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Living in Saudi Arabia: what’s your number?

My old English teaching friend and I have been talking about various options for where to move after Korea. I really could move to literally almost any country in the world because everyone seems to want a reasonably well-qualified and experienced English teacher. Except the only problem is that the places that are the most fabulous to live (ie: Thailand, Costa Rica, Eastern Europe) pay the least and are pretty weak on the benefits. While other places that are most definitely less than stellar, especially for women (the Middle East) pay outrageous amounts in order to attract people there. And then there are places in the middle (like Korea), which are not the easiest places to live, but you’re free to just kind of do whatever you want and the laws against women/gay people/foreigners are not overly restrictive in any way.

Anyway, my friend is thinking of moving to Saudi and we were talking about what our “number” is. That is, the amount of money which we’d have to get paid to consider moving somewhere terrible. His was around 50 000 US, tax free and with free housing. Mine was a total package of 90 000 US/year. Or maybe around 80 000 and then free housing included.

Why is mine so high? Because I have a significant amount of money in the bank (thank you bull market!) and I’m not really willing to give up so much in terms of the lifestyle I want to have just for money. In my world, money = freedom. Freedom to choose a job that doesn’t necessarily pay the highest salary. Freedom to not work for a few months or year or two. And it feels good and like those years where I lived frugally paying off my students loans were most definitely worth it.

What will my future hold? It’s up in the air in terms of jobs and work, or lack of it, but I do know that I have choices. A lot of them. And that while money will be a factor, it’s not the top one.


  1. My friends that I have there are all making over $100,000/year, free housing, amazing benefits, etc. They’re not ESL teachers, though.

  2. Reading all I have about foreigners in Saudi Arabia has scared me, even worse for woman. I dont think you should go at even 150k imo. If you do it would have to be a very short period of time to mitigate risk. think of it like a risky stock investment. Saudi Arabia is the high flying tech stock in my eyes. Where safe places to work are the dividend aristocrats of the world! Well thats my take on things!

    Good Day and Grind On!

  3. Cary Bertoncini

    I’ve actually read more horror stories about teaching jobs in Korea than I have about teaching jobs in KSA.

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