TEFL in China

What should you wear teaching English abroad?

If you’re heading off on an adventure teaching English abroad, especially if your location is a warm, sunny climate, there may be the temptation to dress as you would on holiday.  While schools will have varying dress codes, some liberal, a general rule of thumb when considering your wardrobe is to think of how you would dress for a teaching role in your home country and replicate that – at least for the first few days, so you can check how your fellow teachers dress.  With this in mind flip flops, sweatpants, vest tops are out and business casual – shirt, nice top with slacks, skirt – are best to start with.

School/student types:What should you wear for your TEFL job teaching English abroad?

The type of institute you are teaching in or the type of students you are teaching may directly influence what you wear.  Public schools tend to be little more rigid while private language institutes usually have a more casual dress code – some schools in Japan even provide a uniform for their teachers.  If your students are business people or if you are teaching “on site” at a business you will usually be expected to reflect their dress code, so a suit may be required.


Depending on where you teach in the world you need to make yourself aware of local customs or traditions when it comes to dress codes.  For example, while trousers may be a more comfortable or practical mode of dress for a female teacher many Middle Eastern countries expect more feminine attire and a skirt may be essential.  Also some countries may have religious restrictions on how revealing clothes can be and you need to respect that.


Speaking of respect, not only do you have to respect local traditions and the school you work for but you also have to keep your students in mind.  If they feel you don’t look the part or are not taking the responsibility of teaching them English seriously then you’ll soon find you’ve got a difficult class to control and motivate and a much tougher job.

Remember these practical rules:

  • Wear comfortable and practical clothing that allows you to do your job but also reflect the code of the school and mirrors fellow teachers.
  • Look approachable – don’t stand out from your students by being too formal or casual.
  • If in doubt, check with the school and get your new job off to the best start.

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