Moving abroad and teaching English is such an exciting time in your life! You’re thrilled to be making this new journey, but it’s okay to be nervous. You can do the study and prepare for your new classroom, but one thing that most TEFL teachers forget is to prepare for the culture shock. You can learn how to teach English abroad, but how do we learn to teach English abroad

What is Culture Shock? 

Culture shock is unexpected to most and it’s not something we often think about. Although you may be traveling with a friend or loved one, or you may be traveling with a group or on an internship, you shouldn’t underestimate culture shock. In these modern times, we are all so fortunate enough to be able to travel the world and see other countries and their cultures. However, we often forget that the world hasn’t shrunk and there are thousands of different ways of life globally. 

Most TEFL teachers will come from a western world type culture and be traveling to, say, an Eastern culture. There are so many differences that you won’t even think about before going. Once you arrive and experience these differences, it may put you off the whole move altogether and you may feel homesick and discouraged about your decision. Actually, it’s not uncommon for new TEFL teachers to leave shortly after arriving. This is why the application process for TEFL jobs can be a little extensive and ask you seemingly random questions about your living background and travel experience. Most teachers who have traveled before normally settle in a lot easier. 

If this is your first time traveling, there’s no need to worry! 90% of first-time travelers and teachers settle in really well, and there are amazing stories from teachers out there in our Life blog series that show that anyone can make this move!

Although we know that you’ll have memorable moments and be an amazing TEFL teacher, here are some steps to take to avoid experiencing a culture shock. 

moving abroad

Steps to Teaching English Abroad

1. Do your Research

First things first, the worst thing you can do is arrive at a new country with new surroundings blindfolded. Do your research on the country and read up on their values and way of life. There can be differences with your culture on what is respectful and what is done in a certain situation. For example, opening gifts in front of the gift-giver is supposed to be done in some cultures, while rude in others. 

2. Network

We live in a world where countries are becoming more and more multicultural. It’s a lovely sight to see and we’ve definitely come a long way. Why not check out in your local town if you know a friend of a friend that is from that country or has lived there before? Meet up for coffee and bombard them with questions. People love to help others and would love to be able to fill you in on all the little things you might not read in an article. Don’t be shy to reach out! 

3. Social Media 

Social media platforms have a few benefits to helping you avoid culture shock. You can search hashtags on Instagram for that country and see real-life footage of everything from excursions to nightlife. There’s also a very funny trend on TikTok of “Name something your country has that is weird in other countries”. This is quite funny, but you might pick up something beneficial to you! Also, look up Facebook groups for the city you are moving to to connect with people before even arriving. These are normally called “XXX and new in YYY”. For instance, “British and new in Beijing”. 

4. Plan out your first couple of weeks in advance

Making a plan for yourself to get organized and stay busy is essential. The more in detail you make this, the better. Most countries won’t lease a place until you’re there, so making appointments to see apartments and such is a good idea. Plan your sleeping schedule to avoid jet lag as this can seriously affect your mood. Schedule meet-ups with newfound connections. Pre-arrange your calls back to home taking into account the time difference. This will all make things a lot smoother for the transition. 

Online TEFL english teaching
TEFL Marking


How do I become a good TEFL teacher?

Becoming a TEFL teacher has a straightforward process, but becoming a good TEFL teacher requires a bit more work. So what is the difference between the two, and how can we make ourselves go from average to great? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you: 

  • Your TEFL provider should be accredited with amazing reviews. Getting the certification from an accredited provider will equip you to get employed. However, you also need to think about getting the tools and skills needed to be a great teacher. Our TEFL courses not only have the minimum requirements for certification but have extra materials to help you with your career. As a bonus, you can download these materials and refer back to them for years to come! 
  • Practice confidence and classroom management. Knowledge is power, but so is controlling your environment. You have to own the classroom and practice the proven skills to engage your students. After all, why teach English in the classroom if nobody is listening? 
  • Don’t underestimate the power of connections. You are an amazing teacher with the skills and knowledge to teach students effectively. For you to move up in the world and run the classroom of your dreams, getting experience and making connections on the way is as important as it is in any industry. Make friends with colleagues, principals, and organizations. It will stand to you in the long run! 
  • Lesson planning is key. If you are prepared every time you step into the classroom, you’ll find that the lesson goes a lot smoother and your students will learn a lot more. 
Is being a TEFL teacher hard?

Being a TEFL teacher is a seriously rewarding profession. However, at times, it can seem overwhelming. If you don’t know your stuff, it can seem outright impossible. To ease your day-to-day, read our blog about the tips and tricks to becoming a successful teacher. Once you get the hang of it, no day will seem like work as you’ll fall in love with it! 

What skills do you need to be a perfect TEFL teacher?

TEFL has a range of different niches, from teaching young learners to adults, from beginners English to business English, and from conversational English to exam preparation. Each has a different skill set that you’ll need to become the perfect TEFL teacher. There are a few main ones that you’ll need to know for every niche of TEFL: 

  • Lesson Planning
  • Classroom Management
  • Communication and listening skills
  • Time management
  • Creativity and confidence
  • Public speaking and pronunciation

As we mentioned, there are some skills that are a little more niche-specific. However, it is nice to have all of them regardless just in case a new opportunity comes your way: 

  • Online teaching requires technical skills like breakout rooms on Zoom and troubleshooting your laptop if sound or picture goes wrong.
  • Adult teaching requires you to be a salesperson. For private lessons, if your students don’t enjoy the classroom and find it effective, they won’t come back. 
  • Business English can be industry-specific, so you’ll need some language from these industries. If you are teaching let’s say a production company, you’ll need to know some words you may not have heard of (or can’t really remember from biology class!). 
As a beginner, how can I prepare to teach English?

The biggest preparation happens when you are studying and completing a TEFL course. Remember to not just try and pass the continuous assessment, but understand for yourself. You are learning this for your career as a teacher and not just to get a certificate. If you come across a piece of information and think to yourself “Oh, that’s good to know!”, save this information for yourself for the future. 

A few other things you can do is communicate with experienced TEFL teachers for tips, lesson plan to the tee, and look into internship programs that have orientations and CPD training. 

What makes a good English language lesson for the classroom?

To run a good language lesson, we suggest that you make certain that the lessons are learner-centered and that students are actively participating in the lessons. This will help them to stay engaged and help them learn more effectively. A good  idea is to also assist students in setting goals and explain why certain class activities are beneficial. This way they will understand how the lesson content connects to their objectives.

Can you make a living from TEFL?

Absolutely! TEFL teachers around the world are normally on a western wage, but the majority of TEFL opportunities are in locations where the cost of living is significantly lower. Not only will you make a living from TEFL, but you’ll also be able to live life to the fullest as well! Quick note: We can’t speak for all countries and opportunities as entry-level positions and some countries have a lower wage, but you’ll always be on a survivable wage. 

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