Teaching Abroad – In the Know Series: (No.8) Analysing Job Posts (Part Ciii)

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3. Renumeration and Benefits (Continued)

You might have ‘leaving on a jet plane’ stuck in your head, but who’s gonna pay for it? In the ESL world, some measure of financial contribution is often made, but not always. This week we’ll discuss these iterations as well as highlighting some other benefits that can accompany job posts and their relative value.


For me, there are three broad flight-options when it comes to physically getting to your job in far off country X: those which are included, re-imbursed, and not-included.

None of this section is overly complex, but I will work through the potentialities nonetheless in the interest of providing clarity, annotated with personal experience.


OK. Not hard. (Return) flights are included in the job offer, which is obviously a nice bonus (and possibly a significant saving), especially if your new post is in South Korea or Japan, and you call London or New York home.

But, there are some points you should bare in mind. 

In my experience, free flights are almost invariably arranged for you. This might be a good thing if you really, really suck at this kind of donkey work. These flights will almost certainly be the cheapest ones that a recruiter or employer can find. So, the quality might not be great; you might not have in-flight movies or a decent meal. You may well have to travel at an ungodly hour; you may even be booked on a flight from your country’s main international airport that you’ll have to get to. Personally, I’ve always thought these little inconveniences were fine given that I saved on the flight costs, but these are things that may occur and that you should be aware of. As the actual arranging of the flight is organised by others, it may take some time to get done if the communication is poor from the recruiter’s end, or you are one of hundreds of clients. This may become frustrating, especially if you are eager to get going, hate being stuck in limbo, are a nervous flying, or a combination of all three. For my first job in Saudi, the recruiter was unable to finalise the flights for a long time because their client (my employers) failed to release the money to my recruiter. Without the cash from my employer’s headquarters, my recruiter’s company held back on buying flights.

South Korea, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia (first contract) all included free (return) flights as part of their job package.


Assuming you understood the first part, this will probably be straight forward, too: you pay for your flights first, then the money is re-reimbursed back to you.

This gives you a fair amount of autonomy over your flight from the quality, time, carrier, location, etc., but if you are on a budget—or if you are given a limit to work with from the employer/recruiter—you may find it difficult to find $600 or $800 at short notice when all the paperwork has gone through and your employer wants you in country within three days (for instance). 

Buying your own flight on the condition that the money is given back does require a fair amount of trust in the person who hired you. I have never gone forward for a job that I had to pay for a flight first when I didn’t trust the recruiter. I did have one job fall through on me in Belgium (the employer broke the contract), and while it would have been a short, cheap trip to Brussels from Bristol, it wouldn't have been the case for a job in Hanoi or Tokyo. 

Also, don’t assume you will be re-reimbursed the second you touch down in that new country of yours. In Saudi, it took five or six weeks until I got my money back. For a job in Korea, I had to (almost) fight my boss to get initial outlay returned. 

My second contract to Saudi Arabia was reimbursed rather than paid for (this protects the company from recruits who back out after fights have been arranged; this happened a lot in Saudi). Myanmar, in slight variation, paid me for my flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (the other option was Bangkok) to Yangon, which is fine, but the patent point is the issue here: you still had to get to either KL or Bangkok first, which, if you’re coming from the London, Cape Town, or Los Angeles, is where the lion’s share of the cost is incurred.

Not included

Not everywhere offers a free flight, of course. Obviously, the transport costs are all incurred by you. European countries, Turkey, and most Southeast Asian countries tend not to include this bonus as an incentive.

Additional Notes

Alternatively, some places will only pay for a return flight at the end of a contract. Also, when flights are included, many contracts will stipulate that if you resign before the half way mark, you are obliged to payback the cost of the plane ride (if the flight was arranged for you) or forfeit monies owed (if you payed and are expecting to be reimbursed).

Other Benefits

I’ve always thought that a good salary (tax-free, if you’re lucky), accommodation (usually provided for free), and a paid for flight were sharp-enough hooks to get me abroad (especially so given the glum realities in my home town). But there are several other incentives that might be offered to sweeten that job advert.

It should go without saying that there will be lots of different incentives, but here are some of the most common ones.

1) Important ones to look out for:

Visa support: The process can be long and stressful (Saudi; China). Having someone you can email (or call) and get a quick response from is important, especially if they can assure you that 'X' is normal (good for perpetual worriers like me).

Visa costs reimbursed: In addition to a sometimes painful process, getting your visa can be an expense undertaking. For Saudi, one needs to pay for a medical, relevant documents, and the visa fee itself. The company I went through used a visa-fixer service in West London, so the trip to the capital from the West Country also has to be factored in. This initially costs in the region of £800-1000. Again, some companies don’t rush themselves to pay you back, which may give pause to some potential teachers if your bank balance is low. This is worth making a note of.

Medical: As mentioned, these can be pricey as they will probably have to be done privately. This could amount to a few hundred pounds, in which case, this is a nice bonus to have it paid for (eventually).

Insurance: Most places will offer a degree of medical insurance. In Saudi, it was full coverage except for optical and dental care; in Korea, 50% was contributed by the employer, with the same exceptions as Saudi. European countries tend to offer neither perk.

End-of-year-bonus: Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait included this feature, and often takes on the form of either a month or half-a-month’s salary as a nice golden handshake at the end of your contract. This can be could a substantial bonus.

Airport Pick-up: I consider this an essential part of my transition from home to making a home elsewhere. Not every employer/recruiter, however, feels the same way. In my case, to some extent, there is an element of my ego involved in this ‘requirement (I like having someone pick me up with my name on a sign),’ but it has much more to do with the ease of someone helping me take out the initial stress of trying to get from the airport to your hotel/apartment/school when you are tired, stressed, and probably confused (this isn’t doesn't always go so smoothly as future blogs will highlight). Getting into a car sent by your employer means you can switch off a little.

2) Everything else:

Language courses: Not just the empty ‘filler’ that I used to think it was. Language courses can be expense and difficult to arrange. Having them offered to you will save some cash and help you commit to learning a new foreign language where otherwise you may not have bothered. In small towns and/or countries with a low English proficiency level, this bonus may come to be viewed as an extraordinary blessing. 

Advanced loans: Some places like China, Saudi Arabia, and Myanmar may offer loans or advanced pay cheques. This may well be of great help and reassurance to some prospective teachers short on cash.

Free gym membership: Some accommodation may allow residents to use the building gym for free. A nice little saving that further offers the invaluable gift of motivation.

Free/discounted training/professionalisation: This might also seem like yet another job-ad filler. But it is much more than that, or rather can be. Some companies encourage their teachers to professionalise further and may be willing to pay the full or partial amount for related courses (which is great as they are not usually cheap). Look out for CELTA and DELTA course-offers as these are increasingly becoming ESL industry standards and will improve your skills, marketability, and international options for your next post.

First 'X' days paid in a hotel: This is often offered when posts don’t include free accommodation. Again, don’t expect the Hilton, but a nice B&B is a reasonable provision. 

Free lunches/meal allowances: Not to be sniffed at! Five lunches a week, over 52 weeks is still a pretty good saving. Then consider the lack of washing-up or prep to be done; the easy sampling of local cuisine; and the more sociable option as you’ll be surrounded by students and colleagues. Not too bad when you break it down.

Low hours: Some institutions like to promote the low hours of work. This is a good thing if you want to maximise your time to study, pursue personal projects and hobbies, or simply contemplate the meaning of life. My initial thought, however, is usually why so few hours? Is the school struggling (putting my long term job security on the line)? Will more classes soon be added (and not mentioned in the interview)? Is there significant travel time? Extra responsibilities? Ask about this feature.

Course materials provided: If you’re new, having a set course/syllabus/text book provided is really helpful as it will reduce your stress and workload. As you progress, you'll confidence will grow along with your creatively (part of fun in my eyes).

That’s about it for now: A slightly slender than usual blog this week, but that’s the nature of this material. Next time we will move on to Red Flags and Good Signs that aims to draw a close to this mini-section on Analysing Job Ads.

Until next Monday, have fun and stay safe!

Editorial: Thomas Dowling has worked in the ESL industry for over 7 years, having lived and worked in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Myanmar, Kuwait, and the UK. His work experience has included an international school, a university, private academies, and summer camps. Currently, Thomas is a full-time PhD Student studying Environmental Security at the University of Leicester. He has previously studied degrees in Ancient History (BA; MA: Bristol), and International Security Studies (MA: Leicester). In 2014, he earned his CELTA qualification (ITI: Istanbul, Turkey), complementing previous TEFL certificates acquired in England. Thomas is also the Co-Founder of The Digital Traveller, focusing upon content and content management. Thomas presently lives in Daegu, South Korea, with his wife, Jack Russell Terrier, and newborn baby, Zeno.

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