Well, as the saying goes, ‘the world is your oyster’ and this couldn’t be any truer when deciding where to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL). I think that once you’ve decided this career is for you - and you have the necessary qualifications - the hardest thing is deciding which country you would like to head to!
Deciding where to go
For many, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a chance to earn while you travel and, if you are one of these people, you may already have a country or region in mind. It could be somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, or somewhere to base yourself so you can see that part of the world. Maybe, you have a bucket list of places to visit and want to travel between countries. If so, you can sometimes find short contracts rather than having to stay somewhere for a year or longer.
Alternatively, perhaps you want to set down roots and get to know the English learners in a particular location. You may even want to settle down somewhere different to start a new life. Whatever you want to do, it is your decision – and the good news is that TEFL is the kind of job where you can move around as much or as little as you want. There really is something for everyone. One thing you can guarantee is that it will be an adventure and wherever you go will open up new sights, experiences and a completely different lifestyle. Just decide what is best for you and give it a go!
When it comes to deciding where to go, some of the most popular choices for TEFL teachers include China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and South America. If you want something closer to home, Spain or Czechia are the first choices for many people.
Where is best for me?
There’s no one best choice for everyone. It really depends on what you want from your experience. Setting aside your desire to experience a particular place, two other factors you’ll want to consider are pay and job satisfaction
If money is your main consideration, then taking up a TEFL position in the UAE might be for you. It has become increasingly popular in recent years with English teachers and offers a very different culture and lifestyle to that at home. The TEFL qualifications and experience needed may higher than in other parts of the world - and obviously, you have got to love the heat - but good working hours, great personal development, and interesting education initiatives make it a very rewarding option.
Asia offers a lot of choice - both for jobs and for the chance to visit places that would otherwise mean separate long flights, very different time zones, and some serious jet lag.
China continues to have a huge demand for TEFL teachers. This is partly down to the sheer size of the population, but also because there are so many English learners from all sectors; school children, university students, and adults all need the language for their work. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether you want to teach in a big city or a rural area, the TEFL job market is full of opportunities. Pay is decent and packages often include help with accommodation, airfares, and sometimes a completion bonus.
Japan is an exceptional country to visit and in which to teach, and it definitely takes you out of your comfort zone. The cities, landscapes, and sights are stunning - and the unique culture is really something to behold and experience. However, while wages are good, the cost of living is also very high, so it isn’t the place to go if you are looking to make a quick buck! It is worth noting that there is always the potential for private EFL students to supplement your income.
South Korea seems to rank high as an ideal place for newly qualified TEFL teachers. There is an abundance of jobs and a lot that don’t require too much experience. What’s not to like for a recent graduate with a TEFL qualification? You’ll find low living costs, decent wages, great benefits, and a fantastic new culture to explore.
Thailand is a popular option for both new and more experienced teachers. It’s an exciting and exotic location for those who are just starting out their TEFL journey. Also, for those who have already lived and worked in a variety of other places the friendly and relaxing atmosphere is still a draw. The culture may be very different, but it’s a country that definitely makes you feel at home. The people, weather, landscape, and food all combine to make this country a must-see. Don’t expect to make a lot of money - but the cost of living is low enough that this is not usually a big problem.
Vietnam has a pretty laidback lifestyle, which might be the reason why it has moved up the rankings in several ‘best places to work’ polls. A stunning coastline and delicious food, plus a low cost of living are just a few of the benefits of teaching here. Add to that an interesting history, a positive work/life balance and the fact that it’s a great location for travelling to other parts of south east Asia. Given this, it’s no wonder TEFL teachers are snapping up jobs here.
South America gives you the chance to explore a whole new continent, while at the same time learning and practising another global language. So you’ll find yourself in the learner’s seat as well as the teacher’s! Whether it’s rivers, mountains, or waterfalls, the landscape is a paradise for nature-lovers and adventure seekers alike. You’ll need to do your homework because different countries recruit at different times of the year. However, one positive is that you may be able to find a job with less experience or fewer qualifications than in some other parts of the world.
Spain is one of the most popular places for anyone who wants to teach EFL in Europe. With its relaxed atmosphere and positive work/life balance, it offers new TEFL teachers the chance to find their feet while they explore its culture and history. It’s a beautiful country with the bonus of fantastic food and wine on offer. Wages may not be high, but the cost of living is lower than in many other European countries. There is also a lot of scope for teaching English privately too.
Czechia – or Prague in particular – has become a bit of a hub for TEFL. It’s hardly surprising as it’s a beautiful city and you couldn’t wish for a better spot, right in the middle of Europe. Granted that the pay isn’t the highest, but with a decent cost of living that shouldn’t be too much of a worry. Your biggest stress is likely to be where you want to travel to at the weekend!
Or why not think about heading somewhere completely different? I checked recently and Madagascar, Costa Rica, Georgia, and Mongolia were all advertising for TEFL teachers. Spend a bit of time and effort searching, and you are likely to be rewarded with some interesting opportunities.
Finally, remember that TEFL is not just about making money or enjoying a brand-new lifestyle. It can be immensely rewarding and satisfying. You have the chance to pass on knowledge, deliver life skills and really help students as part of a local community. It is not only a life-changing experience – you will also be changing the lives of others. One thing is for sure is that, wherever you go, it’s the English learner that will reap the rewards of your decision to travel, while you will have the chance to open your eyes to a new life with people, places, and experiences you never even dreamed of!
Written by Maya Wheeler