Highlighted Articles

OMG: I’m Becoming a Citizen of my Host Country

June 26, 2019


When most international teachers move abroad, they aren’t thinking “oh, this is the country that I want to be living in for many, many years.” They also aren’t thinking “When I move there, I’m going to do whatever it takes to become a citizen.”

But somehow, some of us get ourselves into that exact position. What was once the goal of staying at an international school for 4-6 years has turned into 8, 10 or even more than 12 years!

If the situation is good where you are at, then why not stay?! Most likely, not everyone can work and live where you are. Actually, some international school teachers would probably die to live and work in your host country! (note: the grass is always greener problem…)

As you stay longer and longer in your host country, the question about trying to become a citizen starts to be a popular one to talk about and discuss (depending on where you are living, of course).

Things to think about:

What are the requirements to becoming a citizen in your host country? There are many in some cases!

Can you have dual citizenship so that you don’t have to give up your home country passport? Some of us would very quickly give up our home country passport, but many of us would very much not!

What is the time frame for waiting around to get your citizenship application approved? In some countries the processing time can take up to two years!

So the question comes, what then does it take to actually become a citizen?

You will probably have to fork over a sizeable amount of money for your application. Could be from hundreds of USDs to thousands of USDs!

You will probably have to pass some sort of host country language test. Some countries don’t have this as a requirement, but others do. Sometimes just having a A2/B1 level is alright, but other countries might want higher than that!

You will also most likely need to pass some sort of citizenship exam. There will be a bunch of questions about the culture, history, politics, laws, etc. of the country. It can take quite some effort to read and study about all of these topics so that you can pass this exam.

Once you pass all the tests and pay all the fees, the next step is to complete and submit the application and also to check and see if you meet the rest of the requirements. For example, if you have unpaid speeding tickets from driving, that can be a problem. If you have received some financial support from the government in the past few years, that can also be a deterrent. Other problems can include: if you have been outside of the country for more than 6 months, if you haven’t been making a certain amount of money during the time you’ve been working there, if you haven’t had full time work for the duration of your stay so far, etc. All of these things can delay or make it so that your host country will refuse your application.

Even if it is fun to get caught up in all the excitement of becoming a dual citizen, what does it mean to really be a citizen of your host country? Maybe you have got married to a local and had children together and need to get citizenship so that everyone in your family has the same legal rights in the country. That can be stressful for you until you get the passport!

Another question to ask yourself: Once you get citizenship, does that mean you will stay there the rest of your life and that your life as a roving international school teacher is over? That prospect could sound daunting to some people. It is good to have choices though in life. Once you get a host country passport, you could still move and try living somewhere else for a bit, and then you can rest knowing that you could always move back if you want. If your new passport is from an EU country, that would definitely open up more possibilities for places to live and work without the hassle of having some school sponsor you in anyway (which is often a problem for most schools in EU).

We all know that the passport you hold can really make a difference in many ways. If you have an EU passport, you can often get through passport control much faster. If you want to visit Iran, then it would be much easier to go there on an EU passport vs. a USA one. If you want to vote and participate in the main elections in your host country, a passport will allow you to do just that. If you want to get out of teaching and your current job, a passport would allow you to try out a different school or even a different career. The benefits and advantages go on and on…

Of course, the main advantage of having a host country passport is that you can rest and relax knowing that you will not be kicked out of the country for any reason, you will have the same legal rights as any of the other citizens there, and you can stay as long as you want and enjoy the country that you have gotten to know and fall in love with over the years. Even though you probably don’t have your own relatives and direct family there with you, you can stay with and build even stronger relationships with your new family in your host country (or now just your country).

continue reading

Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons how you know you are NOT working at a top-tier international school

March 28, 2015


We all wish that our next international school will be in the “top-tier” of all the 6000+ international schools out there around the world.  For you will have the perfect salary, the perfect position, the perfect boss, the perfect housing allowance, etc.

Well even though the idea of working at a top-tier international school sounds wonderful, the reality is that no international school is perfect, that’s for sure.  On the other hand, we suppose it is true that working at a top-tier school will more likely be a better and more satisfying experience for you.

Each international school is on their own journey towards greatness. The most important thing to know then (when considering a job to work at an international school), in what part of their journey will you be starting?  Is that international school moving at a steady pace towards improvement or will it be at a very slow pace (or worse, stalled, and heading in a downward spiral)?

14270588337_4fac0d2b3c_z

What are the Top 10 reasons how you know you are NOT working at a top-tier international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You don’t get paid on time. 

Fact. You can’t focus on doing your best teaching if you are not getting paid on time. Some international schools (for-profit ones most likely) do not pay its teachers until two weeks or more after the original pay-date. Slowly losing trust in your school to pay its staff on time will definitely affect its ability to be top-tier.

#2 – The interview process leaves you confused and full of questions.

There is nothing worse than being very interested in working at an international school and then left being underwhelmed after the interview with them.  The administration appear to not be very well organized.  Maybe they do not know the specific details about the position for which you are interviewing.  When interviewing, obviously you need to have all your questions answered because this decision you might make is a big one.  You want to leave the interview satisfied that they have answered all your questions and concerns.  Curiously, sometimes the interview goes super fast, and the school seems to be willing to hire anyone breathing (another red flag); which gets you wondering if you indeed really are a good fit for this school or are they misleading you just to fill a vacancy.

5869645315_20fcb858f1_z

#3 – The business office is a nightmare-of-a-place you dread going.

Losing trust in your international school is the definite deal-breaker. Arguably, the most important room in the school is the business office. For it is a fact that they are in control of all your money.  If you are not getting reimbursed for things in time, you lose some trust. You lose even more trust if the business office staff is very mean to you and does not seem at all interested in helping you resolve all things related to your money, in a timely and respectful manner for example. If you are a bit scared to go into your international school’s business office (because of multiple previous experiences of disappointment and stress), then you know your school is not in the top-tier.

#4 – The student enrollment is falling rapidly.

Losing students can be a very natural event at an international school caused by things completely out of the school’s control (i.e. global recession, big businesses moving out of the area, etc.).  But if your school has students leaving for nearby international schools, it might be falling out of the group of top-tier schools in your area.  Parents know very well which international schools, in a specific city, have the best reputation. If the parents are extremely upset with the experience they are having with your school, they will start finding alternative options for their children. The less students a school has, sometimes will affect the number of unique services they can offer. Which, in turn, leaves the school falling down a into a downward spiral of student enrollment because of a growing bad reputation.

#5 – You have a very non-existent new-teacher orientation experience.

When you arrive at your new post, everything needs to be just-so for you to get started off on the right foot. If the international school does not have a plan for welcoming and orientating new staff, these teachers will be full of stress. Getting settled in as quickly as possible is every new teacher’s goal. If the school does not offer a planned and structured new-teacher orientation programme, it will be left with teachers who cannot focus on doing their best in the first few months of starting at their new school. Top-tier schools know what new teachers need in the first couple months and have a plan on how to help them minimize stress of culture shock to the new school and the new country.

9040698472_ecd1b4fbc6_z

#6 – There isn’t equal pay for teachers working in the same position.

International schools need a plan on how they will pay their teachers and staff. Unequal pay for people doing the same job is just not fair. Top-tier schools have a clear pay schedule that is understandable and transparent.  Teachers know when there is unequal pay amongst the staff, and this feeling of inequity causes them to have a negative impression on how these financial aspects are handled. International schools that want to be top-tier ones realize that paying local staff a different salary and offering them less benefits is not good for staff morale and the overall wellbeing of all stakeholders.

#7 – Your administration hires people that don’t match the school’s philosophy and mission.

How frustrating when your director does the hiring for the whole school, even when they do not have a clear idea of the positions they are trying to fill. In smaller international schools, typically the director is the only one going to the recruitment fairs. Top-tier international school directors know better how things work in their primary, middle and high school sections. They know how each of those diversion runs and the personalities of teachers that work in those divisions. Finding a good match for working with your current staff should be a top priority. Top-tier schools ask the right questions to try and figure out to their best ability if the candidate will be a good fit for the school’s current philosophy and mission. Non top-tier international school miss the mark completely and will hire anyone who vaguely fits the position’s requirements.

#8 – The school starts countless new initiatives all at the same time.

Top-tier internationals have a clear plan on how they will organize new initiatives.  They will not do so many at once as they know that causes the staff too much stress because of all the changes they will experience.  Top-tier international school also have administration that stay for four to six years (or longer), which allows for better deployment of the proposed initiatives. All new initiatives need see-through and consistent monitoring and evaluation. We all know the non top-tier schools out there that pile on the new initiatives, leaving all staff angry and frustrated.

#9 – You lose money that the school was suppose to pay you.

Promises, promises. You would think that after signing a contract with an international school, they would honor it.  But at some schools, that is not always the case.  Many schools offer a bonus payment for every year that you have worked there.  The catch is that they will not give you that money until after your final year of working there.  You are not working at a top-tier school if you are worried about getting the money that was promised to you.  There are international school teachers out there who have to wait over a year to receive their bonus money.  Even scarier, there are other teachers who never got their bonus money.

97139090_6260436324_z

#10 – Your international school completely closes down a year after you leave it.

It is unlikely a top-tier international school will close down. Many times they are huge businesses that are very well organized with many stakeholders with a vested interest in the success of the school.  Unfortunately, there are some of us that have worked at these less desirable international schools that plainly just do not have their act together. To add to your embarrassment of working there for a few years, you find that the school has closed a year after you left it due to a high amount mismanagement. It happens. Its true that not all schools can be as successful and long-running as top-tier schools. But do you really want to work at an international school that does not have their act together with a haphazard management style?  We think not.

All guest authors to our blog get six months of free premium membership to our website.  Email us if you have a top 10 list idea and would like it to be highlighted on our blog as a guest author.

continue reading

Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons for wanting to move back to my home country (USA)

February 24, 2015


Many of us have been out of our home country for many years (check out our Seasoned International School teachers post).  Sure, we love our international school teaching life, and there are many reasons to continue that life. If the school is inspiring, stay. If the benefits are great, why not stay. If the travel opportunities are awesome, definitely stay!

Like all good things though, they are bound to come to an end.

But why would an international school teacher move back to his/her home country? There are different reasons for everyone because everyone is coming from a variety of situations and circumstances. With that in mind…what are the Top 10 reasons for wanting to move back to my home country? (USA) Maybe you can relate to some of these!

Screenshot 2015-02-24 22.29.51
#1 – I want to have the experience of living as an adult in my home county (I was 24 with I left).

Some teachers leave to start their international school teaching career straight out of university, which means you are between 21-24. If you leave your home country that early in your “life after college”, there is not much time to enjoy the pleasures of being an adult doing adult things.  For example, leaving at 21 doesn’t leave too much time for you to save up enough money to buy a house.

#2 – I am tired of being a foreigner and need a break. I may go out again after a year or two.

It can be quite exciting when everything is new and different, but it can also be draining on your day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year to year life while living abroad. Of course the longer you live somewhere, most things become routine and normal. However, it doesn’t mean that you completely forget your life back home. Sometimes you just want to go back and remind yourself of all the things you missed or forgot about.

3294589793_45af18de38_z#3 – I miss my friends.

You can make some great friends in the international school community, especially the ones that started the same year as you did.  The friends you make while living abroad are truly your family away from home.  The friends from your home country are unique though and super important to you. Not being able to see them can be quite difficult at times. Usually you only get to see your home-country friends once a year if you are lucky. Many times when you set up a time to see them, many other old friends are there too…not leaving you enough quality time to catch up on everything. How nice to have all the time in the world to hang out with your friends if you are back living in your home country again!

#4 – I am tired of people saying hateful things about my home country to my face as soon as they meet me.

You really learn a lot about your home country while living abroad. You get to hear, first hand, the multiple perspectives people have related to where you are from. Not all the things they say to you are positive though, making you feel bad and pensive. If you are from an area that has a negative stereotype attached to it, you end up constantly hearing it, after you meet new people and mention your home country to them.  Over and over again, you need to explain to these people how you are not like that stereotype and teach them about your experience.  It can definitely get a bit irritating.

#5 – I want a garbage disposal again.

It is all the conveniences of your home country that you start missing. The list of things you miss can be a long one!  There aren’t many countries that have garbage disposals as a standard feature in a kitchen.  Because of this, I miss them.

4241390495_635818a2b6_z#6 – I want to be able to walk into one store and buy everything I need.

If you are from the United States, then you know what a Super Target is. Now it has everything that you would need to buy for your weekly shopping.  For those of us that don’t want to spend extra time shopping in multiple stores to get everything we want, the idea of just going to one store to get it all done sounds great. Living in your host country, you don’t know where things are most of the time (the language barrier comes into play here as well). Back home, you are an expert on knowing where to go and what you can get there.

#7 – I want to see my country, travel around and really experience it.

Many of the veteran international school teachers have been traveling around the world like crazy. Traveling is a top priority for many of us. Once and a while you see a movie or a tv program and see some pictures of your home country that are stunningly beautiful. You wonder why you never went to that stunning place when you were living there. Going back home might just give you a better opportunity to explore more of your homeland; a nice way to re-appreciate where you came from.

#8 – I want to do a proper Halloween.

You can try and celebrate your home-country holidays while living in your host country, but some things just won’t be the same  to how you would celebrate them back home. Halloween is one of them.  Some countries try and celebrate a few of your home-country holidays (like Halloween), but some are just not comparable to how your home country would celebrate them. Being surrounded by many houses again, all with their light on to welcome trick-or-treaters, can be just the thing to know you are back home to your roots again.

#9 – I want to experience the weather that I grew up with again.

Not many places in the world have exactly the same weather as the place in which you grew up. Sure you can try and experience what it is like to live in a tropical location (like Singapore), but being hot and sweaty every time you go out of the house can get tiresome.  You can also check out the weather living in a colder climate (like Moscow), but having endless cloudy days of freezing cold weather in the winter is enough for you to wish you didn’t live there.  Going back to the weather you grew up with can be just what the doctor ordered.

5351266905_a1ec51f850_z
#10 – I want to be able to turn on the tv and be able to understand most channels. 

You can go for years without turning on a tv while living abroad. If you don’t understand the local language very well, you know that you won’t be able to understand or follow many of the tv programs anyway.  It’s true that you can get all the news and information you want from the internet, but it is nice though to have an option where you just turn on the tv and surf the channels (like how you used to do when living back in your home country).

This top 10 list was submitted to us by a guest author and International School Community member who is from the United States.

All guest authors to our blog get six months of free premium membership to our website.  Email us if you have a top 10 list idea and would like it to be highlighted on our blog as a guest author.

continue reading

Discussion Topics

What products do you always stock up on when you return to your home country?

August 16, 2012


“How many suitcases should you bring home?”  says an international school teacher who is traveling home for either summer vacation or winter break.  Inside though you know what you will end up doing during your trip back home, even though that you it might cost you in the end when you pay for the extra weight of your one suitcase or when you pay the extra fee for an additional suitcase on the airline you are flying on.  Too bad that many airlines are now only allowing one suitcase, even on international flights!

The allure of home products is too strong though.  When living abroad as an expat, it is almost vitally important to have things that are familiar around you and in your new home abroad.  Sometimes I open up one of my kitchen cabinets and because of the many home products that I see, it could be me opening a cupboard in my old home in my home country.  Surely the first and second year abroad you might do this, stocking your cupboards full of home products, but doing this your third or fourth (or tenth or more) year…. is it time to “let go?”

I heard one international teacher say that after eight years of living abroad she now refuses to buy products at home when she can find the exact same thing or something comparable in her host country.  That would most likely save her in the long run on baggage fees, even if the project is a little bit more expensive than in her home country.  Sometimes though we just want to have our favorite brand that we were using all the time when we lived in our home country, even if we can find something exactly the same (minus the brand name that we have “grown to trust”) in our current placement.  This is the dilemma then, to buy or not to buy??!

This year I personally decided to only take one suitcase back home for the summer.  Well if I am being completely honest, I still did bring a carry-on travel backpack…in the hopes that I could squeeze in a few more of my favorite things to take with me on my flight back home. It was very difficult to limit myself.  I keep on repeating in my head “Can I get this where I live now?” If the answer was yes, I reluctantly didn’t buy it.

It is fun shop in other countries.  Exploring grocery stores in other countries is one of my most favorite things to do actually (though I find it equally enjoyable to shop in my old grocery stores at home too)!  You never know what you will find.  Well actually you do end up seeing some products from your home country in foreign grocery stores, but countries obviously have many of their own products.  As you try new products, you are bound to find new favorites.

Sometimes if you see products that look familiar, they have a different language on the packages.  Some even try and display messages in English that seem a bit funny to you.  I’m not for sure the Lays company would put the same phrase “best with cold drinks” on their United States packages…maybe though.  Also, foreign countries have people with different tastes, so you might find potato chip flavors like Chilli Chinese with Schezwan Sauce and Seaweed Pringles….probably wouldn’t be popular flavors in United States.  One thing that is hard to find living abroad is proper potato or tortilla chips; that aisle in a United States grocery store is a long one with many different brands and options.

Another factor to consider when buying foreign products is when you are trying to read the ingredients; this is where many international school teachers draw the line.  Many, many people nowadays need to know exactly each thing that is in a product, and when you have to do this in a second language (in which you likely only know a few words in total) you might find yourself being drawn to bring back more of your home country’s products.  Knowing the ingredients is very important.  Sometimes even on imported products in your host country, the country itself covers up the English ingredients list and puts a sticker over it listing the ingredients in the host language. It is can be frustrating for sure!

Interesting story….I just witnessed an international school teacher lug up three boxes of home country goods to her apartment.  When I asked her where did she get these boxes, she said that you got them from somebody who works at the embassy of her home country.  After living abroad for awhile and meeting embassy workers, we all know one of the perks they get.  They can order home country products in bulk and the embassy will ship it over for them.  I guess this embassy worker had extra and enough to share with an international teacher!  I didn’t see all the different kind of products that were in the boxes, but I do know that I saw some box of those Duncan Hines cake boxes!  You might be able to find easy to bake cake mixes in your host country, but this just might be one of those projects that is only available at grocery stores in the United States.

Go ahead…continue to go home and stock up on all your favorite things.  However, don’t forget to keep your eye out in the local grocery stores where you are living.  Try a few new things every 1-2 weeks.  There are most likely some amazing products that you didn’t know about beforehand.  Some things though you just might want to pass on, like whatever kind of meat this is in the display case and what ever kind of product that is in this stand.  Sometime the risk is too great to try out new (and strange) products and foods!

If you are an international school teacher, please share what you stock up on when you return to your home country!  How many suitcases do you bring home?

continue reading

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS: #5 – Look for ways to strengthen and maintain your enthusiasm

October 15, 2011


TEN COMMANDMENTS OF RELOCATING OVERSEAS

5. Look for ways to strengthen and maintain your enthusiasm.

We all have been there before; alone in your new apartment, not wanting to go out onto the street to the nearby market, not wanting to be confronted with a bunch of people that are speaking a language you don’t understand, feeling tired all the time and wanting to sleep through your whole weekend, etc.

Look for ways to strengthen and maintain your enthusiasm

It takes some mental toughness to get your spirits up again, to grasp at a tiny bit of enthusiasm when you are knee-deep in culture shock feelings. If this is your 3rd international school you might have said to yourself, “this time it is going to be different. I am going to accept people’s offers of invitation to go out around the town. I am going to be more positive and active during the first 3-6 months after I arrive.”

Sometimes it feels like every other new teacher at your school is full of enthusiasm and you are the only one not feeling that way, but it is true that all new teachers go through this tough stage of culture shock which is trying to stay positive about your situation and keeping an up-beat attitude about the host country and culture.

Ways to increase and maintain your enthusiasm:

§ Invite some of the new teachers out for a drink at a bar in town, for a walk around the nearby park, for some dinner over at your new apartment, etc..

Look for ways to strengthen and maintain your enthusiasm

§ Join a meetup.com group in your host city. There are many groups on that website from all over the world. Sometimes it is good to just get away from your work colleagues and meet some other expats in other industries.

§ Start up a blog about all your new experiences living abroad. Keeping your friends and family up to date with all your new experiences can be quite motivating, and your friends and family look forward to your new entries and enjoy hearing about all your adventures.

§ Make sure you have some of your favorite TV programs to watch on your computer. We have all experienced in at least one of the host cities we’ve lived in the long wait time that there can be when getting internet installed in your new apartment. Having some TV programs or favorite movies to watch in the meantime can definitely keep your enthusiasm from dipping too low.

§ Make sure you don’t pass up your first travel opportunity of the school calendar. Looking online for flights to new destinations can really boost your enthusiasm for the expat life that you have chosen for yourself. If you are not feeling like traveling, just start asking around with the other teachers at your school. Once you hear where they are going, you will for sure want to get on the bandwagon and get your trip planned as well.

Look for ways to strengthen and maintain your enthusiasm

§ Before you move, make sure to pack some of your favorite home country food products. When you have a day that you are feeling down, you can get one of these products out for dinner. Having some familiar foods can really make you feel back on track. It might just be too much of a shock to your system to only be eating the host country’s cuisine.

Anybody have any more good ideas for keeping up your enthusiasm? There are many more for sure. Just try and keep in mind the reason that you decided to take on this new challenge and change in your life. The life of an expat is indeed quite nice, but it is not full of wonderful moments all the time. International school teachers need to be prepared to handle these tough situations we experience every once and awhile when our enthusiasm for this lifestyle temporary dims.

continue reading