Discussion Topics

Is Your Host Country Safe?

April 2, 2019


Nobody wants to live in a place where they feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter if you are a man, a woman, a gay or lesbian person, a person of color, a physically challenged person, a senior citizen, etc., you definitely want to live somewhere you can you feel safe in your environment and surroundings.

It is unfortunate, but not every city in the world is considered a safe place for everyone. But I think people would be surprised to find out which cities are making the lists of top 50 safest cities in the world.

If you haven’t been to a certain city in the world before to check it out yourself, then there can be a lot of misunderstandings and misconceptions about that place. People tend to revert to using stereotypes to describe the places that they haven’t been to before. Surely your mom has said this to you before you move to or even travel to a specific country: ‘oh, I’ve heard some bad things about that place. Make sure you are safe there!’, but most likely your mom is just getting her information from her local newspaper, for example. Maybe your mom is just referring to a story she heard about that city 10, 20 even 30 years ago! And of course, some of that information might not actually be true and cities can and do change over time.

After having visited many cities in many countries in the world, people will realize that every place has nice people that live there. Even if there is a small lack of safety at the moment, the fruit seller is still selling her/his fruit. Meaning that life goes on as normal, in most cities in the world, regardless of most recent events.

Besides war, we unforutnately consistently see episodes of terrorist attacks on a number of cities around the world. And they are happening everywhere, any place and any time. It would appear impossible to avoid living in a place where there is a 0% chance of a terrorist attack.

“The political unrest has subsided and feel very safe. However, It seems that many people get frustrated with politics between the National school and the International school. The National school has control of everything and it has a negative impact on day-to-day working conditions at the International school. If the International school was independent of the National school, I feel, it would be a tremendous place to work. Many people, however, simply get tired of trying to work with such limiting parameters imposed by the National school.” – MEF International School Istanbul

In some cities, often found in developing countries, you might find yourself living in a compound or a building with some level of security. Living in a building with a guard can be a new experience for many international school teachers. You might also find yourself living in a city where you will see high walls with barbed wire surrounding each building as you drive to and from your home to work. Not everyone wants to look at that every day. Even though it gives you a feeling a being safer, it doesn’t give the best feeling that you are constantly reminded of the fact that you seem to be living in an unsafe city.

“Many of the buildings, stores and houses will have fences around them with barbed wire. There are also police couples walking around the downtown area of the city all the time. Though these things keep you safe and feeling security, it doesn’t have the most cosiest feeling as you go around the city.” – American International School of Costa Rica

When you live abroad in a new city, you want the freedom to explore and walk around your new city. As you spend more time there, you will find out the ‘right places’ that you can walk around in your new city. Most people would prefer to walk around freely without any worries, but it is always good to aware of your surroundings as you do your exploring.

“Compared to many Latin American cities I have visited or lived in, Santo Domingo is safe. You don’t have to look over your shoulder all of the time if you stay in the right parts of the city. You can exercise in a park without worrying about getting mugged. Of course you shouldn’t flash money and expensive jewelry around but with common sense it’s not hard to stay out of trouble.” – MC School

Many of us are used to having our own car in our home countries. However, a smaller percentage of us own cars while living abroad. It might be that we view cars as an unnecessary expense in our expat lives, but it also might be that it would be unsafe for you to drive there in your host country. Maybe you would be the unsafe person on the road as it might also be that you are unfamiliar with the local way of driving and that the roads are not very well maintained.

“The best way to make the best out of your stay in KL during your contract it to buy a car and drive around. Driving is really safe, roads are well signaled and the quality is very good. Considering that Malaysia is a relatively small country in terms of territory, it is possible to visit all states and major cities during weekends and have fantastic road trips with gorgeous views.” – Fairview International School

In the end, international school teachers want to move abroad and have a goal to start a new life exploring a new country and getting immersed in a new culture. Thinking of all the factors that come into play with regards to feeling safe while living abroad, achieving this goal can prove to be a difficult talk. But with great cities improving and becoming safer all the time, there are more and more good options for us international school teachers for our next move!

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Comment Topic Highlight

What is the best part of living in your host city?

September 16, 2016


Living and working in cities around the world can be very tiresome, confusing and stressful. On the other hand, it can also be wonderful, exciting and eventful.

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When you first move to a city there are so many new places to visit and restaurants at which to eat.  Even after a couple of years, there are still new places to check out and restaurants that you haven’t eaten at yet. If you are lucky, a new favorite place pops up every once and awhile.

Even after a short time of living in a city, there are certainly places that become your favorite. When your friends and family visit, you tend to take them on mini tours that go to these places. These places become a huge part of your ‘expat’ experience.

After moving away to a new city, you always think about the good times you had in your old city and the places you frequently visited. These favorite places truly become solidified in your memory of living in that city.

host city

The best part of moving away from a city you’ve lived in, is going back to visit. When you make a trip to return to a place you’ve once lived, your old favorite places are on the top of your ‘sight-seeing list’ during your visit.  And typically you don’t have as much time to see them all, so you truly find out which places were your really top ones. These really top ones are the must-go places that bring back old memories, and also help make new ones.

Most international school teachers can list off the best parts of living in their city. Some have longer lists than others (depending on their personality and the place in which they live), but there are always new and interesting things to check out and do…if you are getting yourself out to enjoy them.  The more local friends you get too, the more you can check out and hear out the ‘best places’ in the city from the people that truly know it well.

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Luckily, International School Community has a comment topic on our school profile pages related to what life is like in various cities around the world, so you can stay the most informed as possible. It is called: “What is the best part of living in this city for you?

Our veteran international school teachers have submitted a total of 69 comments in this comment topic (Sept. 2016).  Here are a few that have been submitted:

“KK is a very multi-cultural city. There are many different religions and ethnicities represented here. Because of this there is nearly always a festival or celebration going on. It is wonderful to see everyone celebrating them all. Muslims openly welcome Chinese, Tamil and Expats to their homes during Hari Raya. Everyone is welcome to attend the temple during Deepavali. And of course everyone always enjoys Chinese New Year and Christmas celebrations.” – Kinabalu International School (Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia)10 Comments

“Outside of school, there is a very relaxed pace of life. You will see people in the coffee shops, on the beach or just strolling the avenues all hours of the day. The food is excellent, and the wines are cheap and second to none. Forget the expensive Italian and French wines. Stick with the huge variety of portuguese wines and you can’t go wrong.” – Oeiras International School (Lisbon, Portugal)98 Comments

“Seisen is located in Setagaya ward, which is one of the greenest parts of Tokyo. You are never more than a short bike ride or stroll from Kinuta Park, Komazawa Park, Todoroki Gorge or the expanse of green along the Tama River bank.” – Seisen International School (Tokyo, Japan)66 Comments

“It’s hard to put your finger on. Bangkok can be infuriating. Travel can be tough off the Skytrain finding products you need, a real challenge and yet the city has a pleasant, almost relaxed vibe for a place of its size. The Thais are a fun loving people, there are some great bars and restaurants and if you search off the beaten track some architectural and historical gems.” – Rasami British International School (Bangkok, Thailand)75 Comments

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Highlighted Articles

Highlighted article: What blogging steals from travel

March 16, 2012


After checking out the article on the Matador website, it made me wonder a bit about traveling and our traveling routines (and habits).

Are we traveling just to take pictures, the “best pictures ever”? One friend told me one time, “I don’t take pictures when I travel. I would rather enjoy the moment instead.”

Are we traveling just to take a “cool” photo that I am going to post on Facebook to “show-off” all my friends?

And like the author of the Matador article, is he just traveling to write a blog entry?

What are the rules of traveling then?  What are the things you “must do” and what are the things you are doing that are not on that list and that possibly take away from the things on that list?

Some people say that one “must do” on the list is to eat the local food.  Others say that you “must” interact with the locals as much as you can (see the video highlight of Rick Steves on our blog).  I have friends who are over 40 and still make it a point to stay at hostels so that they can “rough” it and thus being more “in tune” to the host country more and being able to interact with the other travelers there that also want to be more “in tune.”  That is a “must do” for them.

Some people just travel to see and be on the beach.  Relaxing every day at the hotel possibly at an all inclusive resort.  Are those people getting out of traveling like they “should” or are their separate trips abroad that are just for relaxing and “getting away”?

And then there is the Amazing Race show.  Who doesn’t like the Amazing Race show?  It is like all our dreams coming true (with regards to traveling and exploring the world).  But time and time again I meet people who say that sure these teams are traveling the world, but they aren’t really interacting with the host country people and culture at all.  The teams are not in the cities long enough to really see what the culture is all about.  They are not able to be “present” to fully take in where they are and what they are experiencing.  I am not for sure I agree.  I really feel like there is definitely something the teams are getting out of their traveling.  It may not be the same experience as if you are traveling somewhere for 3 weeks and having a home stay at a local family’s house, but sure it is another form a traveling that could possibly be just as rewarding.

“I went to Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower. I wasn’t too impressed.”  If you are working at an international school in Europe, you might have said to your other international school teacher friends, “After traveling to many cities in Europe, they are all starting to look the same.”  Some times traveling naturally gets to this point.  Not that you stay at this point and never go back, but I think when you travel as much as international school teachers do, it is bound to happen at some point.  Because when you travel too much, sometimes the “routines” that you experience when traveling have a similar feeling to each other.  Check into the hotel.  Go into the famous church there.  Look at the Eiffel Tower.  Eat out at restaurants every night.  Go to the Starbucks!  It just might just start all appearing to be the same trip.

I used to have a blog.  It was about all my trips.  I started it originally about my experiences living abroad after moving to my first international school, but my interest in it soon waned as I found myself being less and less “excited” about my day to day experiences living in the host country.  The blog turned into a travel blog basically as I ended up posting entries about my travels. I remember thinking…well I have to edit all my photos.  And then after editing, I have to write insightful things about those photos and publish them (the best ones) on my blog.  My friends and family actually really liked my blog.  They loved reading my entries and looking at my photos.  My aunt even printed out all the blog entries that were on the blog and put them into an album.  She gave the album of my blog entries to my mother as a present!

BUT….I had to stop.  I really started to dread it.  Did I take it out on my traveling and stop enjoying my trips to the fullest?  Probably not that much, but it might have affected my travels.  I can’t image actually writing the blog every day of your trip (like how the Matador author might be doing) and then having the pressure to write insightful entries and publish an entry each day for a blog.  For sure that might take away a bit from his traveling experience and being “present” on his trip.

I think that every one travels for their own reasons.  Somebody’s reasons for traveling might not be exactly the same as the next person’s reasons.  Most people in the “real world” aren’t actually able to travel as much as we do (international school educators) and surely we shouldn’t take that fact for granted.  Maybe a good idea is to make one or two traveling goals before you embark on your trip.  “I’m going to try and interact more with the host country people.”  “I am going to travel more of the local cuisine when I choose which restaurants that I eat at.”

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