14 June 2012
In the first few days or even weeks of teaching English abroad it can all feel very strange. You shouldn’t panic and hop on the first flight back home though, a little culture shock is very normal and in fact mandatory if you are visiting the unknown. Once you have settled into your teaching job and have familiarized yourself with your surroundings you’ll forget you ever faltered. Follow our tips to help you adjust to your new life teaching English abroad.
Explore and familiarize
Get you bearings by leaving your apartment to walk around your local area. By simply exploring the area just outside your doorstep you will be able to familiarise yourself with the local way of life. Take a map with you and mark down spots you want to re-visit. At first your main objective may be to find out where the local food shop, post office and bank are. As you grow in confidence you will want to travel further a field and literally see what lies around the next corner.
Learn the local lingo
A basic grasp of the local language will do wonders for your confidence. All though you are not required to be fluent in another language to teach English abroad, it will certainly help if you have command of the basics. You will be surprised how easily and quickly you pick up the language once you are fully immersed in the country. The long term reward is returning home with a new language skill on top of a host of other stories and experiences to share.
Meet new people
Meeting and getting to know the local people is a great way to learn about the culture of the country in which you are working. Don’t be surprised if you find people coming up to you in the street and starting a conversation – everyone wants to test out their English skills! Remember that they too will want to learn about you and your culture and something as simple as a postcard from home can be a fantastic piece of “realia” to use in the TEFL classroom to get your students talking. One of the joys of TEFL teaching is that is gives you a real insight into a different culture and many of the friendships you create will last a lifetime.
Sample the cuisine
Trying new food can be one of the best parts of travelling and teaching abroad. Be adventurous. Who knows when will be the next you’ll get to sample such strange and exotic delicacies! It’s almost guaranteed that when you get home you will be raving about one particular food item you greatly miss.
Remember that when you travelling abroad you owe it to the country you are visiting to remain respectful of their laws and traditions and avoid causing offence. Keep an open mind and stay aware of different cultural and religious practices. It is also worth remembering that that you are acting as an “ambassador” of your own country; you don’t want your actions to reflect poorly on your country in the eyes of locals.
If you follow this rough guide you shouldn’t find any problem in adjusting to life in a new country. Good luck!