Top international teaching destinations – and what it’s like to live there

Published on 6th April, 2017 by Gemma McSweeney. Published in For Candidates / TIC News

We give our top locations for being an international school teacher

TIC has many jobs currently available in the UAE, Qatar, China, Kuwait and in Budapest, Hungary. So, what are the pros and cons of living and working in these locations? Here are a few top tips from TIC:


The UAE is a modern and dynamic place to live. There are a wealth of activities on offer; from exploring mountains, beaches and islands, to visiting grand mosques and traditional markets. Enjoy shopping in city-sized shopping malls or taking part in sporting activities and wildlife adventures. Teachers working here can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, with many great international schools to choose from.

  • The weather is mostly sunny and warm all year round, with some rain in the winter months.
  • There’s no need to rely on a car for travel as the public transport system is good and efficient and taxi prices are fair.
  • There are diverse dining options available in the UAE, with both traditional Middle Eastern restaurants and international cuisine on offer.
  • The cost of living is fairly high but salaries are tax free so your money goes much further.
  • Many schools in the UAE are known for the quality of the benefits packages they offer. This often includes good accommodation.
  • In the month of Ramadan, shops and restaurants are closed during fasting times and there is no live music or dancing in this month.
  • You can get by speaking only English in Dubai but less so in Abu Dhabi, where Arabic is mostly spoken.
  • It’s advisable to cover your shoulders and knees when outside.
  • Alcohol isn’t permitted in public and you will need a licence to buy alcohol at hotels or to take it home.
  • Public displays of attraction are socially unacceptable


Rich in history, China is a fascinating mix of ancient and modern, from historical temples to the most contemporary architectural landmarks. The mix of Eastern and Western cultures is due to the influence of old traditions combined with economic expansion. Teachers in China can often expect to be paid high wages, and enjoy a culturally rich experience. TIC teachers who have done their research about life in China and go knowing what to expect, have had some of the best experiences.

  • China shares borders with Russia, Mongolia and India which makes it an ideal base to travel from.
  • The public transport system is brilliant, with bullet trains, subways systems and vast bus networks. Driving is discouraged as the cities are often very congested.
  • The Chinese cuisine is diverse, with options such as hot pots, rice and noodle dishes, meat dishes and steamed dumplings.
  • Some of the best international schools in China offer the highest teaching wages in the world.
  • The cost of living is low.
  • The cities are densely populated and pollution on some days can be very high. However, pollution in China today is not as bad as many believe and several schools in China have taken stringent steps to ensure the air in the schools is clean.
  • English is not commonly spoken, so knowledge of some Mandarin is helpful.
  • There is a strong government involvement in the lives of China’s citizens and China actively censors materials it considers harmful to society. Certain social media is restricted.
  • There is a rich, cultural history.


Kuwait has a rich cultural heritage which dates all the way back to antiquity. The Kuwaiti people are known for being friendly, respectful and family oriented. Teachers in Kuwait can usually expect a good benefits package with a tax-free salary.

  • Kuwait has an authentic Arab feel, with traditional markets or ‘Souqs’, beautiful mosques and excellent museums.
  • The restaurants are lively and food plays an important role in Kuwaiti culture.
  • Alcohol is prohibited
  • Men and women who are not related to one another are usually segregated.
  • There is plenty to do in Kuwait. You can visit beaches, deserts and shopping malls, travel to islands, or take part in water sports.
  • The standard of living is high and there’s no personal income tax in Kuwait.
  • The hospitals are mainly private and are sometimes costly.


Qatar is a rich desert country with a long shoreline of beaches and dunes. Lonely Planet recently labelled Qatar as fast becoming one of the most exciting places in the world. It is known for its high-end shopping, culture, sand, sun and camels! There are an abundance of international schools in Qatar, offering teachers competitive salaries and benefit packages.

  • Qatar has numerous beaches and parks to relax in. It is also culturally rich, with a growing arts and culinary scene. It is home to one of the best museums in the world, the ‘Museum of Islamic Art’.
  • There are plenty of exciting sports on offer, from desert driving to water sports.
  • Traditional Qatari cuisine combines delicious Arab, Iranian and Indian styles of cooking.
  • Driving is the most popular method of travel. Fuel here is cheap and the road networks are expanding.
  • Healthcare is free at government health facilities but you must have a Health Card. Most teachers choose to use private medical practices.
  • In public, women’s clothing should cover the shoulders. Dresses, skirts and shorts should be worn past the knee.
  • It is an offence to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. Alcohol is available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars, and expatriates can obtain alcohol on a permit system. Alcohol mustn’t be carried around, except when you are collecting it and taking it home.

Budapest in Hungary

Budapest is a beautiful, historic city in Hungary. It’s known for its attractive scenery, varied architecture and hot springs. While many cities in Europe are expensive to live in, Budapest remains affordable, offering teachers a good standard of living and the chance to fully experience this vibrant city and country.

  • Hungary shares borders with seven countries: Romania, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Austria, so Budapest is a perfect place to easily and cheaply travel to lots of different countries.
  • The cost of living is low. Food, clothing, accommodation, leisure activities and travelling costs less than many Western European countries.
  • Hungarians take great pride in their cuisine. Traditional dishes include soups, stews, goulashes and spicy paprika sausages.
  • The public transport system is extensive, efficient and good value. Trams, buses, trolleys and metro trains run in the city.
  • Not many Hungarians speak English, so it’s worth learning a little of the Hungarian language, although you can get by with German.
  • There is political uncertainty in Hungary.

A longer version of this feature and other helpful articles are now published in TIC’s Spring Newsletter available here

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Gemma McSweeney

Gemma is our Associate Director, having joined TIC in 2009. With over 15 years experience of recruitment and selection methods, she specialises in matching teachers and leaders with our international school partners. She has attended many international education conferences and has visited a number of international schools over the years. She uses this experience to best advise our teachers, leaders and schools and manage our team and UK operations.