Worst Decisions for Teaching Abroad

Worst Decisions for Teaching Abroad

Stressed out

Moving anywhere new always comes with pros and cons. Although, it will take quite some time to fully appreciate and understand a new country and working environment there are some things that we still need to keep in mind.

kc2Here is a list of decisions that you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT make while teaching abroad.

Culture and Language

Becoming part of another culture and immersing yourself in someone else’s language can be difficult, we know; however, ignoring the customs and practices of another country is one of the biggest mistakes one can make.

Far too often we see or hear from people that they are going to play “the foreigner card.” Click To Tweet I mean let’s be honest, we’ve all been there before: you’re taking some form of public transportation and are turning around in circles with a dumbfounded look on your face when a local finally comes to help.

That’s completely reasonable. Looking like an idiot in a new country is part of the learning process. It’s how we choose to behave while acting like an idiot.


  • At times, you should act like you have no idea what’s going on around because chances are you don’t. That’s okay when we can do it within a respectful boundary.
  • Attempt to at least learn the basics of the language. A simple hello, how are you? goes a long way when talking to locals. They’ll admire the fact that you have taken some time to start learning their language
  • Understand that your customs and social practices are likely different from wherever you’re teaching.
  • Take some time before you leave to learn about the country’s history. This will inevitably help understand the culture.
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  • Blatantly use the “foreigner card” as an excuse to break the rules of your home away from home. It’s far too easy to think that local rules do not apply to foreigners. Why shouldn’t they? Deliberately breaking rules sets a poor precedent for all other visitors to that country.
  • Expect that everyone will speak your mother tongue.
  • Label local customs as “stupid” or “nonsensical.” Your customs will probably be very different to the locals as well.


Community and belonging are a vital part of being human. We strive to find others to share our joy and listen to our sorrows, that’s what brings all of us together. As world travelers, anywhere we go we will find others with similar interest and values. If we knock down the language and cultural exoskeletons we’ll find that we’re all quite similar.


  • Make friends with locals. There will always be people that have similar interests to yourself.
  • Join in some of the local celebrations/holidays. People will be more than happy to show off their country to those interested.
  • Eat at mom and pop shops. You won’t find them on google maps, you won’t find them on yelp or urbanspoon. Word of mouth is the only advertising they need. Ask around.


  • Only make friends with expats. While you will need your group of expats friends avoid making them your only social circle.
  • Ignore local customs. You’re living in a new country! Go out and enjoy it!
  • Only eat your county’s food. Expand your pallet and try something you may have otherwise avoided.
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If you’ve taught in your home country you’re accustomed to a certain type of student and education system. Students, education systems, teaching styles vary throughout the world. Being able to change and adapt differentiates a good teacher from a great teacher.


  • Take some time to learn about the K-16 education system. Being able to understand the differences will help enormously when learning what and how to teach.
  • Learn how the locals teach small children. Kindergarten is a microcosm of the education system as a whole. If you have the opportunity drop into some classes.
  • Learn something new every single day. The wonderful part about teaching is that each day will bring different challenges and opportunities to learn how to deal with them.


  • Come to your new country empty handed and clueless about how their education system works.
  • Label teaching practices as “right” or “wrong.” Although they may be different than what you’re used to these practices have likely been in place for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years – respect that.

When it comes down to it the worst decision you can every make while teaching abroad is to be disrespectful. Taking some of your own personal experiences and adapting them to a new environment will enrich your experience abroad.

Happy Travels and Teaching! (HTaT!)

pic_for_TVadim Rubin is an ethnic Belarussian learning to speak Mandarin Chinese. He is a coach, teacher, linguist, athlete, and an aspiring world traveler. As an avid volleyball player and coach, he spends a majority of his time on the court with sweaty volleyball junkies. Off the court he enjoys to travel, write, and teach world languages. In the summer of 2012 he traveled to Taiwan to study Chinese and wrote about his adventures in his blog: 三個月在臺灣 My Three months in Taiwan . He documented his adventures in Taiwan and China on his blog  Where’s Your Inner Child? He is now back in Taiwan teaching English, traveling, and discovering what life has to offer. – See more at: Vadim Rubin, Author at Baltimore Post-Examiner

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