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Sushi, Bullet Trains & 8 More Reasons To Teach English in Asia
Written by: Felicia Braverman
Last Updated: January 5, 2021
Asia is an amazing place to call home during your time as an English teacher abroad. Not only is it the largest job market in the world, where teaching positions offer high salaries and job stability, but for many reasons that one may not initially think of when considering a teaching destination. I compiled the following list during my year spent teaching in Taiwan and traveling throughout the continent. In no particular order, here are my top 10 reasons why English teachers should consider heading East!
1. Low Cost of Living (Especially Compared to Salaries)
Even though living costs vary country by country, on the whole, Asia is a very cheap continent to live and to travel throughout, especially given the salaries that English teachers make. While teaching in Taiwan, my fellow colleagues and I had the fortunate ability to explore cheaper destinations like Thailand and the Philippines.
It was not unheard of to stay in a hostel in Thailand for $10 USD/night, or find a roundtrip flight to China for $100 USD. As for monthly expenses, my rent in Taipei was around $300 USD. Meals are roughly $2-$5 at local restaurants, and when you’re making $2200/month, it's quite feasible to save (or in my case, travel) given the low cost of living. The same could be said for countries like South Korea, China, and even Japan as well.
2. A Structured Hiring Process & In-Advance Interviews
Schools typically hire in advance in Asia, meaning you can schedule a phone or a Skype interview, and they will hire you while you’re still in your home country. Interviewing for jobs from home enables you to “shop around” by interviewing with different schools in multiple countries and ultimately picking the job that best suits you. Also, because you interview and accept a job offer in advance, you have the security of knowing that you have a job lined up before leaving home. Schools in Asia will also sponsor your work visa, so when you move there, you’re essentially going there as an employee of that school with legal working privileges. This makes for a much softer landing when these logistical things are all lined up for you in advance.
3. Access to Affordable, High-Quality Healthcare
On a whole, I found the health care system in Taiwan to be very affordable, accessible, and advanced. This is also the case throughout East Asia, where English teachers typically receive health insurance through their employer. In Taiwan, it cost around $3 USD to get my teeth cleaned with my ARC (visa) card. Doctor visits ranged from $5-$20, and that almost always included any prescriptions needed. I’ve heard similar reports from teachers in other developed countries in Asia. An ITA alumni who taught in South Korea, told us it costs roughly $12 for a doctor's visit, prescriptions included, and she thought the care was far more advanced than the US.
To learn more about getting health insurance while teaching English abroad, check out this article.
From cell phones to subways, the technology of daily life is often considerably more technologically advanced in Asia. Bear in mind, much the of the technology used in the world is developed and made in this region, so Asia is ahead of the curve when it comes to all things tech related. Even the Internet is significantly faster in many Asian nations than in the U.S.
In Seoul, South Korea - which boasts the highest rate of broadband access in the world - there is no such thing as “buffering” or “loading” when you pull up a web page. Everything is instant. You’ll even hear the locals boasting about how they have the fastest internet speed in the world, and as they should! You can order groceries through apps, get directions in the middle of the city via virtual maps, even have electronic toilets adjust the temperature of your seat! Technology is king in Asia, and it’s pretty fascinating to experience this first-hand as a westerner.
5. High Salaries Enable You to Pay off Debt, Travel, and Save Money
If you seek to combine a fantastic international experience with opportunities to make and save excellent money, you've got to consider Asia. In many Asian countries, even first-time English teachers can save 30%-50% of their income after expenses. This point has been briefly touched upon already, but it’s a point that deserves to be mentioned a few times because when you’re able to save money, you’re able to travel more!
The ability to make & save good money was a huge draw for me and my fellow teacher friends in Taiwan. One of my friends was not only able to save to travel, but she also paid off $12,000 in debt over two years time. If saving or paying off student loans is something that is a priority for you, you should specifically be looking into Japan, China, South Korea, or Taiwan. Vietnam and Thailand are also countries where you can make and save good money, especially since the cost of living is so low. Check out our country chart that outlines potential opportunities for saving in each of these countries.
6. Great Travel Opportunities
One word: Thailand! Between the beaches, hiking, zip lining, and elephant sanctuaries, you will never find yourself bored in this beautiful paradise. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you teach English in Asia, you can spend your vacations trekking in the Himalayas in Tibet; exploring the jungle ruins of Angkor Wat in Cambodia; or sitting on a beach in Bali. Those who love shopping, dining and nightlife will love the hustle and bustle of fantastic cities like Seoul, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. The list is amazingly endless, and when you’re on a teacher’s salary in a developed country in Asia, you can afford an annual trip to any of these destinations.
7. A Great Classroom Environment
Having first taught in the U.S. and then Asia, I found it refreshing to teach in an environment where classroom management and discipline was not an issue. Of course, I am speaking from my experience in Taiwan only. People’s experiences may vary depending on the classroom and the country. On the whole, though, I’ve heard from many other teachers who have taught in China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and they have all had similar things to say about their classroom experiences. In Asia, students are typically taught from a young age to be extremely respectful towards their teachers and education is highly valued throughout society.
9. Learn an Asian Language
Mandarin Chinese has officially become the world’s most widely spoken language, with over 1 billion people speaking it. And guess what, the best way to learn Chinese - or Japanese, Korea or Thai for that matter - is to immerse yourself in an environment where you are exposed to it constantly. If you can eventually add Chinese (or any major Asian language) to your resume, you will become a much more marketable candidate to future employers, in nearly any field, especially since Asia is fast becoming the economic center of the world. This is yet another example of why teaching English abroad will only boost your career prospects down the line, and will completely set your resume apart from the competition.
9. High-Speed Trains
This should technically be number 1 in my opinion, but I thought I would save the best for last. Whether it’s Beijing duck in China, tom yum soup in Thailand, BBQ in Korea, or fresh sushi in Japan - you are sure to never be bored with the cuisine in this part of the world. I personally love spicy food, so this may make me a bit biased (though there is no shortage of awesome non-spicy food throughout Asia). Flavor, fresh ingredients, and spice really are the name of the game, and there hasn’t been any other region in the world that compares (again, in my opinion) to Asia’s cuisine. Do your taste buds a favor and embark on a culinary adventure in Asia!
After graduating from Texas State with a Teacher Certification, Felicia Braverman taught English in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Taipei, Taiwan. Before joining International TEFL Academy in 2013, Felicia ran an international recruiting company for teachers. With more than 10 years of experience in the fields of teaching English abroad & TEFL certification, she is a verified expert who has published many articles on various facets of teaching overseas.
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