When you get a job in your home country, you usually just get paid, with no other benefits, but this isn’t the case with ex-pat teaching roles.
Of course, it’s a huge upheaval in your life to move to a foreign country, leaving behind family, friends and familiarity so it needs to be made attractive to you.
Why do schools want ex-pat teachers?
Because they want native English speakers to deliver the curriculum of one of the English-speaking countries e.g. the British National Curriculum. When an independent international school abroad offers highly desirable curriculums delivered fully in English, parents pay the big bucks for it and these same big bucks get passed on to you. So if you’re a native English speaker, you may not realise it but your language is a valuable commodity!
First, it’s important to make the distinction between a sponsored staff member and a non-sponsored. Sponsored means that the school provides you with relocation costs and full perks. Non-sponsored means you’re not provided with this. It might mean you’re an ex-pat couple and your partner has a job in the new country and you’re not working (sometimes called a trailing wife). You’d just be employed as a local as you’d already have housing and perks through your partner’s job so it’s not provided. What they’re prepared to pay is made clear in the job adverts.
What’s included in an ex-pat package for a sponsored staff member?
Salary – you’ll likely be on a comparable or higher wage than the same job in your home country but the saving potential is likely to be much higher due to other perks you’d normally pay for such as housing. The cost of living varies so much around the world and schools are all different, so check the salary against the standard of living and what’s provided by the employer to make sure that move is worthwhile. People have different priorities, some people need to save money whereas others go for the adventure and are less worried about saving. Be clear on the reason you’re going and the savings potential of that role.
Housing – Housing or a housing allowance is often included. You may be provided with housing, which is often a 2-bed apartment for yourself. This can vary a lot as some schools expect you to live with others in a shared house. This might suit some people who want the security of having people around if they’re maybe young or inexperienced. This is understandable, or maybe this won’t suit you at all. Be clear before you accept the job about what housing is available. Ask for photos to see how it’s furnished and what amenities are nearby. Schools in the Middle East may place you in a compound, which is a gated community. These have various amenities onsite such as shops, hairdressers and leisure facilities and there may be a website you can look at to get an idea of what it’s like to live there. Some schools have accommodation they own, which may be on the school’s site meaning you may feel you can’t get away at the weekends! But a very convenient walk to work! I would say most rent the properties from landlords. For first-timers going abroad, choose the accommodation provided instead of the allowance.
Some schools don’t offer accommodation but instead give you an allowance on top of your salary, giving you the freedom to choose which area you want to live in, and the standard of accommodation to suit your budget. This means you’d have to top up the allowance yourself to get a nicer or bigger place.
Some schools may offer you accommodation or an allowance as a choice or some might insist on one or the other. Be clear on this before accepting the job.
Visa – You’ll likely need a visa to stay in the country for several months at least. In some countries, you’ll need to get this in advance, and in others, you enter on a tourist visa which needs to be altered to a work visa before the expiry – usually around three months. Either way, the school will do all of the paperwork and pay for it, so it’s not a difficult process for you.
Flights and relocation – It’s normal practice for schools to pay for your return flights. Occasionally you pay and it will be refunded by the school. There may or may not be a top-up provided for baggage as you’ll want to take at least 50kg each, which may exceed the usual allowance of that airline. The school also may or may not provide funds for buying things to settle into your new place. Check before you go.
Medical – It’s also standard that schools provide you with medical insurance. The level of cover may vary a lot from school to school and possibly may depend on your level of seniority in the school.
Schooling – It’s common for schools to provide free or discounted school places for your own children, often either two or three places. This might be a great incentive as sending your child to a private school may be out of the question in your home country, but abroad, it’s possible. One thing to consider is if the school you’re teaching in, is predominantly local students e.g. from Qatar, your child may be out of place as a sole expat. This is fairly unlikely as most international schools have a mix of local and multi-national students.
Other perks – To entice the best applicants, schools may provide other perks. I worked in a school which provided a gym membership and taxis 7 days a week.
If you’re new to ex-pat teaching, it’s definitely a good idea to know what schools around the world offer, so you can decide if you’re getting a good deal or not. If a school treats you well, it will make a big difference to your happiness in that role. Don’t be afraid to ask the right questions on what’s offered to know if what you’re getting is right for you.