English teachers around the world share many similarities in their lifestyles and classrooms, from enjoying local cuisines, playing in sports leagues, exploring in regional travel, and playing an important role in local communities as an educator. While teachers may share these—and many other—similarities around the world, teachers living in Asia and Europe can expect many differences in their jobs, social lives, their schools, and even their personal lives. Here's a quick overview..........
Finances: Salaries & Opportunities to Save $$$$
Teachers in Asia can save quite a bit of money - typically 30% - 50% of their salary after monthly expenses - in markets like South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and even Thailand. Depending on where you teach, English teachers in East Asia can usually expect to save $300 all the way up to $1,000 per month after expenses. Teachers can save money to travel on holidays, making student loan payments, extended travel after their contracts, or elect to bring it back with them for their personal use.
The higher salaries and lower cost of living also allow teachers to eat out often and partake in lots of activities around their city!
Salaries in Europe are still high enough to provide a comfortable lifestyle for teachers, they just usually are not able to throw money into a bank account to bring home like many teachers in Asia. You’ll still be able to dine out, try the cuisine, have a nice apartment, and do some regional travel, soaking in the amazing culture and lifestyle of living in Europe. To learn more about what salaries are like for most English teachers in Europe, please read What Does it Mean to "Break-Even" Financially for Teaching English Abroad?
Work Hours & Schedules
While you can expect higher salaries in Asia, English teachers in Asia can also expect to work more hours and to work exclusively for one school or language center. While your “contact hours” or hours actually teaching may not exceed 25 hours per week, often times teachers are required to have office hours in the school prepping for class, creating curriculum and being available to parents and students. You can expect to work a 40-hour work week in many Asian countries.
Europe may offer the same 25 hours of teaching time per week, but perhaps split between two different schools and language centers. It is not uncommon for a teacher to work 10-12 hours at one school, and 10-12 at another to maintain a full-time schedule. Private teaching is also a strong income for those in the European markets either to supplement a schedule or perhaps to create a full-time schedule once connections are established.
South Korea and China are the big markets known to pay for housing for teachers in Asia. This can be done in the form or free housing or a housing allowance as an added bonus to your salary, and the apartments are often very nice and accommodating. You’ll most likely have roommates, which is the best way to make friends and gain a social circle in your new home! While South Korea and China are the most likely to pay for housing, other countries in Asia are known to be very helpful with finding teachers a place and sometimes even have an apartment all set up for you for a cost, making the transition a bit easier for you.
Free housing is much less common to find in European teaching markets (summer camps are exceptions) and teachers should expect to find their apartments and roommates upon arrival. It is recommended to stay in an Air BnB or hostel until you secure a job and know the neighborhood where you’ll be working and commuting.
Many ITA students use the Alumni Country Facebook Groups and resources from the Job Search Guidance Manual to find housing options and partnerships across Europe. Another helpful housing resource are the other teachers working at your school. Chances are they have lived in the city awhile, have a network of friends that may need roommates, and know the best areas of the city to live! Some schools in Poland are known to assist with housing and even offer free housing as part of the contract!
Finding Your Job & Hiring Seasons
There are two ways to get a TEFL job abroad: In advance over Skype/Email and in-person in the city you would like to teach in. Asia and Europe offer both options but for the most part, Asia will hire teachers in advance over Skype, assist with the visa process before you arrive, and hire year-round. This is true for countries like South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam are known to at times hire in advance, but more likely to hire teachers on the ground in-person. Using the ITA school finder list, teachers will visit the schools and hand in their resume and cover letter face-to-face.
Europe tends to be the opposite of Asia with its hiring practice, requiring teachers to be on the ground for in-person interviews during a peak hiring season in September or January. While certain countries (like Poland and Czech Republic) are known to do some hiring in advance, when you go to Europe to teach, you need to be prepared to find your job in-person.
Pro-tip: Take advantage of the alumni networks and communicate with students and ambassadors before applying!
Types of Students
Another difference between Europe and Asia is the type of student you will find yourself teaching. While both continents can provide opportunities with both children and adults, it is more common to teach children in Asia, while in Europe there is a better chance that you will be teaching English to adults in language schools & private lessons. Again, that’s not to say you can’t teach children in Europe, it is just much more common to teach adults in the European markets.
Want to learn more about Teaching English Abroad?
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