As all International School Community members know, each of the 2110+ school profile pages on our website has four comments and information sections: School Information, Benefits Information, City Information and Travel Information. Our members are encouraged to submit comments and information on one or all of these sections if they currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the past. It is important that we all share what we know so that we can in turn help other new teachers make a more informed decision before they sign any contract! *Additionally, for every 10 comments you submit (which are anonymous by the way), you will automatically get one free month of premium membership added on to your account! The more comments you leave, the more free membership you get!
So, what are the recent statistics about the Benefits Information sections on all the school profile pages? The current total number of submitted comments in the Benefits Information section is 10704 (out of a total of 34612+ comments); that is up 6082 comments from around 12 months ago (Nov. 2018).
There are 20 subtopics in the Benefits Information section on each school profile page. Check out each one of these subtopics below and find out out the total number of comments in that specific sub topic and also an example comment that has been submitted there.
• Average monthly salary after taxes and in what currency (explain taxation situation). How often do you get paid throughout the year? (1269 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Salary is paid regularly each month directly into your bank account which the school will help you set up. It is paid in $US…” – Northbridge International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) – 59 Comments
• Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance. If there is no housing allowance, how much are rent costs and utilities? (1279 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Rent prices went up all over Shanghai in the past 1-2 years and even places near the school cost more now, as landlords start seeing that there’s many expats in the area willing to pay more…” – Western International School of Shanghai (Shanghai, China) – 433 Comments
• Average amount of money that is left to be saved. (672 Total Comments)
Example comment: “A teaching couple could easily live and travel on one salary and save 100% of the other. Savings opportunity is obviously significantly less on one salary, but still possible…” – Singapore American School (Singapore) – 256 Comments
• Detailed info about flight, shipping and settling-in allowances. Any other benefits (e.g. free lunches, etc.)? (1134 Total Comments)
Example comment: “$4000 per teaching couple moving allowance (once you arrive in cash), optional $10,000 loan from school interest free (to buy car), annual flights home…” – American International School of Lagos (Lagos, Nigeria) – 21 Comments
• Health insurance and medical benefits. Describe your experiences using these benefits and going to the local hospitals. (980 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Teachers must pay for their own health insurance here as Switzerland doesn’t have a social health care program model. Some of the staff’s partners are actually the local doctors in Leysin, so expect to get seen or have your children get seen by them..” – Leysin American School (Leysin, Switzerland) – 72 Comments
• Ways to make extra money (tutoring, after-school activities, etc.). (433 Total Comments)
Example comment: “As the April 6, 2016 comment below states, there are many opportunities for increasing your monthly pay. Other than that, it is illegal to work for anyone but your visa provider (the school) in China. Lots of teachers tutor or work otherwise on the side anyway, but it is illegal.” – Kang Chiao International School (Kunshan, China) – 81 Comments
• Information about benefits for teachers with dependents. (755 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Teachers with dependents need to pay some fees. These vary and are at the discretion of the school so they could conceivably become higher each year. They do not like to hire people with dependents.” – MEF International School Istanbul (Istanbul, Turkey) – 160 Comments
• Professional development allowance details. (534 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The PD allowance allows you to travel and pay for one IB workshop (or any conference) per year. Or you can do two IB online workshops…” – The International School of Dakar (Dakar, Senegal) – 181 Comments
• Pension plan details. (610 Total Comments)
Example comment: “It is not a pension. Due to Brazilian law, each teacher pays 8% of their salary each month into a guarantee fund. This is more or less an unemployment insurance. At the end of your contract, the school agrees to “fire” you, so you can access that fund. Based on the exchange rate at that time, it can vary in USD. At the beginning of my contract is was estimated around $12,000. But, now it will be much closer to $7,000. There is no way to know how much it will actually be in the end.” – American School of Belo Horizonte (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) – 78 Comments
• Describe your experience bringing pets. (259 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Some teachers bring their pets from the USA (and other countries like UAE and Qatar). Some do it via the airlines or a pet relocation service. You need to make sure you pet has their up-to-date shots and whatnot to avoid certain delays and hassles along the way. The shorter your flight to Egypt the easier it might be to get your pet to Egypt.” – American International School in Egypt (Main Campus) (New Cairo City, Egypt) – 62 Comments
• Explain how salaries are decided (e.g. is there a pay schedule? extra step for masters degree? Annual pay raises? Bonuses?). (542 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Each teacher is paid differently. No pay scale. Some teachers with lots of experience paid less than teachers with little experience. Men get paid more than women…” – American School of Durango (Durango, Mexico) – 39 Comments
• How do the school’s benefits compare to other international schools in the area/city? (332 Total Comments)
Example comment: “The pay is lower than other international schools in the area but the school fees are also lower. It is the mid range between the “posh” international schools and the ones that don’t hire internationally trained teachers.” – Ican British International School (Phnom Penh, Cambodia) – 74 Comments
• How is the school calendar? Is there ample vacation time? (517 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Point of contention. Clearly we are in a Muslim country so we have to abide by the holidays, but as Ramadan keeps pushing up 2 weeks every year, so does Eid (which usually falls in the first term. But we are in one of those awkward times where Eid is falling the first week of school so that means no break from the start of school until December. There is only one week at xmas this year, because we have to make sure to finish school around the start of Ramadan, it will be too hot to come to school while the kids (majority) will be fasting or they just won’t attend school. We will still have a week in Feb and a week in April. No long weekends here. 3 months off for summer.” – Qatar Academy (Sidra) (Doha, Qatar) – 97 Comments
• What are some things that you need to buy/pay for when you first arrive at the school that you didn’t know about beforehand? (276 Total Comments)
Example comment: “If you have a pet you have to pay an extra deposit to the landlord, not covered by school…” – Pechersk School International (Kyiv, Ukraine) – 162 Comments
• Details about the maternity benefits of the host country and school. (139 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Women get 12 weeks at 80% pay. She can take more time off, but without pay and at the business’ discretion. I think men don’t get any time off to be with their newborn.” – Zurich International School (Zurich, Switzerland) – 46 Comments
• What is the process of getting reimbursed for things? (179 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Fill out a simple form, submit the receipt, and the money is deposited into your account after the purchase has been approved. If you are concerned as to whether or not you will be reimbursed, seek out approval first. I have never been turned down.” – Daegu International School (Daegu, South Korea) – 25 Comments
• Details about new teacher orientation. (212 Total Comments)
Example comment: “We were picked up at the airport by a school driver who drove the Superintendent there to meet us. We were taken directly to our house, and someone had purchased some staple foods for the refrigerator. There were new towels, sheets and pillows. Other teachers/admin in the neighborhood came to greet us that evening and brought over hot food for dinner. It was an excellent welcome. We immediately felt very much at home…” –Lahore American School (Lahore, Pakistan) – 175 Comments
• In general, why are people staying at or leaving this school? (320 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Everyone leaves because the salary scrap and administration is crap. If you had any moral integrity you would also leave after a week.” – Colombo International School (Colombo, Sri Lanka) – 64 Comments
• Details about the teaching contract. What important things should prospective teachers know about? (209 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Read carefully. 3 page contract is very vague and WILL be used in favor of the administration against you. Expect them to try and keep as much of your money as they can. Hence the 2 month salary withholding which you are assured you will get at back end of contract. This does not usually come to fruition.” – Pan Asia International School (Bangkok, Thailand) – 69 Comments
• Information on trailing spouses. Can they work under spousal visa (also availability of work) or is it possible to live only on one salary? (53 Total Comments)
Example comment: “Trailing spouses can only be sponsored if you are earning a certain amount. It is not very easy to get a job in some professionals; however, this might change soon with the sponsorship system changing often as we near the World Cup 2022.” – The English Modern School (Doha) (Doha, Qatar) – 64 Commentscontinue reading
In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school. A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part of your start at your new school, in your new host country.
Must-have #4: Help finding a place to live!
Finding a place to live in any country can be a headache! When you involve different languages, different cultural traditions and norms, etc. finding an apartment can be even more of a headache. In turn, it is much appreciated if the administration/business staff at your new school can help you out.
Some international schools just place you in a compound that the school owns and you must live there for the whole length of your time working at that school. Other international schools don’t own or have a relationship with buildings or complexes through the city and you are meant to search and get your own place completely on your own. But there are more than just two kinds of experiences when it comes to where you will end up living after moving to your new international school. There are some that state you must live in a certain apartment for the entire first year you work at a school. After your first year, then you are allowed to find and move to a completely different apartment of your choice. Other international schools ask their current staff who are leaving if they can help to set up a new teacher to take over their apartment or they might even send out an email to the current staff asking around if any current teachers are looking for a roommate. If there are some options, then these schools will usually help to make the right connections so that you can immediately move into your new place with your new roommate.
If there aren’t any options for you and the school just places you in a specific place, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about as you know you will immediately have a place to live when you arrive without much of a headache. If there are options for you, you need to be prepared for potential headaches, unknowns and possible disappointments when you arrive. Additionally, you might need to be prepared to move two or three times during your first year. Your first place might be completely opposite to what you were thinking it would be!
If you can work it out and are lucky enough to visit the location that you will be moving to, then of course you can get some of the apartment searching done in person. How ideal would that be? I have a colleague that made a point to make a visit to their future city during the beginning part of the summer (before they officially moved there later that summer). They got the opportunity to view some apartments that the school had recommended to them in person. Not all of us can be so lucky though as to make a pre-move trip to check out possible living situations, but if you are able to, then for sure that would be beneficial.
A good international school will make sure to answer all your questions that you have about your future living situation. They should send pictures if applicable of your future apartment. They should request answers to a housing survey that they send to you, so that they can better gauge what type of place best suits your needs and wants (that is if the school does indeed help to find you a place). They should have language support available to you if you need some interpreting or translating of the rental documents. Good schools would even help you out to pay the sometimes high cost of a rental deposit (e.g apartments in Western Europe).
There are many international school teachers experiencing a wide range of experiences related to how they found a place to live.
Here are some firsthand accounts of how these international schools teachers found a place to live in the city they just moved to (and whether or not their new school helped them out or not):
“The Canadian Academy has a first year rule: all new teacher must live in school accommodations for the first year. This includes a variety of apartments and houses both on and off campus, and options depending on the number of dependents. All in all, they took care of everything, and it made it the best transition we’ve ever had. Besides getting a futon with pillows, sheets, and blankets, we had a stocked fridge, a basket of cleaning supplies and toiletries, snacks, a phone, a fax machine, furniture, and many more items. While I wouldn’t describe it as moving into a furnished place, it did have all the essentials. Also, after the first year, we’re free to move to our own choice of accommodations or select a new school housing option. Very user-friendly. A teacher from Canadian Academy (Kobe).
“My current school offered to help find an apartment, however I was more interested in finding share accommodation as I find that’s a nice quick way to make new friends and to always have someone on hand who know’s the area you live in. They put me onto a website for share housing and also asked around the school to see if anyone was interested in having a new teacher share with them. Someone did and now I share a house with two other people in a beautiful, artfully decorated place 3 minutes walk from school and town and for half the rent I would pay to live in a place on my own. I also didn’t need to pay any deposit. They’re happy for it to be short-term in case I decide to move into my own place later, but I’m thinking that staying here is a good thing. I would personally recommend seeking share housing to anyone (not in a couple) who is open to the idea. I’ve also experienced living in my own apartment straight out, but became bored with that after a year and moved into a new place with 2 other friends. It can also be a pain setting up a new apartment in terms of buying furniture, crockery and connecting the internet.” A teacher from The Bermuda High School for Girls.
“The school helps you find your first apartment before you arrive. Actually, all new teachers move into a gated community called Shanghai Gardens when I worked there. Basically all new teachers need to live there their first year. After that first year, then you can use the allotted housing if you decide to move and find your own place. When I moved into the apartment at Shanghai Gardens, it had all the furniture you would need. The school also left a ‘survival’ package of things to get you started (e.g. pots and pans, sheets, etc.). I was appreciative of the school helping to place new teachers in this building complex and the apartment; many of the staff in the business office could also speak English which was a perk. On the other hand, many teachers had a negative experience living at Shanghai Gardens. There were problems with the apartments sometimes (as some of them were owned by different owners). There were also problems with your bills at time, some of them being way too high from the price they should’ve been. I was quite happy to find a different apartment my second year there.” A teacher from Shanghai Rego International School.
“ACS Hillingdon was great to us in helping us find a place to live. They have a staff member, Maxine, who is there all year, including during the summer, and she worked with a local estate agent to help us find a flat that fit our needs, location, and price range. I know she drove several of even the pickiest people around to multiple places, and she knows the areas where the school’s bus routes go for those of us who don’t have a car.
The school even helped a newly hired couple whose flat was damaged by fire in the London riots of 2011 by giving them extra time off, arranging a place to stay while they looked for a new permanent residence, and even donating money from an emergency fund while insurance agencies worked through their claims.
A+ all the way around.” A teacher from Acs International School – Hillingdon Campus.
In the Benefits Information section of the school profile page on our website, we have a topic related to housing – Details about the staff housing or the housing allowance.
Log-on today to check out the hundreds of comments and information submitted in this section topic! Become the most informed you can be when it comes to finding a place in your new city.
So, does your school provide help for new teachers to find a place to live? Please share your experiences!continue reading
The survey results are in, and it seems as if HOUSING and SALARY are the most important benefits for the teachers that voted. They both received the same amount of votes.
I have worked at an int’l school where the housing wasn’t included and I have also worked at a school when the housing was included. It definitely made a difference on how I spent my money in those cities. Rent usually accounts for a sizable portion of your salary. When that cost is not there, then of course you will have much more money to spend on travel and just “livin’ it up” in the city you are in. It is nice to not have to worry about paying your rent. Sometimes the housing allowance does not cover the total cost of the rent, but still in that case it is more ideal than getting nothing to put towards the rent cost. Other times you can find a place under the amount of your housing allowance. In many countries the landlords can falsify the rent receipt documents to say that it costs more so that you can pocket the remainder of the housing allowance for yourself!
Yes, salary. We all want a higher salary. At some international schools the annual salary can be upwards of 100K USD (e.g. in some schools in Switzerland), but in other schools you salary can be much, much less. Usually it depends on the cost of living in the city though; which is usually the main factor in how the school decides the salary to give to its teachers. In some cities where the cost of living is low, you can save much more money even when your salary is also lower. You can’t just look at a salary and make your decision whether or not to take the job. The other benefits for sure come into play. You must factor in the other benefits when looking at the salary amount.
Luckily on International School Community you can find detailed information about the salary and housing situation on a number of international schools right now! Go ahead and have a search through the hundreds of schools that have been updated recently and check out their housing and salary information. Our members are encouraged to submit comments and information about the salary and housing on the schools they have worked at. Just scroll down to check out the benefits section. It looks like this:
Too many benefits (or lack of benefits) to consider. The problem is though when you move back to your host country. Then you are most likely not going to get any of the benefits we get as international school teachers!continue reading
I was just talking with an international school teacher friend of mine who is part of a teaching couple with 3 children. They are looking for another job right now; their next international school. I asked her where in the world that they would most like to move to. She told me that it would have to be in a city where the “living is cheap!”
I have actually lived in 2 of the cities currently on the list for 2010 of the most expensive cities in the world. One of them is in the top half of the list and the other is in the lower half. I’m not for sure that looking at this list is really helpful when deciding where to live internationally (if you get offered a job at an international school there, mind you). It seems like the salary and/or benefits are typically raised in accordance to the high cost of living in the city, but not always I suppose.
Housing allowance: the main factor at play?
Some schools on the list (Canadian International School Singapore, Shanghai Community International School, Hong Kong International School, Seoul International School, etc…) offer generous housing allowances; when the school pays for all of your rent (and sometimes even the utilities). However, I know other schools on the list (American School of Barcelona, Acs International Schools – Egham Campus, etc…) that don’t offer a housing allowance. Not having to pay for rent (which is sometimes 1/3 of your take home pay) plays an important factor in how expensive the city is for you. I was told by another friend who has worked at international schools for 4 years now that she plans to never pay for housing again! I guess once you get that benefit, it is hard to go back to paying for your own rent! There is always the money-saving option of having a roommate to help with high rent costs, but many teachers, as they get older, don’t want to consider that as an ideal option.
High-priced goods: paying 2-3 times what you would normally pay.
I know some teachers in the “most expensive cities in the world” sometimes think twice about paying 7 USD for a loaf of bread at a bakery geared towards the expat community. Surely, that is expensive. They would never do that if they lived in their home country. I can’t even think of a place that would sell a loaf of bread for that price in the United States. BUT, they actually have the money now in their budget to buy those types of things. For sure the stores know the secret; which is that many of the expats living there don’t have to pay for their housing and have extra money to pay high prices for things that remind them of home/western-type stuff. Especially when a new teacher first moves to a new city (when they don’t know exactly where to buy things yet and where the best prices are at different stores), there are always expats willing and able to pay high prices for western things.
There are always cheaper alternatives.
When you first move to a city, you don’t know where to get the good prices. Once you find those places and ask your colleagues where to go, then for sure you might think the city is much less expensive than you had originally thought. Especially if you are in a city that has a culture similar to the type of foods you like to eat. For example, if you want to buy Cranberry juice in the United States, it is going to be relatively cheap. However, cranberry juice is not a popular juice to drink in most other countries in the world, thus it is going to be much more expensive (if you are luckily to even find it). Buying the local version of the products you like will for sure be a cheaper alternative.
Taxis and transportation.
If you live in one of the most expensive cities in the world, you will most likely also be paying a lot of money for taxis and other transportation. It is especially true for cities on the list like London, Tokyo and Barcelona. However, it is not necessary true for other cities on the list like Shanghai and Beijing. Not being able to utilize taxis because of financial constraints can definitely play a factor in your decision to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world.
There are so many factors that come into play when you decide whether a city is going to be too expensive for you. It is difficult to get a good idea of how that will effect your decision to move there before you are actually living there. I interviewed with a school in Singapore and they were really adamant about getting me to realize beforehand how expensive it was to live there. It was difficult for me to fully understand their concerns (after looking at their salary and benefits) without actually having experienced the high cost firsthand. Luckily, International School Community is now here to help international educators. We have specifically designed our school profile pages to include questions about everything related to money, benefits and the many facets of the cost of living. With new comments being submitted every week, International School Community is certainly the website to find out important information about many international schools around the world!continue reading