What is your Role as an Expatriate?

Why won’t they accept me as a local?

It is amazing how often you hear this comment and how some people can be so offended by the fact that the local people won’t consider them to be Chinese, Thai, Brazilian, Mexican or whatever.  Even if they do their best to acculturate, learn the language and get along well with everyone.

Ideally, don’t head to your new country with a goal of being accepted as a local.  It probably isn’t going to happen.

Why?  Because you aren’t Chinese, French, Cambodian or whatever.  You are who you are, you are not them.

Many of our Western cultures have been heavily influenced by immigration, yet even we were very slow to accept “those foreigners” and we are all well aware of the negative nicknames applied to many of them.

Certainly, as best you can:

  • Learn the local language
  • Respect local customs and culture
  • Do your best to fit in

But – bottom line – be who you are.  Be a good representative of your home country and a good guest of the country in which you are living.

As good goals, we can modify two of the three primary goals United States Peace Corps to be:

  1. Help promote a better understanding of [ your nationality] on the part of the local people.
  2. Help promote a better understanding of the local people on the part of [your nationality].

I like #2 best because so few Westerners really understand the rest of the world.  Not like you or I will really have an in-depth understanding in only a year or two, but we will at least have a better understanding than the one people “back home” get from TV and made-up fantastic stories on the Internet.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Bottom line?  Be yourself and do a good job of representing your country and culture.   And please help the people back home have a better understanding of what the rest of the world is really like.

Teaching Internships in China

Are you Seeking a Paradise Location for your TEFL Job?

Many people try teaching English so that they can live in what seem to be paradisical locations, often in undeveloped/developing countries .  And these locations are truly paradises.  Not only wonderful settings, beaches, palm trees, warm breezes year around, but also that wonderful local really relaxed and kicked-back attitude.  WoW!

Who wouldn’t love this place!

This post is partially my response to a discussion on another board about why people don’t last when they come to paradise.

So – what happens that most of those people don’t last more than a year and as much as 80% are gone after two years?

Well, I currently live in a “tropical paradise” and we see that same thing here.

WHY do people not last?  Because things are different.  DIFFERENT – captial letters purposefully.

It is not unusual to see a German expat yelling at his local girlfriend outside a hardware store, “This is stupid, it’s not how we would do it in Gemany!”   . . . Yeah, but this ain’t Germany!

A neighbor recently was yelling at his landlord about noisy construction next door going on for weeks – “In America that would be done in a day!”  Yeah, but this ain’t America, either.

Yes, things are different.  But also in very meaningful ways.  People arrive to stay forever, attracted to the very kick back lifestyle.

But a kickback local lifestyle also often means things like:

1. No one knows first aid if you are in an accident.

2. You are thrown in the back of a pick-up truck to get to the hospital in the case of an accident.  Uh . . . yeah, no neck brace, no body board . . .

3. No one bothers to fix the giant pothole that caused the accident

and on and on and on . . .

There are two sides to every quality.  One is a detriment and one is a wonderful value.  While paradise is wonderful, it can carry some baggage with it too.

My wife says I am bullheaded and stubborn, but to me that is the very determination that made my businesses and investments succeed. Two sides to that too.

So . . . when you go looking for paradise, realize that the wonderful relaxed locals may not have any idea what to do when you really need serious help, nor be interested or even feel obligated to provide it.   Those are your values and may not be theirs.

If you can do without that help – survive on your own – and realize that help isn’t coming – no problems then.  If you always require assistance from the community to survive (as so many do these days), it might be worth rethinking your non-vacation visit to paradise.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Perhaps a harsh lesson, but one that today’s people need to understand.

TED’s Tips™ #2:  If you seek a culture and environment that is easier to adapt to, then seek employment in a developed or more developed country.  While there will still be cultural issues, basic things will tend to work better.

Teaching Internships in China

Picking a new Country for a Long-Term Commitment

China? Brazil? Tanzania?

Where would you decide to settle for the next five to twenty years?

We are going to talk a bit about expatriate thinking this month with a series of posts about living abroad for the longer term.

Life abroad can be pretty addictive and many of us who have spent more than three or four years abroad often end up overseas for twenty or more years.

There is an initial hump of two or three years that sends most people “back home”.  That “hump” will be the topic in a following week.

RULE #1:  Don’t fall too much in love with the first place you land.

Too many people arrive in one country and never leave it.

They arrived in Brazil, fell in love with it and never left.  What they never found out is that they would have loved Japan, China, Costa Rica or some other place even more.

Give a few other countries a try too.

Part of what is happening is that people are falling in love with the experience of living abroad, which is pretty d*mn exciting all by itself.  But in the process they attach that love and excitment to the specific country in which they are presently living.   In other words, the same thing would often likely happen in almost any country in which they first landed.

I was lucky when I started out as I had decided I wanted to see many countries and live in more than a few.  So I spent about two to five years and more living and working in Botswana, Korea, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.  That way when I decided to settle down, I had a much broader base of information to call upon for the decision.

Korea was my home twice for three academic years each time, but ten years apart.  It was strange to see so many long termers there that had never left and experienced living and working somewhere else while I have the good fortune to experience two additional countries and cultures in depth during that time.   Don’t misunderstand, Korea is a wonderful place, but don’t limit your options so early in your expatriate experience.

If you intend to work abroad only for a year two, then yes, one country is about right.  The cost of moving and changing jobs is a bit much to do it more often than about every two years.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Don’t close out your options.  If you are going out to “See the World” – go see it and experience it.  LIVE and WORK in more than one place so you can get a broader sense of the real world out here.

Teaching Internships in China

Last Place in the TEFL Sweepstakes . . .

Coming in last place.  Is that a bad thing?  Getting that not so perfect job to get started working abroad and seeing the big real world out here . . .

I have mentioned before that I am approaching sixty.  I am also a long distance runner and I regularly run from two to four and five or more hours several times a week.   When I compete in “races”, I have – twice – come in last place.

Was that a tragedy?  Was I a loser?  I thought it was a success.

If you don’t get the exact job or perfect situation teaching English abroad – is that a failure or a success?

Here is my thinking on why my coming last place can be a success.  Above and beyond just being an old slow guy…

In the two races in which I have been “last place” I noticed more than a few people running behind me who never finished.   Now . . . if I am the “loser” who came in last – who are those people?  I finished.  They didn’t.  I achieved my goal.  They didn’t.  Am I loser then?  I think not!

Teaching English Abroad – the Great Job Search Race

So if you don’t land the perfect job your first time out, are you a loser?   No!

Think of all those people who never even got started.  All those people who wish they could land a job, who wish they could work overseas, who wish they could see the great world out there, but never followed though.  I promise you there are at least TWO people who never followed up on their dream, on their desire, on their goal - for every ONE that actually goes out and does it.

The people who go out and do it are the WINNERS in my book.   Dreamers and those who fantasize just don’t count.  They never even cross the finish line!  They never even get close to the finish line.  They never even got started.  Too bad for them.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  If you don’t try, you can’t succeed.  Even coming in last can be a winning proposition.

Teaching Internships in China