Help us choose a country to live in
January 5, 2014 5:03 PM   Subscribe

We are thinking of applying for jobs in international schools in the next few years. We'd like to choose between Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia or Hong Kong. What we would prefer - a financial situation that is a little more comfortable than the one we can have in Melbourne on 2 teaching wages (private sector so slightly better pay than state). This could mean only one of us working but getting housing included - a situation that is conducive to the fact that we will have one small child (baby due soon) We've both been to KL and travelled reasonably extensively in Indonesia. We have some contacts in Jakarta. I've spent a day in Singapore and neither of us have been to Hong Kong. We'd appreciate info on lifestyle, housing costs and the kinds of packages one is likely to get from an international school.

Assume that we are fairly confident of getting a job if a suitable school exists. He's British but also has Australian teaching experience. I'm Australian with British and International School experience. I previously lived and worked in Istanbul.
posted by jojobobo to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help personally, but a good website for this is They can be kind of cynical, but there's a lot of info there.
posted by Comet Bug at 5:26 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I signed up for "TIEonline" and there's another ISS ( site as well. I have googled around a bit as well, and the general consensus is that Saudi and related schools have the best pay and packages followed by possibly Hong Kong and Taiwan. I'm sure both have related message boards as well. Such as this and this.
posted by bquarters at 6:00 PM on January 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I can only speak with specific personal knowledge to the living situation in Hong Kong but many of the large, top-tier international schools in East and Southeast Asia (ISB, CIS, HKIS, TAS, ASIJ, SAS, ISKL) have similar benefits packages for teachers. At a specific top-tier international school in Hong Kong, compensation runs between 70- 85,000 USD per year with reduced insurance, including housing or allowance and tuition waivers for your children. Hong Kong is an expensive city in terms of housing and schooling although other costs (tax is 15-17% which is a GREAT deal for you if you guys are Australians overseas...) like food and entertainment are lower. Having spent time living in both Australia and Hong Kong, I am comfortable saying that although housing prices are substantially higher than in Australia (yes, really! haha), the rest of my life is 30-40% cheaper in Hong Kong.

There are large hiring fairs dedicated to recruiting international school teachers. I think that is your best bet of being hired if you aren't local and don't have a personal relationship with schools.
posted by hellomiss at 6:02 PM on January 5, 2014

(To be absolutely clear, I am ONLY talking about top tier international schools. Compensation at smaller or more 'local' international schools is markedly lower in these markets.)
posted by hellomiss at 6:04 PM on January 5, 2014

Response by poster: Just to be clear, we're looking mostly for generic comparison info on expat life in these countries and additionally, some info about school packages. Thanks for the answers so far.
posted by jojobobo at 8:55 PM on January 5, 2014

My information is somewhat dated. I lived in Hong Kong in the late 80s early 90s, and I actually when to Hong Kong International School which was my favorite school of the 100 schools I seemed to attend as a nomadic kid. Hong Kong also happens to be in my top 2 or 3 cities in the world. The others being San Francisco and Prague. I have been to all the countries you have listed except Malaysia in the last 10 years. Hong Kong is by far my favorite. Indonesia my least favorite. When I was in high school I got the low down from the other ex-pats on all these countries. Anyway, my vote is Hong Kong. Singapore and Hong Kong are both quite western and you should feel comfortable there. My experience and that of my friends always was that Singapore while lovely, clean, orderly and has excellent food is totally boring - very very boring. Indonesia (I've spent time in Jakarta and Bali) was just too crazy for me, very chaotic and dirty and that's coming from someone who lived in Hong Kong. Anyway, maybe it's worth taking a visit to Hong Kong.
posted by ill3 at 9:10 PM on January 5, 2014

My experience and that of my friends always was that Singapore while lovely, clean, orderly and has excellent food is totally boring - very very boring.

Singapore has become pretty "exciting" in the recent years though, depending on what you consider excitement; a lot more concerts, shows, nightlife, etc. Most of these are geared towards the well-heeled international crowd who visit the casinos and stuff.

As such its also quite expensive; the cost of living here has been increasing tremendously and is causing a lot of complaints and unhappiness amongst the citizens. It might not be that bad by Western standards though. The government is very friendly towards foreigners working and living here so that can be a plus. I don't really know much more about expat experience here, unfortunately, but if you have any more generic questions about Singapore I'd be glad to answer them.

posted by destrius at 8:37 AM on January 6, 2014

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