Teacher in Southeast Asia: What should the job offer?

There are hundreds of websites posting vacancies for teachers in Southeast Asia, Eslcafe.com being one of the best known. There are jobs in Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and to a lesser extent also in Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar. The following aspects are important when assessing the vacancy: salary, hours, lessons, visa, housing, contract, medical costs and other questions.

  • Wage
  • Hours
  • classes
  • Visa
  • Housing
  • Contract
  • Health
  • Other questions



,What I am going to earn?, is of course an important question for any job. Please note that wages in most countries are much lower than in Europe (with the exception of Japan and Taiwan). But you also need less money; the costs of housing, food, fixed costs, etc. are often much lower. The difference is also noticeable within the countries; In big cities they offer more, but it is also more expensive to live there. In general, as a foreign teacher you get double what the local teachers do, so making ends meet is not a problem. Many institutes offer housing allowance and flight allowance on top of salary.


Some jobs require you to be present 40 hours a week, others only require you to be there during class hours. The latter offers more freedom, because you can better manage your own time. Also important is the duration of 1 lesson hour. This can vary between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. The contract is usually based on the number of teaching hours, not the literal number of hours.


What type of lesson should you teach (oral English, English writing, arithmetic, computer, etc.), what is the level of the students and how many students are there per class? Especially in primary schools, you sometimes have to teach basic knowledge such as arithmetic. The level is of course related to the type of school; primary school, secondary school or university. At a university you deal with majors – English students – and non-majors – students from other disciplines. The level of the majors is of course higher. The number of students per class is certainly important, because a class of 50-60 students is no exception in Asia. Also ask what facilities are available in the classrooms, such as air conditioning, computers, projector, etc.


Preferably, the school should arrange and pay for all official paperwork. In China you must further undergo a medical examination. Sometimes you can arrange this at home, but often it can only be done upon arrival. Please note that you are not allowed to work on a tourist visa. The local authorities usually turn a blind eye to teachers who are in the application process, but if the institution does not grant a visa, it is by definition unreliable.


Many schools offer free housing for their foreign teachers. At a university, this generally means living space on campus. You should at least get a furnished apartment with a kitchen and bathroom. Occasionally internet and a computer are also offered. If you have to arrange your own housing or do not want to live on campus, do not hesitate to ask the school for help as a translator of the rental contract.


The contract should include all agreements between the parties and the time period for which they apply. In China, the details are worked out in an appendix and the contract is a standard version. The term is at least six months, usually one year. The contract states your rights and obligations regarding the work, cancellation and termination. Sometimes there is a bonus mentioned if you sign for a second term and what the reward is for extra teaching hours. The arrangements for illness and leave should also be stated. To avoid problems, sign a digital version of the contract before departure.


The health insurance offered is often rudimentary or only covers a specific hospital. There is little point in negotiating about this, because better options are often simply not available. It is strongly advisable to take out health insurance from the Netherlands, for example with OOM, Delta Loyd or ISIS. They also offer cover for a temporary return to the Netherlands for a family visit or holiday.

Other questions

  • How many colleagues do you have and where do they come from?
  • What are their experiences at the institution?
  • Are the people in the office easily accessible to foreign teachers, efficient, reliable and do they speak good English?
  • Will you have your own workplace/office with computer, internet and printing facilities?
  • Can you get time off on holidays when you would like to have time off (think Christmas)?
  • Do you have to catch up on missed lessons or is there a system with replacement?
  • When are the holidays and exam periods?
  • Are there any restrictions on the lesson content? In China, for example, you are not allowed to talk about religion and you are only allowed to talk about politics to a very limited extent.
  • Do you get help opening a bank account?
  • Is there a person you can contact for practical problems (translation, etc.)?


read more

  • Living in Southeast Asia: The culture shock
  • Living in China: Food
  • Living in China: Daily life

Leave a Comment