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Teaching in the Middle East – what to expect with your employment package

Middle Eastern Schools almost always provide housing as part of the employment package, as housing is very expensive. Housing is usually an apartment that is hard furnished with a bed, dresser, table and chairs etc. Soft furnishings such as cutlery and dishes may or may not be provided, but are not expensive to buy. Utilities are very cheap, and again may or may not be included in your employment package. Annual return flights will also be included.

Contracts are usually 2-3 years. Shorter term contracts are not often available because of the high cost to the school of procuring a work permit. Schools generally prefer to amortise this cost over more than one year. We do not have one year teaching contracts in any Middle Eastern country except for Kuwait.

Most salaries are tax-free, which is not a concept that is familiar to most western teachers! To compare the tax-free salary to your own, remember to look at your take home pay, minus the cost of rent/mortgage, utilities and real estate/council taxes. Most single teachers find that they can live quite comfortably on a tax-free package of £1000 per month.

The provided housing may not be suitable for a family, and is usually never suitable for more than 2 dependents (including non-teaching spouse and dependent children) per teacher. However, concessions may be made for teaching couples. Whilst some schools will provide a housing stipend in lieu of housing, it is usually no more than the cost of a studio apartment and often less. If your partner has procured a post in this region, and his/her employment package includes housing then you are in luck but don’t expect the school to offer you money in lieu of the housing benefit.

Schools in this area are purpose built and usually quite new. The school leaders might be western ex-pats or experienced local educators but in any case working in a Middle Eastern school usually requires patience and acceptance of the many cultural differences between the east and west.

Do you have dependents?

Schools usually provide discounted tuition to children of teachers, but it is almost never free. Typically, they offer a discount of 25-33% which makes it very difficult for teachers who are the sole breadwinners who have dependent children.

Unmarried partners

Unmarried partners can present problems for teachers wishing to relocate to this area especially when there are dependent children. We do not recommend this area to female teachers with unmarried partners and dependent children unless she has a sole custody of the children and her partner has his own work authorisation. You will also not be able to live with your partner if you are not married. Make sure you discuss your personal situation with your consultant so we can best advise you.

About the region

The region boasts stunning scenery from its beautiful coastline and beaches, mountains, hot pools, giant sand dunes, waterfall. The Middle East continue to grow in leaps and bounds with its thriving cities, architecture and towers all while keeping their incredible culture.

  • Regions: Arabian Peninsula, Arabian Gulf, Eastern Mediterranean (Near East)
  • Countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan & Occupied territories of Palestine
  • Language: Arabic, English, dialects of Sub continent
  • Religion: Islam (expatriate Christian, Hindu, Buddhist)
  • Language: Arabic, English, dialects of Sub continent
  • Currency: Variable; no common currency to date
  • Climate: Hot humid summer 40C; mild pleasant winters

Culture and history

There are some fantastic archaeological sites waiting to be explored in the Middle East including forts and Roman ruins all showing the Middle East’s exciting and interesting past. Each country has its own unique culture and history, all the while sharing the same religion and language.

What is the climate like?

The climate of the Middle East is quite varied. Summers in the south of the Gulf are hot and muggy with temperatures in excess of 40°C and humidity in excess of 70%, but in the north of the Gulf such as in Kuwait, the climate is dry making temperatures more tolerable. The best time of the year is from October to April; the winter months are ideal for outdoor activities whether they be in the desert or in the sun. There are even snow fields in the Near East making for great skiing in Lebanon. You can even ski in the summer in Ski Dubai in the UAE.

What kind of activities can I do while I am there?

The variety of landscapes is perfect to experience a fantastic range of outdoor activities. The desert and mountains are perfect for the adventurous with activities such as dune and wadi bashing, rock climbing, abseiling, hiking, sand skiing, dune buggying, caving and camping. The Arabian Gulf is a haven for divers and snorkelers, as well as fisherman, windsurfers and boating. There are plenty of sporting and expatriate groups.

Shopping and eating are two very popular past times in the Middle East. These can be done in anything from traditional souks to shopping malls that have everything from restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, cinemas, hotels and bars.

The restaurants in the Middle East are fantastic and offer a lot of choice, from the traditional eateries, to Chinese, Indian as well as the western fast food joints such as McDonalds and Burger King.

Drinking alcohol in the Middle East

Some parts of the Middle East are dry, meaning that the sale and consumption of alcohol is forbidden. There are many hotels whether they are resort spas, city based, or beach front 5 star establishments that all boast a great range of restaurants and bars.

Nightlife varies from country to country, there are belly dancing clubs in Egypt, coffee houses in Syria, nightclubs in Bahrain, traditional English pubs in Abu Dhabi, sports bars in Dubai, hotel bars in Oman and pop concerts and music festivals in the UAE.

In dry countries you will usually find a lively expat social scene, and you will probably save more money at the end of the day. Although alcohol and a cosmopolitan lifestyle are freely available in most countries, one must remember where they are, as there are pretty tough punishments for alcohol related offenses. New expatriates can sometimes suffer from a false sense of security not realising that they are guests in an Islamic country.

However, it is not all about alcohol and clubs. Places like Al Ain, Fujairah and Oman offer lifestyles that are better suited to the outdoor type and families looking for a quieter existence instead of dancing the night away in nightclubs.

Age restrictions

Almost all Middle East countries have age restrictions, some will have restrictions on children born out of wedlock as well as a wife’s ability to sponsor the residency of her spouse, and all have different rules on what teaching qualifications are acceptable. But do not worry we take this into account during our matching process.

Is it safe?

Safety and security are topmost on the minds of many potential expatriates. We have all seen news footage of women in black habiyas, unable to drive or leave home without an escort. However, this is an exception and extreme case of what you will find in the Middle East. All countries of the Middle East and Near East are very safe and accepting of western expatriates, provided they show respect for their religion and traditions.

The crime rate in most Middle Eastern countries is very low and women are allowed to drive and walk unescorted. In general, as with travelling abroad anywhere, it is important to be aware of and respect the culture and sensibilities of your new host country. Many countries in the Middle East have restrictions on couples living together who are not married, and many are not accepting of homosexuality.

Where can I go for my holidays and weekends away?

Being based in the Middle East is an ideal stepping stone for exciting weekends away and exotic holidays in places that you never though you would experience. Imagine checking out Cairo and the pyramids for the weekend, or spending a few days on the Red Sea Coast, or driving to Oman to camp from your base in the UAE. Expats in Kuwait, despite an awesome social life can fly down to Bahrain or Dubai for the beer and the clubs. Further afield there are some great vacation ideas. Places like India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the Seychelles are only a few hours away. Further out, but still very feasible are countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.