Some of you are going to be familiar with the idea of teaching overseas - you may have done so in the past or you might be doing it right now. Other readers may have no idea about the concept and could be wondering why anyone in their right mind would ever want to teach abroad, let alone in Kuwait.
Whether you're a newly qualified teacher, have decades of experience in the classroom, or are working abroad as a teacher at this very minute, this article is for you. We're going to cover the basics of teaching abroad, summarize the pros and cons of working in Kuwait (including why it's an often-overlooked option), and take a look at the various opportunities that teaching overseas can bring to your career as well as your personal life.
Teaching Abroad 101
So what's teaching abroad all about? Well, private international schools are growing at an astounding rate. These schools use various curriculums which are generally based on American or British educational standards. Some schools are pure American or British curriculum catering to American and British expatriate students while others cater to a mix of students and/or utilize a modified version of the standard curriculum. You can learn everything you need to know about the different types of international schools (and who usually attends them) at this link. Naturally, these schools are private and often demand high tuition fees, thus requiring experienced American or British teachers (yep, that's you) to deliver the best education possible.
The bottom line? There's a high demand for qualified and capable teachers to work abroad, and there's a full spectrum of positions available in all subjects, at all grade levels, and for teachers of all experience levels - just like in your home country. You can see all of our teaching job vacancies in Kuwait to learn more.
If you asked the average person to tell you a little bit about Kuwait, they'll probably have a hard time answering. From "Isn't it in the middle of a desert?" to "It's a poor, war-torn country that exports a lot of oil" or "It's hot, it's dry, and they ride camels all day". You might even hear about how "It's a poor, war-torn Muslim country somewhere in the Middle East, in the middle of a scorching-hot desert full of oil rigs, terrorists, sandstorms, and poor people who ride around on camels all day". The truth is, most people don't know much about Kuwait - and it's not their fault, nor is it your fault if you're in the same boat. We're going to help clear everything up and give you a much better understanding about this lesser-known destination.
Yes, Kuwait is hot. It also has a lot of desert and it even has camels. But there's much more to Kuwait; it is an interesting and welcoming country full of culture, history, and plenty of opportunity. Let's cover some of the most basic questions (and/or assumptions) first.
Is Kuwait Poor?
First of all, no country is perfect. But from an economical standpoint, Kuwait comes very close. Per capita, Kuwait is one of the wealthiest countries in the world due to its small but powerful petroleum-based economy. The Kuwaiti Dinar is the national currency and it's the highest-valued unit of currency in the world - worth more than the Dollar, Euro, or the British Pound. Kuwait also maintains a large focus on finance, acting as a major financial lender, advisor, and leader to other countries around the region. Furthermore, working as a teacher in Kuwait means you'll be paid in the national currency (tax-free), giving you plenty of leverage on global exchange rates and plenty of spending power in the region if you plan on taking weekend trips.
Is Kuwait Purely Desert?
Located on the Northeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula and mostly covered by flat sandy desert, Kuwait is one of the smallest countries in the world in terms of land mass. It does, however, boast more than 310 miles of coastline. Yes, the summers are extremely hot but it's a dry heat and there are plenty of water activities to engage in. If swimming, diving and water parks aren't your thing, you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of air-conditioned museums, art galleries, cinemas, cafes, and shopping plazas to pass the time. Kuwait's 3.9 Million square-foot shopping mall, The Avenues, is the largest in the Middle East with over 1,200 world-class stores and a variety of events and activities to pursue. Nearly any activity you can imagine, from bowling and golf to indoor paintball and rock climbing - it's all available in Kuwait.
Is Kuwait Boring?
This question is largely subjective and depends on your lifestyle, intentions, and reasons for going to Kuwait. If your goal is to have some time alone while banking money and learning about new cultures, Kuwait could be the perfect teaching destination for you. If you're introverted, read a lot, are into arts and theater, or love to shop, you'll feel fine here. In contrast, if you enjoy mountain biking, scuba diving, camping in the desert, or taking short weekend trips, you'll also do just fine. First and foremost, you're here to teach and make money. What you do with your free time is only limited by your energy level and imagination. There are plenty of new experiences to be had in Kuwait.
Is Kuwait Dangerous?
Kuwait is generally very safe with low crime rates, with violent crimes against travelers being extremely rare. With that said, it's important to practice the same safety rules you'd use in any part of the world, including your home country. Being aware of your surroundings, avoiding questionable areas, and a having general sense of caution go a long way in keeping you safe. Women should avoid walking alone at night in isolated and poorly lit areas. Kuwait has only had a single instance of terrorism since 2005, which took place during Ramadan and wasn't targeting foreigners. In reality, the most dangerous parts about Kuwait is actually driving - Kuwaiti drivers have a general disregard for safety and the rules of the road and Kuwait has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the world.
Is Kuwaiti Culture Restrictive?
The answer to this is yes, and no. Kuwait is the least strict country in the Middle East, however, it still holds deeply conservative values. While clothing standards are somewhat relaxed, women should avoid dressing provocatively - both for safety and respect to cultural standards. Alcohol is illegal in Kuwait but that doesn't mean it's non-existent. Keep in mind, anyone who is found to be drunk in public or in possession of alcohol faces serious legal penalties. It's important to do your homework regarding local laws, religion, and culturally acceptable behaviors before embarking on your travels. familiarize yourself with the basics, practice them, and you'll run no risk of surprises. Many westerners are quite surprised at how "western", welcoming, and educated Kuwaitis actually are.
Salary and Benefits
There are many reasons why Kuwait is a great place for international teachers. First and foremost, the salary is tax-free and the benefits package is excellent. A typical benefits package consists of free flights, free housing, paid utilities, medical insurance, transportation to/from school, end-of-contract bonuses, and tuition allowances for children. It's also a country whose international schools are very open to hiring newly qualified teachers, and the competition in that bracket is negligible. In fact, Kuwait is an excellent stepping stone for new teachers interested in working internationally. It's also one of the only countries in the world with private international schools willing to offer 1-year contracts whereas other countries usually require a minimum 2-year contract.
Adventure, Excitement, and Time Alone
Aside from the salary and benefits, remember that you're ging to be immersed in a completely new culture. Kuwaiti people are generally very friendly and welcoming, however, the vast majority of the population is non-Kuwaiti and a whopping 70% of people are actually expatriates. The upside to this is a diverse system where you'll see and meet people from all over the world, whether they're your neighbor, a cafe owner, or your fellow teachers. It also means there's an abundance of expatriate groups and events, something that can't be said for the ever-popular cities of the UAE like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. There are sports groups, book clubs, women's organizations, and much more - specifically dedicated to expats - to become a part of, pass the time, and make you feel at ease.
It's More Fulfilling
Kuwait offers world-class technology, healthcare and infrastructure. With that said, it's not a place where you'll see a skyline exhibiting massive arrangements of jaw-dropping abstract superstructures, nor does it have the extremely luxurious "wow factor" that can be found in Dubai. The good news is Kuwait's a more genuine country and you'll have a much easier time meeting like-minded people outside of work. Also, while Dubai offers much glitz and glamour, many teachers (and other foreign contract workers) report that it's greatly lacking in anything resembling of tradition and although it's visually impressive, it can leave you feeling quite empty and alone. Kuwait City also costs less than Dubai, giving you a better chance to save money (which surely you should be able to do considering your main costs of living such as rent/utilities/healthcare are included in your benefits package).
Saving Money.... Lots of it!
Speaking of money, let's take a step back. It's critical to understand that your only real expenses while teaching in Kuwait are food, entertainment and personal items. It doesn't take a genius to realize you can bank some serious cash, yet many people don't consider this enough, nor do they understand it clearly and properly.
Let's say you're considering a teaching job in Kuwait, but the salary is $10k USD lower than the same position in your home country; that's a big turn-off, right? Wrong - and there's a quick exercise you can do to make it clear as day. Simply sit down for a few minutes with a pen and paper and add up one year's worth of expenses. This includes your rent, utilities (electric, gas, water, garbage service, internet, cable TV), car payments, car insurance, gasoline, vehicle registration, and all the other related costs of living - excluding food and entertainment. Chances are the number on your piece of paper already exceeds $10,000. But wait, there's more. Now subtract the amount of your pay that goes to local, state, and federal taxes. You might find that $20,000 of your annual salary goes to these various expenses while at home, yet they're non-existent when living and teaching in Kuwait. Therefore, the cash savings potential is enormous. Whether you prefer to spend it on traveling and living lavishly or banking it all to return home with, it can't be denied that this alone makes Kuwait an extremely attractive option.
Personal and Professional Growth
What's more is that there are numerous personal and professional benefits to teaching and living abroad. You'll make lifelong friendships with great people, see sights you'd otherwise never see, and partake in events and activities that you'd never dreamed of yourself doing. The experience of living in a different part of the world will both humble you and make you a more grateful individual. You'll also come to see that not all stereotypes are true and that for the most part, people are people no matter where you go. Not only will you open the door to further opportunities teaching abroad due to your international experience, but you'll have an easier time advancing in rank should you decide to stay in the international realm of teaching for more than a couple years. Even if you decide to return home after a single contract, that international experience is permanently on your resume and it speaks volumes to future employers about your strengths, courage, and willingness to face (and conquer) challenges. One of our previous articles, The Top 10 Reasons for Teaching Abroad is very helpful in providing some insight about the various benefits of teaching abroad.
Think About It..
If you're thinking that this might be something you're interested in pursuing, there's a lot more that you can learn about Kuwait. The Wikipedia page of Kuwait is a great starting point for the basics. Additionally, this video offers a beautiful glimpse into the beauty of Kuwait, and although it's a tourism advertisement by Kuwait Airlines, it's 10 minutes well spent to get a visual understanding of the infrastructure, facilities, and opportunities that await you. You can also see our #KuwaitWeek posts here, where we share some interesting facts and information on a variety of things all related to Kuwait.
As the title says, "Why Aren't You Teaching There?" It might be the best decision you've ever made. Kuwait is an honest, solid, and respectable option for teaching abroad and we're here to help make it your reality. For more information, register with us today. You've got nothing to lose and everything to gain - including a camel ride in the scorching hot desert.