Where to Teach English When You Retire: Breathtaking Places Around the Globe
By Maricela Breedlove February 1, 2021
Some people think that teaching English is a young person’s game. But the truth is, the demographic of who’s teaching abroad is changing as people hit retirement age and start thinking, “Now what?” Let’s explore some of the best options for those wondering where to teach English when you retire.
Many schools value mature and experienced teachers, especially those with a relevant background, such as in education or a field that could be applicable in teaching specialized classes (Business English or English for Tourism, for example).
Latin America, in particular, is open to hiring teachers of all ages. However, in other regions, like Asia, you will find that as a teacher, you’re subject to the countries’ rules for retirement age and the related visa requirements. Make sure to research these specific regulations in the countries where you want to find employment and focus your job hunt on markets you’re eligible to work in.
What makes a location a good fit for retirees to teach English?
Before deciding where this new exciting chapter in life will take you, there are a few significant things to consider,
All teaching locations are not equal when it comes to getting hired abroad as a retiree. Some countries have visa restrictions or just “unwritten rules” that can make it harder for older teachers to get hired. Others welcome retirees and even make living abroad easier for them. With that in mind, here are the most important factors to consider when choosing where to teach English abroad in retirement:
Affordability: Research the location’s cost of living, taking currency conversions into consideration, and compare it to your monthly budget. Consider what you’ll be paid in your new teaching position, as well as the costs of travel if you plan to return home on a regular basis.
English teaching opportunities: While a location may seem like the perfect fit in every sense of the word, whether or not you’ll be able to work here depends on the demand for English teachers, the country’s hiring practices, and the pay rate you’re willing to work for.
Visa Requirements: Every country has its own requirements in order to enter, work, and gain residency. Take the time to thoroughly research what is needed for a visa, and be organized when it comes to preparing any necessary paperwork!
Healthcare: Available and reliable healthcare is a critical factor when it comes to choosing where to teach English when you retire. It is especially important if you have any underlying medical conditions or medications you’ll need to have access to.
Weather: Often overlooked because of pleasant weather at certain times of the year, make sure you’re prepared to live in your chosen location year-round!
In retirement, Michael Smith teaches English in Ecuador.
Ecuador: An affordable and charming place to live in retirement, the need for English teachers is as strong here as anywhere in South America. Choose a coastal city like the bustling port of Guayaquil or a cool, colonial mountain town such as Cuenca, which has become a hotspot for expats. You can read about Bridge graduate Michael’s experience teaching in Ecuador in retirement here!
Mexico: With its close proximity to the US, low cost of living, and diversity, Mexico is a popular destination for TEFL/TESOL teachers and expat retirees alike. You can choose to live near the beautiful beaches or lush mountains and enjoy the amazing cuisine and warm culture. Mexico’s healthcare system is also among the best in the world, and retirees can benefit from multiple discounts as senior citizens. There are no age restrictions for teachers here, so you can teach for as long as you want.
Panama: This is a country with a strong infrastructure, including high-quality and affordable healthcare in the capital, Panama City. The government really welcomes retirees in Panama, offering pensionados (retirees with a lifetime pension) breaks on things like utilities, meals at restaurants, and even flights. This, alone, makes it one of the best countries to teach English for seniors. Also, English is widely spoken, and the dollar is used here, making the transition abroad easier.
Colombia: This is a country whose image is improving by the minute, and with that comes a resurgence in tourists, TEFL/TESOL teachers, and expat retirees. Many English teaching jobs are in big cities like Bogotá or the slightly more manageable “City of Eternal Spring,” Medellín, but there are also opportunities in coastal towns like Cartagena and Barranquilla, too. The people in Colombia are known for their warm, welcoming nature, and the Spanish spoken here is some of the clearest for the Western ear to understand.
Joseph is an English teacher who teaches in Parma, Italy in retirement.
Czech Republic: Offering the perfect mix of classic and modern Europe, there is no shortage of culture or things to do here. Located in Central Europe, the opportunity for additional travel and adventure is vast. Since being admitted into the European Union, the demand for English teachers has grown exponentially throughout the country, but especially in Prague.
Spain: With some of the most beautiful weather in Europe, Spain is very popular among retirees and expats. The cost of living in Spain is not as high as in other European countries, and there’s a wide variety of places where you can settle. From small villages to big cities to stunning coastal locations, there is no shortage of places to live and explore. The demand for English teachers is high here because of the country’s proximity to English-speaking countries and the large expat community.
Italy: Repeatedly regarded as one of the best places to live/retire, teaching in Italy has many perks. Rich history, wonderful food, and an opportunity to take advantage of the state-run, world-class healthcare system makes it hard to find any downsides to teaching English here. The cost of living is reasonable when residing outside of the larger cities, which is okay because of Italy’s large public transportation system. As Joseph, who taught in Italy in retirement, writes, teaching in Italy can be a real dream!
France: Though more expensive than some of its neighbors, with a higher cost of living comes the potential for a higher-paying teaching job. Therefore, it is possible to find a place to teach and live in this European country that is within your budget as a retiree, especially since living expenses vary pretty widely throughout the country. As English continues to be the primary language in business, English teachers are in high demand here.
Retiree Alan Tomko teaches English in China.
It’s worth mentioning that most Asian countries have a mandatory retirement age of 60 or 65, but it’s still very possible to teach here after retirement. You’ll just have to be selective and do your research on each company’s requirements.
Thailand/Cambodia: These two countries are lumped together not only because they are neighbors but because Thailand can be somewhat stricter as far as upper age limitations for teachers (usually 60, with exceptions), making Cambodia a great second choice. Both countries have plenty to offer in retirement, including an exotic culture very different from home, friendly people (Thailand is called the “Land of Smiles”), warm weather, and a very low cost of living. English teaching jobs abound in either country!
China: Not only are teachers highly respected in this popular teaching destination, but they’re also highly paid. EFL teachers working at schools in China can expect lucrative salaries in addition to added benefits like free housing and flight reimbursements. Even if you’re not working at a private language institute, the average TEFL/TESOL salary is also high — EFL teachers can expect a range of about $1,500 to $2,000 USD per month. For more insight, Bridge TEFL/TESOL graduate, Alan, taught in China in retirement and wrote about his experience.
Vietnam: Ranked as one of the best places to retire in 2021 by International Living Magazine, Vietnam has beautiful beaches, inland mountains, and incredible food. With its rich history and no shortage of cities to explore, it’s easy to see why people are flocking here for retirement. The TEFL/TESOL job market is booming, with jobs available at large Vietnamese language schools. Or, you can work for yourself as a private teacher.
Indonesia: Located in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is a tropical country with a delightfully warm climate, not to mention beautiful destinations like Bali and the culturally rich capital of Jakarta. Continually voted one of the best places to retire, the expat community is vast, and English is widely spoken here. The cost of living is also very low, making it a perfect option for retirees.
Malaysia: Malaysia is the third-largest economy in Southeast Asia, and as such, English teachers are in high demand here! Teachers can find jobs in both public and private schools, as well as language institutes, and can expect to earn around $1,500 USD per month plus accommodation and other benefits. Many teachers who work in Malaysia wind up teaching in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of the country, or in the Sabah or Penang states, which both feature stunning beaches.
Teach English online from anywhere as a digital nomad!
If your dream destination doesn’t happen to be one of the best countries to teach English for seniors or you want to travel frequently, then teaching English online as a digital nomad is the perfect solution for you! Your time will be yours to travel, spend with family, or start some new hobbies. While the term digital nomad may sound complicated, it simply means being location-independent and relying solely on the Internet to conduct your work.
Working as a digital nomad has many benefits, as you can work virtually from anywhere in the world, including the comfort of your own home. Along with the convenience that this type of work provides, it also comes with the added benefit of job security. Most online English teaching platforms require you to sign a contract for 6-12 months with no limit to how often you can renew, making it easy to plan ahead and live the life you want while still earning a reliable wage.
Teaching English abroad appeals to adventurous retirees because it provides a way to earn a living and be a part of whichever community you choose. There’s no excuse to not make this chapter of your life the most exciting yet!