Avoiding culture shock when teaching abroad

Every year, thousands of teachers cross borders to teach foreign students. Some search for greener pastures while others do it for humanitarian purposes. Compared to travelling as a tourist where you are treated as a guest, it’s a more challenging task because you need to stay in a foreign country for a longer period and you are forced to adapt to the culture. Teachers can certainly experience culture shock in and out of the classroom. Here are 7 useful tips for a smoother transition into your new life.

1. Learn the local language with the help of a tutor.

Unless you already speak your host country’s language, the best way to adapt to a new culture is to learn the local language. Miscommunication can certainly produce regular problems and setbacks, not to mention the difficulty of teaching if you can’t explain it to the students using their own language. During your free time or weekends before you set out, you can enrol in a language school or best, hire a dedicated language tutor.

2. Get to know the local culture.

Aside from learning the local language, it’s also equally important to learn about the customs and traditions of the country or locality you are in. But unlike language which you can assimilate in days or weeks, expect cultural learning to be at a slower pace. Acquisition of cultural knowledge is a continuous process and will last until your last day in that country.

3. Build more friends and acquaintances.

If your new host country’s culture and tradition are different or completely opposite from your home country, would you choose to isolate yourself? You shouldn’t because the only way you can adapt is to explore what the country has to offer with the help of your local friends and acquaintances.

4. Be open-minded and be flexible on your expectations.

If you have problems adapting, don’t blame it on the new culture or country. Oftentimes, the problem is just with your expectations. Be open-minded and accept the fact that there are several things which can go wrong or become totally different from what you see and learn on TV or the Internet.

5. Learn to distinguish cultural habit from misbehaviour.

Inside the classroom, you don’t need to be overpowered or overwhelmed by your new and culturally distinct students. It’s a universal rule that teachers are the kings and queens of the classrooms. Thus, you should be able to identify and distinguish customs and traditions from plain misbehaviour. If a student behaves according to his/her culture, then let him/her be. But if a child is clearly misbehaving, you have to correct it and exercise discipline.

International flags
6. Introduce teaching strategies that work in your home country.

As a teacher, you certainly have a list of teaching strategies that work in your home country. Don’t be afraid to introduce and use them in your new location. But of course, ensure that your strategies are legally, culturally, and morally acceptable in your new country.

7. Seek the help of your colleagues or guidance counsellor.

Schools, governments, and organizations who hire foreign teachers certainly provide a support system when it comes to cultural and life adaptations. And your best and closest sources of support are your new colleagues or the school’s guidance counsellor.

Teaching in a new country is exciting, thrilling and a little different and with these tips you should be able to take full advantage of this experience.

Have you got any more tips for teachers integrating into a new culture, or any stories to tell? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Written by Cormac Reynolds, who is a qualified primary teacher and has taught in South Korea. He is a lover of new cultures and learning and works with First Tutors.

Teaching in Shanghai – expat interview

According to recent statistics, the number of expats in China is now over 240,000 and counting. HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey ranked China in the top 3 destinations for expats, based on the quality of life standards. Moving to China might seem daunting at first, with factors such as pollution, language barrier and culture shock to take into account. However, it’s clear that China remains an attractive destination to live and work. The “big three” cities of Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou continue to attract international teachers from all over the world.

Teacherhorizons talked to international teacher Alice Nettleingham to get a feel for what life is like teaching in Shanghai.

1. Where are you teaching and what is your school like? What made you choose that location/school?

Hello! I’m teaching at a multicultural kindergarten in the west of Shanghai. It’s a prestigious school with students whose parents are well known in China. I try not to think about that too much! I just want the best for my students and go into school thinking, ‘Let’s learn some awesome English today, have fun and learn how to be lovely people’.

I find in the ESL world that who you know is an absolute blessing. My friend who already worked for the school recommended me. Be hard working and kind to others and they will remember you. In terms of even coming to Shanghai, China, I had just finished travelling around on a motorbike for a year and my friends from Korea had moved on to here and promptly said ‘Come on over!’

2. What is the expat scene like in Shanghai? What do you do in your free time?

The expat scene: FOOD, DRINK, PARTY. So many bars, so many restaurants, so many clubs. It’s kind of overwhelming. In fact personally for me, Shanghai just has too many expats! I like being in Asia so I can learn about different cultures but you have to dig deeper for it here. The old town where history lies is being demolished and glitzy skyscrapers and money is where it’s at here.

I came here to not only teach but play music. The EDM scene is massive here but I’m into heavy metal and rock. You’ll usually catch me at a rock bar or a gig. I have to get the hell out of Shanghai regularly though to see some green, so you’ll also see me hiking mountains! Chinese mountains are so beautiful.

Teaching in Shanghai

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3. How do you cope with the pollution in Shanghai?

Believe me, the pollution sucks. Many people complain of not breathing well. Friends say they’re wrinkling up faster. The grey skies are pretty sad to see. But Beijing is ten times worse! It is a seriously big problem and the fact that many days a week my students can’t go out and play because it’s too polluted is saying something.

4. What’s the food like? Is international food available? Have you ‘accidentally’ eaten anything weird?

You want it, you can eat it. Shanghai has pretty much anything you would want to get your mitts on. International food and Chinese food is just everywhere. I would say that I am always intentionally eating weird food… it’s just after I’ve tasted it, that I realise it may not have been such a good idea after all.

5. What about culture shock? What parts of Chinese culture are hard to get used to? Are there any nice surprises about the culture?

This is a tough one to answer because for me, Shanghai is not China. A lot of traditional Chinese culture has been destroyed and it seems that they’re very happy to knock down historical stuff here. This is the first place I’ve lived in where the culture is not actually apparent to me. I feel bad to say that but that’s why I try to get out of Shanghai to see how other places live.

6. What’s the cost of living like? Are teachers’ salaries generally high? Are you able to save money?

Shanghai is a total playground. If you have the cash, you can most certainly splash it. Top chefs open up restaurants here – The Bund is super glitzy. Basically, if you want to eat international food, you will pay for it. If you eat local, you’re laughing. The salaries are excellent here and I save money every month. It’s important to note that teaching children is where it’s at. I taught University students here when I arrived and quickly realised it was one of the lowest wages.

Teaching in Shanghai

The ability to save each month is often high on the list of priorities for teachers moving internationally. Read more about the salaries and benefits packages on offer in international teaching and learn how to compare them.

7. Do many Chinese people speak English? How do you get around the language barrier?

I think the younger generation does but you need to learn at least survival words to get by, especially if you want to immerse yourself in the culture. I use Mandarin everyday when in a taxi, at a restaurant or in a shop. Outside of Shanghai, I imagine you need to know even more. Learning just a little will take you far and I always think it’s respectful to try your best if you are coming into their culture and living in it.

8. What’s the best thing about international teaching in Shanghai?

For me it’s the money. Many people see this as the time to be in China. Shanghai is the place where you can realise your dreams and go for it. A lot of business people come here with lots of ideas and they totally DO IT.

9. What’s the worst thing about living and teaching in Shanghai? What kind of person wouldn’t be suited to it?

The pollution, the amount of people living here and the enclosed feeling it can give you. I’m learning that maybe I’m not the right person for Shanghai! I need lots of trees, clean air and water, space to move and a place with fewer expats.

10. What advice would you give to someone thinking of teaching in China?

Go for it! My experience is just in Shanghai ~ China is a seriously big, vast place and I can’t wait to explore more of it in Summer. If you are curious about somewhere, go and see for yourself! China has taught me a lot about what I like, love and need and who can argue with that?!

Opportunities in China are plentiful with outstanding international schools offering fantastic packages – browse our full list of vacancies in China. Read more posts about China so you can be sure this is the location for you.

Written by Alice Nettleingham, Alice has been teaching and travelling around Asia for the last 5 years, including awesome places like Korea, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Phillipines. She intends to travel for as long as she can get away with it. Check out her blog,Teacake Travels.

Refer a friend – our first winners

In 2014 we launched our “Refer a friend” competition. Here was the deal: refer a friend to Teacherhorizons and get the chance to win two free flights to the destination of your choice. Over 100 teachers referred friends to us. We’re pleased to announce the first winners, Natacha and James, plus we’re relaunching the competition for 2015.

refer a friend winners

Natacha Clifton teaches French and Spanish at Garden International School in Rayong, Thailand. She referred James to Teacherhorizons and netted a free international flight for both of them. She will be using hers to take a trip to New Zealand.

james smallJames Carson is a former Teach First teacher, who has been teaching EFL at Garden International School in Thailand. He was then referred to Teacherhorizons by Natacha, and we helped him to successfully land a job at the prestigious United World College of South East Asia in Singapore. He will be using his free flight to take a trip to Brazil.

James said about his experience, “Teacherhorizons work with some of the highest profile schools in the world. Alex spent the time to Skype me and find out in detail my experiences and preferences, and actually took them into consideration. He recommended me to one of the best schools in the world, my dream job at this point in time, and I eventually ended up getting it. Thanks Teacherhorizons for all of your help!”

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Natacha and James and wish them well on their travels!

Do you fancy a free flight for you and a friend?

The good news is that we are relaunching the competition for 2015. It’s easy to enter: simply fill in our referral form with a few details and you will have the chance to win.

Convinced? Head straight to the entry form. Not convinced? Read our top ten reasons to refer a friend or check the Ts & Cs. Good luck!

Written by Sammy Tame, who lives and teaches in Cambodia. Sammy has her own blog.

Life in Bangkok since the coup – an update

It’s nearly a year since the marching parades on the streets of Bangkok which led to subsequent military coup taking power in May 2014.

At the time, I felt safe in my sleepy village but wondered what economic impact it would have on Thailand. In this article I take a look at how the teaching profession has been affected, and what has changed in Bangkok since the coup.

Bangkok since the coup - A Thai student protests against ongoing censorship

A Thai student protests against ongoing censorship © 2014 Reuters

Since then, a lot has come and gone (mostly politics which is not for me to comment on) but one thing that is evident is that many expats have left. That’s evidenced, albeit anecdotally, by the number of houses up for rent and the way the prices have lowered in my mooban.

I predicted that international schools would be hardest hit and for some of my colleagues, their schools were forced to hire local teachers (by ‘local’ I mean those expats who were already here and were contemplating moving on to greener pastures).

Some of my teacher friends were the ones who gained as the overseas hire was often a no-show – or the school simply didn’t bother looking abroad in the first instance. The worry being that most teachers contemplating the move, would have second thoughts.

How has expat life changed in Bangkok since the coup?

Some things have definitely changed. For example, the visa rules and tightening of existing laws has made everyone feel uneasy. There’s nobody in my circle of friends and colleagues who hasn’t got a tale to tell of the ‘shakedown’ – a euphemism for the ‘crackdown’ on expats. Tales of being stopped by the authorities and searched in central Bangkok. Very often in broad daylight.

On various Facebook and internet forums, there is a disturbing level of expat anxiety – whispered questions being asked constantly about visas, overstays, teaching licenses, etc – all with different opinions and answers because the truth is that there is no definitive answer.

Everyone has been treated differently; with the ‘rules’ being open to interpretation. Some might say this was always the case. Maybe that’s true – but more often that not, it always felt like the rules fell in our favour.

Bangkok since the coup - Thai army stickersThe physical signs are still there; the military has been replaced by a heavier police presence on the streets. In the days after the coup, the military presence made me feel uneasy but as the days have passed, it is less and less evident that we are under martial law and a coup.

You see the occasional grammatically awkward car-bumper sticker that says “I Love Thai Army”, as a reminder of who is in charge. The radio stations talk of ‘bringing back happiness’ and in a way it has – but not to all sectors.

What’s the atmosphere like now?

There’s still something missing from Bangkok. The vibrant heartbeat has dulled like an old man with angina. The Khao San Road bars pack up dead on midnight with people scurrying to bring down their shutters with a palpable fear that has left tourists bemused.

Soi 11 Sukhumwit is nowhere near as busy as it once was, with restaurants and pubs evidently suffering from the tourist downturn.

A friend, who visits once per year, commented on the changes. As an experienced lover of Thailand, she saw the above first-hand and said it was more than noticeable. She said you ‘could feel it’.

Driving back from the city late at night, there are road-blocks set up, with police searching cars and passengers. The tensions are still here. Embassies worldwide still advise caution in their Thailand travel advice. The UK embassy in Bangkok has asked all Brits to email if they have been stopped by police.

But for me, juggling life as both a teacher and a working mum, life pootles on.

The day to day grind of the traffic jams, fumes and street food belie what really may be happening. Although there’s been no significant change to our lives. It still feels uncertain.

I guess we are all waiting for the next instalment. Those of us who are still here that is.

Adapted from a post at ajarn.com

Read Julia’s other posts about life in Thailand with a young family.

Written by Julia Knight-Williams, a Curriculum, Planning and Pastoral Delivery KS Coordinator at a Preparatory School in Thailand. Follow Julia on twitter.

Teaching in Iraq – teacher interview

Iraq is a sometimes overlooked teaching destination which has seen more than its fair share of conflict for many years. This didn’t deter international teacher Chris Jamison, who decided to make Kurdistan his home. What is teaching in Iraq like, and is it safe for expats? We asked Chris a few questions about his experience so far.

1. Where are you teaching and what’s your school like? What made you choose to work there?

I’m teaching at Bilkent College, Erbil, Iraq, which is a large Primary school, KG1 to Grade 5. It has teachers from all around the world – some new like me, some have been here for a long time.

I chose the school as I liked the website. I spoke with the headmaster on Skype and he sold it to me.

2. How did you get your job? What was the process like?

I uploaded my CV to Teacherhorizons and was contacted by the headmaster. One short Skype with him and one with the director and boom, I was gone.

Kurdish Day
3. What is the city like? Is there an active expat scene? What do you do in your free time?

The city has plenty of shopping centres or malls if you prefer. They have a high quality feel to them in general. There are historical buildings and a huge market.

There are many expats here who I assume get together regularly. I tend to just venture out at the weekend and for a quiz. The bars are very loud and modern, and mostly filled with locals from the Christian area. Women do not tend to venture out, it is a very male dominated area.

4. How about safety? Do you feel safe living and working in Iraq, given the political situation?

I have been here since August and there has been one serious security problem since then, however it was not believed to be linked to the current unrest in Syria and emergency evacuations of nearby towns. I do not feel unsafe although I am fully aware that it could all change in a heartbeat. We tend to go out once a week to bars etc and I have never felt intimidated with this at all. Precautions wise, we do tend to only use known taxi drivers who pretty much ferry us everywhere. I feel it is less safe for women here than me so would probably advise a woman to think carefully about coming here as the freedom they have is not the same as for men. Most of the women I know will only go out if men are with them, not ideal and a little archaic – alas it is or can be a little like that.

5. Which tourist sites or must-visit places are nearby?

The Erbil Citadel, Korek mountain. The market is pretty good too.

6. What is the climate like? Is there any extreme weather? If so, how do you deal with it?

When I arrived in August it was 40 odd degrees centigrade. There have been a few heavy storms but it tends to hold steady. It can be cold at night in December.

7. What is the food like? Is international food available? Have you tried any unusual local dishes?

The local food is bland and consists of pulped beans and rice. There are many Lebanese restaurants, and you can get Indian, Mexican, and Chinese the same as everywhere, but pork isn’t available here. I don’t tend to eat the local food as it’s not very tasty.

I had an unusual time in a Turkish restaurant where you went and chose your fish from the fridge.

Erbil Citadel
8. How is the culture different from your home culture? Have you experienced any culture shock?

It’s very different as it is a Muslim country, so the rules are a bit different from England. Not being allowed to wear shorts out shopping was a bit weird – however I was never bothered when I risked it.

There are guns everywhere for obvious reasons. Not quite like Nottingham.

9. What’s the cost of living like? Are you able to save money?

Things like alcohol are cheap in shops but not bars. Meat is expensive. Taxis are cheap and necessary.

I could save money but blew it all at Christmas.

10. What’s the best thing about living and teaching in Iraq? What have been your highlights so far?

I have nice colleagues, Kurds are friendly. The kids are nice and keen to learn.

11. Are there any drawbacks? What kind of person wouldn’t be suited to it?

The nightlife is not great and nor is the food, so if you are a fan of fancy dining or partying then it’s perhaps not ideal.

I would say if you can get by without worrying too much about it then it is a nice place to live.

12. What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of coming to live and work in Iraq?

Go for it, you only live once.

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If you teach in an international school and would like to take part in a teacher interview, we’d love to hear from you!

Written by Chris Jamison, who had always wanted to work as a Primary School teacher, and completed his training in 2001 followed by a PGCE at Canterbury Christchurch University the following year. Chris loves to watch and play football, enjoys reading Irvine Welch books and living in countries with a dangerous side.

Why Teacherhorizons donate 10% of profits to charity

We strongly believe that ‘internationalising teaching’ isn’t about just working with privileged private international schools. Our vision has always been to work with a range of institutions that benefit from overseas teachers where teachers can learn and develop professionally in an international context. These organisations might be charity projects, local schools, social enterprises too – places where teachers can learn new transferable skills.

We support organisations like this in two ways. First, we offer free advertising on our website. Secondly we have committed to giving 10% of our profits to education charities in Cambodia – where our Asia office is based.
Charities we support with recruitment

ABOUTAsia Schools CambodiaAbout Asia schools – a sustainably funded non-profit organization that supports the education of over 53,000 children in Siem Reap Province.


LRTTLRTT (Limited Resource Teacher Training) – an amazing organisation that trains and develops teachers in developing countries. They work in Nepal, Uganda, Cambodia, Tanzania and Paraguay to enable teachers working with minimal resources to deliver the best education they can.


African Leadership AcademyAfrican Leadership Academy – a school in South Africa which selects highly gifted students from across Africa and gives them a scholarship to the Academy. They receive world class education which enables them to access top universities overseas. Student then return to their home nations in Africa to be leaders in a range of fields – using the contacts and connections they made at ALA to make this possible.


Some other projects we are supporting this year

Giant Puppet ProjectGiant Puppet Project – a local children’s community arts project that promotes education and self-expression for disadvantaged children. The project holds a spectacular parade through Siem Reap each year, with impressive giant puppets representing environmental and educational themes.

Helping Hands CambodiaHelping Hands Cambodia –  a grassroots organisation which runs a school for 300 children in rural Siem Reap, and educates mothers and care-givers about health, hygiene and nutrition. Teacherhorizons is part-funding Helping Hands’ initiative to provide school students with solar-powered reading lamps in order to let them read and study in the evening, as many homes in rural areas have no electricity supply.

KRU logoKRU Cambodia – We are planning to support an exciting new education social enterprise in Cambodia called KRU Cambodia. KRU Cambodia is working with Cambodian teachers to create a full syllabus of teacher training videos that share best practice and highlight the fact that teaching is a highly skilled profession. Each short episode will Classroomshowcase the skills of outstanding Khmer teachers through video footage and explanations that model the implementation of key training points around a particular topic, within the real Cambodian teaching environment. These will then be available to every school, organization and teacher training facility in Cambodia, providing exposure to effective teaching methods and raising the expectations of teachers themselves; improving their practice, inspiring their peers and influencing policy makers, to help transform teaching and learning.

How do we choose which charities to support?

The charities we select to support are usually smaller, grassroots charities with a focus on education.

We are open to developing partnerships with a broader range charities who wish to recruit dynamic teachers through the Teacherhorizons platform. We also focus on building teacher capacity in developing countries through teacher training and CPD.

Why do we donate 10% of our profits to charity?

The philosophy behind giving 10% of profits to charity is simple. We believe all children from all backgrounds deserve great teachers and a good education. Most of our income is generated from international schools that usually educate more privileged children. By committing to giving 10% of our profits to education projects in developing countries, we can also enable thousands of less privileged students in developing countries to gain access to a quality education as well.

Finally, our Asia office is based in Cambodia for practical reasons such as time zones and ease of travel to Asian schools. Cambodia is a wonderful country but its education system is still very basic with limited resources. We support grassroots organisations working to address this as a way of giving something back to our host nation.

Written by Alex Reynolds, founding partner and Director of Communications at Teacherhorizons.

Teaching in Azerbaijan – teacher interview

Azerbaijan might be a somewhat unconventional teaching location, but according to international teacher and seasoned expat Elaine Crawford, it’s a safe and comfortable place to work with plenty of advantages. We asked her a few questions to get the lowdown on teaching in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

1. Where are you teaching and what’s your school like? What made you choose that school?

I’m teaching at BTEC, Baku, Azerbaijan. This goes from KG through to Year 9 at present and will eventually go to Year 13. It is a ‘young’ school – just three years old and is still growing and maturing. It is housed in a large, new building with plenty of facilities.

It has mainly Azeri speakers but more international students have arrived throughout the year. The standard of English varies widely so teaching English is a must in every lesson. Class sizes are small and primary classes have an Azeri co-teacher which is a real bonus.

I chose the school as I am a mature teacher and the management wanted experience and a range of ages. I was particularly interested in this area as I have spent most of my ‘teaching life’ in the Far East and I enjoy exploring new areas and a new culture.

The staff in the school come from all over the globe and great friendships have been formed.

2. How did you get your job? What was the process like?

The school had approached Teacherhorizons when recruiting staff and Teacherhorizons approached me. I was definitely interested in the school and after an interview with the Principal it did not take me long to accept an offer so the process was really simple.

Y6C reading with the Year 1 children

Y6C reading with the Year 1 children

3. What is the city like? Is there an active expat scene? What do you do in your free time?

I love being in Baku! The Azerbaijanis are building a lovely, modern city that is interesting and lively. There is a small expat scene but as a staff we have made our own social scene. BTEC has a well equipped fitness centre and a large swimming pool so many of us use those after school finishes, but you can find clubs and bars and there is a Hash. I have not heard of much in the way of sports clubs, rugby, soccer or hockey – perhaps after the European Games the arenas and stadiums will promote more sport.

4. Which tourist sites or must-visit places are nearby?

Gobustan petroglyphsClose to Baku are the mud volcanoes which are apparently a fine
example but I thought they would have been much bigger! Close by the volcanoes is Gobustan, which has an abundance of prehistoric rock carvings and paintings which really are a must see – I have been twice. Then there are the mountains and beautiful scenery. We even have skiing.

Baku itself has plenty to see. I live in the old walled city which is lovely and stuffed with history. It is easy to get around by Metro or bus, and with few hills walking is easy too.

5. What is the climate like? Is there any extreme weather?

This summer was warm with temperatures of over 30 most days during September and not a drop of rain in five weeks. So far we have had a mild winter – one snow flurry but temperatures have been mainly above freezing. Baku is windy! We have had wind most days since the beginning of September. When we had wind and rain in November that felt really chilly.

6. What is Azerbaijani food like? Is international food available?

The food is like that of Turkey with some excellent soups. I enjoy the food, especially the range of salad dishes. You can buy burgers and chicken from McDonalds and KFC if you need a change to comfort food, but pizzas are plentiful and there are curries, Chinese food and sushi there if you want them.

7. How is the culture different from your home culture? Have you experienced any culture shock?

Men will invariably offer a woman their seat on the bus or the Metro – which is quite a pleasant surprise in these days of equality. Azeri women do not believe in queuing and proceed to the head of any queue… most annoying at times!

8. What’s the cost of living like? Are you able to save money?

Things are pretty cheap here. Eating out does not cost a fortune and sitting at a café sipping tea, beer or wine is most affordable. If you are a ‘labels’ person then you will pay plenty for your designer brands.

Transport is cheap, local products are cheap and you can easily save money.

New Year rap dance

New Year rap dance

9. What’s the best thing about living and teaching in Azerbaijan?

I have enjoyed everywhere I have worked. I look upon Baku as an experience not to be missed and definitely an experience to be enjoyed. This is a safe city, I have made good friends, I like my work. Of course there are times when things are not as I would choose – it happens everywhere, so you deal with it.

10. On the other hand, what kind of person would not be suited to this location?

There are only 9 million people in the whole of Azerbaijan, and Baku has one or two million. It is not a vast, bustling metropolis and there is not a great deal of choice. It is predominantly Muslim so much of their social life is family oriented. So ‘party people’ might not be best suited.

11. What advice would you give to someone thinking of coming to live and work in Azerbaijan?

I think if you are fairly self-contained you will have no problem settling here.

Sound appealing? We regularly have international school vacancies in Azerbaijan. Browse our schools in Azerbaijan, or sign up or sign in to search for vacancies.

Written by Elaine Crawford, who has spent much of her career working overseas, first in the Middle East and then for many years teaching in Hong Kong. She has also taught in Tanzania and, most recently, Azerbaijan.

Beating the heat – 5 ways to stay cool in a hot country

If you come from a grey, chilly country, then a warmer climate can be a major advantage of moving abroad. It’s great: no more de-icing the car or shivering at the bus stop in sub-zero temperatures. You only need to step outside to top up your vitamin D levels.

But hot weather has its disadvantages too, of course. At the height of the hot season, the air is so hot it seems to burn your skin, and even sitting still feels like hard work. Moving from a chilly country to a hot one is liable to give you some degree of climate shock. Luckily there are a few ways to stay cool (apart from staying in an air-conditioned room constantly).

1. Do as the locals do…

Avoid strenuous activity in the middle of the day, when the heat is strongest. People in hot countries tend to either get up at the crack of dawn or stay up late into the evening. Either way, they tend to take a long lunch break and avoid doing much in the midday heat. Take a tip from the locals and do work, exercise and cooking during the cooler hours, and save the siesta for napping, reading, or anything that doesn’t require movement.

2. …but not always.

People in South-East Asia wear a lot of clothes. Women wear long-sleeved turtleneck sweaters under their T-shirts, and accessorise with hats, gloves and scarves on all but the hottest days. Young people wear skintight jeans all year round. I don’t know how they do it, and I definitely can’t do the same. But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to dress like you’re on the beach. In conservative parts of the world such as South-East Asia and Central America, showing too much skin doesn’t go down well. If you want to be respected, especially in the workplace, you need to dress modestly. Compromise by wearing lightweight clothes that don’t show too much. Women should cover their shoulders and skirts should come below the knee.

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

It goes without saying that you should drink plenty of water, tea, juice or soft drinks to stay hydrated. But you also lose minerals through sweating, and it’s important to replace them as a deficiency can cause a range of symptoms including nausea and fatigue. Add a little salt to food to replace sodium and chloride, eat bananas to top up your potassium, and eat dark green vegetables for magnesium. You might well find your tolerance for alcohol is lower in a hotter climate as it’s easier to get dehydrated, so be careful not to overdo it. If you do become dehydrated, (hungover or otherwise!) eat a salty snack and drink water or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.

4. Keep your house cool

If you don’t have good air-con or just want to save money on your electricity bill, there are some ways to cool down your house. Keep curtains or shutters closed during the day to stop rooms getting overheated. Put up extra window shades for rooms that you want to keep coolest, for example bedrooms. You can buy purpose-made foil shades that reflect the heat, but you can also do the job with regular tin foil, or just big sheets of paper or card. Open the windows at night to let the cool air in, and close them when you get up in the morning.

5. Use cool water, menthol, and your fridge

When you’re overheated, a cool shower is the quickest way to cool down. But what else can you do when you finally have to get out of the shower and your house is still as hot as an oven? One way is to put a cool damp towel on your face or neck. Add a few drops of menthol oil to increase the cooling effect. Alternatively, rub menthol oil or balm directly onto the back of your neck or put a drop on your temples. Some people advocate taking a frozen bottle of water to bed – just wrap it in a small towel and you have a cold-water bottle. I like to keep face masks, body creams and eyedrops in the fridge so they’re chilled and soothing when I want to use them.

Browse our other tips for living abroad in the Expat Life archives. Have you had to adapt to an extreme climate? Let us know how you handled it! Join Teacherhorizons and browse for jobs today.

Written by Sammy Tame, who lives and teaches in Cambodia. Sammy has her own blog.

The Mongolian highlife – one teacher’s experience in Ulaanbaatar

When looking for a new overseas teaching destination, many teachers dream of year-round sun, balmy tropical evenings, and free time spent relaxing at the nearest beach or pool. Not so for international teacher Chris Dwyer, who decided to move to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, where temperatures plummet to an unforgiving -30°C in winter. Teacherhorizons blog editor Sammy asked Chris a few questions about his experience so far.

1. What made you choose Mongolia as a teaching destination?

My wife was looking to transition from teaching ESL to teaching at an International School. We went to a job fair in Bangkok, and Mongolia presented itself as the best and most intriguing option.

2. What’s the best thing about living and teaching in Mongolia?

The best thing is that you can save a lot of money. The cost of living is low, and we are paid in USD. The economy has not been good lately, but it makes living very cheap for us. Also, the women are stunning! The best thing about teaching is that the students are really fun to work with, and for the most part have exceptional English ability. (At least compared to Korea.)

Talent show

Orchlon International School Talent Show

3. So, about the weather…

The weather is extreme at both ends. In the summer I’ve been told it can get as high as +40°C. (We are connected to the Gobi desert.) I haven’t been here in the height of summer. The winters can get as cold as -40°C, but last year I believe the coldest day was around -35°C. Although this sounds brutal, it’s possible to stay comfortable just by dressing in layers because the cold is very dry.

Ulaanbaatar is at an elevation of about 1400 metres, so this has a big effect on the environment. The dryness produces a lot of static electricity all winter! We don’t get a lot of precipitation as a result, so blizzards are not often a problem. Heavy pollution is more of a problem, since people burn a lot of low-grade coal to stay warm and avoid freezing. That coal goes into the air, unfiltered, and sets down on the city like a heavy fog on the worst of days. Also, because Mongolians are heavy drinkers, men who pass out after a heavy night can freeze to death in the streets.

4. So apart from exercising moderation, what can you do to deal with the weather and pollution?

Dress warm in layers. Wear a carbon filter mask, which serves the double purpose of filtering the air and keeping your face warm. I generally try to avoid being outside for long in the winter.

5. How do you get around? Is walking out of the question?

I love to walk, but it’s not always a good option for safety reasons. Especially at night. So we take an English-speaking taxi service, but mostly we just hail “any” taxi. Many Mongolians who are not official taxis will pick up fares to make a bit of extra money. Fares are generally cheap, anywhere from 1-2 US dollars.

Horses in Mongolia
6. What’s the food like? Have you eaten anything weird?

Mongolians have traditionally had access to mostly meat and dairy, and so their diet consists heavily of these. They tend to turn their nose up at vegetables, calling them “goat food”. I was once offered sheep innards – didn’t eat it. I did drink “Aireg” more than once, which is fermented mare’s milk. It has an intensely sour, acidic taste, but once it coats your tongue it becomes bearable. If you drink enough of it, you’ll get drunk, but I can’t say I have. I’ve also drunk its cousin but I can’t remember the name. It’s like vodka, but it smells and tastes like a barn.

7. What do people do for fun in Ulaanbaatar?

Mongolian traditional leisure activities are wrestling, archery and horseback riding. Not so much in the city. In the city it’s all about showing off new wealth and trying to appear high in social rank. Because of the soviet-era influence, activities like going to the ballet are very popular.

As for expats, there is an active nightlife and a decent club scene, for those who are into it. Some other activities such as salsa dancing are available. As for myself, I’m so busy this year, that just having a night off to watch a movie is awesome.

8. What advice would you have for someone thinking about going to live/work in Mongolia?

Bring a high-quality mask that can filter 99% of airborne particles. Don’t walk around alone at night. Don’t be reckless. Be prepared for culture shock if you haven’t lived in a developing country. Practice your tough face. Get out of the city and into the countryside as much as possible.

Looking for a new adventure? Sign up or sign in to browse international schools and search for a job. Want to tell us your teaching story? Email the editor to tell us about it.

Written by Chris Dwyer, a teacher and writer from Fogo, Newfoundland in Canada. His body of work includes novels, children’s stories, magazine features, essays, short fiction, screenplays, and song lyrics. He has previously taught in South Korea and currently lives and teaches in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Check out his blog and website.

10 reasons to refer a friend to Teacherhorizons in 2015

When you refer a friend to Teacherhorizons, you have the chance to win two free international flights: one for yourself and one for your friend. With a maximum budget of $1000 per flight and no restrictions on the destination, you could soon be jetting off to somewhere amazing. In case you need any more reasons, here is our list of top 10 reasons to refer a friend today, and get a flying start to 2015.

1. Help your friend to get a job.

Because you’re altruistic at heart, your main reason to refer a friend to Teacherhorizons is to help them to find a great job in a fantastic location. Our team of experts will provide advice and assistance to help your friend land their ideal teaching job, whether they’re a newbie to teaching abroad or a seasoned nomad.

2. Cross something off the bucket list.

Whether you’re dreaming of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway, browsing the souks in Marrakech or trekking in the jungles of Borneo, the chance could be yours. Where have you always wanted to go?

Northern Lights
3. Make other teachers jealous.

Be the envy of the staff room when you’re gloating about how much you’re looking forward to your trip, and rave about it endlessly when you get back. Make sure to post jealousy-inspiring updates on Facebook, just to make sure everybody knows where you are.

4. Win friends and influence people.

Maybe the person you want to refer isn’t exactly your friend, but you think they would be if you helped them land a job and win a free flight into the bargain. It’s allowed, we won’t ask for proof of your friendship.

5. You don’t have to go together.

The great thing about this prize is that you and your friend don’t have to get flights to the same location, or at the same time. You can go together if you want, but you’re also free to go separate ways.

6. Beach time.

Maybe this term’s left you worn out and in need of relaxation, or maybe you’re craving sunshine after a long stint in the frozen North. Pack your flip-flops and head to the beach for some serious unwinding. You could be drinking coconuts in Bali or buckets in Koh Phangan in no time.

Beach in Bali
7. Visit family or friends.

Whether you’ve got family or friends in an exotic location that you haven’t managed to get to before, or just haven’t been home for a while, use your free flight to pay a visit to the people you love.

8. Shopping.

If you’ve been away from home for a long stretch, especially in a developing country, the chances are you’ve discovered that some of your favourite foods, toiletries or clothes brands just aren’t available. Pop over to a cosmopolitan city and indulge the consumer itch.

9. It’s quick.

Filling in our online form is easy and only takes 2 minutes (allow another minute or two if it’s before the morning coffee).

10. Visit an awesome airport.

Some airports aren’t just a glorified bus station – they’re an experience in themselves. Or so we hear.

With all these great reasons, what are you waiting for? Fill in your details to refer a friend and be in with a chance of winning. Click here for terms and conditions.

Written by Sammy Tame, who lives and teaches in Cambodia. Sammy has her own blog.