News Reports about your Host Country

The News Reports about your Host Country Don’t Always Match the Reality of your Daily Life

January 8, 2020


Living abroad can be full of many surprises. Even more so when your host country is in the current world news (typically for something unfortunate). What happens then is that your friends and family from your home country (or other countries around the world where your international school friends live) write to you to see if you are safe or to ask how things are going there.

In this entry, we have 4 international school teachers sharing what is going in their host countries. They also share details about what they are experiencing and how they see things from their perspective.

Hong Kong

“I recently returned to busy Causeway Bay, Hong Kong (my home for nearly 6 years), after three weeks away for Winter Break. The roads were packed with shoppers, outside vendors, and people enjoying chestnuts and sweet potatoes on the street corner. These are not the media images shown these days about Hong Kong. Yes, a lot has been going on in this city during the past 7 months, but depending where you live, you may see very little of the chaos. My school is on the south side of Hong Kong island where (as far as I know) there has been zero protest activity. The majority of our student population live in this area as do many teachers. Life carries on as usual for the most part in this part of Hong Kong. I, on the other hand, live where most large scales demonstrations begin and where there has been much protest activity and police presence. Despite this, I can sometimes go for weeks without feeling the affects of the protests. When my family and friends see the violence in the news, they are surprised to hear that most of the time, it is business as usual here in Hong Kong. Most pro-democracy/anti-government gatherings are easy to avoid if you choose to do so.

My first night back in Hong Kong in 2020, I went to dinner in Wan Chai. Restaurants were full and all felt normal- though normal has a different feel here these days.”

Australia

“There is a lot of news coverage about the bushfires in Australia these past few weeks, and there are definitely tremendous problems associated with them. There are numerous areas in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia that are being destroyed by all of these fires. They are still going on at the moment, with barely any relief (like rain) on the way. I have been traveling around many of these states for the past month, and I must say that I haven’t seen or gone through the parts of those states that have been damaged or destroyed. Life goes on pretty much as normal in all the parts that I’ve visited recently. Many of my friends and family abroad have messaged me about my safety and if I’m near the fires. I tell them no, and that I’m safe. When I turn on BBC and CNN, I can see why they would think I’m in trouble here as their reports are indeed showing a lot of danger and devastation. But people do need to realise that Australia is a huge country. And even though the fires are in numerous locations, they are not in the big city metropolises that the majority of Australians are living in. That is not to say these big cities aren’t feeling the effects of the fires. On certain days, the fire smoke is definitely hovering over the cities here and causing a lot of air pollution. Some days the air pollution is worse than cities in nations like India and China, but it is only at that level a day or two and then the air quality usually returns back to safer levels.

It is important to mention though, yesterday at a store in Sydney, I overhead two people saying things like “I didn’t think these fires were going to affect me and my house, and then it did…” it made it more real to me hearing that story in person and that these fires are indeed affecting many people here.”

Qatar

“I have been living in Qatar with my family for 9 years. Originally moved here as my husband was offered a job (he is in construction) and I found a teaching job at one of the many international schools here. My school is located in the West Bay area where a lot of expats live and is surrounded by tall buildings, offices, hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls.

Two years ago, an air, land and sea blockade was imposed on Qatar by four other neighbouring countries which cut diplomatic and trade ties with Doha. About 60% of Qatar’s food supplies came from the countries causing the blockade. There was chaos at the supermarkets at the time. Shelves were emptied fast. While Qatar was trying to figure out alternative ways to import goods people were finding it difficult to find certain foods at the supermarket including milk. I remembered it last yesterday that I struggled, at that time, to find milk for my kids. It was a crazy couple of months.

Qatar actually imported tens of thousands of cows to ensure milk supplies.”

Cambodia

“Cambodia. The first thing I hear is “where?”  Then I hear, “oh, yeah, Tomb Raider, right?” But my everyday life as a principal is so much more than ruins (although we’ve got plenty).  Regular life is the open-air tuk-tuk rides to school, counting dogs with my six year old daughter.  Regular life is using smiles and a mix of Khmer and English to negotiate for fresh vegetables for dinner.  It’s the warm greetings from the owner of our favorite restaurant when we make our weekly visit, and the warm croissants from the corner bakery.  It’s having friends from all over the world, who teach my daughter new words in their languages and invite us to their homelands for holidays.  Most of all, my regular Cambodian life is about balance, because I can leave work at work, and enjoy my family and friends.  Cambodia may be challenging in some ways, but it ultimately is about being able to relax, be yourself, and enjoy the ride (especially in a tuk-tuk).”

If your host country is in the world news at the moment and your family and friends are contacting you about what’s happening, please write to us and share your experience for an upcoming article in the blog series. We’d love to know what it is really like living in these countries all around the world. You will receive 6 months of premium membership for contributing 1-2 paragraphs about your host country.

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Highlighted Articles

Traveling the world and getting to know more than 30,000 people through pancakes

July 14, 2018


For the past 9 years I have met more than 30,000 people. How? By traveling the world and handing out Dutch pancakes for free wherever I go!

How it all started

My story started 9 years ago, when I was studying in Hong Kong for a university exchange program. My friends there cooked Asian food for me and in return I decided to serve them Dutch pancakes. This was a big success and people liked the pancakes and the atmosphere a lot. Back then I already thought that if this event was such a success in Hong Kong, why not anywhere else in the world?!

traveling

When back in the Netherlands I started hosting people at my apartment­­ on Saturday nights, first for 10 or 20 people, but when encouraging my friends to invite more people, it soon grew out towards 100+ people every week. A few months into this, my landlord decided that he wanted to sell my apartment. At that moment I had to make a decision whether to rent a new apartment or to invest my salary in flight tickets and to travel the world in my free time. I decided on the second one and have since then been a nomad for the past 5+ years.

Initially I just approached my own friends who lived all over Europe and asked them whether they fancied to host an edition in their apartments. This worked, but the pace was low (only 1-2 editions per month). At one point I decided to approach strangers on Facebook, Couchsurfing, etc with the question whether they would know of suitable locations or to host the event in their own apartments. Luckily I was always able to find a location this way. However, nowadays the event has outgrown the capacity of regular apartments, so I decided to switch to bars, hostels and more professional venues.

Very different places

Over the course of these 9 years I have organized the pancake events for around 460 times, in 78 countries and in around 200 different cities, literally all over the world, from Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro and from Dar es Salaam to Boston. During these events we prepared more than 50,000 Dutch pancakes!

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All the places I have visited are of course very different from each other, but the atmosphere at the events is surprisingly similar: people are generally very enthusiastic, easy-going and open to meet many more people. They are also often very willing to help and support, for example by finding locations for the events, helping with groceries, bringing along cooking material, preparing pancakes, or help with cleaning. Occasionally the location even looks cleaner than before the event!

How did the pancake event grow so big?

I have always wondered what drove the success of these events. I think the following factors made the difference:

  1. Pancakes: people all over the world love pancakes and most people have tried them since they are young. In many countries the pancakes even have their own method of preparation and flavor.
  2. Diverse crowd: the events typically attract a very diverse and international crowd, from many different cultures and professional backgrounds.
  3. Personal approach: I try to write everyone who indicates to be interested, either by liking, clicking to attend, joining a group chat etc. Welcoming and encouraging them to bring more people, drives conversion.
  4. Pop-up event: I generally organize these events only one time in a city, so people have no other chance to try the event out in that city.
  5. Free food: there are not too many events around the world with unlimited free food. It is therefore not surprising that potential attendants of the events are often suspicious and think that there must be a way I earn money with these events (which is not the case).

traveling

What are my plans for the future?

Even though I have organized these pancake events for 9 years already, I never looked further than 3 months. There were many moments that I thought about stopping, for example if I experienced disappointments or setbacks or if I did not feel like putting in the effort required to organize more editions. However, there were always many more moments that I felt so happy having completed editions successfully and getting a lot of positive feedback from participants. That has always kept me going!

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As for the Dutch pancake nights, I keep on searching for ways to make the experiences for the participants more unique, for example by making them larger (I now think of creating an XXL edition for more than 1000 people), at more unique locations (in an embassy, on a yacht, etc), by creating social impact (e.g. community building, charity), or otherwise.

How can you join?

In case you are also curious to join a Dutch Pancake edition, feel free to visit the event in Hong Kong on Saturday 21 July: https://www.facebook.com/events/201543413811969/

If you cannot make it to the edition in Hong Kong, then here you can find the calendar with other editions: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Dutch-Pancake-events-1127435713963068/events

Here you can find two related videos about the Dutch Pancake Night:

– My TEDx speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPa7V5shQAs&t=250s

– An impression of the event: https://vimeo.com/256783761

Next to that, I do hope that people will be inspired by this journey, connecting people through 3 different ingredients: milk, flour and eggs. And I do hope that people will also start using their own ingredients to shape their own unconventional lifestyle!

traveling

Bio

Robin Vogelaar has a background in finance (at MIT Sloan School of Management) and management consulting (at The Boston Consulting Group and ING Bank in Amsterdam) and currently travels the world bringing people together through Dutch pancakes and supporting NGOs and social enterprises with volunteer consulting on any strategic topic.

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The Journey to School

The Journey to School: Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China)

March 23, 2015


The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Hong Kong International School (Hong Kong, China) described her way to work as follows:

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Leaving my apartment (which is very downtown near to the Causeway Bay MTR stop), I need to take an elevator down to the ground floor.  Many people live above the 20th floor in the apartment buildings here. They are so tall!  Luckily, in my building, there is an express elevator that skips a lot of the lower-numbered floors so I can get to the ground level faster.

I get on the MTR Island line and go to the end of the line which is Chai Wan. The journey can take around 15 minutes or so. There are definitely may other people on the metro, all with heads down, of course, looking at their smart phones.

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Once I get to Chai Wan, then I hop on a small bus. From there it is a quick transfer down the escalator to Bus 16. It is on its way to Stanley, but makes a stop at Tai Tam Reservoir Road which is right by Hong Kong International School. It is a windy ride, so everyone on the bus has to hold on to the handle of the chair in front of us. This part of the journey takes around 10 minutes.

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From there I just walk down the hill to the front gate of HKIS. These pictures show me looking back though towards the bus stop, which is going UP the hill (the journey back to my apartment, after school is over-with for the day, definitely gets your heart pumping a bit…though it’s not that steep). On this road down to the school entrance, you can also see the apartments of many staff members.  They can just walk to work in a minute!  At the end of the road, you see the school…the huge school campus. But first, you need to scan yourself in through the security gates.

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The campus is super cool with many nice views to be had. On a nice day, the trees, the mountains and the sea all look so beautiful!

Currently, we have 31 international schools listed in Hong Kong on our website.  20 of them have had comments submitted on them by our members. Check out which ones here by using our school search feature and ticking the box ‘schools with comments’.  Hong Kong International School is a popular school profile page on our website.  It has 83 total comments on it.  It also has eight members that either currently work there now or have worked there in the past.

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So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn six free months of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.

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Traveling Around

Traveling Around: Hong Kong, China (The life of an international school teacher is good!)

March 14, 2015


Get inspired to make your next travel plan!

Traveling Around: Hong Kong, China

Can you relate?

• Being overwhelmed by the thousands of people you see as you are getting out of the metro system.
• Trying your best to just walk in a straight line on a sidewalk because of all the people around you trying to also walk in a straight line to their destination.
• Enjoying the wonderful view of the mountains and sea and thinking how nice it would be to live here.

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• Keeping your head looking up to the sky as you are walking around the city because of all the amazingly tall skyscrapers.
• Finding it very cool to get the chance to walk into a little temple and observe the locals in a non-obtrusive way.
• Being surprised to find that the normal grocery stores here have a wide range of products, including many products from my home country. How nice!
• Walking around the city and randomly running into the local zoo, realizing it is free and taking advantage of looking at all the cool animals on offer.

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• Loving looking at all the large signs on each street, how they jet out over the streets.
• Eating at a more ‘local’ restaurant and getting the chance to eat some of the seasonal dishes on offer.
• Finding out that expats here can go to mainland China for some time, to go shopping, without having a tourist visa.
• Feeling lucky to go up to the peak on a cloudless, sunny day. The view is really outstanding.

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• Running into a school that had outside walls that were so colorful and inviting.
• Riding on the old trams in the downtown area and finding out that they were shipped over long ago from somewhere in the UK I think.
• Taking a ride on a smaller city bus and seeing that there was a number sign telling how fast that the driver was driving.
• Enjoying eating at the non-restaurants places, like the ones that just have take-away food available, such tasty food!

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• Being astounded hearing about how much apartments actually cost there, so expensive!
• Hearing Cantonese being spoken through the city, but then not really meeting anyone that didn’t also speak English.
• Finding it surprising how much there was discrimination between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese people.

Currently we have 29 international schools listed in Hong Kong on International School Community. Here are the ones that have had comments submitted on them:

 American International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 24 Comments

• Hong Kong Academy Primary School  (Hong Kong, China) – 34 Comments

• Hong Kong International School  (Hong Kong, China) – 62 Comments

• International Christian School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 19 Comments

• Singapore International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 14 Comments

• Yew Chung International School (Hong Kong) (Hong Kong, China) – 17 Comments

If you are on a trip right now, away from your host country, write to us at admin@internationalschoolcommunity.com with your “Can you relate?” traveling experiences.  Tell us where you are traveling in the world, what you are seeing and how you are coping with any culture shock.  Once your Traveling Around experience is posted on our blog, International School Community will give you SIX free months of premium membership!

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Great Resource

Great Resource: Want to work at an international school in Hong Kong?

February 7, 2012


The Top Schools website (http://www.topschools.hk/) has some excellent information about the many international schools in Hong Kong.

There are many international educators interested in working at these schools.  There are around 29 international schools listed on the Top Schools website.  Some of the international schools listed on their website are: Australian International School, Canadian International School, Kingston International School, German Swiss International School, etc…

Highlighted sections from their website:

DISCOVERY BAY INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
“With 940 students, DBIS follows a curriculum based on that of the National Curriculum of England and Wales.  Admissions are non selective and students are drawn from the Discovery Bay community.  Demand for places is high and the school introduced a iPremium School Development Levy of HK$450,000 – s a means for parents to gain a “fast track” entry to the Kindergarten and Primary sections. Presumably, this means those that pay this premium levy get priority in the selection process.”

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
“A highly reputable school following an American-style curriculum. 58% of its students are American and 56% are Christian.  Debenture holders receive priority.  Lower Primary will be relocated for three academic years.  R2, Grade 1 and Grade 2 classes will relocate to an existing unused school building in Chai Wan. Click for detailed info on the relocation.”

HARROW INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL
“Opening September 2012.  The first international day and boarding school in Hong Kong. Operated by the Harrow International Group, Harrow International school is an arm of the 439-year old British school that educated Winston Churchill. The Hong Kong branch is the third in Asia. The others are in Beijing and Bangkok.  This is a full through-train school accepting students as young as 2.  Debentures sold out.  The first batch of individual debentures and individual capital certificates has been fully subscribed. Parents interested in ICCs and IDs, may apply to be put on the waiting list. The price of the second batch is yet to be determined.  Applicants may opt to pay the annual levy at $50,000/year – this is non-interest bearing, non-refundable and non-transferable.”

Currently, there are 17 international schools listed under Hong Kong on International School Community:

American International School (Hong Kong) ( 22 Comments)

Canadian International School (Hong Kong) ( 7 Comments)

Chinese International School
( 0 Comments)

German Swiss International School ( 2 Comments)

Hong Kong Academy Primary School ( 14 Comments)

Hong Kong International School ( 2 Comments)

Independent School Foundation Academy ( 0 Comments)

Kennedy School ( 0 Comments)

Renaissance College Hong Kong ( 5 Comments)

The ISF Acadmey (Hong Kong) ( 0 Comments)

Japanese International School ( 0 Comments)

Singapore International School (Hong Kong) ( 7 Comments)

Diocesan Boys School ( 0 Comments)

Hong Lok Yuen International School ( 4 Comments)

Discovery College (Hong Kong) ( 5 Comments)

Yew Chung International School (Hong Kong) ( 8 Comments)

International Christian School (Hong Kong) ( 11 Comments)

Check out the latest comments and information that have been submitted on these schools or submit your own at International School Community.

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