What Makes The UAE A Unique Place for English Teachers From Harlem and Beyond?

May 10, 2024

Every year, many US citizens leave their country to teach English abroad.

What is it that makes them step out of their comfort zone and familiar environment to step into the unknown? There are as many answers to this question as there are international teachers abroad, but there are also some common factors:

  • Leaving abroad forces you to face (and deal with!) unfamiliar and sometimes challenging situations, giving you a huge confidence boost
  • Teaches you about different countries and cultures. As a result, you become more tolerant and understanding
  • Exposure to different cultures and traditions rekindles your appreciation for your own.

Why choose the UAE as your teaching destination

The education system in the United Arab Emirates has the ambitious goal of ensuring success in every aspect of every child’s life, including education. The county’s purpose is to firmly establish its economy in an increasingly competitive global market, and international English teachers play an important role in achieving this. 

Modern equipment, generous salaries and perks are among some of the advantages of teaching English in the UAE, making it the ideal place to start your TESOL journey. You can expect to earn anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 a month, but your salary can go even further since it is tax-free. Moreover, most employers provide housing allowances, health insurance, flights home every year, and bonuses when your contract ends, which could be 12 or 24 months long. 

Your teaching schedule ranges between 20 and 25 hours a week, leaving you plenty of time to soak in the sun and enjoy your time off in this vibrant country. 

How to find an English teaching job in the UAE

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Holding a citizenship from a recognized English-speaking country, US citizens can take advantage of a wide range of teaching opportunities within over 1,600 international schools in Dubai alone. To simplify your application procedure, you could rely on recruitment agencies to make the process hassle-free.

If you prefer to take matters into your own hands and manage the application process yourself, here are a few tips

  • To work in an international school, you are likely to need two years of previous teaching experience as well as relevant qualifications. 
  • Once you receive a job offer, you must ensure that your passport and the original copies of your credentials are in order.
  • You can enter the country with a tourist visa, but this won’t allow you to work. It should then be converted into a work visa, which requires your employer’s support. They should be able to let you know how long the school takes to process your visa and issue your ID and medical card. 
  • The academic calendar in the UAE is similar to that in the UK – school starts towards the end of August and finishes at the beginning of July.
  • The UAE puts an emphasis on teacher development, so don’t miss opportunities within and outside the school to brush up on your teaching skills.

Adapting to your new life in the UAE

The culture in the UAE might be very different from your own, which might make you feel surprised and confused at times. Nevertheless, being a guest in a foreign country means being respectful and tolerant even when you don’t agree with the local traditional practices.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Religious influence: Religion plays a significant role in Emirati culture. Respect for religious customs and practices is important. This includes modest clothing, especially in public places.
  • Hospitality: Emiratis are known for their hospitality and generosity towards guests. It’s common to be invited for meals or gatherings, and it’s polite to accept such invitations when offered.
  • Family values: Family is highly valued in Emirati culture. Respect for elders and close family ties are important aspects of social life.
  • Greetings: Greetings are an important part of Emirati culture. When meeting someone, a handshake is common between men, while women may nod or offer a verbal greeting. Emiratis may use the traditional Arabic greeting “As-salamu alaikum” (peace be upon you).
  • Weekend: Traditionally, the weekend in the UAE has always been on Friday and Saturday, with Friday being the holy day of prayer. Recently, the weekend has been extended to include Sunday.
  • Respect for authority: Emirati culture places a high value on respect for authority figures, including government officials and elders. It’s important to show deference and politeness in interactions with people in positions of authority.
  • Language: While Arabic is the official language, English is widely spoken and understood, especially in urban areas and business settings.
  • Public Behaviour: Alcohol consumption is permitted in licensed venues, but public intoxication and disorderly behaviour are not tolerated. Consumption of alcohol in public places is strictly prohibited.

What to do in the UAE on your days off

Surely, you aren’t moving halfway across the globe just to work without experiencing life in this incredible country! So, let’s what’s on offer when you aren’t busy teaching English, depending on what you fancy doing:


  • Explore Dubai’s iconic landmarks, such as the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, and the Palm Jumeirah.
  • Visit Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions, including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Qasr Al Watan presidential palace.
  • Discover the UAE’s rich heritage and history at heritage villages and museums like Al Fahidi Fort in Dubai and the Al Ain National Museum in Al Ain.


  • Enjoy a desert safari experience with dune bashing, camel riding, and traditional Bedouin-style entertainment.
  • Relax on the pristine beaches of Jumeirah Beach in Dubai or Corniche Beach in Abu Dhabi.
  • Enjoy thrilling water activities such as jet skiing, parasailing, and scuba diving along the UAE’s coastline.


  • Experience the bustling atmosphere of traditional souks (markets) such as the Gold Souk and Spice Souk in Dubai or the Central Market in Abu Dhabi.
  • Indulge in world-class shopping at luxury malls like the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall or traditional markets like the Souk Madinat Jumeirah.


  • Experience the vibrant nightlife scene with trendy bars, clubs, and lounges in cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


  • Take a day trip to the nearby emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, or Fujairah to explore their unique attractions and landscapes.

Teaching in the UAE

Moving to a new country is a life-changing adventure, especially when culture and traditions are so different from your own way of life, but such differences should not put you off. Instead, embrace the positive effects of your bold move can bring you from a better understanding of the world around you to a lucrative career.

Photo credit: Wiki.

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