You have made it! We hope you have arrived safe and well to your new school. Congratulations! Now comes the next step: Finding your place in this new (and frankly, terrifying) world. Being an international jet-setter myself, I moved my life to Cambodia last year, to begin working at Teacher Horizons. So having been in a similar situation to many of you international teachers, I wanted to share a few words of advice to help you find your feet, and navigate the social scene in your new home.
1) Get out there
It might be the last thing you feel like doing in your first few weeks. It certainly was for me. As soon as I left my air conditioned room, the smells, the noise and the heat of Cambodia would hit me, and it was overwhelming. However, once I bit the bullet and got out there, I noticed how wonderfully different and exciting the place was, and began to get accustomed.
2) Find the place to be
The first thing to do is to find people who speak your language. Well, I started off in a hostel, so that was easy for me, and I began by asking the staff there where I should hang out to meet people. ‘Pub Street’ was the answer I got, so off I went to find friends. It took no time at all.
Interested in Cambodia too? Look at our Cambodia page here, and start applying for jobs there by creating a free profile.
3) Speak to everyone you see
I was stopped on my way onto pub street by a Turkish man selling pub crawl tickets… I very boldly replied “where do you live in this city? Where should I live?” I think he was a little taken aback, but he gave me some great advice on the places to look and the going rate for rent, and from that moment on, became one of my closest friends in Cambodia.
4) Join the facebook group
My new friend immediately added me to the expat Facebook group. There will always be one for the place you are living, no matter how remote. Ours was fantastic. It was the place where all expats in the whole city could meet, socialise and ask advice from others. It was used for buying and selling apartments, furniture, bikes etc and was a great way to feel part of a community, no matter how far you are from your old one.
4) Join a club
This Facebook group will be used for promotion too. Mine promoted all the clubs that you could join in the area, so all I had to do was pick a few hobbies that I was interested in pursuing over there. I picked CrossFit and wine tasting. Yes, wine tasting! Even in the most far off places, if there are expats there, there will be wine. The CrossFit club was at the local kickboxing gym, and was on three times a week. Through this I was able to meet like-minded people from the word go, and begin to structure my new friendship circle. Oh and if you are keen on fitness, join Strava. It’s an app which allows you to find friends who run, swim or cycle at your level, and contact them. An amazing tool if you want to meet like-minded people and have someone to exercise with.
5) Be a yes man!
“We are going on a bike ride, want to come?” YES. “I am going to do a city tour, join me?” YES. “Would you like to try this odd looking local food?” YES. Get my gist? You will never regret saying yes to these things. If they are enjoyable, you get a great experience to tell home about. If they are not, you get a funny story to tell home about. No one wants to hear about the time you said no to an adventure.
Read more of my advice on keeping fit and healthy abroad in this blog: Seven secrets to staying healthy that only expats would know!
7) Speak to the locals
Your friends do not have to be expats. A good mix of both is healthy. I was lucky enough to find a complex to live in, which housed some locals and some expats, so I immediately befriended Cambodians as well as British, Kiwi, American and Turkish expats. The locals are amazing, as they help you navigate around and begin to learn the language, they help you order your drinks, they advise you on which market goods to buy and how much to pay for them, and best of all, they make you feel welcome in this place that is their home.
Read one of our teacher’s stories about learning the language of the locals here.