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How Not to Save Money #9: Finding a New, Amazing Grocery Store in Your Host City

October 17, 2016

We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money at all.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when teaching abroad #9: Finding a New, Amazing Grocery Store in Your Host City

When you move abroad, the goal isn’t to recreate your exact life and lifestyle as you had in your home country. Check out the 10 Commandments of Relocated Overseas for more information about moving abroad.

International school teachers try their best to take in the local culture and local foods; it is a part of getting acclimated to their new setting.  On the other hand, it is important to “take a break” from that goal, and get some foods that remind you of home and your home culture.  In addition, having a wide variety of food choices while living abroad is also quite important.

One challenge of buying products in grocery stores in your host city is that you might not be able to read which food product is actually in the package/box. If you are not able to read in the local language there, it might be a challenge to even figure out which food products some items are. If you don’t know what it is, most of us wouldn’t necessary buy it.  Plus, if you are not able to read and understand all the ingredients of a product, then you probably won’t buy those ones either.

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It is hard knowing exactly where to go grocery shopping during your first year of living in a new city. You tend to just go to the ones near to where you are living. Every once and awhile you might hear from a colleague of a new grocery store you should check out. Even if the grocery stores near to you are good (if you are lucky that is), it is still good to keep your ears open to what else is available in your host city.

Even after five years of living some place, things change and change fast sometimes. You can easily get into the routine of just going to the three stores around your home and be quite content with the food options those places have. But even the same chains of grocery stores in your host city can be very different from each other depending on their location (e.g. in a rich neighborhood vs. a non-rich neighborhood).

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Recently, my partner and I were in a different location of our host city than we usually are when we were doing some grocery shopping. We went into this grocery store thinking that it would be quite similar to the same one we go to nearer to our home. But once we started looking around, this store had so many more products than we were used to!  Completely different products, more imported products, and brandnames (local and foreign) that we were used to buying but with many more varieties.

Of course, we got that awesome excitement feeling straightaway.  It’s that feeling of finding something new (and maybe familiar as well) while living abroad and the realization that there are many more options for groceries for you in your host city.

As you might have guessed, we filled up our grocery carts with many of these new products (well new products to us)…spending more money than our usual grocery store outings. Finding new food products, especially ones geared towards to the expats in that city, can definitely do some damage on your back account!

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Finding a bunch of new products that you didn’t know existed in your host city can be one of the best feelings while living abroad. International school teachers definitely do their best to enjoy the local grocery stores and buying the local products (which can also be awesome and delicious) they sell in those stores, but mixing those products with some other ones that remind you of home or at least of a cuisine that is familiar to your palate, is also very desirable.  Just be careful though, because it can cost you a lot of money buying all these products you think you just “must have!”

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We have a comment topic on our website related to the theme of grocery stores in your host city.  It is in the city section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Locations in the city geared towards the expat lifestyle (grocery stores, bars, etc.). Here are a few examples of comments related to grocery stores:

“There are “Foreign Food Markets” in Itaewon where you can buy anything, literally ANYTHING you could find in an American grocery store. And if they don’t have it, typically they can order it for you. Of course these shops are more expensive. Local grocery stores are well stocked with a wide variety of foods. The local grocery store closest to our campus, Saruga, carries everything (slightly higher prices though) and even has a (perfectly legal) “Black Market” in the middle of it where you can buy all kinds of food imported from the US. The only things we ever buy at the Black Market stalls are things like chips or candy (for parties), and some seasonings or spices.” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea)83 Comments

“One grocery store that I like is called Pomme’s on Davie St. They have a lot of organic items and produce from all over the world including many items made locally.” – Vancouver International School (Greybrook Academy) (Vancouver, Canada)11 Comments

“There are a number of grocery stores in the area that have imported items from the US and UK. Lulu’s Hypermartket is great.” – Rowad Alkhaleej International School (Dammam) (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)69 Comments

“Oscar’s is a good grocery store in the area that caters to expats. You can get anything you need at the surrounding malls.” – The International School of Egypt (New Cairo City, Egypt)43 Comments

How NOT to save money when teaching abroad #8: Paying (sometimes at high prices) for a housekeeper, cook, etc. while living the expat lifestyle

March 31, 2016

We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when teaching abroad #8: Paying (sometimes at high prices) for a housekeeper, cook, etc. while living the expat lifestyle

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Is it affordable to hire a housekeeper in your host country?

Many of us have never had a housekeeper while living in our home countries. We never even had the idea that we would need one or even be able to afford one. But while living abroad as an expat, international school teachers potentially can live a very different life and lifestyle in comparison to their former home country lives. Many times they will find themselves in situations where they can now financially afford certain help around the house. And who doesn’t want to hire somebody to clean their house and iron their work clothes every week?

Of course the cost of this help can be quite varied in different parts of the world. Hiring a house cleaner in Spain might be cheaper than hiring one in Norway, but then could be more expensive than one you would pay for in Japan.

There are international school teachers that refuse to get help like a housekeeper. They are quite content to continue their lifestyle as they were living in their home country. But in many 3rd world counties, there are locals that could very much benefit from employment from an international school teacher. Some might say hiring a local and having them come on a regular basis (and also paying them an accept rate for the area) to help you out around the house is a good thing for the local economy.

So, before you just have anybody come to your place and do some work for you, it is advisable, of course, to check with your colleagues at your school about their experience hiring housekeepers, for example. Often there is another teacher that is currently using one that is also looking for more work. Sharing a good housekeeper amongst work colleagues is a great way to assure you are getting a trustworthy person.

Even if you get a trustworthy person it is not always smooth sailing once they start working at your place. In some situations, the housekeeper might not speak English. And if you not fluent in the local language yet, there can be some issues with communication and getting things done in the ways that you like and prefer. One solution is to get one of your local friends to come over and help interpret for you; for some bigger issues that may arise.

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Some international school teachers hire a local to cook some meals for them during the week.

If you are lucky, you will find a great person that fits your needs. Maybe you’ve set up a schedule where the housekeeper cleans your place while you are at work. Then when you get home, you have a fresh and tidy house in which you can immediately relax. It is always nice to see the little things that your housekeeper might do in certain parts around the house; like a special way of folding the towels or making up your bed.

It all sounds good, doesn’t it?  But it does come at a cost. So to make sure that you are still saving money while living abroad, be certain that you can find a balance between how much you have your housekeeper do things for you around the house.  On the other hand, hiring a housekeeper does save you time!

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We have a comment topic on our website related to the theme of how much it costs to pay for these types of extra help in your international school life living abroad.  It is in the city section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Sample prices for food, transportation, average hourly rates for a housekeeper, etc. Here are a few examples of comments related to housekeeper costs:

“Housekeepers, but law, must be full-time, though some are hired part-time, unofficially. Minimum wage for housekeeper is ~4500HKD per month.” – Canadian International School (Hong Kong) (55) Total comments

“Individuals make their own contracts with housekeepers, nannies and gardeners, though the school assists with obtaining visas for nannies and housekeepers. (This process can be frustrating at times based on the Omani bureaucracy, but gets done.). A nanny/housekeeper will make anywhere between 170 and 300 OMR/month and the number of hours in that frame go from a regular 40 hr week with weekends and holidays off with overtime provided (along with yearly airfare and insurance — can be obtained for under 200 OMR/year), to 24-hour on-call, no benefits or overtime.” – American British Academy
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“You can get a housekeeper here that comes for 1/2 a day, every day of the week, for 250,000 Shillings a month! It is wonderful! The person will do all the cleaning and all your laundry (and you need someone do do your ironing here as some washing needs to be done by hand, etc.).” – International School of Tanganyika (141) Total comments

“One thing great about teaching in Malaysia is the opportunity to have a different lifestyle than would be affordable in the Western world. Most teachers with kids have a full time (some live in) nanny and maid. A full-time nanny is paid $500 -$600 a month. Part time help is affordable, costing between $6 and $10 an hour. For $300 a month, you can have a part-time housekeeper come 3 times a week.” – Mont’Kiara International School (27) Total comments

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #7: Earn a Salary in a Currency Which is Losing Value

October 15, 2015

We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #7 – Earn a Salary in a Currency Which is Losing Value

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Five years ago many international school teachers (those earning their salaries in their host country’s currency) were doing quite well with their monthly paychecks.  But because of the rising value of the USD in the last year, these teachers’ salaries are in despair.

Month after month, teachers earning in a currency that is losing its strength (when compared to USD for example) have been seeing their once really nice monthly paycheck go south.  Each time these teachers have to transfer some of their money earned back to their home country (maybe 3-4 times a year for some teachers), the actual amount received gets lower and lower; even though it was the same amount transferred each time.  These international school teachers need to figure out another way to pay off their mortgage, student loans, etc. and fast!  The other choice is to make it your last year at your current school and plan to find a job at another international school in a different country; earning in a different currency.

But some of us are doing alright in this recent “rise of the USD.” There are a number of international school teachers that pay their staff in USD.  A number of countries have a local currency that is just not stable enough for foreign hires, and the school prefers to just pay their staff in a currency that is more stable and secure.  Additionally, many currencies are tied to the USD. For example, Hong Kong Dollars are connected to the USD. Click here for a list of currencies around the world and which specific currency they are tied to.

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So, for international school teachers working in Hong Kong, making HKD, they are still on the right track to achieve their savings goal this year.

There are also some international school teachers earning multiple currencies, at one school.  The British School Caracas and Seoul International School do just that (as well as a number of other international schools around the world).  Part of your salary is paid in your home country currency and automatically transferred/deposited into your home country bank account, while the other part of your monthly salary is directly deposited into your host country bank account. Teachers in this situation seem to have all their based covered then. Unless, of course, both your home currency and host-country currency plummet!

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We do have a comment topic on our website related to the theme of how international school teachers get paid at their school (and in what currency).  It is in the benefits section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?

“It is important to note that you are getting paid 100% in local currency. Because the USD is gaining strength and continuing to do so, the salaries here are getting considerably less attractive (meaning you are not making USD 100K a year anymore as the previous comment states). Some teachers have a part in their contract that helps to alleviate some of this difference in exchange rate, but others don’t. The ones that do are getting like 25% of their salary paid at a better exchange rate. It is kind of random, but the board thinks that American teachers here might be spending around 25% of their salary in the USA or in USD. Of course, this is creating a bit of controversy.” – Graded School Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo, Brazil)39 Comments

“The previous comment is off on the current tax rates. It is now up to 23%, and slated to rise further in the coming year. Japan is no longer a place to work and make enough to save significant amounts. This is especially true for couples and doubly so if you have children. It’s a shame as raising children here leaves wonderful impressions on them, and it is amazingly safe.” – Seisen International School (Tokyo, Japan)51 Comments

“10 years of teaching with a masters plus 30 units will get you about 55,000 USD. No tax. Upon departure, the Korean government pays you about 4,000 dollars for each year of occupancy for US citizens, it is some tax exemption agreement between countries. There is also an 8.5% bonus for each year of teaching that accrues interest and is relinquished upon departure.” – Seoul Foreign School (Seoul, South Korea)73 Comments

“We get paid every month, around the middle of the month. June and July pay are both given before the end of the school year. We can choose how much of our pay we would like to receive locally and how much we would like to have transferred to our home country. We get paid in dollars, and are guaranteed salaries after taxes. For 2015-16 the maximum salary is $54,111 (Masters with 24 years experience, an extra $1500 for PhD), minimum is $35,390 (Bachelors 1 year experience). In addition to this is a 13% pension. There is also a possible longevity bonus and re-signing bonus.” – International School of Tanganyika (Dar es salaam, Tanzania)141 Comments

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #6: Spend tons of money during your trip back home

December 21, 2014

We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t these international school teachers saving money?

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How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #6 – Spend tons of money during your trip back home

Of course you go back to your home country to spend time with your friends and family. It is important to go back at least once a year to see them in person and hang out like before you moved abroad. Even if you are able to Skype a lot with these people throughout the year, you can’t beat getting a hug from them in person!

boots2We all know though that there is something else on our minds when we go back home…and that is shopping!  We all have those go-to-stores that we must visit.  If you are from the United States, then it might be Target. If you are from England, then it might be Boots. Finding time to do a bit of shopping in these stores is a must!

Maybe clothes are cheaper in your home country. Buy them!

Are some toiletries cheaper and are there brands that you can’t get in your host country? Buy them!

Did you bring an extra suitcase in your other suitcase just for putting the stuff you bought from your trip back home? Buy even more!

Now to food.

Food is extremely important when living abroad. One of the best parts of living abroad is trying the local products and food delicacies, but having a bit of the food from your home country around can be quite comforting.

Img00003Everyone has their own food that they want to buy and bring back to their host country. What one teacher might bring back, another teacher might say why. To each their own really.  We all have those things that we want and that is how life goes as an expat.

But, the key is not to let your home country purchases get outta hand!  “Oh, I’ll just buy one of these and two of those” one day. The next day you find yourself saying, “Oh, I better buy one more of each!”  Purchase after purchase, the amount you spend goes up and up.

It is easy to get caught up in the mainframe of “well, I am only here one time a year, so I better stock up.”  Though that is true, saying it over and over in your head can increase your purchases even more than you were expecting (not allowing your save your money as it were!).

How can you then keep your purchases under control? One key rule to keep in mind: only buy things that you for sure can’t already buy in your host country.

Is it true that the longer you live abroad, the less things that you buy when you go back home? Or maybe it is that you get smarter about the things you let yourself purchase. Some might say both of those statements are not true at all and that we are all subject to the temptation of buying products from our homeland when we go back for a visit and putting our savings plan on hold for a bit.

Happy shopping back home and bringing those items back to your home abroad!

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We do have a comment topic on our website related to the theme of what food items you might want/need to bring to your new host country (don’t go overboard though!).  It is in the city section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Tell about your experiences in the local grocery stores. What can you get or cannot get? Which ones are your favorites.

“There are almost no British/Australian/NZ/Canadian/American food items that can’t be found in Bangkok nowadays. Items from home tend to be expensive though, so you you may wish to pack a couple of jars of Marmite/Vegemite and your favourite tea bags.” – Rasami (Thai-British) International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 11 Comments

“Sometimes, items are in abundance, and other times they are scarce, such as peanut butter.” – Orchlon School (Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia) – 68 Comments

“We can get nearly everything. Rooibos tea is hard to find, but everything basic is easy to get.” – Qatar Academy (Doha) (Doha, Qatar) – 56 Comments

“There is a very large supermarket 5 minutes walk from the school. It has a wide variety of products. (Greater variety than Danish supermarkets)” – International School of Helsinki (Helsinki, Finland) – 30 Comments

How NOT to save money: Transferring money back to your home country multiple times and at the wrong times

November 2, 2014

We all hear about the big possibility of saving money while working at international schools, but the reality is that many of us don’t save much of any money.  So, why aren’t international school teachers saving money?

How NOT to save money when working as an international school teacher #5 – Transferring money back to your home country multiple times and at the wrong times

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 5.24.22 PMWhen you have three or more bank accounts in three or more different countries, you know you are an international school teacher.

It is exciting dealing with multiple currencies.  Suddenly, you are quite interested in the exchange rate of EUR to USD and can quote how it has changed over the past 3-5 years, or longer.  Knowing about the value of currencies is super important when working abroad, especially if your goal is to transfer that money into bank accounts that are supposed to help you save.

International schools pay their teachers is a variety of ways.  Many schools just pay you in their local currency, quite simple.  Other schools will pay you one percentage in your home country currency and the other percentage in the local currency (thus possibly elimating the need to transfer any money at all!).

There are also schools that might pay you all in USD (even though you are teaching in Uganda for example) and transfer your salary to your home account each month for you.  Another example of how international school pays their teachers is when they might pay you all in EUR (even though you are teaching in China for example) and send that to your home bank account each month.  money-transfer-onlineIf your home bank account isn’t in EUR, then that could be a problem.  The problem is that each month you will potentially be receiving a different amount each time your salary is transferred. If the school doesn’t lock in an exchange rate for a year (meaning you get the same amount each month) and if the exchange right in question starts to change in an unfavorable direction, then you will find yourself getting less and less money each month.  Of course it could fluctuate in a positive way as well, which will definitely make you smile and rejoice, but the risk is maybe not what most are willing to take.

 

It is nice when your international school will do the bank transfer for you; nice and convenient for you. However, when you have to do the bank transfers yourself, it can be a bit of a headache for you.  Knowing that most international bank transfers completed at the bank itself are more expensive, your best bet it to do the bank transfer via online banking.  You are lucky if your online banking with your host country bank is in English (or your own mother tongue), but most times it is in the language of the host country.  Some advice: get a local friend to help you figure out and translate your bank’s website or call your bank’s customer service number (most times they will have somebody that can speak to you in English).  Remember to get all the right numbers in order to make a successful international bank transfer (SWIFT code, bank account number, etc)!

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 5.25.00 PMEven when you initiating your own international bank transfers, you need smart about when you do them because of fluctuating exchange rates and all the fees involved. You will most likely need to pay a transfer fee at your host country bank as well as a receiving fee in your home country bank.  You also don’t want to be transferring many times throughout the year, sending only little amounts. Your best bet is to transfer the maximum amount each time your do a transfer (hopefully when the exchange rate is favorable for you!), so that you can minimize the bank transfer fees.

Usually international bank transfers will take 5-7 days to get into your home bank account, so make sure you don’t this money immediately and plan ahead.

We all have our reasons for transferring money back home and for transferring money from home to your host country.  Maybe you need to make a monthly payment for a mortgage that you have.  Maybe you decide to use your home country credit card for big purchases that you make while living abroad (e.g. capital one has a good credit card that doesn’t charge fees for international purchases and you can also earn points for free flights!) that you need to pay off.  With all these things that we need to transfer money for, we need to be smart about when and how we make these bank transfers.

How often do you have to make international bank transfers? Please share any advice about how you do it, so that you are not wasting your money away.

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We do have a comment topic on our website related to salaries and the currency/currencies in which they are paid (some also discuss transferring money).  It is in the Benefits section of the comments and information tab on the school profile pages. It is called: Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year?

“Many teachers don’t need to have a local bank account as your salaries are just transferred in your home country one. – International School of Tanganyika  (Dar es salaam, Tanzania) – 60 Comments

“Staff are paid in LKR, which is near on impossible to transfer out of the country. Especially if you want to send it back to the UK.” – The British School in Colombo (Colombo, Sri Lanka) – 35 Comments

“Salaries are at a competitive level, varying according to the teacher’s qualifications and experience. They are paid in addition to fully furnished housing, a local transportation allowance, health insurance, annual tickets for repatriation, and a discount of 50% for teachers’ children in the school. Salaries are paid at the end of each month by being transferred into the teacher’s bank in Saud Arabian Riyals (SAR) which can be converted easily into the currency of choice and sent elsewhere or maintained there, as the teacher chooses. All salary and benefits are free of tax in Saudi Arabia.” – Dhahran Ahliyya Schools (Dammam, Saudi Arabia) – 60 Comments

“Salary is paid on the last working day of each month. Salary is paid in Euro, whilst wage slips are in Sterling. Italian bank accounts are opened for the transfer of salaries. The school assists in this process at the start of the academic year.” – The English International School of Padua (Padova, Italy) – 12 Comments

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