‘Where in the World can one make a decent living and save some AT A NEWBIE LEVEL‘ asks Spiral78 over on the ELT World forums. The question has received a number of responses and the outlook is not so great it would seem. Is there any hope? Let’s look in more detail...
Korea and Japan
‘Seems like Korea might work,’ notes the ever dependable Justin Trullinger, ‘though comfort (for those used to ‘Western’ standards) is relative. The language is HARD. The culture is interesting, but very foreign. But, they haven’t, yet, started asking for teaching quals for entry level jobs. Entry level jobs can pay $18 to $30K a year. I’ve been here two months (short term gig, not entry level) and find it hard to spend more than $500 a month. If rent (mine is paid) were another $500, then you could still save quite a few thousand a year. Come to think of it, most of my expenses are on buying things to take home that I can’t buy there. If you were staying long term, you might spend less per month than I do. Korea could work, right now. But it’s worth noting, things change fast.’
‘When I lived there, I would have said pretty much exactly the same about Japan as Justin just said about Korea‘ adds Chimp Guevara. ‘However, I’ve been out the country for two years now, and with NOVA going belly-up, the situation may well have changed.’ Meanwhile, Gordon’s take on the situation in Japan is that ‘a newbie who’s single would save quite a bit in Japan, Korea or Taiwan. That is where the bulk of young North Americans go to save money. China is nice, but the pay is low. Even if you saved 80% of your salary, it is still low.’ So, think carefully before taking your first job in the traditional hotbeds of TEFL activity.
Europe (and, er, Mexico)
So, is Europe any better. In a word, no. Forum superstar Guy Courchesne draws worrying comparisons betweem Europe and Mexico: ‘Newbies are practically starving in Europe, aren’t they? I keep hearing the pay is less there than in Mexico but with prices about 5 times what things cost here. What’s a per-hour rate in Europe for a newbie at a language school let’s say? Mexico can be a good spot for a newbie if what you earn you spend locally. Very hard to send money home, paying off student loans for example.’ Justin Trullinger doesn’t give much more hope when he recounts, ‘when I was in Europe for three years (as an EFL teacher), I starved my first year, lived well my second year, and saved pretty well the third. This was from 2000 to 2003 in Spain. I’ve heard that wages where I was have stayed constant as cost of living skyrocketed, pretty much knocking the bottom out of the market. I wouldn’t be heading that way now, myself.’ Spiral78 reinforces the notion that Europe just ain’t the place to be beginning your TEFL adventure: ‘I haven’t worked at newb level for the past ten years, but I understand that they are making the equivalent of around 8 euro per teaching hour in most of Central Europe, and a bit more (10-14, I think) in the West and South. However, Justin’s got it right - what was a living wage ten years ago is now subsistence-level only, wages not having risen significantly in general. The salary I made 11 years ago as a newb in Prague (24,000 czk - about 900 euro monthly) is still considered quite decent today - but costs have risen astronomically. That would be enough to live on ok in the city - but not to support savings or investment in anything significant.’
Useful advice to consider if you’re setting out for your first TEFL job. On the forums, we’re always keen to hear about the experiences of others and would like your ideas on this subject, as well as many others.