Behind the numbers: a day in the life of a teacher in Seoul and Rio de Janeiro

In our study you can find out how much people in 15 different professions are paid around the globe. But to really put this data into perspective, it's useful to combine it with how much it costs to live in each city.

To illustrate this, we chose one profession, a primary school teacher, and created two fictional characters that lead similar lives but live thousands of miles away from each other on different continents. As we follow their day in their city, we can compare what they earn and how they spend it. The following is based on real data, but the characters, names and places are fictional. All prices are in USD.

Meet Chiu from Seoul and Lucas from Brazil. Both have been teaching primary school kids in government-operated institutions for 10 years, are around 35 years old and are married with two children.

We want to understand better what their day looks like, and how much they spend day to day on regular items. All costs are in US dollars at an exchange rate of 1,075 for the Korean won and 3.24 for the Brazilian real [as per the data in our model].

Chiu lives with her family in a 60m² two-bedroom flat in Seoul's Bangbae neighborhood, south of the Han river. Her family's monthly rent is 736 dollars. Every morning she has breakfast with her husband and two children, which costs the family 6 dollars and 38 cents. She takes the metro to work and pays about 1.49 for a ticket.

Lucas lives in a 40m² three-bedroom apartment in the heart of Rio's buzzy Tijuca district, close to the Praca Alfonso Pena park. He and his wife pay 809 dollars a month rent for their flat. The family breakfast costs less than Chiu's – 4 dollars and 19 cents. He takes the public transport in Rio and pays 1.33 for a one-way fare.

Elementary school (Chodeung haggyo) in Seoul begins at 8 a.m. Chiu teaches six-year-olds such subjects as Korean, math, moral education and English. In Rio de Janeiro, elementary school (Ensino fundamental II) is for kids between ages 6 and 9. Lucas instructs them in Portuguese, history, math and science.

After a morning full of activities, both teachers eat lunch at a simple neighborhood restaurant. On average, it costs 8 dollars and 15 cents in Seoul and 7 dollars and 30 cents in Rio de Janeiro. Chiu and Lucas also like to have a cup of coffee to prepare for an afternoon full of energetic young students. Chiu pays USD 4.16 for hers, Lucas 1.75 for his – as a large grower and exporter of it, Brazil sells coffee much cheaper than many countries. (Read more about coffee prices worldwide here.)

In the evening, both meet their family for dinner. Today is special, so our teachers venture out to a restaurant. A dinner for four in Seoul costs on average 64 dollars. In Rio de Janeiro, Lucas pays a little less – 57 dollars. After dinner the children are tired so the families decide to take a taxi back home. For the 5km ride, Chiu is charged 6 dollars and 99 cents, Lucas 5.21.


Chiu receives a paycheck of USD 2,828.00 (gross) per month. After accounting for taxes and social contributions, she ends up with 2,255 dollars in her pocket.

Lucas earns gross pay of 875 dollars (780 net) per month.

How do elementary school teacher fare versus other professions in Seoul and Rio De Janeiro? Chiu's salary is 19% higher than the median income across the 15 jobs we examined. Lucas earns about 18% less than the median in his city.

A teacher's salary compared to other professions in each city

Prices and Earnings 2018 teacher salary compared to other professions

If we look at purchasing power, primary teachers in Seoul are ranked 34 out of 77 (Rio 53 out of 77), meaning that they are also pretty well of globally, surpassing their colleagues in London and Paris.

Total cost comparison between Lucas in Rio de Janeiro and Chiu in Seoul

Prices and Earnings 2018 teacher total cost comparison Korea and Brazil
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