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The 5 most fun countries to teach English in

By James Soller

Do you love traveling? Is there nothing more thrilling than strapping on a backpack and jumping on a plane, bus, train or whatever and going new places? If so, then there is a good chance you've also considered teaching English abroad. You definitely wouldn't be the first, nor the last. There are currently around 250,000 native English-speaking Westerners teaching English abroad at any given time and that number is expected to hold strong until at least the year 2025, which means there remain plenty of available jobs out there.

OK, so maybe you are not a teacher and have no plans on teaching. Well, most of the people teaching English overseas were not teachers back home either, nor did they ever think about it. Most people teach English for the chance to live abroad and experience something unique, which is the same reason why all you crazy adventurous travel the globe.

Let's be realistic. Unless you have some specialized skill or a trust fund, you need to financially support yourself in order to explore the world. Before you shoot down the idea of teaching, remember that it's not like traditional teaching and it's actually a pretty fun job most of the time. All you need to teach in most cases is a university degree and a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

There are plenty of places to teach English and even some where there are jobs with good salaries such as, South Korea, China and parts of the Middle East. But let's say money is not the biggest motivating factor for you. Instead, you want to teach somewhere that offers a fun and liberal lifestyle, but still affords you the chance to break even or even save some money. Based on my knowledge of the ESL, teaching overseas myself and experience traveling, these are the five most fun places to teach English abroad.

1. Japan

This is a little bit of a biased pick on my part since I taught in Japan from 2007 to 2011 and loved it. In reality, the job market for English teachers in Japan has slowed down in recent years and so has the Japanese economy. However, this place is awesome in so many ways and there still remain a good amount of decent positions. Competition can be tough at times, but there is reason why so many people want to live in Japan.

Although many jobs can be found in Tokyo, I recommend teaching in the smaller cities, such as Sapporo, Fukuoka and Hiroshima for a better quality of life. If you prefer the big city, then Osaka can be a fun place. Personally, I taught in Sapporo for two and half years and nearly a year and a half in Okianwa.

It used to be that one could just waltz into Japan during any time of the year, but since competition has increased, the best time to find a job is around August or February when the schools begin. There are a variety of places to teach in Japan, Most public schools (elementary through high school) hire assistant language teachers known as ALTs or AETs. Then there are thousands of private language institutes that employ Westerners all over Japan. Some of the bigger chains such as, AEON and ECC hire teachers directly from their home countries. If you have a master's degree, it is possible to land a teaching position in a Japanese university or college. You will need at least a university degree to teach in Japan. While you do not need a TESOL, TEFL or CELTA, it may help to have one in a tough job market. First year teachers in Japan can expect to make around $2,500 per month.

2. Vietnam

Vietnam is in Southeast Asia. Enough said. If you have ever been anywhere in Southeast Asia or have a friend who has, then you know what I mean. Living or traveling in Southeast Asia is all about adventure, fun and riding precariously on the back of motorbikes. Every teacher I've met who has taught in Vietnam has said nothing but good things. Friendly people, great food, cheap eats, tons of interesting Westerners traveling through the country. What else could you want?

Out of all the countries on this list, Vietnam by far offers the best pay and largest market for English teaching jobs. It's more than possible to save $5000 to $13,000 a year teaching English in Vietnam. Pay can vary, but expect to make between $1,200 to $2,300 per month depending on the type of school and where you are living. Most jobs are located in the big cities, but there are opportunities in the smaller ones as well. You will need at least a university degree and in many cases, a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

3. Chile

Chile isn't for everyone, but if you like geographically elongated countries ordered by the pacific ocean and endowed by mountains that seem to touch the sky, then you will quickly fall in love with Chile. I traveled through most of the country in 2014 and this place doesn't get enough credit as a great place to visit or live. The people are incredibly hospitable and friendly, the weather is agreeable and the food is awesome. The avocado seems to be the staple of their diet. How cool is that? While the cost of living is in many ways on par with North America, one can rent out a modern, one bedroom apartment for $400 or $500 per month.

Chile has a stable government and one of the strongest economies in Latin America, which means that there are a fair amount of teaching jobs available. Most jobs are located in the capital, Santiago, but it may be possible to find positions in the smaller cities as well. Expect to make between $1,000 to $1,600 per month teaching English in Chile. You are not going to save much if anything, but you can make enough to live on and enjoy the Chilean lifestyle.

4. Thailand

In 2010, I spent a month in Thailand and I can't remember having so much fun. This place is awesome in so many ways. Everything about Thailand is set up to make you smile, relax and enjoy life. I've met several teachers who have taught in Thailand and they all had good things to say. Why wouldn't they? What is there not to like? If you've been to Thailand before, you know what I am talking about. The food, the weather, the beautiful people, the endless adventure and surprises.

Thailand is just a fun place. I don't know how else to put it. You have beautiful beaches to the south and a mystical mountains in the jungle to the north. Although inflation has crept in, the cost of living in still cheap by Western Standards. I lived like a king for a $1,000 when I was there for one month. If you are living there, you will have no trouble renting out a nice one- bedroom flat for around $300 per month.

Thailand has remained a hotspot for teaching English for several years now. The Thai economy has grown steadily over the years, which means there are a fair amount of jobs teaching children, university students and working professionals. Expect to make around $1,200 per month teaching English in Thailand during your first year. You will need a university degree and in many cases a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

5. Colombia

Besides the airport, I've never been to Colombia, but I've met a lot of Colombians traveling throughout South America and as an ESL teacher in the United States. For the most part, Colombians are warm, easy-going, friendly and internationally minded people. I have to imagine that it would be a blast living there. In fact, I've met a good number of Westerners who have taught there and each one had good things to say.

Think about it. The endless parties, dancing into the night, eating delicious food and meeting all kinds of interesting people. Like Ecuador, Colombia is also very ecologically diverse country and you can easily travel by bus throughout the country. Don't be alarmed by the past reputation of Colombia. Things have changed and Colombia not only has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America, but also one of the most stable governments.

Unlike many other South American states, Colombia has gradually opened up its economy in recent years, which means there are a good amount of jobs to be had. Teachers can expect to make between $900 to $1,600 per month. While Bogata can be expensive, most teachers are able to cover their expenses and in some cases even save a little. You only need a university degree to land a job, but a TEFL or TESOL certificate will definitely help.

This top five list is the for the most fun places to teach English abroad. Of course, teaching English overseas is pretty fun no matter where you are. The fact that you can land a job simply by speaking English and having a university degree is a privilege that we have in the West. If you would like to add a country to this list or give me your own top five, don't hesitate to leave a comment.

James Soller recruits individuals to teach English in parts of Asia and the Middle East. He also places prospective teachers into TEFL and TESOL programs. He taught English in Japan from 2007 to 2011 and has traveled extensively throughout Asia and South America.

© Japan Today

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Well, to each his own.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Each has its own charm.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've been to Okianwa. Felt a little backwards.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"Okianwa" felt a little "backwards."

VERY surprising!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've taught in China, Cambodia and Taiwan.Compared to teaching in Japan, the pay is certainly lower. China offers the widest choice in terms of the availability of language schools and colleges. Visa application is fairly straightforward, albeit at times cumbersome because of the red tape. I taught at a private college in Guangzhou.The pay depends on where you teach, but is certainly enough to live on. Cambodia's teaching jobs are understandably limited, considering the fact that the country is still emerging from three decades of civil war. Don't expect to make money living there. I was fortunate to earn about 1000 U.S. dollars a month at a Phnom Penh college. Cambodia is ideal for those who enjoy a laid-back, simplistic way of life. Taiwan as a country is great, convenient with half the living cost of Japan. Expect to make about 1500 to 2000 dollars a month at a standard cram school. In retrospective, all three countries were interesting and worthwhile experiences.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can't believe the United States isn't even in the top 5, let alone the #1 fun country to teach English in.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

" ... the best time to find a job is around August or February when the schools begin."

What a silly statement. The best time is in May or November, before the schools begin. You know, when they're recruiting.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Considering the present state of the English teaching industry, not even my worst enemy would I encourage to go to Japan and teach English. The whole industry is going downhill. It is just an all round money making venture for the companies. They will wrangle every penny they can from what the boards of education pay to have you. Due to its profitability there is a plethora of companies now taking on dispatch roles.

Unless you go through the JET program, there is a 90% chance you will be underpaid and can only barely survive, living from paycheck to paycheck. Cost of living keeps going up and wages/salaries are decreasing. The dispatch companies and eikaiwas will try to reassure you by telling you the most positive things, but as soon as you fall in their trap you'll see their true colors come shining through.

Some companies are very crafty and give a very low and a not so low salary range. Rest assured that when you are in their traps you will be given ridiculous reasons you get the very low end. Some only pay for actual teaching hours even though you are present at the school and performing other duties.

The boards of education and ministry ignore the deplorable conditions under which ALTs/NETs work even though they might be aware of them. They just behave like the three wise monkeys. See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil(Western interpretation...turn a blind eye). As long as there are some English speaking individuals in the classroom they can claim English is being taught and all is well.

I could go on and on, but I'm going to reserve some for another time.

In conclusion, presently, teaching English as a Second Language is just a backpacker's job with a backpackers pay, as Mr. Noidall stated, or if it's not about the money you could go and pretend to be volunteering.

5 ( +6 / -1 )



I'm a qualified, "professional" university teacher, but recognise that there are unqualified, "backpacking buffoons" out there who just have a knack.

Empathy with the learners, a sense of humour and awareness of how the English language works are worth any amount of academic qualifications.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@ Mr.Noidall, You seem to put all the blame on backpackers "polluting" the industry that you consider yourself to be a professional in. Now rather than whining, how about you try and grasp the underlining point, that as an intense and competitive market, it's actually these "bafoons" "cartoon characters" "migrant workers" or whatever you want to call them that keep the industry functioning. I agree there are some borderline useless teachers, but I'm blaming the company that hired them in the first place which should have more respect for itself to hire quality teachers for it's students in the first place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mr. Noidall,

Im not sure if it has anything to do with backpackers. Maybe a few them but the majority arent. A licensed teacher also doesnt mean a good teacher. Wages have dropped because companies know there will always be people in need so they will take whatever to survive. In addtion, there are numerous ESL teachers coming over from other Asian countries and to them making 2 grand a month is great. But really it is up to the hiring company to weed out the cattle. If they dont, its then up to the students or Japanese schools to decide if the teacher is acceptable or not. Overall though, its not great.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Shanique Smith

THANK YOU! Someone telling it like it really is. The entire industry basically runs on auto-pilot. What's worse, the paying customers & Japanese public at large have absolutely no idea how these businesses are run. Not one media outlet in Japan has the courage to take this issue head-on. By that, I mean name & shame the corporations that get away with this and pressure the government for actual reform.

These companies know that, through both financial & visa-related constraints, they have absolute control over their workers and treat them accordingly (ie. very, very poorly).

It's a national DISGRACE.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This article should read – 5 most fun countries to teach English in AS A CAUCASIAN.

Although it’s never been overt in my case, but a friend of mine who is actually an English major was told that he was too black to work as an English teacher in Japan. In one instance, after speaking to a J-lady on the phone for about 20 min., when I mentioned that I wasn’t Caucasian; she responded by saying that her students preferred “blonde-haired, blue-eyed” teachers. I kid you not.

Just finished a 1-year contract where 3 companies were joined together to “share costs”; tax avoidance, wage theft and exploitation would be more accurate. One company in the group served as a school/dispatch company. I unknowingly signed up with this company thinking it was some kind of holding company. They straight out refused to pay shakai hoken. When the contract came up for renewal, the dispatch/mouthpiece informed me that I could continue but the standard of living increase guaranteed in the first contract wouldn’t be honored; this is despite glowing student and HR reviews. I was told it wasn’t an issue of revenue; the major capital contributor to the group just didn’t want to give me any more money. And, so, we come full circle.

Been teaching 19 years, 16 in Japan. Have a TESL and a M.A. in Applied Linguistics.

0 ( +1 / -1 )


Yep! a good number of these companies are thugs. I was told no increase because the company had to satisfy its shareholders. Glad I`ve got an exit date with this English stuff. Dead end job.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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