One of the most common questions Nick and I receive about people interested in teaching English in Taiwan is about whether or not they should apply to Hess. We both almost always say “Yes!”
It’s not that we think Hess is the most awesome buxiban in Taiwan to work for, but it’s also not the worst, and it has some unique advantages for those new to Taiwan and overseas English teaching.
What’s So Great About Hess?
I think it needs repeating: Neither of us think that Hess is the most super awesome place to teach English in Taiwan. So why do we recommend it for first timers? Nick wrote a post about teaching at chain schools in general, and most of this applies directly to working for Hess as well.
I came to Taiwan alone in 2005. I did not know a soul here. I did not speak a word of Chinese. I only had a few thousand dollars in the bank. I had never lived outside of America.
The support that Hess offered was absolutely and unquestionably invaluable. I didn’t have to worry about transportation from the airport to the hotel. I didn’t need to find accommodation as Hess both arranged and paid for the hotel, and then they helped with finding an apartment. I got a few weeks of training and practice before walking into a classroom full of children that did not speak the same language as I did.
I was still incredibly nervous and I cannot imagine what it would have been like without their support.
But I Read Online That Hess is Terrible!
This is probably the most commonly used rebuttal when I recommend Hess to new teachers. I’m sorry for sounding like a broken record, but this is a good time to yet again say: We don’t think that working for Hess is like landing a super sweet gig at Google.
However, from our experience (as well as many of our friends) it’s far from most of the negative reviews you stumble across on random web forums. So why are these reviews there?
I have a few guesses as to why you can easily find tickets for sale for the Hess hate train, and while there isn’t any way to really verify these, I still stand by them:
- People love to use the Internet to complain, but rarely use forums to report on their day-to-day work experiences when they are going OK.
- Hess hires a lot of fresh graduates, and when the glamour of working overseas wears off and the reality of what your first full-time job really is sets in, it’s easy to blame the company.
- For many people teaching English in Taiwan for Hess, it’s their first experience both in Taiwan and in the ESL/EFL industry. When it’s not what they expected they blame the company instead of their own expectations. This would have most likely happened at whichever school they first ended up at.
- Hess hires and employs more teachers than any other school on the island, thus all things being equal, they will receive more hate.
Does that Mean Hess is the Best?
Absolutely not. What it means is that it can be a great choice for a beginner and for people with zero contacts in Taiwan. It doesn’t mean that all the negative things you have read are totally false and should be ignored. There is a reason or two why I only worked there for one year. What are some of the legitimate downsides to choosing them as your place of employment?
- They offer a starting salary which is below the industry standard (they do have guaranteed raises though).
- While their structured teaching system may be helpful for a total beginner, after you get a few months of experience under your belt it can become boring if you don’t like the rigid structure.
- Some branches may try and get you to do occasional unpaid events or other duties (this is a common issue for many buxibans)
- You have a very limited choice in choosing which area of Taiwan you will work (you can tell them your preferences, but they usually don’t guarantee a location)
So We’re Back to it Being Terrible?
If you have read this far and have not figured this out yet, the answer yet again is NO. They are not amazing, nor are they terrible. They offer a low-risk soft landing to teaching English in Taiwan.
Consider your first year working for Hess as an entry level position in the world of TEFL. If you like it there then you can stay another year (or longer). If you don’t, then just move on after your first year and it’s no big deal.
In summary, know that while you can find something better you can definitely find something worse, especially if new to the island and the industry.