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What To Expect: A Guide for South African Teachers Moving to Teach In The Middle East

In this blog post we'll cover the following topics to help teachers who are moving to teach in the middle east:

Arriving at Dubai International Airport

You've accepted a job at a school in the Middle East, now what?

Job opportunities for South African teachers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman are excellent, and the experience can be incredibly rewarding both personally and professionally. However, moving to a new country comes with its own set of challenges and adjustments. As a South African teacher recruitment agency, we aim to provide you with all the essential information to help you make a smooth transition. While we have done our best to keep these prices and specifics up to date, be sure to do your own research before planning your budget and use this blog as a starting point when considering what to budget for and what to expect when you arrive.


Dress Code advice for teachers who are Moving to Teach in The Middle East

Appropriate clothing for women in the Middle East
One of our teachers, Nerina in Bahrain, still looks great while keeping covered up.

Adhering to the local dress code is crucial for teachers in the Middle East. Schools typically require modest and professional attire. Men are generally expected to wear long trousers and collared shirts, while women should wear skirts or trousers that cover the knees and tops with sleeves. Abayas are not usually mandatory but may be required in some conservative areas. Always check the specific requirements of your school before arrival.


If you are unsure about the dress code for your specific school, rather ask. If we have placed you, then we will likely brief you on this but you can also use our Whatsapp groups and Facebook page as a place to check in with the community of teachers already over there.



Women's Dress Code

  • Shoulders and upper arms should be covered

  • Necklines kept to a round neck rather than a scoop.

  • Skirts should be no shorter than a few inches above the knee.


Men's Dress Code

  • The standard attire includes wearing a shirt, typically accompanied by a tie.


Climate Considerations

Schools in the Middle East are usually air-conditioned, so indoor temperatures will not affect your choice of clothing as much as the outdoor heat might.


Four Tips for Workplace Attire

1. Don't Rely Solely on Malls

Despite the abundance of malls, finding appropriate clothing can be more challenging than expected. Options in stores are limited and prices are often higher than in other countries. Many opt to order clothing to a home address in their native country and have it shipped over in bulk.


2. Embrace Layering

For women, many existing wardrobe items might seem unsuitable due to shoulder straps. However, adding a lightweight shrug or wrapping a pashmina can easily transform these pieces into work-appropriate attire.


3. Choose Natural Fabrics

In high temperatures, synthetic fabrics can cling and increase perspiration. Prioritise pure cotton dresses and shirts, as these materials are more breathable and comfortable in the heat.


4. Utilise "Modest Fashion" Searches

Use search terms like “modest fashion” when shopping online. Some retailers, such as H&M, have introduced "modest clothing" lines, especially for the summer season. Many bloggers and YouTubers share their "modest clothing" finds from popular stores.


Adaptors and Plugs

Understanding the type of electrical adaptors and plugs is essential when moving to the Middle East. Here’s a quick guide:

  • UAE: Type G (British-style three-pin)

  • Saudi Arabia: Type G

  • Bahrain: Type G

  • Oman: Type G


Type G adapter plug

In South Africa we use Type M, Type N and Type C adapters as our standards. These adaptors are usually sold at most technology shops and airports, but buying one in South Africa is definitely recommended. Make sure you can plug your phone and your loaptop in as soon as you arrive in your apartment - don't leave this until the last minute when your phone is already dead!


Here is a link to an adaptor on Takealot.


This is a Type M to Type G. Make sure you get the right one that you need for your electronic appliances.



Sending Money Back Home

Sending money back to South Africa is straightforward if you have the right information. You'll need to use SWIFT codes for international transfers. Most banks in the Middle East offer reliable online banking services, making the process easy. Ensure you set up your banking details promptly upon arrival.


A SWIFT code (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is a unique identifier used to specify a particular bank or financial institution in international transactions. It is also known as a Bank Identifier Code (BIC). The SWIFT code consists of 8 to 11 characters, which include:

  • Bank Code: 4 letters representing the bank.

  • Country Code: 2 letters representing the country where the bank is located.

  • Location Code: 2 characters representing the location within the country.

  • Branch Code (optional): 3 characters specifying a particular branch.

SWIFT codes ensure that money is transferred to the correct bank when sending money internationally.


SWIFT Codes for the main banks in South Africa:

  • FNB SWIFT Code: FIRNZAJJ

  • Standard Bank SWIFT Code: SBZAZAJJ XXX BIC

  • Nedbank Swift Code: NEDSZAJJ

  • Capitec Swift Code: CABLZAJJ


If you are unsure of how to use the Swift code or what your bank's code is, just ask the bank. They will give you all the info you need.


Budgeting for the First Month

Teachers are typically paid at the end of their first month. This means you need enough to get by for one whole month before you get paid. A lot of teachers fail to budget correctly for this. It's crucial to budget to cover initial expenses such as food, transportation, and other essentials. Bringing enough money to sustain you for at least the first month is advisable.


When deciding on your budget figure out how much you will need in the foreign currency, for e.g. AED. Then, you can easily just Google the conversion cost into Rands. For example if you need 5000 AED for your first month you can type into Google "5000 AED in Rands" and then Google will give you the converted amount.


Always over budget if you can. Rather have a bit of extra money with you than too little. The prices we have listed below are current for now, but things can change and this definitely isn't the complete list of things you might need to be comfortable.


SIM Cards and Internet Access

UAE

  • SIM Cards: Etisalat, Du

  • Data Cost: ~100 AED for 5GB

Saudi Arabia

  • SIM Cards: STC, Mobily

  • Data Cost: ~100 SAR for 5GB

Bahrain

  • SIM Cards: Batelco, Zain

  • Data Cost: ~10 BHD for 5GB

Oman

  • SIM Cards: Omantel, Ooredoo

  • Data Cost: ~10 OMR for 5GB


Food Costs

Understanding the cost of living helps in effective budgeting. Here are some average food costs per month:

  • UAE: Eggs (10 AED), Milk (8 AED), Coffee (15 AED), Pasta (12 AED), McDonald's meal (25 AED)

  • Saudi Arabia: Eggs (10 SAR), Milk (8 SAR), Coffee (15 SAR), Pasta (12 SAR), McDonald's meal (25 SAR)

  • Bahrain: Eggs (1 BHD), Milk (0.8 BHD), Coffee (1.5 BHD), Pasta (1.2 BHD), McDonald's meal (2.5 BHD)

  • Oman: Eggs (1 OMR), Milk (0.8 OMR), Coffee (1.5 OMR), Pasta (1.2 OMR), McDonald's meal (2.5 OMR)

McDonald's in Dubai compared to South Africa

In South Africa the average cost of MacDonalds Meal is around R80.00 whereas in the UAE it is more like R130.00. So be prepared to pay a bit more than you are used to for food. Once you start earning in the foreign currency food will seem much more affordable but in the first month while you are spending your Rands on foreign food, it will be more expensive than you are used to.


Public Transport and Uber Costs

Uber costs in Dubai

Public transportation and Uber costs vary by country:

  • UAE: Metro ride (3 AED), Uber (50 AED for 10 km)

  • Saudi Arabia: Bus ride (3 SAR), Uber (50 SAR for 10 km)

  • Bahrain: Bus ride (0.3 BHD), Uber (5 BHD for 10 km)

  • Oman: Bus ride (0.3 OMR), Uber (5 OMR for 10 km)


This is another area where prices overseas can be much more expensive than in South Africa. The good thing is that Public Transport is really good in the Middle East so definitely get familiar with the public transport like buses etc. in your area.


Even though public transport is amazing overseas, when you first get there using an Uber can be less stressful and feel more familiar. Be sure to budget for a couple of Uber rides while you get used to the public transport.


Public transport in Dubai


Apartment Provisions

Your school-provided apartment typically includes:

  • Kitchen Appliances: Stove, fridge, kettle, cooking pots & pans, cutlery, plates, cups, dining table and chairs, washing machine.

  • Bedroom Furniture: Bed (150/200 cm), cupboard, vanity table, chair.

  • Living Area: Sofa set, center table.

  • Utilities: Water and electricity (~100 AED/month), cooling (~175 AED/month).


The things provided in your apartment will be very basic. So provisioning a small portion of your budget to get the types of utensils you are used to will help you feel more comfortable and settled in your first month. And make sure you have budgeted roughly R1500.00 to pay the bills at the end of the month!


Here are some photos from our teachers of their accommodation across the different locations



Preparing for Your Teaching Role

To ease your transition, it’s recommended to create a cloud account and save a database of lesson plans, worksheets, teaching ideas, and workbooks. This ensures you have resources to fall back on and can hit the ground running from day one.


Google Drive is a great free resource. We definitely recommend creating some kind of cloud storage account and using it to store all the info the schools give you.


Conclusion

Taking a teaching job in the Middle East offers an exciting opportunity for South African teachers. By understanding the local culture, preparing financially, and equipping yourself with essential information, you can make your transition smooth and successful. SA Recruitment is here to support you every step of the way.



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