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First off I am not advising that you do this. I previously wrote about how much money you need to move to Asia with to get started working as an English teacher.

And that was based on an ideal.


Sometimes you can't get the money together or things just aren't ideal. So let's say you get there, but you only have a little money to your name and all of your documents ready.

How can you make it work?

Well, I know you can because I have been close to broke many times in a foreign land and I still made it work.

First off..

Don't go to Reddit and r/tefl and ask this question. That forum and many of the other Reddit forums are full of pragmaticists and naysayers.

My experience...

I pretty much moved to every place I ever taught in Asia (China, Korea, Taiwan) with about $2000 to my name and no job lined up. It took about a month or more to find suitable work. 

And I currently live in Japan and moved here with maybe $3000, but I don't teach English now.


I know that's probably what you don't want to hear if you only have $200 to your name. 

But in China, Korea and Taiwan it took time for me to find decent places because I was a little picky. Also having an urgent need for money will make you act because if your need is not urgent then you can procrastinate.

So how can you make it work?

It's possible. Don't doubt it my friend. You can do it. Here's how...

1. Look for sub jobs

Look for positions working as a substitute English teacher in the city you are located in. Many of the big cities have local expat sites where they advertise jobs that may be long or short term.

These short term positions can be good for a few reasons, but for you they are good because you can get some cash after you work.

These positions can last anywhere from a day to a week or even more. And you can negotiate with the school as to when you get paid, but it's possible to get paid after your first day.

2. Find free housing (3 ways)

A big expense for you is going to be housing and if you don't want to pitch a tent then you need some place to stay right?

So first...

Go to hostels and see if you can do some work for them to get a free bed. Often hostels will "employ" people to make beds and clean for a free place to stay.

If you can't find a hostel then you can look into volunteer programs like Workaway or WWOOF and see if they have any positions near you. WWOOFing positions are often rural, but you can check. And Workaway positions can be both rural and urban.

If options one and two don't work for you check out Couchsurfing and see if you can find a place to stay with someone for the short term or at least for a few days.

3. Ask for an advance in pay

So if you are looking for a job then it's entirely possible that you could get an advance in pay if you ask. Now you should know that most private institutes in Asia will pay a month and a half later or close to that.

So let's say that you start your job on May 1st in a private academy. Chances are that you won't get paid your salary until the 10th to 15th of June.


In Taiwan and Korea after I found work there I was pretty short on cash and I asked my employer for an advance and they did. I think they might have made me work a week or so before they did that though.

So just ask.

And if they don't want to help then that might be a sign that you don't want to work there. Also I wouldn't ask this question until they offer you a job.


It's entirely possible to get started teaching English in a foreign country with just a little money to your name. It's not ideal and it can be difficult, but it's possible. 

If you look for positions as a substitute teacher you can get some cash in the short term. And if you look at volunteer positions, working in a hostel or Couchsurfing you can find free housing.

And if you just ask your new employer for an advance and tell them your situation it's possible that they will advance you some money before payday.

Lastly, always do your research before you go because some countries will require paperwork like apostilled diplomas, certificates, criminal background checks, etc. to get a job.

And those things take time and cost money.