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Making Friends Outside of Your International School is…

August 30, 2020


…HARD!

I don’t know about you, but I think making friends outside of your school community can be one of your biggest challenges when you live abroad.

International teachers hanging out in a bar

If you are an outgoing person, maybe it is a bit easier. However, if you are on an introverted side and also don’t know the local language, then you are up against a steep hill.

Either way, you could say that it is just safer and more comfortable to be friends with your colleagues at your international school. You usually have a lot in common with your colleagues as they also like adventure, share your love for traveling, and have the same vacation calendar as you.

But to get the most out of your international school teaching experience, the elusive goal of many international school teachers is to make some local friends, too.

Lonely expat on the street

If you don’t know the local language yet, then you are limited to the locals that are able to speak English (or your home language). Normally, these locals already have other foreigner friends and most likely have traveled internationally or had even lived abroad. These locals are easy to find as friends because you have a lot in common. For example, you probably have many places to go visit and hang out together in the city. If you are lucky, these locals are even available to do some traveling with you during your vacations.

To meet locals who don’t speak English and have a very tight-knit group of friends, let’s say, is a different story. To befriend the locals is typically easier if you have a partner or spouse that is also a local. If that is the case, then you have “a ticket in” to those exclusive groups of friends. Having these kinds of local friends really can give you the “VIP level” on the experience of the city and country that you are living in. These locals know what and where things are happening. International school teachers without these types of friends typically miss out on a number of cultural events and are left without a deep insight into the local lifestyle.

Expat friends talking

One of the ultimate events in your friendship with a local is to be invited over to their house, even better – for a meal. It can be that you invite a local to your house for dinner multiple times before finally, the stars align and they invite you back to their place. If you are at your international school for only two years, that might not be enough time for this to happen. Building this kind of relationship usually takes longer than that.

What is your experience with making friends in your host city/country? Logon to ISC and share what you know by submitting some comments on your school’s profile page.

When using the keyword search feature (premium membership required), we found 143 comments about friends. Read below a few that are connected to making friends outside of your international school.

Comments about Making Friends

“Leysin is a small mountain village and as a result, the community is limited. There is a definite LAS bubble and most of the staff spend time outside of work with each other. It is rare to meet and become friends with people outside of the school community unless you have worked here for many years. It isn’t easy being single here, but the lifestyle is worth it if you love the outdoors and the mountains. It is a quiet village and a great place to live if you don’t like the city.” – Leysin American School (113 total comments)

“I find my Albanian friends quite generous: they always fight to pay the bill in a coffee shop but also for lunch. It is a local tradition though, and keep in mind that, if you want to keep your friends close to you, next time will be your turn. It is important to understand quickly these cultural habits as it will allow you to make good friends. One thing that it is generally badly perceived is to be stingy in friendship.” – Albanian College Durres (111 total comments)

“The locals are very friendly and accommodating. We recently went on a one-day trip with a local tour company. As the only foreigners, we didn’t have much company at the beginning but we found out the locals on the trip actually spoke a very good level of English. By the end of the day, we made friends with many of them!” – Khartoum International Community School (153 total comments)

“Lots of people learning English in Saigon and they will all want to practice with you. Learning some Vietnamese helps with bonding and making local friends but generally, a lot of people speak or are learning to speak English.” – Renaissance International School Saigon (52 total comments)

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Top 10 Lists

Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school

May 18, 2015


Many international schools ofter 1-2 year initial contracts for new hires. But does that mean that most international school teachers leave after that initial contract?

We all know some teachers do exactly that. They leave after 1-2 years of working at their new international school. The reasons they leave are varied, and many of those reasons are out of their control.

It is true, though, that some international school teachers leave too soon. Leaving too soon can be good or bad, depending on your situation.  But maybe, just maybe there are very positive things that can happen if the stars align for you to stay longer than four years.

So, what are the Top 10 reasons to stay longer than four years at an international school? Maybe you can relate to some of these!

#1 – You get more fluent in the local language.

Sometimes it is hard to get yourself to attend language classes when you first arrive. It is difficult giving up two evenings of your work week to go to these classes. Waiting a few years until you are more established into your new life in your host country is sometimes a better option for some international school teachers.  Although it is not the case with everyone, staying longer in the host country will also provide you with more authentic opportunities to acquire new words and phrases.  You never know when you will learn your next new words, but if you provide yourself with more opportunities and put yourself in more situations with the local people, you will certainly learn more of the host country language.

#2 – You make more long-lasting local friends.

In so many countries, it is down right a challenge to make local friends. Many international school teachers just find friends among other international school teachers at their school. The reason being that it is sometimes scary and nerve-racking to get yourself out there and meet the locals. Additionally, you got to get yourself out and get to know A LOT of locals too because we all know that you can’t be everyone’s friend that you meet.  You have to meet a lot to find a few good ones.  You don’t always find a good match every time you are out and about in your host city.  Also, locals don’t necessarily want to invest their friend-time with foreigners that are going to be leaving in a year or two. If you are staying around, that makes you more desirable in terms of friendship material.

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#3 – You save more money.

Your first and second years at an international school can indeed be costly ones. You need to buy so many things (excuse me…did somebody say IKEA?) for your new home.  You also make some stupid purchases during these first few years when you don’t know the best places to go and get the best deal.  The longer you stay could equal the better savings in your bank account, especially if your international school is giving you a great salary with excellent benefits. Why leave when you’re potentially making the most money in your teaching career?!

#4 – You get to do more special projects at your school.

When you first start at an international school, you are just getting your feet on the ground. Because everything is new, you typically stick to doing what you know and that’s that. You are still doing a good job, but you find it a challenge to start any special projects.  After your third and fourth year, you have more ownership in the school. Being more familiar and comfortable with your international school allows you to be more creative and make some of your ideas come true. Once you have built a strong trust, after a couple of years with your administration and the PTA, they will then support you in these new ideas.  The key is to keep the ideas and inspiration flowing. Here is one special project idea as an example: why not get beekeeping started up at your school?

#5 – You build stronger collaborative partners at work.

Some research related to co-teaching in schools state that it can take a good two to three years to get to a high level of collaboration.  You need time to build those collaborative relationships, and sometimes one to two years is not enough.  Also, if you stay at an international school for longer than two years, you also get to know your colleagues better, both professionally and on a personal level.  All of that teaching at a specific international school then is time well-spent, as it will only strengthen your collaborative relationships.

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#6 – More time for more of your home country family and friends to visit you. 

Why is it so hard for some of your family and friends to get their act together and visit you?  The fact is that many of those friends and family need time to plan. They need time to save their money, find the right time to visit you, and get the time off of their work. Many people are simply not able to figure that all out in one to two years. By the third and fourth year, the stars will align for some of them to finally visit you.  What a shame if there is a missed opportunity for your friends and family to check out a potential new place in the world!  The best part is that they won’t even have to pay for a hotel or guide services as they will have your place to stay at and you to happily show them around.

#7 – You get more time to travel around your host country and visit all the spots you’ve been wanting to see.

During your holidays, it is easy to forget about checking out more of your host country. Indeed, you are too busy planning to see the other countries that surround your host country.  If you are not on a tropical island, buying a ticket to one sounds more appealing then just staying in your host country.  Even if your host country is a small one, there are still countless cities to go visit.  The more you see of your host country, the better appreciation you have for it.  You learn more about your host country culture as well and how the locals are living in different parts of the country.  Traveling around to more parts of your host country also helps to you feel more like a local too because you know more about them and their culture.

#8 – You get to make your home more yours.

It takes awhile to make a home your home. In some countries, you are placed into a furnished house/apartment. Making other people’s furniture your furniture takes time. If you move into an unfurnished place, then you must buy stuff to put in there. If it is new, then that stuff also takes time to then make your home your home.  Sure, some international school teachers ship their own furniture to their new host country and they need less time to cozy up to their new surroundings, but a home is indeed more than just furniture. It takes time for memories to be created in your apartment/house.

#9 – You get more time to eat out at your favorite restaurants and find new ones that open up.

It is the best feeling to go out for dinner in your host country. Going out and enjoying really tasty food at your favorite restaurant, yes! What a shame to find that one place after a year, and then leave the following year. And then if you leave after only two years, you are maybe not there enough to check out the new ones that pop up. Then you hear from your ex-colleagues that they are still going to your favorite restaurant and you get those seconds thoughts of did I leave that city too soon?

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#10 – You finally get to see and work in your school’s new, amazing, purpose-built school building that it finally made.

We have all worked at international schools that have a grand plan to make a new building. If you have had this experience, then you know for sure that two things happen: either the new school building just simply never gets built or that is does get built but only after years and years of planning and waiting. Staying longer than four years gives ample time for you to actually get the chance to work in this new, amazing building!

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