Physical Limitations and Teaching English Abroad

A reader recently wrote:

I am a little chubby … am curious what countries are harder to be employed in or if there are any countries you can suggest where that is not a significant barrier

Unless you are hugely overweight it probably isn’t a problem anywhere.

Be aware though, if you are “out of shape” or have physical limitations, that many schools in the developing world might well be on the third or fourth floor of a building with no elevator and you might find yourself running between floors to get to a class on time.

I taught at a large college once where the buildings were spread out on different hills and one class might be on the fifth floor of one building and I would have ten minutes to make it to my next class – going down the five floors, down the hill, up another hill and up another 4-5 stories. Even though I was in reasonable shape I would often arrive at my next class out of breath, sweating profusely and not quite ready to take up the reins of the class.

If you have any kind of physical issues, it is important to ask your employer about accessibility issues in the building.  And get specific.  At my last university job in Korea, we had nice new handicapped access type rest rooms installed on all floors of the buildings, but no elevator to get up to them.   Perhaps they are coming later, but they aren’t there now.

Be aware also that many cultures don’t have the social inhibitions about commenting on your size or other issues. When I worked in a college in Taiwan the secretary once told me that I was “getting fatter and fatter every day”. She did this across a large room with many people in it. And yes, I was chubbing out a bit at the time. It actually hurt my feelings a bit and I wanted to say, “Yes, but you are ugly and I can lose weight”. But – I fully realized that her statement was not intended as an insult, just as a friendly comment.

TED’s Tips™ #1:   If you have any kind of physical limitations it is best to be direct and up front about them.   Many countries either do not have accessibility rules or don’t enforce them.  It is far better to find out early in the process than to show up for a job that you can not physically handle.

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