Moving abroad with a family to teach English can be stressful if you don’t have a plan. There are so many things to consider when making the decision to teach English abroad without a family, that adding the extra elements of kids can make it a nightmare to make sure everything is taken care of. If you understand before you accept a job what you need to be looking for and have a solid plan to find the job and country that meet those qualifications then you should be able to make the transition near seamlessly. Let’s take a look at some of the common concerns you are going to have about moving abroad with a family and address how to handle each challenge.
Is moving abroad to teach with a family a good idea?
The first thing you are probably wondering is if it is even a good idea to move your family abroad to teach English. For some people, this answer is going to be no but for many other people, it will be a definitive yes. You are going to have to look at your individual situation to get a more clear picture of whether or not it makes sense to move abroad. For example, if you are highly qualified to teach English (meaning you have a teaching certificate, prior teaching experience, and you have obtained a 120-hour TEFL certification with practicum) then you will easily be able to find a job in a country like the United Arab Emirates or Hong Kong where the pay, as well as the benefits, can be such that you will be able to not only command a high salary, but you will also be able to save significant amount of that salary as well. But, if you don’t have any of those things and are looking to transition abroad in a lower end market then it probably wouldn’t make as much sense to potentially take a pay cut and have to deal with the stress of obtaining the proper visas for all of your family and having to reestablish your life in a new city in a new country.
Moving abroad to teach English on your own is one thing but with kids the dynamic changes entirely. You will have to ask yourself how well your family will handle their new environment and how much stress you will be putting them under. If your child suddenly starts receiving bad grades because the stress of moving away from friends and the environment they felt comfortable in was too much then would it be worth it to you? If your spouse will go from having a job and an income to now being unable to work or having to take a pay cut and teach English as well then would it be worth the change of scenery?
Teaching English abroad has a stigma of being low paying and for new graduates or single expats, however, there are a number of countries where teachers can make high five-figure salaries (and for some even six-figure) and can receive awesome benefits such as end of contract bonuses, flight reimbursement, paid accommodations, health insurance, and free schooling for their children. However, you are going to have to weigh those pros against any potential cons (of which there will probably be some) to come to the conclusion of whether relocating your family abroad is going to be worth it for both you and them.
What are some things to consider?
As talked about above, there are going to be a great many factors you must first take into consideration before making the decision of whether moving abroad to teach English is the right decision for you and your family. Not everyone is going to have the same considerations either. However, there are some standard things which are important to thank when you are raising kids and married.
Quality of Living
Not all countries are created equal and not all cities in a country are equal at that. You are going to have to really consider the various quality of life factors for the city you are looking at working in or the area you are looking at working in. A great example of this is China. If you are in one of the major cities then you are going to have all the amenities you could ever want as well as access to high-level international schools for educating your children. However, you are going to be dealing with a higher level of pollution which can be hard on children and you will also be exposing your children to an entirely different culture which may or may not align with your values and you will have absolutely no control of this. Conversely, if you find yourself in a more rural area of China then you will find the air and water in general to be much cleaner and the cost of living much lower, but, will also find that access to education is much more limited. There are many tradeoffs that you are going to have to take into consideration when looking at the quality of living in each country you are considering working in.
For a family, especially one that is traveling to a foreign country with the intent to live and work, health care is going to be of the utmost importance. Depending on the country, the school you are hired to work with may provide health care as part of your benefits or at the very least partial reimbursement. Many employers, however, will not. So, if you are considering working in a country where employer-provided healthcare is not the standard then you are going to have to weigh the cost of insuring your family against your potential earning power to see whether it will be worth it. One thing to take note of is that most public school system jobs will provide insurance as these jobs will fall under the government of the country you are working in and as such you will be a government employee. This is not always the case but usually is so. Also, countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are well-known for providing generous benefits, including quality health care plans, to their teachers. This includes foreign English teachers.
Do you have school aged children? If so then this is going to be a huge determining factor in where you will want to move abroad to teach. The education system is not equal across countries and in some places around the world if you cannot afford to put your child in a private international school then they may be receiving a sub-standard education in relation to the quality in your home country. Many countries will provide free education to the children of teachers, and this includes foreign English teachers. However, this will not always be the case nor will it always be feasible if the primary language of instruction is not English. Some countries which offer good benefits and salaries and are also known for their high-quality education systems are Hong Kong, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan. These countries can be good options for expat English teachers with school-aged children.
Will your new employer be handling visas for you as well as your family or just for you? This is huge since it will mean a lot of extra headaches and expenses if they are only going to take care of a visa for you. Having to secure extra visas for your spouse and your children can mean extra days and even weeks worth of time that you will have to spend filling out paperwork in government offices and this will also add up as extra expenses not just for the visas themselves but also for the transportation to go back and forth as well as any agency related expenses if you decide to go that route. Working for a public school will more likely ensure that all of your families visas are taken care of as these will be government jobs but this is not always the case. You will need to research visa laws for any country you are looking to work in and clearly, communicate with any schools you are applying for to make sure the visa situation is straightened out not just for you but for the rest of your family as well.
Your Family Dynamic
As was mentioned above, how your family is going to react to the change for moving to a foreign country for an extended period of time will also need to be taken into consideration when you are making your final decision of whether moving abroad with a family is right for your loved ones and you. This means thinking about how your children are going to handle the transition. Will your spouse be able to work? If so will they be able to work at the same rate of pay they are now? If you are losing all or part of one person’s salary and trying to support children then you may be unable to sustain yourself on a foreign English teachers salary alone depending on the country you are teaching in. Again, there are a number of countries where English teacher salaries are especially high and the benefits are fantastic but this is not going to be the case for everywhere so you will need to make sure that the pay you will be bringing in will be enough to support your family if your spouse will be losing their source of income.
What are some good countries to teach in with a family?
Here are the top three countries for ESL teachers with accompanying family members and what makes them suitable destinations for families.
United Arab Emirates
This country has come up multiple times on this list and with good reason. The United Arab Emirates provides some of the best salaries for foreign English teachers out of any other country in the world. It is not unrealistic that teacher can pull in 5,000 USD per month or more with the right level of experience. The benefits that are offered to teachers working for schools in the United Arab Emirates are also some of the best in the world. Typical benefits will include health insurance, paid leave, airfare reimbursement (usually for up to five people), paid accommodations suitable for an entire family, free access to education for your children, among other benefits. There is also the added bonus of being in a technologically advanced place with a high standard of living across the board and relatively low levels of pollution in the major areas of Dubai and Abu Dhabi (where most teachers will be working). Employers in the United Arab Emirates, whether a university or the public school system, will also take care of work permits and visas for you as well as visas for the rest of your family. In many instances, schools in the United Arab Emirates actually prefer to hire teachers with families to ensure that they are more likely to fit in with societal values.
South Korea is well-known for having one of the highest ranked education systems in the world. This makes it a great place if you will be moving abroad with a family that includes school-aged children. Another added benefit of South Korea is that wages tend to be high for teachers working in the public school system or at the university level (and sometimes for private language schools too but usually with fewer benefits). South Korea is extremely developed as well and consistently ranks high in terms of safety due to the low violent crime rates throughout the country. Most schools will provide benefits including paid accommodations as well as flight reimbursement. The visa and work permit will be taken care of for you but may not be for your family so this is something you will have to discuss with a school before you are hired. Also, not all schools, including the public school system programs, will include insurance. Overall, South Korea is an ideal choice for moving abroad with a family to teach English.
As with South Korea, Hong Kong is well-known for its booming economy and high standard of living. The education system in Hong Kong regularly ranks in the top ten in the world and, depending on the source and the criteria, usually in the top five. Hong Kong is one of the worlds major financial hubs and one of the top economies in Asia. This, combined with mandatory English in public schools, has created high demand for English teachers. For qualified teachers, the salaries offered in Hong Kong are some of the best in the world. Starting salaries typically begin around 2,000 USD and, for highly qualified teachers, can go upwards of 6,000 USD per month. This is in combination with the generous housing allowance that most teaching positions come with which can make finding a home for your family much easier on the budget (rent in Hong Kong is some of the highest in the world so housing will be the biggest expense by far). The major downside to living in Hong Kong with a family is going to be the high cost of living. From clothes to food the costs of everyday items in Hong Kong can be more than double what they would in many places. This will need to be weighed against your salary even if you are getting a housing allowance to make sure you can cover your families expenses and, preferably, save money as well.
What to consider in a job?
Not all jobs are created equal and, with a family in tow, you are going to have to be discriminating in what you look for from an English teaching job abroad. As a single person, you can accept a job just about anywhere and travel if that is what you desire. However, with a family, you are going to need to look at things like benefits and pay with an eye on long-term goals such as the ability to save money.
It will be important for you to establish a minimum salary and only take a job that meets that minimum. Take note that this number will be different for each country and will need to be adjusted based on the cost of living as well as any benefits you receive which will reduce your cost of living such as a housing allowance. Accepting a job and then getting to a country only to realize your salary isn’t going to cover your cost of living is no fun for anyone. You will want to do your research into the cost of living as well as talk to others who have been there in the same situation to get a feel for how easy it was to make ends meet and, if possible, save a bit of money on the side.
Benefits such as insurance and paid housing are going to be imperative for successfully moving abroad with a family. You are going to need to communicate with the school and not just assume that you will be getting certain benefits. What’s more, it will be up to you to examine your contract to make sure that everything that has been promised to you is in writing. There are a great many stories of teachers who were promised the world but when it came time to deliver nothing was written in their contracts. Generally, if you are signing on at a public school you shouldn’t have this problem. If you decide to work at a private school, however, you will need to make sure everything is in writing. In some countries, it is required for contracts to be written in the native language. In this case, you will need to have an independent translator go over it to make sure of exactly what is stated.
You will want to pay attention to the expected working hours to make sure that they line up with your families schedule. Most schools will have typical daytime hours from around 7 or 8 am till the early afternoon around 3 or 4 pm. However, some countries will hire teachers for evening classes in the public school system and if you decide to work at a private school or at a language center you may be required to work nights and weekends. This can get in the way of family time so it will be important to find a school where the hours will work for you. Be aware of any extra time that you will be expected to work such as professional development meetings, managing extracurricular activities, staff and parent meetings, and anything else the school will require of you.
What are some final tips?
Obviously having a family doesn’t mean that teaching English abroad is completely off the table. It does mean, however, that a bit of preparation and research will need to be done to make sure that you can find the right job. Qualified teachers with the right experience should have no trouble finding a job that will easily support their family and themselves. The best thing to do is to be completely open about where you will end up teaching and to look at countries where schools offer generous benefits to offset the cost of living. This will allow you to easily support your family and will even give you the opportunity to save money. As stated above you will need to make sure that anything promised to you is in writing in your contract and that you do your due diligence to look up reviews from other teachers to make sure the school or program or language center you are selecting to work under is reputable and has a good history with prior teachers. If you are set on teaching English abroad and know that you will be bringing your family with you then following the above advice will make the process easier and much less stressful allowing you to focus on what matters most, your family.