you would when you made the decision to become a teacher?
      I now work for a school were academics are a priority, and student culture is important. I still save money for retirement. However, I don’t get to travel as much and I don’t own a car. But, I do like the person I see in the mirror in the morning.

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  6. Pablo says:

    Of course pay is important, but other factors have to be considered. From my own experience, I can handle an lousy city as long as I like the school. On the other hand, I can handle a lousy school if I like the city. But if you don’t like your school, or the city, then get out! Like earlier posts have said, a year of your life is priceless. Don’t spend it in misery.

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  7. C romana says:

    Int. Teachers forget that they won’t get a pension when they retire. They also seem to be embarrassed to be interested in good compensation. If you think 30 G is a big saving, you need to do more math.

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  8. isbergamanda says:

    I am currently teaching in a difficult and dangerous place (Venezuela) however, there are many other reasons to stay here (other than the really great money). I have a theory that the international teaching life is like a three pronged ideal: one is school life, the second is city life (and safety), and the third is your personal (love) life. I believe you need to have two areas that you are satisfied with if you are going to have a balanced life overseas.

    If I had a strong family dynamic that would support a move to Saudi Arabia and it was a good school that hired me (and included a strong financial package), I could live without the exciting city life.

    I already know I can put up with a lot after living in Venezuela for the past couple of years!

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  9. Anonymous says:

    I have worked in Saudi Arabia for the past five years. In the last year plus, I have found a new job teaching English to Saudi military. Between the teaching (we work 6:30 AM to 1:30 PM) and tutoring/college counseling on the side, I am able to make and save six figures annually. Twenty people a day die on the roads here in KSA. ISIS has named the school next door as a target. But I still love the weather, ride around the city daily with Pakistani drivers who teach me Arabic, and always remember why we are here: $.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are you male or female?

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    • jenhoey2 says:

      We are also in KSA in a school that has received direct threats. We have a young child. This is our first overseas working experience. We took the post as a way to save and see the world – left good positions in USA. We have not saved nor been able to travel as the school we work for has not been able to fix our child’s visa that was issued by them so she has not been able to leave the country. The school insists on keeping our passports unless we have a reason to need them; and then ask that they are promptly returned. The living situation is not secure and run-down. Many teachers are feeling insecure. There has been no security incidents besides the threats specifying our school. It has been interesting and terrifying to see the ripple of fear combined with the dissatisfaction that the overall work/living offers very little to continue with this post.

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  10. Paco says:

    I lived a few years in a location that most governments consider “extreme hardship”. We spent a lot of our salary without saving much because we needed to treat ourselves to nice holidays etc.–just to manage the experience, get a break from the extreme poverty, noise, corruption, i.e. all a third-world pit of despair would ‘offer’.

    Most of such places will have good salaries (we did pretty well, I would say), but if you are a “rookie”, beware that there are no talks and no books that could adequately prepare you. Once you’re in the place, you’ll have to survive.

    In terms of character development and professional experience, it was wonderful. I became resilient, understanding, and, I dare to say, wiser. Still, the s&$% bucket someone mentioned earlier–it just got too full eventually, and that’s why we left.

    No regrets, though. I’ve never truly gone anywhere just because of money. My life has been strange enough that I have personally lived in poverty AND luxury, and so money to me is just something that exists and has its use but it’s never the prime goal of my existence. I could live almost anywhere now.

    But to anyone reading this because you are considering a high-salary job in a tough location: Make sure the school has all the proper credentials, get with a buddy who’s already there—but really: please, please do everything you can to make sure you surround yourself with decent people!

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  11. Jim says:

    I suppose it really depends on the individual, couple or families needs. Its great to be financially sound but at what price? Its great to have a quality life but at what price? The key is to aim for a happy medium. Easier said than done though.

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  12. Scott says:

    I was making a fortune at my last school in Africa. It was rough living there but the school was great. I thought I should leave and am now at a for-profit school in a developed country working for half the pay,worked to death, and have no admiration at all for the corporation and their ridiculous demands and thoughtless decisions. As I’m getting older my thinking now is why work for such less pay when I can save a fortune and set myself up for retirement way, way faster than taking a chance on some school I may hate with much lower pay.

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  13. eslkevin says:

    I have taught in the Middle East three times. I went for money and avoided Saudi Arabia (most lucrative offers) because my family did not want to move there. This third time, I chose quality of life over money and live in Salalah, Oman which has the best weather in all of the GCC states.

    The salary is less than I made in Kuwait and would be less than in the UAE, but my family and I love the choice.

    In long term, go for quality of life.

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  14. omgarsenal says:

    I have had mixed success in choosing schools but generally was satisfied with the outcomes and stayed for more than 2 years in 2 of the 3 schools I worked in. while the money is definitely NOT the most effective motivator and compensation factor, it helps if you are saving for your future and at the same time enjoying it. that said, selling one’s soul to obtain financial rewards is anathema to me. My first post was in Kuwait and I enjoyed it immensely because the kids were great and my colleagues were generally very friendly. My second term was in Mexico and we earned very little but the people, students and climate made up for it. My final post was in Germany and it was the best, with respect to money and school quality. That is, until i ran into some issues with staff that not even the best of intentions could remediate. It doesn’t take much to diminish the pleasure of working overseas but overall a positive and open-minded attitude can get you quite far when all else is negative.

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  15. Jon says:

    A lot of mixed feelings on the posts taken in the last four years. Both jobs accepted were in the Middle East and allowed for saving between 20 and 40k a year. The difficulties of the region are well documented, so that part of it was expected, albeit still frustrating. Definitely concerns for personal safety whether it is on the roads or at the whims of parent. If you can handle being entirely on your own and are a risk taker you get get out of these places with a considerable sum that can make dreams possible. On the other hand, it can all go horribly wrong.

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  16. Phil says:

    At my first international posting, a teacher there gave me a good saying that works for me:
    “When you arrive at a new international school you are given two buckets. One is for $$$, the other is for s%#t. As soon as one bucket is full, it is time to leave!”

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  17. anonymous says:

    To me a hard post is where they work you to death, allow you to be harassed by parents or colleagues, have no ethics, pay discrimination…don’t really follow the pay scale posted, uneven work loads for staff, cliques with teachers and staff who are bilingual, monolingual staff given the start up duties and then not renewed, sexual harassment of staff and no way to stop it as it was accepted by the owners, no teaching materials and little internet connection. Yet at every post I enjoyed something about it. I have finished every contract. Another thing is important…is there anyone to be friends with? When you have had enough move on…save the amount you want per year. I know one thing is true…the job you get is not the one you are told you got. The placement agencies work for the school and not the candidate as they pay the commission.

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  18. TheChief says:

    Having seen both sides of the story, I believe it doesn’t matter where you live, as long as you make the most of it – and if you can get some good $$$ as well, then that’s awesome!
    I was at a well-known school in Bali in it’s opening year, and was on US$1K per month, and while I didn’t save much money, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
    I am currently at a school in what is dubbed as a “desirable location” (in SE Asia), and earning pretty good money (and saving quite a lot – maybe US$25K – 30K / year), but it is such a frustrating place to live and work (mainly due to the corruption and utter lack of initiative at all levels of society) that I am counting down the days until I leave!
    I totally agree with “got the T Shirt’ – to live in a “developing nation” – which is what s/he is describing – can be extremely frustrating.
    I too have had some amazing travel experiences at both locations, but this idea of schools paying less because they are “desirable” is a joke! I have heard this is the case in countries such as Singapore and HK (although this may not be the case???), but this is one of the MAJOR FACTORS as to why these places became “desirable locations” in the first place!
    My point: Enjoy the international life wherever you are, and if you can save some good $$$ while you do it, then all the better!
    Bring on the xmas holidays!!!

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  19. Got the T Shirt says:

    What would it take? That depends on what you feel two years of your life are worth. But why waste years of your life in a country where the people are suppressed by their government, where woman are forced to dress as “black holes”, where written material is censored, where a woman is rapped and then stoned to death for tempting a man….you get the picture. There are a lot of elderly people who would give anything for another year of life. What value can be placed on throwing away two years of your life in a living hell? There isn’t one for me. No amount of money would get me to go to some of these places reviewed on this web site. None!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Well said! How much is it worth to sell out!

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      • Johnny says:

        I agree as well. My ethics and integrity are not for sale. I’ve worked at a school that strongly urged you to look the other way. One example is a teacher who hit and choked students on a regular basis. The pay was great but not at the expense of turning a blind eye to abuse.

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        • Hinckley's Friend says:

          I worked at just such a school twice: once in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and another time in Cincinnati, OH. So working here in Saudi Arabia feels just like America!

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    • Anonymous says:

      VERY well said!! Money can and will come and go, but you can NEVER get time back. And anyway, who told anybody exactly what age they were going to live to? What a bummer when you find folks that have “suffered and saved” for years only to have life cut short by an unforeseen circumstance. Do you think they want that time back or are they content with that number on their bank slip?
      Like the saying goes: If you want to make God laugh, start planning.

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  20. Jon Cristofer Miller says:

    I accepted a Visiting Professorship in South Korea at a major university. I had expected it to be at its main campus. Instead, we were at a small complex of apartments and housing for the bused-in students, surrounded by small rice paddies and pig farms. It was a mile’s walk to a bus stop, as well as to the research center where we taught. Had I understood those details, I might have rejected the offer. As it turned out, we had a great year. The students were great, and we learned to enjoy the exercise… as well as the bus rides to nearby towns and cities. We often traveled back to the city with students on weekends. My advice is, expand your options. The “bad” choices may have unforeseen benefits that allow you to develop. ###

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