The answer to this question is very individual, but I’ll give you a few pointers to help you make a decision on which is the best country to suit you as an individual.
Easiest to live in?
That’s most likely to be Dubai and possibly Abu Dhabi which are both Emirates (states) within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai I would say is ‘working abroad for beginners’. It’s an easy place to live in because English is very widely spoken and there are a huge number of expats. The sun shines pretty much every day (although the summer is very hot, but you’re likely to miss the worst of it due to your summer holidays). There are lots of school jobs for English speakers – that’s a big plus! It’s very western in many ways, you won’t have too much of a culture shock. There are lots of things to do and there’s plenty of nightlife. Although they don’t officially celebrate Christmas because it’s a Muslim nation, you’ll find Christmassy things and even a big tree in the malls. They are welcoming of all peoples, but you must be respectful of their culture and religion. Examples of this are you must dress respectfully, you can’t drink alcohol on the streets and you mustn’t eat publicly in the daytime during the holy month of Ramadan. Muslims during this time fast between dawn and dusk.
In Asia, the easiest place to live in would probably be Singapore. A tiny developed nation tucked under Malaysia. Excellent public transport, English is widely spoken, it’s well maintained and spotlessly clean. There has famously been a law in place against chewing gum! The reason being the clean-up of inappropriately disposed of gum (like on the street) was expensive. The law has now been relaxed a little. There are things to do such as ‘Gardens by the Bay’ and ‘Marina Bay Sands’. See www.tripadvisor.com.
The toughest thing about teaching in Singapore is the extremely high expectations Singaporean parents have on their children therefore, on the teachers. Teachers often work long hours while students are expected to complete a lot of homework and extre-curricular activities.
Off the beaten track?
If you would prefer a more cultural experience and you’re keen for more of a ‘real’ experience, the Middle East might not be for you. There are international schools in every part of the world, including developing countries in Asia and Central and South America. There are schools throughout Africa and some countries such as Ghana and Uganda are easier to live in. The more popular countries like Kenya still have a lot of corruption but also many expat families are there and they need teachers. Be careful while considering African nations as there is political unrest in some parts, plus places like Angola are insanely expensive. The Luanda International School, Angola pays extremely well but don’t be fooled as the cost of living is extremely high.
The main curriculums you’ll come across while teaching abroad are likely to be linked to the nationality of the school you’re going to. For example, The British School of Muscat offers the English National Curriculum, and if you’re British, you’ll already be familiar with this, so it’s a good place to start looking for a job. American schools, Canadian schools, Australian schools etc will likely offer curriculums based on the same as their own country. There are a couple of exceptions to this. One is the highly regarded IB program (International Baccalaureate Diploma) and for younger children – the PYP and MYP programs. This is seen by many countries as an outstanding and thorough curriculum and is internationally accepted. Dover Court School in Singapore offers the IB program.
There’s also the lesser known International Primary Curriculum and the International Early Years Curriculum (IPC and IEYC). These are topic based curriculums which I believe are fun, thorough and excellent learning experiences for the primary and nursery age groups. Rosebud Primary School in Hong Kong offers IPC.
You may be aware of Islamic laws in the Arabic world and local people’s attitudes being homophobic – this is sadly true. I’m generally talking about men here – It’s not possible to live an openly gay lifestyle in the Middle East so I would recommend you go somewhere else. Although it is legal in Bahrain, it’s illegal in most other Gulf nations and in some of them (including the popular UAE) it’s punishable by imprisonment or death. You may think that they should be respectful of everyone’s preferred lifestyle – no, they don’t see it like that. They think you should respect their laws and that’s it.