Highlighted Articles

Going home for the summer: No one cares about your international life!

June 27, 2022


I always hope that somebody will care every year I go home, but every year most of them don’t. (Ha ha!)

It is not because they really don’t care though, it is mostly because they just don’t fully understand or connect to the international/expat life you are living.  When visiting family and friends in my home country, very rarely do the conversations relate to my life living abroad.  Hardly do we even talk about the amazing trips that I have been on the past year! (Oh, the things I have seen!)  It is hard to talk about your trips without giving an impression of bragging though.

International school teachers indeed live a life that is a foreign world to our old friends, so different from where we were born and raised.  Additionally, so many people in this world still just stay living close to where they were raised.  When I look at my home-country friends and relatives, most are living in the same city they grew up in or in the city just next to that one. (Side note: Why do we feel the need to escape our hometowns?)

And of course, quite a large percentage of people in the United States are without a passport (is that true for the Americans YOU know??).  Being that these friends and family that you know maybe haven’t had so much experience living abroad or even traveling abroad, you would think that would make them even more interested in your international life…but that isn’t always the case.

I guess when you go home, you spend most of your time just reminiscing about the good times of the past, of when you used to live there maybe. Most of the conversations you have also are just normal ones, talking about day-to-day things (e.g. the weather, etc.).

Sometimes your friends and family dominate the conversation with updates from their life, which of course you are curious about as well.  You want to get the lowdown on their lives being that you are only there visiting with them for typically such a short time.  I mean they haven’t seen you in a while as well, and they are excited to see you and catch you up on their lives.

Though it is truly so nice to go back home and catch up with everyone, little do your friends and family realize or understand the reverse culture shock you may be experiencing when you go back home, even if it is the 8th time you have come home in 10 years (let’s say) that you’ve been abroad.

International school teachers live a dual life basically.  The fact is…that we live most of the year in our host country; eating our host country food, hanging out with our host country friends, being surrounded by a foreign language and culture, living in our host country apartment, using and thinking in a foreign currency, etc.  When you visit your home country, you really want to tell people in your host country about those things!  Some will listen though when it comes up naturally in the conversation, but it is usually a fleeting moment…not giving you enough time to share as much as you would like.

This article is not meant to make fun of or hate on our home country friends and family, but it is meant to express our feelings about how an expat teacher might feel and how they might think in their head as they go home for the summer. When you are living abroad for so long, it is so nice (and important) to see and catch up with your family and old friends.

How do you feel when you go home to your host country? Are you able to have conversations with your friends and family about your life living abroad?

This article was submitted anonymously by an ISC member.

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: “Expat Educator”

October 29, 2011


Are you inspired to start up a blog about your adventures living abroad?

Our 10th blog (http://expateducator.com/) that we would like to highlight is called “Expat Educator: Every child. Every lesson. Everyday.“  This international educator seems to be quite experienced, having been in education for the past 16 years.  Check out the blog entries of this international school teacher who is now working in Hong Kong at Hong Kong International School.

Entries we would like to highlight:

International Students Go to Camp: The Importance of Play

“When I taught in the US, students went to Outdoor School. The Oregonian children learned to read the age of a tree, the names of major plant species, and experience the Northwest natural habitat.

Imagine my surprise when I first learned that my international school students go to Camp to play. So this is a really long recess? I wondered. I’m sacrificing hot showers, quality food, and personal hygiene so that students can PLAY?

While I admit to Facebook grumbling about ants in the shower, plastic beds, and food representing only the white and brown food groups, I have come to see the value in free play for tweens in my setting.

Here is what I notice:

1. My students get a break from over-scheduled lives.
Many parents in my community buy into the philosophy of Amy Chua, believing that the best way to love children is to push them to achieve. Highly achieve. Lest one think this phenomenon is reserved for parents of Asian heritage, many of my students’ parents are former Ivy-leaguers and/or CEOs of international companies and expect nothing less from their children. The pressure to succeed is enormous.

By adding play time to our annual calendar in the form of camp, sports days, and field days, students develop the skills they will need to run the major companies of the future. They learn emotional control and practice social skills that can make them better leaders.

2. Students practice independence.
While students often have enormous amounts of academic pressure, many students do not learn to do chores such as changing beds, sweeping floors, or scraping dishes. Like students in many international school communities, my students’ families employ domestic helpers. At camp, students make their own beds and clean their own cabins. They are required to scrape plates and pile their dishes.

3. Students don’t miss their electronic devices.
We spend a great deal of time and effort enforcing “screen-free zones” at school. No student has ever verbally expressed missing an xbox. Instead, they play Uno, Spoons, and Blockus.

4. Students return from camp different than when they left.
As I type this, I’m thinking about two of my new students who, until this week, were quite shy. One student was spotted taking leadership in her group’s cabin clean-up efforts. Another one has been given a nickname – and he smiles whenever he hears it. Camp allowed him the opportunity to show off his amazing tennis skills, earning the respect of the other class athletes.”

Culture Shock and the Expat Educator

“If you’re a new expat teacher (or an expat teacher in a new setting), you may be wondering what the #@!*% you were thinking when you decided to move.

It’s normal. Perfectly normal. You probably moved in late July and are heading into the dreaded period of anxiety associated with culture shock. Even in countries lovingly termed “expat lite” (i.e. Hong Kong, Singapore) the most mundane things can be frustrating.

An example…
I’ll never forget the first time I wanted to send a check in $US to someone in America. I left school early to make the hour-long trek so that I could get to one of the branches. I arrived to find the branch closed with a sign indicating they closed at 4:30. Seriously? 4:30? I took the hour-long bus ride home.

The next day I left school even earlier, racing out the door after the students left. I arrived at the branch.
“I’d like to get a check in US dollars,” I said.
“You’d like to check your account?” the woman asked.
“No, I’d like a CHECK,” I tried to enunciate clearly as I made the universal hand motion for a signature.
Poor gal was still confused. She went to get her colleague.
I waited. And waited. Branch doors started closing. Security guards were glancing back and forth between their watches and me.
The colleague arrived. “Check?” she asked. “I can get you a checkbook.”
“A checkbook in US dollars?” I asked.
“No, [local country] dollars.”

I burst into tears. The ladies at the bank branch looked at one another, wondering what to do with the foreigner dripping liquid from unsanitary facial orifices.

Flustered, the ladies started handing me forms. One of the forms had to hold the necessary clues to the mysterious transaction request. The forms helped me deduce that chequebook is spelled with a que. I quietly cursed Webster. Finally, I phoned a colleague. Turns out I wanted a demand draft.

Normally, I’m pretty level-headed. I don’t generally curse dead dictionary authors. But, for a task that would take me 10 minutes in my home country, I had invested almost three hours of travel time over two days and I couldn’t figure out how I was going to pay my US credit card bill on time. My head spun into pictures of credit card penalties and bad credit rating reports. I was convinced my credit card would be shut down and I wouldn’t be able to buy a DVD player to replace the one I first bought that wouldn’t play DVDs from the US (Region 1? Why in the world would countries make DVDs that couldn’t be played elsewhere?). If I could just get the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice to play, I could ruminate on the problems of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and cry over something that wasn’t my current situation.

When I finally pieced together that string of thoughts, I wondered if I needed counseling. How would I pay for counseling without a credit card??? The blubbering started again.

Fortunately, I had read up on culture shock and, a glass of wine later, I realized the irrational behaviors could all be traced back to the predictable stage (okay, maybe it was a few glasses bottle of wine).”

*If you are an international school teacher and would like your blog highlighted on International School Community contact us here.

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