How to prepare for your first overseas teaching job

Immigration regulations need checking carefully
Immigration rules when applying to work in a different country can be very different - check things like whether spouses and children can accompany overseas workers before you start applying.

Calculate the cost of living locally
Salaries quoted can be misleading without knowledge of local prices and things like travel expenses. Make sure when researching that you take account of the actual location of the school and your accommodation, as prices can be very variable.

Factor in other costs
Don't forget when making sure that your salary will be adequate to allow for things like trips home and any recurring costs you may still have in the UK. These can quickly add up and become a financial burden you don't want.

Check medical provision
Make sure that the medical provisions available will be adequate for your personal needs. This is particularly important if you have children. In some cases private insurance will be enough to give you peace of mind but in some places it is not a question of money but actual availability.

Carry $100 dollar bill in your passport
It is a sad truth that in some places you may need to oil the wheels a little and $100 should do this nicely. Don't ever tell anyone it is for a bribe, though - tell them it is emergency money for use when travelling.

Use social networks
Social networks are a great way to make contacts in advance, but never accept lifts or accommodation from anyone you have not met in person.

Check out the neighbourhood
Booking into a hotel for the first few days when you first arrive will give you a chance to look around, by car if you can, for added safety. If you don't have accommodation included in your post, you can see where looks nice to live and is convenient to the school.

Use a local SIM card
It's good to talk with the folks at home but it can be prohibitively expensive. Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave and then buy a SIM when you get there - it will be cheaper for calls and downloads.

Get your bearings
The Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet guidebooks are useful sources but you will need a lot more information than they provide. Sites such as are really good and you will be able to learn a lot from these before you go.

Have a health check
Go to the GP and the dentist for a good going over before you leave, in enough time to receive any necessary treatment. If you use any over the counter medicines regularly, stock up as they will be either slightly different or - worse - much more expensive at your destination.

Length of contract (précis from email)
You need to know exactly what is on offer for jobs abroad. For example, how long is the contract, and what is the notice period on either side? Don't forget that the school year varies across the world and so you may be starting at an odd time from the UK perspective. Do you get flights home as part of the package? It is 'usual practice for the overseas employer to pay the outward travelling expenses of a teacher moving abroad to work and that there should also be provision for the return leg of the journey to be paid once the contract has been completed'.

Your contract will state your salary and working hours etc but it is important to make sure that it will be enough for you to live well and hopefully save a little for holidays and unexpected extras.

Tax-free salaries are only tax-free in the country in which the money is earned. You might still owe taxes on foreign-earned income back home. In the UK the requirement is that you have to be out of the country for more than 183 days in a tax year for a salary to be untaxed. Also, some benefits are taxable as well, so check whether the amounts you're quoted are gross or net.

Other benefits to look out for
Some of these benefits can make a great difference to how your salary stretches;

  • Housing allowance - make sure this is adequate to get you somewhere decent. The allowance is sometimes quite generous or actual accommodation may be provided, but be careful; the NUT warns that "experience shows that teachers are frequently disappointed with the accommodation provided."
  • End-of-contract bonus. To encourage you to stay for the full length of your contract some international schools provide financial initiatives. Look for a bonus of between 10-15%.
  • Find out if the school offers health insurance and a pension scheme. If you find that you have to make these provisions for yourself it can work out very expensive and can totally wreck any calculations you may have made. Check out your rights as far as sick pay or maternity leave are concerned as well as these can be very different from those at home.

Visa arrangements
Your school will be able to help you with visa arrangements but responsibility for getting the visa lies with you. The work permit should be arranged by your employer, so don't be fobbed off if they are unwilling.

Working hours
Be prepared for a different style working day, week or even term. Check the contract carefully before you accept any position.

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