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A sickening overseas story

Teaching overseas can be very rewarding, but it can also be fraught with difficulties ("Sun, sea and cockroaches", 10 August), as I found when I signed a contract to work in South America.

When I arrived in Buenos Aires, along with another British teacher, I found that my salary had been cut by a third from what I'd been promised in the UK; the other teacher found the same. Unfortunately, when we complained, we found there was nothing we could do as we'd both had to sign contracts which were governed by Argentine law.

When we asked for our salaries to be raised to what we'd been promised, the head simply told us, "If you don't like it, you can go home". But it wasn't that easy, as we had both let out our homes and given up our UK jobs. In the end we both stayed and had a marvellous time travelling round Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, as buses were cheap. But we had constant fights over money and our salaries were often paid late.

Inflation was the other problem, because our salaries were calculated according to the strength of the dollar on the 14th, but by the end of the month, the Argentine currency was worth a lot less. We were provided with accommodation and gas and electric bills were paid for us, but we wouldn't have been able to survive if they hadn't been.

Whatever you do, don't accept a contract in South America if they don't provide free accommodation and flights.

In my experience, the best employers were the Australians. I worked on a contract for the New South Wales Government and they kept their word on everything.

Watch out for the Brazilian and Argentine scheme of hiring a husband and wife - they can pay the husband a good salary and pay the wife a much lower one of a couple of hundred pounds a month if she's lucky. The British Council used to recruit staff for English schools in South America but gave up doing so because of the complaints about changes in contract when people arrived. They said it was giving them a bad name.

I did have a marvellous time in South America, but education is often a business there and you can be fired if a wealthy parent takes a dislike to you. In Argentina the best place to work seemed to be St Andrew's Scots School, which tells teachers the truth when they hire them.

Scotiateacher, via the web.

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