Invaluable advice to consider before you venture off the beaten ESL track
By Kori Czuy
An ESL Professional, with 8 years’ experience teaching, consulting and adventuring in over 50 countries worldwide
To work overseas in general will always be a feast for the adventure appetite; a tickle in the curiosity oblongata; a point of conversation on the CV; and, as always, a healthy ripe bank of stories for the grandkids. But working in a more remote location overseas takes culture shock and adventure to another level.
With several random of-the-beaten-ESL- track jobs under my belt…. here are some ideas and advice to digest before signing that elusive rural, small village contract.
– You WILL become the new reality show of the town. Regular dinner conversation (probably when you are NOT around) could involve any topic from your food allergies to what you bought at the supermarket that day! Eyes and ears are everywhere, regardless of the language barrier. Think twice before you crank your music, or have a few too many beers with your boss (unless it is culturally ok!). With the portability and accessibility of cameras now, start smiling, because you will be the local paparazzi target.
– Differences in cultural etiquette and taboos are generally tenfold outside the major cities. Research these before your arrival to curb embarrassment on both sides. But when misunderstandings do arise, which they will, laugh them off, apologise, and explain the differences between your culture and theirs. Remember, the exchange goes both ways, and neither one is better than the other. Education is very different than preaching.
– Read your contract, in full, before you depart. If you have to break the contract for some unforeseen reason, know that there is an escape route, without too many consequences. Fines, repayment of perks, and delayed salary cheques are obviously to be avoided.
– Your previous go-to lesson topics could be deemed useless, both culturally and practically. Lessons on climate and seasons doesn’t jam well with equatorial living; nor do dating or relationship worksheets in a Muslim country; or even a treasure hunt, while teaching on a boat.
– As probably the only foreigner in the place, you are outnumbered. Go with the flow, ask questions, embrace the quirks, and try everything once! But don’t lose yourself in the excitement. Remember and embrace your own roots.
– Without the common foreigner group of friends you would have in the city, you must find a local support system. Venting and frustration is normal and important, maybe take it online to those ESL colleagues who understand.
– Familiar comforts from home are key. Shop online for your favourite cookies and shoes, and regularly venture to the city for those well-deserved fries, department stores, or even just the atmosphere of the busy city.
For me, it is the quirks that keep me going rural. Learn the local martial art, do the cultural dances, hoist the coveted local portable shrine, own a machete for jungle journeys (and snakes), but do your research. And, most of all, smile for that camera!
Read the first part of this 2 part series.