DIY Get a Damn (teaching) Job!

‘DIY Get a Damn (teaching) Job!’ is a three-part series on how some dude survived in foreign countries –
Part I details teaching English in Japan

What are you an authority in? Can you build a website from scratch or burp the days of the week in Latin?  Say this out loud and fill in the blank:

‘I’m an expert at _______.’

Odds are, there are only a few things you’d call yourself an expert of, if anything.

Now, try this on for size.

‘I’m an expert at English.’

Damn straight. If you can read this blog, you can teach English in a foreign country.

Here’s how to get the job:

Commit and decide. Decide what matters more, where you go or the fact that you’ll teach. Some people are looking for a way out. Others want a change of scenery. Do research and see what cultures and languages interest you most. Viscerally reach into your soul and realize you really, really, really love okonomiyaki. Or, just spin a globe, close your eyes, and point. For me, it was Japan or bust.


Get educated. Complete a bachelor’s degree in ANYTHING. Honestly, they don’t care, but you do need your university degree to teach in most foreign countries. Then get your TEFL/TESOL Certificate. I went through a program called ‘i-to-i,’ and did the professional course. The certificate is not a mandatory requirement to teach in many countries, but it is recommended. It also helps confidence in the classroom and future lesson planning ideas.


Decide on your teaching preferences. Do you want to teach CEOs business English, or three-year-olds the ABCs? Maybe you’d like to teach casually at a cafe, getting paid to chat with locals. Whatever it may be, think deeply about your personality, enthusiasm levels, and what interests you in English.


Find a job. There are two ways to go about this. First, you can acquire your job online through Dave’s ESL cafe,, or gaijinpot (Japan only). This is the safer method, but sometimes it can be tricky with zero-experience in the field/country. Alternatively, you can show up and look for a job. I’ve seen it done, but it does depend heavily on your funds, country-specific visa restrictions (some countries won’t let you get a work visa while in the country), and the demand of ESL teachers in the region you’ve relocated to.


Purchase the ticket. This is the most difficult step for most people, and they simply don’t understand the importance of follow-through. To create a deadline and get the ball rolling, buy your plane ticket. Even if it’s nine months out, buy it. It may be nerve-wracking and scary, but most countries around the globe are built to accommodate tourists. You’re not Christopher Columbus crossing the Atlantic, you’ll figure it out.


Survival tips for Japan. Some I discovered serendipitously, others, ‘the hard way.’

In order of importance: – This is your grail. It’s like LinkedIn and Craigslist had a baby, then that baby grew up to hate its weird parents and moved to Japan. It’s a website for classifieds and foreign peoples seeking work in Japan. I recommend you go make a profile right now, even if you aren’t applying for a while. NOTE: It’s nearly impossible to find a school teaching job in Japan without a bachelor’s degree. Doesn’t matter what you majored in, just gotta have one.

The types of jobs – There are three primary outlets to teach in Japan:

Juku – Often referred to as a ‘cram school.’ These businesses masquerade as schools and prepare students for entrance exams to universities. I worked for Mabuchi Juku, one of the largest and most famous juku chains in Osaka. I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to return.

Man-to-man – This is usually contract work. I worked for a company called GABA. They usually don’t pay transportation fees, and you have to ‘earn’ your client base. Some companies pay you per lesson, some per hour, etc. Usually you can select your own hours, which is nice, but it can get very redundant.

Cafe work – As it sounds, certain cafes hire native-English speakers to loiter in their for a few hours. Japanese people who want to brush up on their English frequent these coffee shops and pay extra to converse with you. Lofty and sometimes pays well, but offers limited and unstable hours.

Cell Phone – Setting up a cell phone (if you don’t speak Japanese) is worse than a hentai nightmare. If you have a smartphone, CDJapan offers you unlimited data a month at a reasonable rate. Go to their slightly weird website, select a plan, and they’ll mail you a sim card. After this, you can purchase a Japanese Skype (or any other VOIP service) number for a few dollars a month. Download the app onto your phone and you’re set. I did this the entire time I was in Japan and it made things easier than dealing with the Japanese pay phones that yell at you.

¥¥¥ ($$$)– Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on bonsai trees. I went to Japan with approximately $4,250 AUD (~$3,000 USD). Teaching jobs in Japan pay on a month-by-month basis, with some contracting positions paying you a month after your final pay period date.

Banking – Unless you’re doing cafe work, you’re going to need an account. Japan Post is the government’s post office/bank, and it has easy banking options for foreigners. Strangely enough, they don’t have their forms in English.

Housing – Like Neo, you have two options:

Guesthouse (gaijin house) – These are a great way to meet new people, pay cheaper rent (usually ¥50,000-¥90,000 yen per month), and have everything furnished. You share common areas like the kitchen and bathrooms, but have your own room to yourself. You don’t need a guarantor, the utilities are cheap, but the locations are limited. Guesthouses are easily secured from outside Japan.

Private Apartment – If you like your own space, and want more freedom of location, this is your best bet. Prices can range from ¥60,000-¥100,000 monthly, and cannot usually be reserved from outside Japan. Also, they usually require a Japanese guarantor and do not come furnished.

Transportation – Google Maps is your life now. The app will tell you all the color-coded and numbered trains to take to your location. Note that GPS still works on Google Maps even if you have no cell signal, just preload maps on your phone while in wifi, and you’ll know where you are when venturing out. You also might want to invest in an ICOCA card in one of the subway machines. It’s a prepaid top-up card that will allow you to travel anywhere in Japan on any transport.

Clothing – I’m going out on a limb here, but assuming if you’re an average-sized westerner, buy all your clothes before arriving. Japanese people are smaller than us, and it’s no easy task finding new shoes or clothes.

Google Chrome – If you didn’t know it already, this website translates webpages for you. It’s not always perfect, but it gets the job done.

Online Purchasing – Japan isn’t into Amazon or eBay, but they’ve grown fond of Yahoo! Auctions. If you want anything (cheaper) online, use Google Chrome for the translation and give it a click.

Social Etiquette – When in Rome wasn’t built in a day, or something like that. Japan is a different culture than ours. Don’t stick your chopsticks upright into food, don’t talk about whaling or WWII, and try not to eat in public or talk on the train. Or do, and risk being disrespectful.

Forevermore Osaka,


Post (crucial) script: With an easy search you can find plenty ‘survival Japanese’ lists. My unofficial ten-word Japanese survival guide comprise the terms I found myself saying the most, sans all the lame things like ‘you’re welcome,’ which no one actually says in Japan because it sounds haughty.

*Good morning: oh-hai-yo

*Good Afternoon: kon-bahn-wah

Thank-you: ah-ree-gah-toe

Excuse me: sue-mee-mah-sen

Sorry: goh-meh

Stupid/Idiotic: bah-kah (rude)

This, please: ko-reh, koo-dah-sai

Shut up: dah-mah-roo

How long (is it/will it be until…?): doh-no-koo-rai

Where is the toilet?: toi-re wa doh-ko des-kah

*Konnichiwa is formal, and I never heard nor said it while there.

‘DIY Get a Damn (teaching) Job’ is a three-part series how some dude acquired jobs and survived in foreign countries – Part II will detail Australia