Teaching Abroad as a Couple

So you have decided that you are going to set out on a working journey of discovery, adventure, and excitement by teaching English abroad. Fantastic! But wait, what’s this? You’re currently in a relationship in your home country? Why not take your significant other with you so you can share your experience together as a couple?

I’m here to tell you about all of the pros and cons that can go into teaching abroad as a couple, highlighting things you may not have previously considered. I have taught in Bali and in Taiwan with my best friend, so I know some of the great aspects and struggles you can face teaching abroad as a couple.

Friends Indeed - II

Pros

Couple appeal

One of the things a school considers when looking at candidates is how likely they are to do a runner. Teachers can go through the whole hiring process and land that job and then realize once they are at their school that it is just too overwhelming and they flee the country and go home or somewhere else.

As a couple, this feeling of needing to leave or take flight can be drastically reduced because you have each other to lean on. You also have a familiarity of home, so you never entirely feel like you are miles away from someone who loves and cares for you, which, in turn, reduces culture shock. Culture shock can be a huge contributing factor for teachers leaving their jobs suddenly. I have personally found my best friend to be my rock during any challenges I faced in my teaching countries, and having her here with me has definitely helped me through those hard times.

Cheaper living

For those long term or married couples you have the option of sharing a 1-bed apartment. Halving your rent on a larger space will allow you to save extra cash at the end of the month.

In terms of food it can often become pricey to cook for just one person, which can lead to large meals and waste. However with another person there you can split the food bills and the grocery shopping to live a low cost lifestyle.

Overall, it’s very reasonable to expect that you can both live comfortably on one person’s salary and bank the rest.

Bonding Time

If you can head to another country with a friend or loved one, face the daily challenges of language barriers, culture clash, and finding your way around new Cities, and still come out the other end without killing each other, then I would bet you my yearly wage that you have struck up an unforgettable bond.

Personally speaking I can vouch for this point, although there have definitely been times where we both had dark thoughts involving trip wires, swinging axes, and spear pits; we have come out very much on top with a bond built on the foundations of near misses, unique experiences and times where we could barely breathe through laughter.

Hong Kong 2013

Cons

Confined spaces

So you just left your home country with your partner, leaving behind that spacious apartment where he has his space and she has hers. Well, I’m here to burst that bubble. Depending on where you travel to you can usually expect smaller apartments, with a bedroom, bathroom, living area and perhaps a kitchen (especially in Asia).

For those who have not lived together before, usually friends or recent partners, be warned. Living together can be tough, but working together also can be near fatal. For many going to work is a nice escape from any issues that may be going on at home with your roommates, friends or partner. So working together can take away that escape and cause major tensions.

If you are teaching abroad as a couple then I would suggest either working at the same school but living in separate apartments, or living together but working at separate schools.

Job market

Always research the job market for the country that you are heading to. If you are going somewhere that has minimal teaching positions available then don’t expect to both be placed in the same school or even the same region. Furthermore, more and more schools these days are deciding against hiring couples. The reason for this is that they have to cover for two teachers when you go on vacation. Again, this is another good reason why you should consider working at different schools.

A good tip is to follow the hiring seasons for countries. If there are going to be a wealth of jobs in September then use that month to throw yourselves at the job market to really give yourselves a fighting chance. If you’re applying for teaching positions in April, be aware that you might not find much. The best time for couples to apply for teaching positions together are January, February, June, July, and August.

Flexibility

It is well known in the ESL job market that the more flexible you are, the more opportunities that will open up to you. If your expectations are rigidly stuck on being placed at the same school and sharing the same apartment, then you may be looking for jobs longer than a couple who doesn’t mind being placed at different schools.

The death of a relationship

Living abroad with your significant other can present a lot of challenges, and sometimes those challenges can be too much for a couple to overcome together. I’ve seen couples move abroad, only to have their relationship draw to an end. Make sure you talk openly with each other about some of the things you’ll be facing together. Will you be teaching next to each other at the same school and living together? Will you be able to handle being together 24/7? What happens if you teach at different schools and one person has a better job than the other? What happens if you’re on opposite work schedules? These are all things that should be discussed ahead of time.
Have you taught abroad with your best friend or a significant other? What are some things that you would avoid couples to watch out for if they’re considering moving abroad?

2 couples

Above are just some of the things that you should definitely consider if you are thinking of travelling abroad with your loved one or friend. Really think hard and question the reality of what you are heading into. Often how you think it will turn out and how it actually turns out can be very different things. 

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18 Comments
  1. Hi,

    My girlfriend and I are looking to teach abroad in the Far East and I was just wondering how we could go about starting the process. We both have degrees and we are both in full time employment at the moment but we feel that teaching abroad is something that we both would enjoy and be good at.

    Regards

    Stephen

    • Dear Stephen,

      Thank you for your message. All of our program information can be found here on the Reach To Teach website. I’d advise you to read through our pages first to determine which program you’re interested in. Once you’ve done that, you’ll both need to complete applications for employment. Note that your best chances of being placed together would be for positions in China or Thailand.

  2. Me and my partner are currently teaching in Istanbul at the same school. We also share an apartment and the crazy daily commute. Luckily for us the school we teach at is conservative so men and women do not really interact at all during the day, we have seperate staffrooms and eat seperately at lunch. So far our experience has been good and it has been nice to go to and from work together, something that was never an option at home. It seems to have brought us closer together but we still have some months left so we shall see! Having each other to lean on has been great but we had been living together for a while before this so we know that it works!

    • Thanks for your comment, Lou. It’s interesting to hear that you do pretty much everything separately at your school. Most couples in Asia that work at the same school don’t have that freedom. I sat right next to my husband for three years at the school that we taught at when we first arrived in Taiwan. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the advice! My boyfriend and I are researching English teaching opportunities in SE Asia and I am very glad to hear that it is possible at all. I spent a year teaching English in Italy and it was easier to be mobile as a single person but more stressful without the support of a significant other. One question- Is it easier to secure work as a married couple or is simply being a committed couple acceptable?

    • Hi Jenna,

      It depends on where you’re going. China schools are very accepting of couples, married or not, Taiwan can be tricky simply because there are always more teachers than there are jobs, and Korea is touch and go. It depends on where you’re heading in Korea.

  4. Hi, please can you advise and guide me on the following. My husband and I are applying to teach English in China. We both have our TEFL certificates and I have my degree but my husband doesn’t. How do we go about applying? Where do we apply? Do we put in joint applications or just apply separately and inform the recruiter that we are applying together. It’s more important for us to be living together but not necessarily teaching in the same schools, if we could it would be a bonus!

    • Hi Candice,

      Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, the schools that we work with in China require teachers to have a full University degree, thus we are not able to assist your husband in finding a teaching position in China. The second problem here is that many schools in China will not provide teachers with a spousal visa. I am sure that there are schools out there that will, but unfortunately, we aren’t connected with those types of schools. I really think the best option for you would be to work at an International School (if you are a fully qualified teacher) as they tend to offer the very best packages and they may be able to accommodate your needs. I am sure that if you persevere you will find a school that would be very lucky to have you. We have your applications on file and we will certainly get in touch if we hear of an opportunity that will suit you both. We wish you all the best in your quest for suitable employment.

  5. Hi! My girlfriend and I are recent university grads and we are dead set on going to either Japan or Korea to teach English. What is the likelihood of us getting placed at the same school/apartment.

    • Hi Walker. It’s nice to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by. We don’t work with schools in Japan, but if you and your girlfriend are interested in being placed together in Korea, the chances are very high that you can be placed together or near one another. You can absolutely live together if you wish.

  6. Hi Nicholas,

    Thank you for your message.
    To teach as a couple you might want to look into the bigger areas such as China, South Korea and maybe even Vietnam. We can sometimes work with a couple fo Taiwan but it is more difficult due to the size of the island and the frequency of positions opening up in the same area.

    For all programs you will need to be TEFL certified, you can check out our TEFL’s page here for more information: http://www.reachtoteachrecruiting.com/tefl-course.html

  7. Very interesting information. What about a couple with young children? How difficult would it be to find positions in the same location but with opposite schedules?

    • Dear Kayla,

      If you are certified teachers, the best schools for you to teach at if you have children are international schools. I can’t answer your question in regards to working opposite schedules. That is something you’d need to discuss with the schools you interview with.

  8. HI,

    Myself and my partner are both looking at moving abroad this September to teach together. What is the best route in which we can go down to find a school together. We both have Degree’s I have a QTS and she has a PGCE and QTS, she is a P.E teacher and I am Science and P.E. Any guidance to get us started would be fantastic.

    Many thanks,

    James

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