A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

Is Life Overseas Healthy?

Can you drink the water?

Generally speaking, yes - and no.  Life is healthy, and no, don't drink the water (sometimes and usually).


I have found that my life overseas has been no more and no less healthy than life back home.  Except, I live a much less stressful and less hectic life than do my family and friends "back home".  That's healthier!

Better Medical Care

My personal experience is that most doctors overseas will spend much more time with you.  They aren't pressed by the numbers game of HMOs or clinics.  You won't find the doctor pushing you out of the exam room or running out the door to the next customer (whoops, I mean patient!). 

When younger, I had some serious health issues that I never really got resolved - until I met a couple of great doctors overseas.  They spent the time with me to talk about the problem, explained, reviewed some options, and left the course of action up to me!  I didn't feel that they were eagerly "sharpening their knives" and wondering how much all this could be worth.  Just my cynical outlook, I guess?  Check the Medical Care section for more on this.  Frankly, I trust my doctors here more than I did there.  Really.

Staying Healthy

You will find that things aren't always as clean as you would like them to be - and bathroom cleanliness is not common in many parts of the world, nor is regular hand washing.  So, you will find yourself, wisely, washing you hands MUCH more than you used to - and it is a very good habit for keeping yourself healthy.  Carry a handkerchief with you as most lavatories won't have any towels at all or will often have a community towel for all to use.

The Water?

Generally, not good to drink - depends on the country, of course.  Ask!  Most countries though have cheap and easily accessible bottled water.  I get five-gallon (19 liter) bottles delivered to my door for about US$1.  And I buy the EXPENSIVE water.  The cheap water is about US30 cents. Most places you can gargle and brush your teeth with tap water - some places you can't - it is important to ask your coworkers.

Boil it?

Sometimes.  And you will see many people do this.  But often the problem with the water may not be bacteria and other living things in the water, it is often pollutants or heavy metals - things which are not affected by boiling.  My recommendation?  Good water is cheap - buy it.  Your health is too valuable. You'll quickly get used to the routine. It is simple and easy.  You won't even notice after a few weeks when you have habit down.

 Caveat: I'm not a doctor - but I am careful with my health.  I am, after all, in my 50s.  All the above is just my opinion.


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