International Teacher Accomodation : What to expect?

Being an international teacher often means that you are one of those lucky buggers that do not have to pay rent. When teaching abroad, flights, visa costs and rent are included in your package.
But what can you expect from your accommodation? What does a teacher’s apartment look like? And what will you need to keep in mind when signing a contract and moving abroad? Let me take you through it.

Accomodation depends on your school

If you think the life of a teacher abroad is laced with luxury, this might not be for you. Most accommodations are basic. No skyline views of Dubai, no infinity pools in Thailand and no 300 square meter palaces with designer furniture. You might be snickering at this thought, but trust me: on my quest through forums, YouTube videos and blogs I noticed that these are indeed the standards some people expect…
And fair enough! There are indeed schools and institutions that will offer you amazing apartments you would never ever be able to afford in a place like – let’s say London, but this is more of an exception. Also, keep in mind that luxurious and generous packages will often mean that you need to commit more of your personal time to your professional life.
If you are starting your international teaching career – and since you are reading this blog post, I assume you are – you will most likely end up in a basic but nice apartment. Most apartments are one-bedroom apartments with a medium-sized kitchen and a bedroom with a double bed. Most apartments are semi-furnished (which is something we will talk about further in this post) which means you will be able to live, sleep and eat in your new home right away.
BUT – and there is always a but… there are some schools I know of in Dubai and South-East Asia that do offer large accommodation allowances. A colleague of my husband made a welcome move to a better school and doubled her allowance. She can now afford a beautiful sky-scraper apartment in the center of Dubai. The chance that you will be able to secure such a package on your very first contract as an international classroom teacher is slim. But that doesn’t mean you should be happy with whatever accommodation a school throws at you.
Do read the job posting and ask about accommodation in your interview or before you accept the job. Some schools prefer to cut costs and put 2 or more teachers into the same apartment. If house sharing is something you would rather not do, it is best you decline the offer as you will most likely have to live like this for 2 years.
There are three kinds of accommodation schools can provide

1. On site accommodation

You will often find On-site accommodation in new schools and campuses, often in the Far East. On-site apartments for teachers mean the apartment building stands on the school grounds. Although some people might find this idea horrifying – you are always at work – it is quite handy as school is always close. On-site accommodation is often provided when the school lies outside of the city. It can also be the case that you are in an area where it is hard to find quality (affordable) housing.
The positives of on-site housing are that on a new campus, your apartments will probably be of a high standard. You will also be close to school and won’t have to spend money on commuting.
The drawbacks are that you can’t easily escape school and that you will probably be housed quite far outside of the city.
The chances that your building will have a private pool and gym are very slim, instead, you will be able to use the facilities at the school.

2. Off site accommodation

Schools might also provide you with accommodation in a separate building. This is how accommodation is arranged most often.

Ask about the facilities at the building and how long the school has been renting the apartment for. The latter will give you an insight into the state of the apartment. When we first moved to Dubai we received an old apartment the school had been renting for some 10 years. The bed was broken – and after a lot of hassle replaced, the kitchen was so dirty the weekly maids could not get it clean and the apartment was very grimy.

The school now moved everyone into a new apartment block and both the overall happiness and the living standards have increased phenomenally.

3. Housing Allowance

Schools that provide off-site accommodation often offer an accommodation allowance as well. This allowance allows you to rent your own apartment. Before agreeing to the allowance you should have a look at the cost of apartments in the area of the school.
TIP: I recommend looking on local real-estate websites even when going for the accommodation provided.
This way you get an idea of what to expect and whether or not it lives up to your standards.
An allowance of AED 36.000 a year, for instance, won’t get you a lot. Even in the poorer areas of Dubai.
There are schools in Dubai that offer an allowance of AED 70.000 a year. This will allow you to comfortably rent a beautiful skyscraper apartment downtown Dubai.
Choose your school carefully!

Does teacher accommodation abroad have pools and gyms

Whether your apartment has a gym or a pool depends greatly on the housing standards of the country you are looking to settle in. In Dubai for instance, there will be an 80% chance your building has at least a pool. If having a pool is not a deal breaker for you, it is safe to ask about this after you have signed the contract. If you are desperate for some splashy times – do ask the school before you send them a signed contract.
Buildings boasting gyms is no exception in Asian countries. Yet – these gyms will not always be up to your standard. In fact: most of them will be nothing more than some treadmills, some weights, and a few other basic machines. Don’t let this hold you back accepting a job as there will always be great private gyms around. When moving to a hot country, having a pool is way more important than having a flashy gym.

How to get better accommodation

Most schools will offer you a choice between accommodation or a housing allowance. Depending on the size of the allowance you can start looking for better apartments or houses.
Keep in mind that experienced (international) teachers find it easier to secure great packages. Some schools prefer to keep everyone except for senior management in the same apartment block. Other schools upgrade their subject heads to better apartments or offer them a bigger allowance. It is a matter of starting at the bottom of the ladder and working your way up when starting as a classroom teacher abroad.
So how to get better teacher’s accommodation? You can wait and rise in the ranks of international teaching. You can also take your allowance and look for a better apartment. Or you can apply to expensive and prestigious international schools. But as I said: these expensive and prestigious schools will often ask a lot more of you then you’re used to at home.

Is teacher accommodation abroad furnished

as I said before in this post, most – if not all, accommodation is half or fully furnished. This does not mean that you won’t have to put in a massive Ikea order though. In fact: there will be tons of things you will need:
  • Pots and pans (good schools will provide these)
  • Bed sheets (you will get one pair from the school)
  • Towels – both bath towels and kitchen towels (might be provided)
  • Cutlery and dishes (good schools will provide these)
  • Drying rack
  • Extension cables
  • Cleaning tools and products
  • Storage boxes and baskets
  • Any storage or surface furniture you might miss
  • Personal Hygiene products
  • A TV and maybe even Internet (good schools provide these)
You will probably need to spend close to £400 on essential items in the first few weeks. Do not splash out on unessential furniture until you are 100% sure you will be staying.

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