What to expect when you’re moving to a new country to teach or study abroad

Moving to a new country for an extended period of time can be difficult. They call it ‘culture shock’ for a reason! There are a lot of things we take for granted in our native countries, such as eating customs, colloquial language and social norms. Knowing what to expect when making the move to teach abroad can make the transition much easier. That’s why guest blog writer Punyaa Metharom from Bromsgrove International School in Thailand, has put together some advice.


                                                                                                         Eating and ordering habits

mealOrdering and eating food is one of the first and most common things you will need to do in your new country of residence. Keep in mind that different cultures do things differently. For instance, in your new country:

  • Utensils may or may not be used with certain food items
  • It may be considered impolite to touch food at produce stands prior to purchase
  • Gratuity for servers may be expected or included in the bill
  • You may be expected to ask for the bill, or it might be considered rude to do so
  • You may have dinner much earlier or later than usual, or find meal sizes vary

Learn what you can before you leave in order to avoid awkward moments. You won’t be able to avoid them all, so be polite and be prepared to learn by example.



New languages 

girlYou may already have a good grasp of the language spoken in the country you are going to, you may know nothing, or it could be your native language. Either way, expect to be surprised.

If you already know a fair amount, expect to learn quickly, and, if you spend a lot of time with natives, to start to see your new language affect how you speak your native language. Certain phrasing will creep in when you speak to your friends back home. You may even forget a word! Don’t worry, it’s all still there and waiting for you.

If you are traveling to a country that speaks your primary language, expect it to be very different. Residents in your new country of residence are likely to use some words differently than you do, and phrasing may also vary.

If you have little knowledge of the language in the country you will be traveling to, hang tight! You may be in for a bumpy ride. Learn basic phrases before you go, such as greetings and questions; for example, to find out where the bathroom is!


Social customs

Related to eating habits, social customs vary widely from country to country. This includes greeting styles, in which you may expect, a kiss, double kiss, triple kiss, a hug, a handshake, a bow, or nothing. The customary distance between individuals may be different from your native country, so you may find that people stand at a closer or greater distance from you in social settings.

Depending on the country to which you travel, there may be different customs specific to your gender. Learn what habits you may need to adopt in order to remain safe and respectful.





Health and safety

Before traveling to a new country, research if any vaccinations are recommended prior to travel and if the water in the country is safe to drink.

You should also research how to get in touch with emergency professionals, locate the nearest hospital and police station, and learn how to contact your native country’s embassy.


You may be surprised to learn that readjusting to your life back home can prove to be a bigger challenge than leaving your native country in the first place. For some people, getting re-acclimatised in their native country can be a more jarring experience. Expect that your horizons will be broadened and your perspective may have become enriched. You may see things differently and should be patient with yourself as the new you gets to know your native customs again.


You stand to learn a lot from your time in another country and studying or teaching abroad is a wonderful experience. Help yourself to transition into your new surroundings by keeping an open mind and doing a bit of research before you jump in! If you are keen to take the plunge, sign up to teacherhorizons and browse our jobs board.  Schools like Bromsgrove International School are advertising now!


Written by Punyaa Metharom, who has been teaching English as an Additional Language, English, and writing blogs at Bromsgrove International School in Thailand for eight years. When he isn’t teaching, he loves to travel around the country and beyond. Punyaa wants to have a firm grasp on the world so his students can as well.