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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Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Seoul, South Korea?

July 2, 2019

Occupation: Education Technology Coordinator

Industry: International Education

Age: 32

Location: Seoul, South Korea

Salary: $40,000 USD (not including severance)

Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,330 (pre tax and retirement)

School View


Each day starts with the regular breakfast. A Vitamin C drink ($0.50 each (multipack)), a plain greek yoghurt (about $1 per yoghurt) and a protein bar ($2 each) . Ever since January I have been walking to work. Regardless the school has a free shuttle bus for staff, transportation in general doesn’t cost me much throughout the week as I prefer to walk everywhere (gotta get those 10,000 steps per day). Lunch at school is also free and there are two options. After school it is raining and I need to get home quick, so I get a local taxi. The ten minute ride cost $3.50. At home I relax with my family (wife and baby), watch Netflix ($10 per month) and eat a home cooked meal of Pork Stew.


The usual breakfast and then I walk to work again and have the free school lunch. I have a working meeting with a colleague and we decide to go to a local coffee shop. Coffee and a Bagel as a snack runs up to $7.50. I walk home, but on the way stop to get an artisan donut for my wife and I. Each one costs ($3) but they are so worth it. My wife is out with her friends for a meal and I have my son to myself. I order from Seouls Shuttle Delivery service, an app which delivers (for a small fee) food from most of the popular restaurants in the expat district of Yongsan-gu. A Moroccan Chicken sandwich costs $6 and $3 for delivery. My wifes meal at a fancy Italian restaurant with drinks costs $20.


I wake up early to go work out. The walk to work is a good 20-30 minutes mostly up hill and is a good warm up. Luckily the school weight room is free to staff as is the gym where twice weekly basketball games are played between staff, some parents and occasionally the odd HS student or two. Free lunch at school. Walk home back to a home cooked meal.


Thursday is our end of year party. I walk to work and then get ready for a big lunch. We head to a Brazilian churrasqueria (an all you can eat restaurant which has different cuts of a variety of meats, served via huge skewers. This is $35 per person and one of the more pricey options around, but luckily it is being paid for by the school. At home I don’t eat much and a fresh fruit smoothie is enough to fill me up.


Last day of work for the school year. The habit of walking to work has not changed and neither has the free lunch. I get a taxi home again (I had a lot of things to take home from school) which is a bit more expensive this time as we went the long way ($4). At home we decided to order pizza from the cheapest pizza restaurant around $12 + $3 delivery for two medium sized pizzas, its a bargain but definitely not the best pizza you can buy.


Our last full day in Seoul before the summer holidays. We have lunch at home again then we head to a new artisan ice cream shop. We walk the 30 minutes there, choose a Saturday Morning Cartoons Ice Cream (Breakfast Cereal (Fruity pebbles) flavour) and a Mixed Cookie. The two Scoops come to $5. I had previously ordered some frozen pies from an expat chef and heated that up for dinner, each one costs $10 but they are so worth it. My wife had a home made salad, with boxed mac and cheese.


We wake up early to make sure everything is ready for the summer. I have the usual breakfast then we head to the airport. We usually get the subway which costs $5 per person. But as we have our baby boy (6 months old, so first flight) we are getting a taxi, this costs $55 flat fee for an International Taxi, but we think it is worth it to not have the stress of getting on and off subways with a baby and multiple suitcases. We eat at the airport. Coffee and sandwiches for my wife and I comes to $16, then we head off on the flight to the USA.

All for 3 people (my wife and I and our baby boy)

$800/month groceries

$100/month baby items (diapers/clothes)

$10/month drinking water (comes in 10l jugs)

$100/month Internet/phone

$100/month for bills (electricity, gas, water)

$30/month apartment maintenance fee

$300/month restaurants and meals out (including coffee)

$40/month Transportation (Taxis and Subway)

$250/month retirement fund

$10/month Netflix

Savings potential on my (mid range for Seoul) salary, and lifestyle is about $1400 a month, this in the last 6 months has been reduced as my wife stopped working after the arrival of our first born (together with no baby we were saving around $3000 a month). The above $250 a month for retirement is matched by my employer

Walk to Work
School View – Winter

This article was submitted by an ISC member. Why not submit your Money Diary article for your area of the world and earn free premium membership to the ISC website? Contact us here if you are interested.

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Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Bangkok, Thailand?

May 30, 2019

Occupation: PYP Coordinator

Industry: International Education

Age: 50

Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Salary: $64,000 USD (includes rental allowance and responsibility stipend)

Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3800 USD (I put 15% of my base pre-tax into a retirement fund)


I catch the free minibus from the MRT stop near where I live and head to school. Lunch is free and delicious. After school I go to tutor, earning an extra $38 which goes in my jar for weekend trips.  I take a motorbike home for $1.50, buy some street food on the way home for $1:00 and go for a splash in the pool.


I am running late so I catch a motorbike at $1:50, I take the bus home. For dinner I have Tom Kha Goong from our local cafe for $6.39. It is delicious. I go to 7-11 to pay my internet bill, $32.20 a month for unlimited phone data and unlimited streaming at home. I could cut that cost but I like this service. They are also very responsive and have English speaking operators.


I catch the bus to work, and tutor after work, another $38 to the extra trips fund.$1.50 again for the bike home.  Wednesday is a long day, I get home at 6, so I have a glass of wine. I am careful with wine here, the best deals I can get on drinkeable wine is $22.48 a bottle,  Dinner is from the local night market and costs $1.20


Bus to work again, after work I have coaching practice down town, so that is $5:30 for the bike to get there in time. I come back on public transport at about $1. The metro stops right at the end of my road so it is really convenient. Sometimes I eat downtown with friends on a Thursday, an Italian with a glass of wine is about $25.00 USD. I am going out tomorrow though so I don’t stay this week. Tonight I decide to fast until lunctime tomorrow, I do intermittent fasting about once a week, it is healthy 🙂


Bus to work so no cost there. At lunchtime I order 3 books from Book Depository, books are expensive in Thailand so this is the cheapest way of buying them – $20. I go for a massage after work with a friend who drives. My local place gives a 20 percent discount if you buy a card for 10,000 baht, thats $314 Sounds a lot? That makes my 90 minute Thai massage only $12 so it lasts for ages. It’s an up front investment, I save $60 by paying up front. We have a light dinner in a local restaurant appx $6. Then I head off to wine tasting, this is one of the best deals in the city.  Every week a different region is featured, there are 6 to 7 wines on the list. Three hours of wine tasting with tapas for $31.40 is a bargain. Trouble is we tend to go out afterwards so I end up spending another $15-30. I tend to limit these nights to once a month.


I am often out of town on a workshop or travelling for fun, so if I am home, I don’t do much on Saturdays unless I have visitors. I swim, clean house (I could get a cleaner for $16 a week but currently I choose not to as my place is really easy to keep). I take a few pieces of ironing to the local laundry, that will cost about $5.  Lunch is salad made at home and some hot smoked salmon. A friend gets me this for $32 a kilo, It stays frozen in pieces until I want it. A coconut is $1.50. If there is an exhibition or other cultural event I might go there which ranges from free to about $30. I book a trip to Phuket, where I go about once a month, total cost of flight, beach accommodation, sailing and food is about $380. But I love it, that is why I tutor.


Catch up work day, and grocery shopping. Because lunch is provided, and I travel 2 weekends out of four, I don’t need a lot. My big monthly shop is about 100 USD, my weekly catch ups $ 20 – 40 depending on the week.  I have lunch at the local mall for $1.50, it is delicious freshly made Thai soup with steamed rice and an omlette. Totally delicious.

Monthly Expenses

$940/month rent (my allowance after tax is $630 and I could theoretically find a smaller less convenient place for that, but I love where I live so I bump it up)

$600/month put away for holiday travel

$380/month travel

$200/month groceries

$200/month nice restaurants and socialising

$50/month local streetfood and markets

$560/month retirement fund (comes out of salary pre-tax)

$32/month Internet

$27/month electricity

$6/month building water

$14/month drinking water

$40/month public transport

$10/month ironing

Savings potential on my (mid range for Bangkok) salary, and lifestyle is about $1300 a month, I also have my pension fund which my employer contributes an extra 5% to (appx $185 a month), so that is an additional $745 a month in a growth fund.

This article was submitted by an ISC member. Why not submit your Money Diary article for your area of the world and earn free premium membership to the ISC website? Contact us here if you are interested.

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Money Diaries

Money Diary: How Much Do You Spend in a Week Living in Turkey?

April 19, 2019

Occupation: International Teacher
Industry: International Education
Age: 33
Location: Mersin, Turkey
Salary: $36,000 USD
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $3,022

Day 1: Saturday

In the morning, I book a Turkish Hammam for $18, including tip. I messaged for an appointment and was on the table in less than an hour.  I enjoyed a 1.5-hour massage, tea before and a coffee afterward. The hammam is within walking distance to my apartment.

For brunch, I make a Turkish breakfast dish at home.  The Turkish economy is in a recession, so locals report a significant increase in the price of produce. However, I can purchase a loaf of fresh bread from the bakery for $1, tomatoes, peppers, onions, oranges, lemons and herbs for less than $10 that will last me for the week.  

After working at home, I earned a night out so for $2 round I can take a trip train into the next city, the price is reduced when I remember to show my government issued a teacher ID card.  The train station is a 10-15 minute walk from my apartment.

$25 dinner out with friends including appetizer, main dish, dessert, and drinks.  The restaurant is a 10-minute walk from the train station in the next city so I avoid paying extra cab fare.

Day 2: Sunday

In the morning, I do some professional development and take the Google Educator Recertification Exam for $10.  Three years ago I made my first exam and decided to take the exam to keep myself current. Living in a smaller town means there aren’t too many things to do so I find I am reading more, catching up on TV series and films, and taking online courses while working on my future application materials.

In the afternoon I go out for a walk to do my weekly snack run. I visit a local candy and nut store.  These shops sell a variety of nuts, dates, corn nuts, and coffee which I take to work and munch on in the evenings and weekends.

I have a busy week that includes late nights this week, so I prepare a vegetable curry that I plan to eat each night after coming home. I use the vegetables I purchased on Saturday, along with some lentils and coconut milk I find in the cupboard.  

Day 3: Monday

After work, I visit the gym.  For dinner, I check out a new dessert place that recently opened in town.  Lokmaci is a sweet fried dough akin to a doughnut hole with toppings, cost $2. For dinner, I eat leftovers from Sunday.

Day 4: Tuesday

For $17, I purchase a belated birthday gift for my mother on Amazon.  I was delighted to find I had Amazon card, perhaps from selling some textbooks over the summer.  A benefit from living abroad is I don’t shop online often. There are local sites in Turkey where I can buy online, but I’ve chosen not to register because I can find everything I need locally. Again, I eat leftovers for dinner after visiting the gym.

Day 5: Wednesday

After work, I visited a burger joint with a colleague and spent $5.50. We go back and forth paying week to week.  This week, but next week it will be on him.

$12 On the way home we stop by a grocery store.  My school provides daily lunch, so I benefit from eating healthy salads and fruit.  A more significant benefit is that I don’t have to pack and prepare a lunch bag or leak-proof containers. When I visit the grocery store, I stock up on oatmeal, yogurt, and snacks.  I buy fresh fruit and vegetables at my neighborhood market on the weekends.

Day 6: Thursday

Nearing the end of the week, and perhaps feeling a bit tired of leftovers for dinner.  I spent $3 for flavored coffee and simit toast, basically a Turkish bagel with cheese at the school canteen. Each morning I prepare my coffee or tea, throughout the day I visit the school’s instant coffee and tea area, but every so often I enjoy a coffee with a colleague.

For $2 on the way home I grabbed an ice cream bar with my neighbor and then prepared to visit the gym with a buddy.  For dinner, I finished leftovers from Sunday.

Day 7: Friday

After visiting the gym, a friend and I decide to spend Friday night at the local mall.

For $5, I eat American inspired fast food in the food court. After eating I notice a shoe store I like to check out, and the Mango store is gone, possible signs of the recession in Turkey.

The oddest purchase I make this week is a $2 pair of stockings I see near the cash register as I wait for my friend to check out. I can feel warmer humid weather is coming, but some mornings are still a bit chilly.  I justify that one more pair of stockings may be necessary.

Before leaving the mall, we hit up a beauty store where I spent $6 for cotton buds, a lip mask, and some face cream.  I give the cashier my phone number each time which may result in some discounts, but I don’t speak enough of the language to understand the benefits programs at the various stores.  One change in Turkey is a new plastic bag fee to encourage a reduction in plastic consumption. I generally bring my reusable bags with me to the store and if I forget I buy a new one or don’t shop that day.

Monthly Expenses
$400/month international travel during holidays
$150/month groceries
$100/month clothing
$90/month virtual counseling
$80/month restaurants and meals out
$50/month apartment cleaning
$33/month retirement fund
$16/month gym membership
$12/month Audible subscription
$12/month beauty supplies
$3/month Netflix

This article was submitted by an ISC member. Why not submit your Money Diary article for your area of the world and earn free premium membership to the ISC website? Contact us here if you are interested.

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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.

host city

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.


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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