Top 10 Lists

Top 10 things you need to figure out when moving to a new country

September 11, 2014

Nekropolis [2014]

Moving to another city is always a stressful thing. Stress can make us forget even the essential necessities that we need to settle down. Here’s a useful to-do list for all the newcomers:

1. Get your local ID and tax number

Getting or updating your documents is something to be made a top priority, as this can prevent you from doing many things on this list, such as opening a bank account or access the local healthcare.

2. Choose your doctor/dentist

Street dentist

Secure your health first. In countries where the public healthcare is available, you need to pick a personal doctor to whom you will be going first when something’s wrong with your health. Ask your colleagues at work to recommend a good dentist who wouldn’t rip you off.

3. Pick a bank

This is so much fun for some people, like myself. I love comparing conditions and benefits that banks are offering, but it is also of great importance. Check if the bank is offering all the services that you need, and what are their conditions on transferring the money back to your home country. Believe me, you want to do your research before you sign a bunch of papers without reading the “fine print”. Nobody wants to go through all that administration twice.

4. Find the best ways to commute

Ask around what are the common ways that people commute in your new city. What is the availability of the public transportation? In some cities bicycles and taxies are more popular than dated trams or busses that are circulating around. Use the Internet routing tools such as Google Maps to find the best way to get to work, gym or your favorite green market.

5. Pick your favorite grocery store

We are spending a too big chunk of our lifetime shopping for groceries to waste it in some dump hole that looks like warehouse. Surely, from time to time it is worth going to these places to get a good deal on some products, but you want to be enjoying your shopping at a nice place. Try it, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

6. Get the new clothing and furniture

IKEA girl ~

Moving to a new place is an excellent excuse to get rid of the clothes and the furniture that you always secretly hated. If your new city has IKEA or H&M, that’s great, but try to find out where locals are buying their clothes and furniture. Buying at those stores will make you immerse yourself in the local way of life.

7. Choose a hairdresser

Everyone needs a hairdresser. Ok, almost everyone. There are still the ones and twos of people whose hair trimmer skills are good enough for a self-haircut. But everyone else needs a professional to do it. Since the prices of their services can vary significantly, investigate before you are sorry.

8. Involve in learning the local language

Going to these classes is a good way to meet other expats and expand your circle of friends. Plus, it makes your everyday life much easier. In case that you already know the local language, I suggest you involve in learning a new language or a craft, or join a cause or a club, (e.g. a drama club, pet rescue centre).

9. Ask people about the cheaper ways to get stuff

Flea markets, thrift stores, used bicycle auctions, local bidding websites can save you some money that you can use for a day trip around the city or going to that amusement park that everyone is talking about.

10. And don’t forget to find your asylum

Find a special place where you can get yourself on a date time-to-time. It can be a restaurant, a café, a park or just a bench in your neighborhood. But having that one spot that you love is really important to have, wherever in the world you are.

MadCity: Indie Cafe


This top 10 list was submitted to us by a guest author and International School Community member.

All guest authors to our blog get six months of free premium membership to our website.  Email us if you are interested in becoming one of the next guest authors on our blog.



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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Learning how to get reimbursed and meeting the business office staff

August 23, 2014

In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #13: Learning how to get reimbursed and meeting the business office staff

dsc2574 It takes so much money to move yourself from one place to another.  Now add in the fact that you are shipping boxes and whatnot half way across the world, and the cost just gets higher and higher. Many times, international school teachers need to pay for these shipping costs upfront.  Hopefully you are getting an relocation allowance (not all international school offer this though) as there are also many other things that you will need to pay for upfront (e.g. the flight, extra baggage, visa costs, etc.).  It is a tough time financially, that’s for sure.

When you finally get to your new school in your new country, you almost want to make a beeline to the business office to immediately get some of your money back!  It is not that easy though at a number of international schools. Helping new teachers get reimbursed should be as easy as pie, but at For-profit schools (for example), it can take a loooong time and much paperwork to get your money back.

There are two ways to get reimbursed at an international school: the easy way and the hard way.

The easy way of course is the preferred way.  You go in, hand in a receipt/reimbursement form, and then you either get paid right there in the local currency (e.g. cash) or they make a bank transfer that is made to your local bank account and you either receive that money that same day or the next day.   You might say that the goal of all international schools should be to make sure that getting money back to its teachers is as easy and as quick as possible.

To also make things easy, the dream would be that somebody would take you to the business office and introduce you to all the 75913596_8c93673710_zimportant people in the business office, all within the first week at work. Word of advice: go in with a huge smile on your face and your hand extended out to shake everyone’s hand, also remember to say many thank yous and make some friendly conversation to get to know the staff more personally.  Because every month or so, of your first (and second, third, etc.) year, you will be walking into that business office wanting some money or some assistance with a number of financial issues, and you will need to have a good relationship with these guys. So make sure that somebody is there during your orientation to get you started on the right foot with the business staff.

The hard way to get reimbursed is every international school teacher’s worst nightmare.  You don’t want to be worrying about getting money back from your new international school (or even worrying about getting your salary paid on time!).  It is stressful that’s for sure.  Also, it can distract you from doing your job at times. In some countries though, it is not the school’s fault that makes getting reimbursed a difficult task.  The country itself can have certain laws and regulations that make the reimbursement process a difficult one for expats. It can be very confusing to some new teachers, so how nice if there is straight-away somebody that will “show you the ropes” during new teacher orientation.

The business staff play a huge part in the wellbeing and staff morale of an international school. Knowing the business staffs’ names and getting introduced to them as soon as you start working there can really have a positive effect to your experience starting at your new school. Also, make sure to take a few notes during your orientation week/days about how to get reimbursed for things the correct way at your school.


Luckily on International School Community we have a new comment topic that specifically addresses this issue of getting reimbursed.  It is called: What is the process of getting reimbursed for things?

We have 2 comments so far in this topic on our website since it is so new:

American International School of Lusaka –
“Pretty basic. Show receipts, get paid. Flights can be a bit of a hassle in terms of dealing with the business office and its interpretation of “cheapest, most direct.”

Western International School of Shanghai –
“All receipts must be kept and submitted with a filled out form to the director who then signs and returns them to the finance office. From the day of leaving the forms at the director’s office it might take 4-6 weeks to see any money back.”

If you currently work at an international school or have worked at one in the recent past, share the information and details about getting things reimbursed. You can find easy access to all international schools on our Schools List page.


So, does your international school have an easy, confusing, or difficult way of getting reimbursed for things?  Please share your experiences!

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: A tour of your new campus

May 6, 2014

In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far. m

Must-have #12: A tour of your new campus

2011011213443129777  Before you even interview with an international school, a perspective teacher is definitely scouring the school’s website for pictures of the campus (among other things as well!).  During the interview you even take some time to ask some questions about the campus and its facilities.  The school might even have a neat video that some of their students made, showing off each part of the campus.  After the interview you still want to know more and can’t wait to actually see the campus in person; as we all know too well, pictures can at times be deceiving.

So you finally arrive in your new city and country. Hopefully the director picked you up from the airport and personally dropped you off at your new apartment.  You get settled-in as much as you can in the first few days and then it is time to go to your new school for the first time.

A few questions though, how do you even get to your new school?  Maybe somebody in the business office comes to your apartment complex to drive you to your new school (how nice is that?!?).  Maybe you are with a small group of other new teachers (who also live in the same apartment building) and you get directions on how to use public transport to get to the school campus.  You might even be greeted by a staff member in person at some predetermined location in the city and then you and a group of other new teachers take a walk to the school.

fc3f0c098c43a3e9250b63a57dce5723Finally you are at your new school!  After the initial shock on seeing the campus for the first time and getting introduced to tons of important people at the school, you take a deep breath and get ready to really see the campus.

It is typically one of the first things that you do as a new teachers, get a tour around the whole campus and grounds. Who is doing that?  It could be the director himself/herself that leads the tour; nice to have the person who hired you to be the one to do that.  It might also be your immediate boss who does the tour, or it might be a staff member who has been ‘elected’ to be the official welcomer of the new teachers (I put elected in quotes because sometimes this staff member is just volunteering their time and not always getting paid!).

2TrackNeighborhoodWith your jet-lagged eyes, it is finally time to take everything in of your new school.  Is it well-manicured or old and falling apart?  It is easy to quickly judge things as you going around to the different areas of the campus (maybe they are skipping over some parts to not scare you too much!).  It is hard not to compare everything to your last school.  If luck is on your side, most things at your new school will be way better than your previous one!

Then the tour is over and live goes on.  Soon the new campus becomes very familiar to you and thus you feel super comfortable again and can get yourself into the swing of things as you start your teaching.  Could it be that a nice school campus tour gets you starting off on the right foot for your first year there?


Luckily on International School Community we have a comment topic that specifically addresses the issue of the school campus.  It is called: Describe the different aspects of the school building and the school grounds. Also, describe the surrounding area around the campus.

We have had a total of 606 separate comments in this topic about a number of international schools on our website.  Here are just a few:

Zhuhai International School –
“The school campus is really interesting and different. It’s in a building, originally built as a hotel, on a nature reserve island, 15 minutes north of the outskirts of Zhuhai city. The pluses: It’s got fabulous outdoor/natural resources – huge outdoor playing areas, a track, an enormous banyan tree, plenty of space, and good-sized classrooms. The minuses: no gym or large meeting space indoors, 3, soon to be 4 floors with only stairs. But if you like a laid back, open environment, surrounded by nature, you’ll love this campus.”

Buena Vista Concordia International School –
“Beautiful, purpose-built school in the Buena Vista area of Bao’an. All buildings in the residential/commercial area utilize an American Southwest theme with brown and orange being the main color scheme. School has full indoor gymnasium, outdoor soccer pitch and track, space for art and music, as well as four large lab areas.”

American School of Guatemala (Colegio Americano)
“Large campus, park-like setting with beautiful tropical landscaping. K-12 so each section has a different are (Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle, High School). Located in a high-end area of Guatemala City (still lots of traffic) but on campus you would never know you’re in the middle of a city.”


So, does your international school give a tour of the campus straight away to all the new hires?  Please share your experiences!

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Discussion Topics

The new seasoned international school teachers have arrived at your school…and they won’t stop complaining!

November 6, 2013 year, they come streaming in, fresh, bright faces, full of potential and wonder! They bring with them the hope of change, growth and new ideas.

Then they open their mouths and the dreaded phrase comes out, maybe at lunch or during a casual conversation, the phrase that immediately fills you with dread because you know what´s coming next, ¨well, at my last international school…¨

New Teachers.

I was one of them. Twice. And I know myself being 100% at fault for being that person, that teacher who constantly compared and contrasted this international school to that international school, this city to that city, these benefits to those, etc…

I´m surprised I was able to make friends at my new school with how much I droned on about my last school in Singapore! How anybody could stomach sitting with me at lunch, I don´t know!

When I was asked to guest write this article this was the first idea that popped into my head. Maybe it´s because school has only been in session a little over 6 weeks and I’m still hearing the harping voices of new teachers about their last international schools and cities. I understand that these people were hired for a reason, they´re bringing experiences, wealth of knowledge and resources from their previous schools to help our school. But there has got to be a better way with which they decide to share this information!


Here are top 10 annoying things New Teachers say (though it is partial to my current international school, I´m sure some people can relate!)

At my last school…

1. We got paid more and had better benefits

Well that´s too bad, maybe you should have inquired more into the package here!

2. The students were more respectful and not as loud.

Maybe it´s time to brush up on your behavior management skills and routines!

3. All the parents and children spoke English

You´re a teacher, it´s your job to teach the children English, as for the parents, figure it out, I´m sure there is a treasure trove of translators at your school!

4.  We were a Mac school and all the teachers got Ipads. Plus, the facilities were great

I wonder if people actually research into where they get their new jobs or where they are moving to?

5. Lunch is so gross and oily

Can´t really complain about a free lunch with unlimited salad, fruit and yogurt.

6. Everyone was friends and did everything together.

That´s because you probably worked together for two or more years and built that friendship, friendships aren´t built in a week during orientation. If you want to be more social, take initiative and plan something!

In my last city/country…

7.  It wasn´t such a long commute to get to the school

Buy a car or moto then, or maybe even try biking to school!

8. We had Health Care Benefits and the doctors all spoke English.

Hey, so do we….and it´s FREE! As for the language, maybe try learning it!

9. This city is so dirty and smelly.

Where else can you live that has a beach, city and mountain within a 10 mile radius?

10.  Everyone spoke English.

Then why would you ever move to a non-English speaking country?

While we all hold our last international schools and previous placements (most of the time!) in a higher light and we try to hold on to those fond memories and experiences, New Teachers need to remember that things mustn’t have been all peaches and cream at their last school or placement, there had to have been reasons why they decided to leave, there had to be reasons why they chose to move to their new school/country…and those are the things that we ALL need to focus on.

This article was submitted by guest author and International School Community member: Tessa McGovern.

(Originally hailing from Connecticut, but a true New England-er through and through, I was born to two fun loving Irish folks who instilled the love of culture, tradition and travel at ripe young age. I spent the majority of my childhood traveling back and forth between the US and  Ireland/England, visiting family and thus began my life abroad.  After graduating from Springfield College (Massachusetts) and with a bit of luck, a colleague recommended a job in Singapore, which in turn started my International Teaching Career. After a few years in Singapore, it was time to head somewhat closer to home and I landed a job at the American School of Barcelona, teaching 4th and 5th Grade, where I´m currently at.  Food, traveling, reading, family/friends and football (Gaelic) are the few things I can´t live without!)

Have a discussion topic you’d like to share on the IS_Community blog? Want to earn free premium membership to our website? Contact us here if you’d like to become one of our next guest authors.

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New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves

New Teacher Orientation Must-Haves at International Schools: Beginning-level host country language classes.

August 11, 2013

In this blog series we will talk about the ins and outs of an excellent new teacher orientation programme at an international school.  A new teacher orientation programme can really play a very important part to the start at your new school, in your new host country.  What are all the must-haves then?  Check out our blog series here to read all about the ones that we have discussed so far.

Must-have #11: Beginning-level host country language classes.

class_veroniqueAt times there is nothing worse than the feeling of not know how to communicate with the people in your community. Many of us decide to move to countries where we do not know the host country language.  It is impossible for people to know every language spoken in this world, especially really local languages that are not even possible to learn in universities in your home country.  Additionally, most international school teachers don’t choose countries to live in only where they can speak the language (though some definitely do, which makes sense).

We all know that English is now being spoken in many countries now.  Maybe even all of them have some percentage of the local community that can speak English (especially the younger generations).  Even if there are many people that speak English in your new host country, it is clear though that knowing the local language is very important. If you know at least some of the host country language then you will be able to be clearer with the local people you have to interact with and have less miscommunication that might lead to tense culture shock moments for you. It is also important to start learning the local language because of how language is directly tied to knowing more about their culture.  And that is what this international school teaching experience is all about, learning more about and appreciating the different cultures of this world.

So, the answer is easy. Just go and take some classes. Prospective international school teachers might be surprised though that many of us just don’t do it.  And there are many reasons why we skip the opportunity or chance to attend those classes.  One reason might be that you just simply don’t know where to go.  If your school is there to help you find these classes (or even pay for the classes for you…as some international schools include taking classes in their benefits package), then that can really help you find your way to sign-up sooner than later.  Another reason you don’t attend language classes is because you just figure that you don’t have the extra time to take them. It is a big time commitment to dedicate one or two evenings of your week to go and take language classes.  A third reason might be that you are just not interested or ready to take on a 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th…) language in your life at that point in time.  A fourth reason is that you might think that you can easily just get away with speaking English your whole time living there.  And if you are planning on only staying two years, you might justify to yourself that you won’t really even be in that country long enough to really need to know the language. There are probably even more reasons why we don’t take these language classes!literacy_pic1-550x257

If you are interested in ‘taking the plunge’ and find that it is a good match for you go and take some language classes, how nice if your new international school is there to guide you to where to take them (during your new teacher orientation programme).  Your school and the people that work there might have some trusted references on schools/classes you can attend…and for the most reasonable prices.  In some countries though, the host country actually offers free language classes to new immigrants to their country, and your new school should be able to help you in how to sign-up for those since they probably have many new teachers each year wanting to do just that.

Even though we all have good intentions to learn the host country language when we first move to a new country, it is a fact that not every international school teacher follows through with this.  Many international schools have teachers that have been there 5-10 years or even longer and they just know the very basic of vocabulary.  Being that the majority of their day is going to be in English, many teachers just get into a routine of not communicating in the local language and end of not effectively learning it.  With all the possibilities of downloading or streaming tv programmes and movies in English on the internet, some teachers’ time after a whole workday in English becomes a WHOLE day of speaking, listening, reading and writing in English.

There are many success stories though. Just as many teachers there are who don’t effectively learn the host country language, there are many that do. They find (make) time to take the classes, they look for local friends to talk to in that language, they pick up the local newspaper to try and read that every day, they sit next to the host country language teachers during lunch time to get in a few more minutes of local-language speaking practice, etc. It is ultimately up for each international school teacher to choose their own path in how they will learn or not learn the language, and having your school there to support and guide you in the right direction can be very helpful!


So, does your international school help new teachers to get beginning-level host country language classes?  Please share your experiences!

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