Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas

Ten Commandments of Relocating Overseas #1: Learn as much as possible about…

August 14, 2022


Learn as much as possible about the host country in order to have realistic expectations.

How much can you learn about a host country before you arrive? Yes, thank goodness for the internet and its endless (and sometimes tiresome) list of websites that try and shed light on the many facets of the host country’s culture and language.

A type of website that might be the most informative: personal blogs of expats that live in the host country.  Certainly, they are the best type of website to gather information about the host country.  The blogger typically is very explicit and candid about their day-to-day experiences living there.  Personal blogs of international teachers are even better.  I love reading from their entries even before they arrive in their new country to when they have been there three years later.  Some of the international teacher blogs that we have highlighted on International School Community so far:

• Education Rickshaw (China)

• Expat Heather (South Korea)

• Josefino Rivera (Bulgaria)

But I must say that I knew close to nothing about the country I am currently in, and the people from where I am from knew even less.  Sometimes you just got to go there yourself to see about the culture and language of the host country’s people.  When I go home now, I am inundated with questions about what life is like there…and some of the questions are really unbelievable (but I was once in their shoes I’m sure). 

I think it is hard to get away from the stereotypes that we have about each culture group in the world.  The issue is, as we all know, that the stereotype might actually be true for the majority of the people in the host country.  However, it is NOT true for EVERYONE in the country.  You cannot group everyone in one culture group together.  I just read recently that due to the Danish cultural norms Danes don’t try and make good friends with people that they work with.  I’m sure that there are a few Danes that hang out with their co-workers outside of work and call them their best friends.

Realistic expectations? This will take some good research I think.  Every time I go to a new location, one of the things I do is buy the latest Lonely Planet for that country/city.  For sure after reading a bit of that travel book I can have my expectations be a tiny be more realistic, if not even make them a bit more exciting.  I don’t know about you though, but I am quite sensitive to culture shock.  So, even if I have realistic expectations and am ready to expect the unexpected, I am still subjected to embarrassing mood swings about the things that in theory I had already expected.  One of the joys of living abroad I suppose.  By the way, I subscribe to the idea of cherishing all emotions: the good and the not-so-good.

Last thing that I know about how to find out the most I can about my future host country: talk to people that currently work at the school.  Not the administrator, the human resources department, etc…the real people that work there who will really tell you how it is.  I’ve always received a few contact email addresses of some teachers that I can contact during the summer.  I have even had a Skype call with one of them which really helped I think get my expectations to be a little more realistic.  It is key to talk to people and gather as much information as possible. 

This article was submitted by a guest author and ISC member.

Right now on International School Community you can get in contact with a number of our members who know about more than 1300+ international schools, and the list of schools our members know about is growing!

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: “Teach. Travel. Taste.” (An American teacher at Colegio Panamericano)

January 17, 2015


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

Our 39th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Teach. Travel. Taste. A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia”  Check out the blog entries of this international school educator who has worked at Colegio Panamericano in Colombia.

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A few entries that we would like to highlight:

What Now?

“Soon I’ll be on way to South America to teach 1st grade in an international school! While the prospect of going down to 1st grade is terrifying, even if it’s only one step down, I couldn’t be more excited (and nervous) for this change. To answer some of the questions I’ve been receiving: This is a two-year contract…at that point, I’ll see how I’m feeling. I will be teaching in English with my own classroom, literally identical to here in the states. They use the Common Core standards, Daily 5/CAFE literacy model, Everyday Math, and more American-based curriculums. They speak Spanish in Colombia, though naturally every country (and city!) has its own dialect and slang. I know it’ll be a rough adjustment, not only coming from English everyday for the last two years, but also because the Spanish I got okay at was “Spain-spanish”. One of my ultimate goals in doing this, however, is to become truly fluent…not stumble along in broken Spanglish with my students’ parents as I have been doing. Any other questions, please comment…”

So exciting to get your brain thinking about your future move to your new country. So many things to be thinking about! 

Good to know a bit about how the school runs and about their curriculum too, so you can plan ahead. 

Want to learn even more about what new programs and curriculum that international schools are taking on?  We have a comment topic called “Recent things that the school has taken on (i.e. new curriculum, specific professional development, etc.).”  Currently there are 183 individual comments in this comment topic talking about 100s of different international schools. Check them out by doing a search for the school you want to know about here.

A Few Thoughts on Being Home

“As it always is when you move to another culture, you find that you miss certain parts of your own culture, while discovering that parts of your new culture really make a lot of sense if you stop to think. Being home was great, but vacations are always a bit haphazard and I’m ready to get back to my regular routine…”

It is always a mixed bag of emotions when taking a trip back to your home country.  The culture that you surround yourself in 24/7 in your host country is now gone and you are surrounded by your home country culture. 

It is good to go back home, and many veteran international school teachers can relate to just wanting to get back to you host country and your daily routine there.

Want to learn even more about what international school teachers think of the local customs in their host country?  We have a new comment topic called “What are some locals customs (regarding eating, drinking and going out, family, socializing, etc.) that you find interesting for expats to know about?”  Here is an example of one of them:

‘If you travel somewhere, you are expected to bring back “omiyage” snacks for co-workers and friends; these are normally or other sweets that happen to be the specialty of whatever city or region you have visited and which you can pick up at any train station when you are on your way back.’ – Hiroshima International School (Hiroshima, Japan) – 64 Comments

Want to work for an international school in Colombia like this blogger?  Currently, we have 17 international schools listed in this country. Here are a few that have had comments submitted on them:

• Colegio Karl C. Parrish (Barranquilla, Colombia) – 24 Comments
• Colegio Anglo Colombiano (Bogota, Colombia) – 17 Comments
• Colegio Nueva Granada (Bogota, Colombia) – 15 Comments
• Colegio Panamericano  (Bucaramanga, Colombia) – 34 Comments
• Colegio Albania (La Guajira, Colombia) – 19 Comments
• Colegio Granadino Manizales (Manizales, Colombia) – 43 Comments
 Columbus School Medellin (Medellin, Colombia) – 22 Comments
• Fundacion Liceo Ingles (Pereira) (Pereira, Colombia) – 28 Comments

There are 11 International School Community members who currently live in Colombia. Check out which ones and where they work here.  Feel free to go ahead and contact them with any questions that you might have as well; nice to get first hand information about what it is like to live and work there!

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

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Blogs of International Teachers

Blogs of international school teachers: “Ichi, Ni, San…Go.”

July 26, 2011


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

Check out the experiences of another teacher from the moment they signed the contract to what they are writing about after a few years working abroad.

Our 4th blog that we would like to highlight is called “Ichi, Ni, San…Go.”   It has some great insight into how important the first few weeks are for new teachers during their orientation days to their new city and new school.  There is also much information to be learned what life is really like working at Fukuoka International School.

Entries we would like to highlight:

First Dinner with New Teachers:
“We went out to our first group dinner with the new teachers last night. As we walked into the restaurant Kumi (our Japanese hero) informed us that the specialty of Fukuoka was “cow’s guts.”

Yes.  The multitude of dinner parties and restaurant outings during your first few weeks are exciting.  You get to sample the food that you will most likely be eating (or not eating I suppose) for the next few years in your new country.  Going out to dinner/lunch is a good time to get to know your fellow coworkers.  It is also a good chance to get to know your new neighborhood/city.   Sometimes, there are dinners with director, maybe even at his/her house.

School Prep:
“While Robert was getting his class schedule, student list, parent/teacher handbook, and learning all the do’s/don’ts of working at FIS, I had to bike back to our little townhouse, so that they could install the upstairs AC unit (which took nearly 2 hours)….but it was entirely worth the wait.  I’m not sure I will ever get use to the heat and humidity here.”

I love how this international school teacher highlighted how there are many things that need to get done during your first few weeks in the new country.  Getting things set up in your house/apartment can definitely take up a lot of your time (and sometimes waste your time as you wait and wait for the workers/people to come to your place).  Installing the AC unit is just one of the many things you need to get ready in your new house.  Other things might include: telephone, internet, etc…  And dealing with the local service companies can be a bit of shock both with regards to cultural differences and language miscommunications.

First Day of School:
“Yesterday afternoon Linda (the Head of School) officially offered me the library position.  I was anticipating having to go to the Immigration Office to get my spousal work visa today, but I couldn’t because I have to wait for the school director to sign the contract (and he doesn’t get in until Friday night), so looks like I will be doing that on Monday instead.”

This is a good example of how many last minute things there are to deal with, and getting your work visa finalize and set is not fun.  It can be quite stressful knowing that you are without a work visa.  For sure things calm down a bit for new teachers once they get the work visa all squared away.  Good schools will definitely help to facilitate that process for you and try to make it as stress-free as possible.

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