Question: teaching English outside of Korea?

Printer-friendly version
'Jenny' writes asking the following:

Hi Chris,
Thanks for your blog. I really enjoy reading it. I've actually been teaching in Korea for the past year. I just got back to the US, but I plan on returning to Korea for one more year. I've been thinking about trying to teach in another country after that. I don't have any teaching credentials. All I have is my experience. I was just wondering what other countries I would be able to teach in.

Other countries you can teach English in are more numerous than you might imagine, although teaching in Korea is probably one of the easiest countries to get started in. A quick search for 'teach English in *' (where '*' or 'star' is a wildcard in Google) reveals opportunities in France, Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Peru, Argentina, Saudi Arabia - and I'm not even off the first page yet. The UN recognizes almost 200 countries as members, and the majority of them do NOT have English as a primary or official language. One website claims to have teaching jobs in dozens of countries, while another offers quite a few jobs in many countries. Since I'm not an expert on jobs outside of Korea, I'll present some of the information I found while researching:

Japan: One of Korea's close neighbors, and a country almost always looking for English teachers. Unlike Korea, they don't always or necessarily provide housing, so if you're uncomfortable with doing that yourself, ask assistance or reconsider. Pay is typically high, but the cost of living can be even more so. Several major chains dominate the market, although eikaiwa (the Japanese word for a private school) are also quite popular. For more information, one website is

China: Another one of Korea's neighbors. If you have to send money home to pay student loans, this is not the country for you - good jobs will translate to a great standard of living, but translating those RMB's into dollars will make you... depressed to say the least. It's fair to say the costs of living are still low outside of the major cities, and like in other cities there's no guarantee that the salary has kept up with cost of living. There's also the Communist government to consider - for better or worse, their human rights record is far from clean, and the 'Great Firewall of China' is well-known throughout the tech world.

Taiwan: Taiwan has grown as fast as Korea has, and has its own quirks to enjoy or deal with. The cost of living and pay are supposedly about equal - but definitely do your own research. The political battle regarding its independence is just one thing to consider, but since you're already in a country with a 50-year-old war that technically never ended, you're able to consider that in your decision.

Thailand: Yet another Asian country that's a distinct possibility. The cost of living is still fairly cheap in some areas, while the pay is nothing to scoff at when compared to the locals. Before buying a plane ticket, consider that jobs often require a TEFL certificate.

France: One program offers jobs 1,500 English teachers yearly, but there's a catch - moderate to proficient French is a requirement. If those years of French lessons in high school / college have still stuck with you, check out (PDF) for a lot more information.

Chile: Considered one of the stabler South American countries, you may need to find housing or live with a host family during your stay. A salary of 335,000 Chile pesos a month ($642 USD) is nothing to sneeze at when you consider the low cost of living, but probably not much if you have to send money abroad. One program worth checking out is, although others are certainly around. Bear in mind that this program, like many for other teaching jobs in the world, requires payment to earn a teaching certification and get help with job placement - I make no money by mentioning them.

Indonesia: It may get hot in the summertime, but there's 18,000 islands to explore. One program to consider at, although it gives no information about salaries.

Russia: The same company that can get you into Indonesia can also you get into Russia. Bear in mind that the Russia of today can still be as cold as you've heard about, and there's a reason you probably can't name a Russian city other than Moscow. Don't kill the messenger, but check out if it's intriguing.

Saudi Arabia: Another rather warm part of the world, this Arab nation may redefine your definition of 'conservative', but of course other Arab nations would do the same. Males will teach other males, females (good luck!) will teach other females. Also bear in mind that having a white face does not necessarily engender yourself to the locals - a good amount of caution should be exercised here. The reward for the qualified and brave: larger apartments, better pay, and a higher standard of living. At least one job was offering $2,700 USD monthly with housing fully paid during my research. Check out for jobs in Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries worth checking out.

Brazil: Yet another country on the ESL radar, a working knowledge of Portuguese and experience / education are a requirement. Beyond that, getting your school to sponsor your visa has been described as 'virtually impossible', and cannot be taken for granted as it is here in Korea. While there's supposedly little chance of being caught, staying legal while in a foreign country should be considered an expat's best line of defense. For an excellent read on teaching English in Brazil, check out

Eastern Europe: This area is grouped together for convenience, although each country has a small market for ESL teachers. Countries to consider include the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, the Ukraine, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Although private recruiters will have the most prominent links, the respective governments or their Ministry of Education will also be available with a little searching. One story from Hungary is interesting, while another from the Czech Republic is informative as well; Transitions Abroad has plenty more of these stories from all across the world. Expect hourly rates instead of monthly salaries from a given school, and expect to string together multiple jobs (including private tutoring gigs) to create your paycheck. Expect (but don't assume!) a more lax attitude regarding what's legal. Consider that information about teaching in a given country may be out of date - the Schengen Agreement has recently changed the rules about immigration and working in several Eastern European countries, for example.

Despite the current economic climate around the world, teaching English in a foreign country is still a job worth getting. Keep in mind every country has rules, regulations, uncertainties, and catches. In the end, trying to 'escape' Korea in search of greener grass is unlikely to result in anything MUCH better. There are several factors (among an infinite number) to consider:
  • Am I out to make money, or enjoy my non-work time?
  • How stable (politically, religiously, etc.) does the country have to be?
  • What standard of living am I looking for?
  • How long do I want to live in a given country?
  • What do I have to offer the people of [insert country here]?
  • What is my 'comfort zone' like? What sort of amenities do I have to have to feel comfortable?
  • Do I have the appropriate experience / certificates / degrees to apply for the job?
Korea is a great destination for first-time expat English teachers - if you're ready to move on and have what it takes, the world awaits.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe - 2009



Koreabridge - RSS Feeds 
Features @koreabridge     Blogs  @koreablogs
Jobs @koreabridgejobs  Classifieds @kb_classifieds

Koreabridge - Facebook Group