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Don't be fooled by a Low Salary Offer -- The Cost of Living is Where It's At

By Kelly Blackwell


Teaching Abroad - Tips for Evaluating an Offer

There are a number of factors to be considered when you are looking at taking a job at an international school, on the financial side there is:

- salary
- medical insurance
- housing allowance
- annual flights

On the conditions side there is:

- class size
- facilities
- contact hours
- teaching days in a school year

Most of these factors can be taken at face value. However, if you like to travel and want your work to pay well as I do, you may be turning down lucrative positions if you take a salary offer at face value and don't take the cost of living into account.

For example, when I moved to Poland in the late 90s, I accepted a job that only paid 900USD a month. It doesn't sound like much, does it? I can tell you, I lived well on my money. During that year I explored Poland, spent Easter in the Czech Republic, went skiing in Austria for two weeks, started a Masters through distance learning and saved a little as well.

How did I do this? Well, the cost of living was quite low in Poland compared to other countries in Europe. I regularly had two thirds of my salary left after I'd paid all my expenses for the month. As I said, it's the cost of living that makes all the difference.

Some countries have a high cost of living and some don't. I know that's a clumsy statement, but consider this... If you were to rent an apartment in Tokyo, it would cost you 673USD a month for around 20 m2. That's small! In Bangkok you can rent a 44 m2 furnished apartment for 337USD a month. I hope you can see that this kind of information is as valuable to your decision-making process when accepting a job as the actual salary figure itself.

When you are evaluating whether a package is worthy of accepting, you will be looking at several issues. You will probably want to avoid taking a pay cut, and here are some tips to help you with your decision making:

- Make a list of the financial commitments you will need to meet while you are overseas. When you have shortlisted positions, check with the recruiter that the salary offered will enable you to meet them. Ensure you know the USD equivalent of the amount you need.

- Go online and check the price of rental properties in the area you will be living in. You will be able to assess whether the accommodation allowance will need supplementing from your salary.

- Check the "Big Mac" Index. The "Big Mac" Index is a surprisingly accurate comparison of cost of living which works on the principal that a McDonalds Big Mac should cost the same in every country. It is an excellent way to get a feel for the comparative cost of living in the country you are looking in which you are looking to work. You can access the Index here:

Big Mac Index

- If you are looking to travel while you are teaching abroad, make a travel plan of the countries you want to explore and when you want to visit them. You can investigate how much this will cost and sort out a budget by using the internet.

There is much information to consider when you are making life-changing decisions such as signing a contract to teach overseas. Don't sign anything until you are sure you have all the facts. I have included a list of questions to ask the recruiter at the interview in my book.

About the Author

Kelly Blackwell's The Complete Guide to Securing a Job at an International School is a must-have for any teacher who wants to land an international teaching contract.

For more information on kick-starting your international teaching career visit and sign up for Kelly's free newsletter.

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First Published: Mar 03, 2007

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