If you’ve been following me, my talk about Saudi Arabia might make you think you should teach English in Saudi Arabia as well. Despite the bad news, naysayers and constant stream of dire predictions, a lot of people are getting on well here. Saudi offers good salaries, zero tax, and free housing. You can have a nice ex-pat life, and it is possible to find a group of friends and activities.

The question is not really, “Will it work for me?” The more important question is: “How can I make it work?”

Teach English somewhere, anywhere

One solution might be to MAKE A TEST RUN. Before you give up your home, sign a two-year contract, and move halfway across the world, consider looking for shorter-term jobs to get a taste of life in the Middle East.I thought I might not be able to handle teaching in Saudi Arabia, so I first took a six-month contract in the United Arab Emirates. I tried the Arab world without giving up my job back home. It worked out better than I expected. A few years later when I was looking for a job, I decided I could teach in Saudi Arabia.

I suggest registering with tefl.com. It takes time to put in all your information, but you can then apply for jobs with just a click of the mouse.

Lots of jobs are posted on Dave’s ESL Café as well. Check the international job board.

Take time to get it right

Don’t rush into it: TAKE TIME AND FIND A GOOD JOB. Check the listings and agencies regularly and don’t jump at the first job offer. It’s best to apply for several jobs. You are in a stronger position if you have different offers coming in. Ask them straight up in the interview if everyone has always been paid on time, and if everyone has a multiple exit/re-entry visa to get out of the country whenever they need it. Any hesitation on these two points means you don’t want the job.

Don’t participate in Saudi Arabia

More importantly, DEMAND TO LIVE ON A COMPOUND. People I know on compounds are happier. You have an ex-pat infrastructure and will have an easier time making friends and finding activities. You will also be free from Saudi dress code and fraternization rules, and not be victimized by everything closing for prayer calls.

Saudi cities are run-down, garbage strewn dustbowls. There is nowhere to walk and no interesting shops, cafés or restaurants. If you’re like me, when you first get here you will explore the city, hoping to discover interesting places. There mostly aren’t any. It might sound cynical, but you will probably happier is you don’t leave the bubble of your compound.

Why do you want to teach English in Saudi Arabia anyway?

Most importantly, DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE. Saudi is great for people studying for a Master’s, paying off debts or a mortgage, or those who want more money to travel the world. The experience can be great for your CV. You need to remember why you are here so that when it is driving you crazy you can check in with your goals. You will also know when you have what you need from it and can go home.

There’s always the threat here that something might go wrong and you have to leave. People get fired for random reasons while complete buffoons stay here and teach for a decade or more.

My personal goal was to save enough money that I could take a job anywhere in the world at any price for the next two years. The money is in the bank, and I am just waiting for my end of service bonus. Oh yeah, if you teach English in Saudi Arabia for more than two years, they owe you half a month’s salary for each year you’ve completed. That’s a pretty nice way to finish your stay here.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.