All about teaching English in Asia

I am sure that we can all comfortably say we know someone who is teaching English in Asia. If not, then you know some who just came back or you need to get out more!

You just graduated, have no idea what lies ahead and not 100% ready to dive into anything yet. Maybe you have a full time job that just isn’t making your heart skip a beat anymore. Maybe you love teaching, love the English language and want to share that with others or maybe there is no reason, you just want to because you can. Whatever your reason is, it’s a great one. The question is why does everyone else make it look so damn easy? What do they know that you don’t? How do you go about looking for a job, what are the things you should know or what type of pay you should expect!

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the options and info. So I thought that the best way to sum it all up would be a survey! Who knows better than people who have been or are still currently there doing their thing! I didn’t get too technical about it, it’s a blog post not my thesis! I chose 10 questions I thought would give you a good idea of what to expect and what to look for (ok Survey Monkey only gave me 10 free questions, why you gotta be like that). 71 people answered and this is what they said:

What age were you when you first moved to Asia?

22 – 26 years old winning with 37 votes. No surprise here, this is around the age you would be completing your degree. This is normally a requirement for most institutions. If you don’t have a degree, you would then be TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). Next up is 30 years old and over, getting 19 votes. Dabbled in some travelling when you were younger and no matter what you did, you just couldn’t shake your love for Asia! 27 – 29 years old are not falling far behind with 14 votes and finally yet still importantly only 1 vote for 18 – 21 years old. Obviously not common because you would of just finished school and would still need to get some qualifications going.


What type of work did you do when you first started?

One would think that the only option you have is to teach English at a school, 08:00 – 14:00, as we use to back home but variety is key. Your choices firstly are public schools where you would work in the morning, get more time off and salary wouldn’t be as high. Next option is a hagwon, this is a private institution that provides additional classes to students after school. Normally you would work in the afternoon, get paid more but have less time off because you wouldn’t get the normal school holidays. You can also work at universities; normally these people are a little older with more experience. They not shy with the pay either. In my opinion, these are the most popular but definitely not the only options. Other examples would be English centres, charity projects or English summer camps. Out of 71 voted we had 32 people working at hagwons, 19 people said they were at public schools and 6 people said they were either not teaching English, worked at a kindergarden or worked at an English centre.


How did you apply for the job?

This for me is the massive question. Who can you trust and what is the best way in?

  • Dave’s ESL cafe – 3 votes
  • Embassy website – 1 vote
  • Facebook groups – 4 votes
  • Referred by a friend – 9 votes
  • EPIK – (English program in Korea) – 2 votes
  • Website – 30 votes (I have a few suggestions below)
  • Craigslist – 1 shady vote (maybe give this one a skip)
  • I knew a recruiter – 16 votes
  • Nightclub – 1 vote (must have had really good dancing skills)

At least there is no shortage of options! If you don’t get in, you weren’t trying hard enough!


How many interviews did you do before securing a job?

What’s normally? Should you start questioning your capabilities after 1 or 10 interviews? Each person and school will be different and that’s what you should always keep in mind! Don’t say yes to the first job because you not sure if there will be another one but then again if you on interview 54 and you still not happy, maybe it’s you! If we look at the survey “first time lucky” is definitely the winner with 51 people saying that they only did 1 interview! 17 people said they did 2-4 interviews and only 3 people that did more than 5 interviews! Depending on the institution, interviews can be different but are normally over Skype. The institution wants to see you can actually speak proper English and didn’t just walk off the cast of Geordie shore! It’s not normally a slow process, once you have conducted the interview and they like you. They tell you when they would like you to come, the terms you will be working with and the contract will soon follow.


Did you like the director of your school?

The director would ultimately be your boss. The principal of the school, the main person in charge, pretty much the one that will be telling you how high to jump. Like with any job in the world, sometimes you get along and sometimes they make you hate your job. Should you be losing sleep over this? No because out of 71 people, 25 loved their boss and 30 said they were ok. Only 9 said they really didn’t like them and 7 said they didn’t necessarily like them but they would choose them over other bosses they had heard of! In the end, this is a very personal aspect. Who I get along with is definitely not who you will get along with. A good way you can find out is by speaking to other foreigners at the school or the person you will be replacing. Why are they leaving and what advice do they have for you. Some schools are bigger than others are. Therefore you could be working with a few other foreigners or you could be at a small hagwon where you the only foreigner giving English!


What city would you like to stay in?

It is always a bit tricky when it comes to the city/town you will be staying in. We all know that Cape Town and Johannesburg are worlds apart because we stay here but if this is your first dose of Asia you will definitely not know left from right! Wikipedia isn’t exactly letting you in on how many foreigners their are in the city, how far away is it from the cool stuff and can anyone even speak English? 71 people have come to your rescue and voted on the top 5 cities they were either lucky enough to stay in or would choose if they got the chance, second time round.

  1. Seoul – 14 votes
  2. Busan – 11 votes
  3. Daeugu – 4 votes
  4. Gangneung – 4 votes
  5. Daejeon – 3 votes




What was included in the deal?

Who pays for what? What should you be looking for and what do you consider a red flag?

Flights are important because they expensive and honestly who wants to pay for that. As we can see with 47 votes, it is more common than not for them to pay. I have also heard of you paying and they pay you back later. Unless there is a special arrangement, rent should always be included. They set you up in a little flat that has everything already, all you need to do is arrive and bring bed sheets. If you have been abroad a while you may want to live somewhere a bit better than they are offering so take the cash and find your own place. Ten points if you that kind of street smart.

Electricity and gas is the one cost you shouldn’t expect them to fund but shouldn’t be forgotten! It isn’t too much so don’t lose sleep over it. Next up, we have medical aid, because your body doesn’t care what country you are in. This should be included, they will send you for a check up and you will get your citizens card. 46 people said it is included but 24 people said it wasn’t included or was only given a contribution to it. This shows that a good deal will include it but your deal is not necessarily bad if it doesn’t. Not everyone works the same. You need to consider what is important to you and focus on that. Last of all pension, bit of a weird one because how exactly does it work? Youโ€™re not planning on doing this till you retire so do you get the money when you leave or do you forget about it and expect a random cheque when you turn 60? It will be different for every country. As a South African we do not have an agreement with their government which means we would normally not pay pension. If you do get pension it could be through a private institution. If you are not from South Africa but for example Canada. You will pay pension monthly and claim it back once you leave.


First hand advice

“Everything is a hit and miss. Not all public schools are great and not all private schools are a nightmare. Connect with other teachers at your potential school. Be wary of short answers from them, as no one will badmouth their school and a short answer is the next best thing.”

“I wish I knew that people are really willing, more than willing, to meet other people. I got comfortable with the people I was around and didn’t really make an effort to branch out. I wish I had”

“Go with your gut feeling and always make a point of talking with the person you’re meant to replace. There’s nothing wrong with asking a ton of questions – it is your time and future in question.”

“Do thorough research about the culture, language, fashion etc. If you’re a girl bring Lots of Tampons and deodorant! know that meat and fruit are very expensive. Don’t be scared to travel and to meet new people.”

“Bring cotton bedsheets. The local ones are glorified plastic bags and you’ll cook yourself in summer.”

“Basic language skills. Like how to read and order from a menu or go somewhere in a taxi”

“Be a little serious about it. It doesn’t have to be your life career, but don’t act like a tourist either. Learn the culture/language, expect to be uncomfortable sometimes, and don’t blame your host country for things you aren’t used to or don’t understand. Be respectful. Work hard and put the effort into doing your job well even if you don’t plan on doing it long term. That said, know your worker rights within that country and don’t let business owners take advantage of you just because you are a foreigner.”


Here are a few websites that are definitely worth a visit:



While I was gathering my info I did run into some disgruntled teachers and for that I would like to add a disclaimer. I have been to South Korea for a short period and it is amazing. I have not taught English anywhere though and my advice comes from my survey and close friends I have that have taught English. Know that we got that cleared. I hope the post helps you put a few things into perspective and clear one or two things up.


The TravelBug ๐Ÿ™‚

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