To the sticks…

My husband found a new job. As in a proper, permanent, salaried job. Yay! On the one hand, it’s great news, because relying on benefits (i.e. welfare payments from the government) is not a great situation to be in. For a start, the basic living expenses the government has offered to pay us (about £112 a week) has not materialised in any shape or form, nearly 2 months AFTER my husband had lost his job and we applied for it. At least the government’s rental support payments has been credited to his bank account since the end of March, and although that does not cover the full rent we pay on our property, it covers almost 90% of it, so that’s good. Another good thing is that the government’s Jobcentre did allow my husband to claim for travel expenses related to attending job interviews. For two separate days in the past 3 weeks, he had to drive to this place 177 miles away from where we live, in order to attend the interview. This cost about £60 worth of petrol for the return trip each day he did that, and lucky for us, the Jobcentre’s reimbursement of his travel expenses for job interviews meant that this was fully accounted for. In fact, they paid him more than what he’d spent on the petrol – they paid £0.25 per mile of travel. That is good.

So I’m not complaining about us not getting paid our living expenses welfare money despite it coming up to 2 months since hubby lost his job. The other money we did get from the government – namely just the rental support and the travel expenses for attending interviews – were quite substantial and we could not have asked for more. Every little bit helps, and quite honestly, if we were residing in both our countries of origin, we would not be entitled to any of that kind of welfare support. But yes, the lack of living expenses welfare payments so far has meant we had been dipping into credit and whatever little money we’ve made to buy our groceries to live day to day. We have learnt to live very minimally and still ensure that nobody in our household goes hungry, cold or dirty. But I cannot see how this situation will be sustainable over the long term. If my husband hadn’t found a job, we would be spiralling into debt with no way of paying it back. And the truth is that even if the government’s living expenses welfare money did materialise, we would still be pretty poor and finding it hard to make ends meet.

Luckily we have been making little bits of money over the past month with him doing the odd job, and me giving private tuition in Mandarin to clients.

The private Mandarin tuition thing… Honestly, for all these years I’ve been an SAHM, I never realised I could actually make money with it. I never thought people here would bother to pay to learn Mandarin. But I’ve been told by family and friends that times are changing and China is now big business for foreign investors, and more people want to learn Mandarin now. Over the last month, I’ve seen proof of that in the form of the many email and phone enquiries I’ve received since I started advertising my tuition services locally. Another thing I’ve learnt is that the market rate for private foreign language tuition in this country is much more than the average minimum wage – even for me, and I don’t even charge market rate because:

a) I do not have a lot of experience teaching Mandarin

b) I feel dishonest asking for the market rate for teaching something that I feel should not be charged so much for.

The market rate here is £25 to £30 an HOUR! When I was told that by a language teacher friend here, I was like “Are you kidding me? No way!” … So I charge £20 an hour because I don’t want to sound too cheap to prospective students (and therefore clients might be under the impression I am a third rate teacher because I am so cheap), but I charge lesser than market rate to account for the fact I’m not that experienced in teaching Mandarin here.

And it’s not just Mandarin. I received a call from a local language school to ask if I would like to teach English part-time to Arabic ladies locally, with these classes (and the nursery creche facility on-site) funded by the Saudi government. It’s not great pay, but it is a stable income (they are paying me £30 a day and I am supposed to teach 3 hours 5 days a week) and if I did get the job, it’d be a good supplement to our household income.

But a lot of these offers have not materialised for me. A lot of them were just enquiries, and after I’ve contacted them back, I never hear from them again. I have questioned if I should be charging less – and if I did, would it mean I’d get more clients. I now have one stable client. She is an adorable 5 year old English girl whose mother wants her to learn Mandarin. I only do half an hour once a week with her seeing that she would not be happy sitting there for an hour of lessons at her age.

The Saudi-funded language school did not take me up in the end because they were looking for a degree-holder with a CELTA cert and I don’t have those qualifications. All this have made me think about going back to Uni (well it doesn’t have to be a bricks and mortar Uni. I am thinking more along the lines of the Open Uni.) to complete my degree. Why haven’t I gotten my degree yet? Well, long story short – I started a degree when my eldest was about 1 year old, in a bricks and mortar Uni, but I had to quit Uni after completing Year One because my husband got retrenched suddenly and his new-found job was a good 200 miles away from my Uni and we all had to move with his job. But now I’m thinking if I do want to go into the teaching profession here, I really need to complete my degree, as well as gain a TEFL or CELTA cert so I am more “qualified” to teach English in a language school setting. I have never given much serious thought about going into teaching, but as a homeschooling mum for a few years now, my opinions have changed a bit.

The only problem I can see now is that because his new job is in the rural countryside, for a non-driver like me, it might be a struggle to get around on the minimal public transport available there. On the other hand, I could learn driving again and try to pass my practical driving exam. Which I had failed 3 times before and I honestly believed, after all that, that I have no aptitude for driving at all. Of course I’ve been told different by friends and family. “Nonsense.” “No such thing – ANYONE can learn to drive.” etc. etc. I suppose living in a rural area will force me to want to learn to drive, eventually.

I am also considering putting my children in school in the new place. Well, we’ll see. We’ll continue to homeschool for a bit, and see how easy it is to homeschool rurally. There won’t be easy access to museums, and there won’t be a lot of homeschoolers in the area for regular meet-ups, and there won’t be a lot of activities organised for homeschoolers there, if at all. I don’t know what the attitudes of the locals there are towards homeschooling. I heard the authorities there are not very homeschool-friendly either. It is a bit of a worry for me actually, the fact that that area is a well-known area for elite schools which select the top 25% of the most academically-able kids by entrance exams, and then the rest of the other non-elite schools there are “sink” schools with appalling GCSE pass rates and bad school inspection reports.

But life is going to be so different, it seems. Life will be slower, people will be different. I think my home tuition business for Mandarin won’t really thrive there, although English might. We’ll get more house for our money there, which is good, but there will also be other challenges to overcome.

New chapter of our lives… here we go!


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