OARs / Traveling Wisely?

Tutoring in Asia: Is it for you?

Expats:  think about the moment when you made the decision to pack up all your things, say goodbye to your friends and loved ones, and leave familiarity of your home country and culture to journey off to a new life in a foreign land.  That’s a major life decision that you don’t just make overnight.  What’s so appealing that you are willing to not simply step outside of your zone of comfort,  but make a gigantic leap?  For the two of us, the unknown wonders of the world are incredibly intriguing and seductive, creating a pull on us too strong to run in the opposite direction.

Remember when you booked your ticket?  The inner dialogue for us went something like this:  “You’ve done it.  You’ve done one of the most terrifying things you’ve ever had to do and you booked that ticket.  At this point, it’s pretty hard to see what lies beyond this small piece of paper that reads ‘one way ticket,'”  That’s part of the beauty of the lifestyle of an expat- it’s hard to predict your future.  If it wasn’t already a part of your personality, you’re beginning to develop a ‘go with the flow’ attitude, and it’s extremely liberating.

Conscience: “But, wait, that’s incredibly appealing and all, but, damn, what do I do with this skyscraper-high pile of debt blocking my view?  I should probably ensure I have jobs lined up and money flowing in ASAP.” This is obviously the less glamorous side of living abroad.  Ensuring you can afford your permanent vacation.  Prior to our arrival in Taiwan, we had our English teaching jobs already in place.  Unfortunately, for us, this wasn’t enough.  But, even if it were, we’d still be interested in making some extra cash to stack into our savings.

A permanent vacation AND a growing savings account?  You can have your cake and eat it too!

Why you should tutor

In Taiwan, native speaking English teachers have been reported to be among the top earners in the country.  In comparison to the standard of living, we are pretty well off.  However, that goes with a grain of salt.  For one, it depends on whether you are paid hourly or have a salary.  Salary positions usually include a kindergarten teaching position, where you are at school for 8,10, sometimes 12 hours a day.  Friends of ours in this position have admitted that in comparison to the amount of hours they put in, they aren’t getting enough pay.  Getting paid hourly has its complications as well.  If your school needs to cut hours and slashes your weekly teaching time to 16 hours, or when there are government holidays (some potentially as long as 10 days such as Chinese New Year) then a reasonable monthly check is not guaranteed.  Notice I said monthly, not biweekly, so you have to be damn good at budgeting.  Sure, you can probably get by in these circumstances, but you can toss your savings dream out the window.

One of the many perks of teaching in Asia is the high pay compared to low cost of living.  But, if it’s not necessarily guaranteed, how do you go about making more money in a land that speaks Mandarin Chinese, or any other unfamiliar language for that matter?  If you aren’t already fluent in the language (Chinese is almost impossible, in my opinion), your options are limited.

That’s when the call of tutoring rings sweetly in your ear.  In Asia, not only is education and studying-your-freaking-ass-off-until-you-get-100-on-your-next-quiz number one in mostly all parents eyes, but learning English and telling everyone about it might be just as, if not more, important.  This has been happening in Asia for years now, and those who have money will put forth every last dime to support their children in learning English so they can eventually be accepted in an Ivy league school and carry on the family name with pride and dignity.  It’s obviously every parent’s dream to see their kids succeed, but, here, there’s no alternative.

That being said, you should have no problem, whatsoever, finding interested students.  In my experience, this is a better alternative than sucking up every hour you can get in the school you work for.  Simply put, you can make more money (sometimes much more) and are paid under the table.  On top of these amazing factors, as an alternative of the constant disciplining and maintaining the attention of a classroom of 10-20 (sometimes more) children, you only have to focus your energy on one.  It’s almost like the cool down of your day.

Why you shouldn’t tutor

Now, we have above, and will below, explained/will explain the benefits of tutoring.  But, we must also acknowledge something: tutoring in many countries in Asia, including Taiwan, is considered illegal.  Why?  Well, this is the case because when you sign on to gain a work visa, you are only entitled, via said work visa, to work and gain money from the assigned company, school, etc.  Tutoring outside of this company, school, etc. is, therefore, considered illegal.  This is something you should always keep in mind when you make the decision to, or not to, tutor.  Some countries may seem and/or be a little more lenient on things like tutoring.  Others may not be.  So, our advice is to just talk to people who have been living in your new land for a while and get a feel for what they think about the whole situation before jumping right in.

How to find students

To find students, you can go about this either by word of mouth or through websites geared towards connecting private students and teachers.  Both options have proven successful for us.  Here are two websites that have worked for us:

MYU: http://myu.com.tw.  This website is solely for tutoring and teaching purposes.  Therefore, it is an often used and useful site for those looking to attain students.

Tealit: http://tealit.com/.  This does not produce as many results as the previous website.  It’s comparable to craigslist.com in that they provide listings for not only tutoring, but also finding apartments, purchasing goods, etc.  As a result, it is not as effective.  However, it may be worth your time to make a profile for both websites, especially if you need multiple students.

Words of advice

– NEVER accept less money than what your school is paying you.  That’s a waste of your time.  Plus, you’ll be traveling to these people.

– Kids are the best students to have.  The main reason being they’re consistent.  They don’t have a choice.  Their parents will make them attend your sessions.  They want their kids to excel above their peers.  It’s guaranteed money.  Just make sure the kid likes you- you most likely won’t have anyone breathing down your neck about quickly moving through lessons, so have fun with them and play a lot of games.  It will make your time go much faster.

– Be careful of businessmen.  They can be appealing.  They have money which they don’t mind handing to you and all they want to do each session is have a conversation.  These are, by far, the easiest students.  It is like a friend inviting you to coffee and then giving you a nice (innocent!) sum at the end of your outing.  This all sounds nearly perfect, right?  The biggest problem:  you may only see these students once a month instead of the once a week session you had originally agreed upon.  Businessmen are constantly caught at work too late or voyaging off on the next business trip that happens all too frequently.  They just simply can’t be relied on in terms of being consistent.

– Older women are pretty trustworthy.  They typically like a routine and really like someone to chat with.  This is probably the better option, surpassing the businessmen, because you’ll most likely still be sought as a ‘conversation enhancer.’  Whether they are interested in picking up their language skills for their job, a hobby, their kids, or just for the hell of it, chances are they already understand the foundation of the language.  You are simply there to help maintain it and teach them some cool things to chat about.  The older students provide a great learning opportunity for you, too.  You can learn about their history and culture from their perspective.  Then, be entertained as you ask for their opinion of your own culture.

We can’t speak for all, but many of us English teachers have some time to spare throughout the week and could easily pick up a tutoring session or two.  It’s an extremely easy way to save up some cash for your next adventure.  Or, if you’re like us, an opportunity to pay off that awful and unfair student loan debt!

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Thoughts? Sites or advice to add?  Comment below:

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2 thoughts on “Tutoring in Asia: Is it for you?

  1. Tutoring and getting paid under the table may be ok in Taiwan, I don’t know. But in the mainland, it’s not at all a good idea….ticket straight to deportation. Especially now that the new visa laws are in place, that are a direct response to so many foreigners breaking the law. Doing things the legal way really is the best.

  2. Pingback: Being Frugal Isn’t All That Bad… | Internationally In Debt

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