While my friend Charles and I were munching on our Subway sandwiches this evening among the bustling underground food court near Wangdoukou subway stop, I asked him why he returned to China after teaching ESL (English Second Language) in a Texas university. He replied that in Texas, he liked his job, but he didn’t like going into credit card debt more and more, especially after unpaid school breaks, that in China he gets to keep most of his paycheck, whereas in Texas a large portion of it was taken in taxes, that room and board ate up about half his paycheck, but in China that’s covered by our university.
Charles and me work at a finance university in Beijing, and live in the same apartment building with several other colleagues. Charles opinions about living and teaching in China as opposed to America bear out my experience and research. Each month, I get to keep about 99% of my paycheck, but in America I’d have to cough up 40 or more percent. The $1000 dollar per month apartments my friend and I live in are covered by the university, as are the utilities, internet, and water. The biggest expenses in Beijing are food, transportation, and phone. Now in Beijing the food costs are ridiculous, at least for western food. Chinese food is cheaper, depending on which restaurant one goes to.
Returning to America, even with an M.A. in TESOL as Charles and me have, would mean part time work, seasonal, even if the hourly rate seemed above average. The cost of living in America between taxes and room, board, transportation, and utilities, would eat up at least 80% of our paychecks in America.
Overseas, in countries like China, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others, the demand for English teachers is high, and though the wages are comparable in some instances to the United States, the benefits of getting to keep ones’ paycheck without paying much in taxes (Saudi Arabia income tax = 0%), having room and board covered, and having a yearly bonus to travel makes it difficult to argue. Since there are large expat communities where demand for English teachers exists, working overseas doesn’t even mean stepping out of ones’ home culture, too much, if that’s ones’ cup of tea.
I enjoy learning the languages of the people I teach, so I try not to wall myself off too much. Suffice to say, if you are hungry for adventure, want to open your horizons to a new culture, meet amazing people, and learn a new language, while simultaneously making and saving a few bucks, living and teaching overseas might be worth considering.