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

What's the downside
of Teaching English Overseas?

What if things go bad?

In TEFL, just like any career, things can go south.  You can find yourself in a job or with coworkers you don't like.  The same can happen if you don't like or don't feel comfortable with the culture, country or city.  Anything that could go wrong with a job back home can also go wrong overseas and even a few more things.

Fortunately, in most countries, it is not difficult to change jobs.  Be aware though, that in some countries there can be a difficult process for changing jobs and you may need to go to another country for a "visa run" or even to find work.

Plan for the best, prepare for the worst

None of us have trouble dealing with ideal situations, so lets talk about the worst case scenario.  There are many ways to avoid this difficult situation - be sure to read and follow the advice in the "Job Hunt" sections, especially the parts on what to know before you accept a job.

Just in case things do go bad - it is my opinion - you need to make sure you have a return ticket home, or to another desirable country, and enough cash to survive for at least three months.  This is more than most people recommend, but I am a financial conservative and I don't ask family or friends for loans.

Three months and a plane ticket will give you the time and ability to figure out your next move, make it, and work in your new job/location until you get your first pay check.  In an ideal world - six months cash would be great.  But I know most people don't have that kind of money put away.

Culture Differences

Stay cool, try to work things out - culture differences can take their toll when you are first overseas.  Misunderstandings are easy and culture shock is common.  Some of my most frustrating moments have been due to simple cultural and/or language misunderstandings. 

One was a university dean who thought I was insulting him due to the direct translation of a positive comment being negative in his language.  Another was a supervisor refusing to say "No" when he meant "No" - but it was a cultural impossibility for him to do so - so he said "Yes" and I didn't pick up the cultural reluctance until later - with uncomfortable feelings all around.

Follow the guidance on this website on looking for a job and researching your new position, and you can avoid 98% of the headaches involved.


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