Escaping your country to live abroad isn’t something everyone can do. Often, we hear stories of travelers with grand plans of never going home to relent at the first sign of trouble. Teaching English in another country can be even more of a challenge, with cultural differences potentially affecting your income, which is the whole reason many do it in the first place. Some areas stand out for ESL positions for their high pay, low cost of living, and ease in the hiring process.
Anyone who’s a citizen of an English-speaking country can make the decision to work in South Korea, send out a resume, receive a response, interview, and be confirmed within a single day. Korea may not have much in the way of standards when it comes to teachers for hagwons (private schools), but joining programs like EPIK to teach in public schools at least give applicants the semblance of professionalism. Aside from that, many schools in Korea cover the cost of an apartment on top of paying you ~2,000,000 Won/month. It’s very easy for ESL teachers to save half their salary or more.
China isn’t necessarily a bad choice either, but finding the best bang for your buck usually means a university position or a school that pays more than average. Teaching in Taiwan, on the other hand, gives expats a comparable cost of living with a higher salary (about 2000 USD or more/month). Even if you’re not willing to survive on $1-2 bowls of noodles for every meal, it’s still possible to save quite a bit.
Can you imagine teaching English in a city older than your entire country? Or just sipping some black tea before your shift starts? While it’s certainly possible to splurge well and often in Istanbul, working as an ESL teacher outside the larger cities can let your ~1800 USD monthly paycheck go further… just don’t be so quick to accept positions near the Syrian border.
The UAE may have the highest salaries for ESL teachers in the world (over 4000 USD), but it also boasts one of the highest costs of living. Oman, on the other hand, offers a comparable salary with significant lower rent and price for meals. Though not as liberal as nearby Dubai, with a huge foreign population, the country still has a better track record than Saudi Arabia in terms of comfort and safety for expats.
5. Dishonorable mention: North Korea
Though US citizens aren’t allowed to do this anymore, and anyone would be risking their life and sanity to do so, teaching English in North Korea is a perfectly viable option for those with a loose sense of morality and a willingness to accept the absurd. Despite the DPRK’s hatred of all things American, the regime seems particularly interested in hiring English speakers for elite universities in Pyeongyang.
The biggest downside, aside from the risk that you say the wrong words by mistake and get thrown in a labor camp for the rest of your life, is that the North Korean Won is illegal outside the country. Your only means of saving would probably be to wait until your contract is up, strap the cash to your body with duct tape, fly into Beijing, and find a black market currency exchange where hopefully you won’t be stabbed and robbed. On the plus side, it certainly is cheap to live over there.