Overweight TEFL Teachers and Other Baggage

This post will provide some perspective not just for people who are a bit overweight, but perhaps for anyone who might have an appearance that is prone to less-than-sophisticated comment . . .

A reader asked:

I was wondering if Americans who are somewhat overweight are looked down upon in China?  It’s a weird question but I thought I should ask.

Really, it is not such a weird question.

You can expect people in most of Asia to be very frank about things in general.  And – from our cultural perspective – we can FEEL that they are sometimes being rude, but that generally is not their intention.

I once, during a period of expanding waistline-ness, had the department secretary at the school where I was working – in a room with about 10-12 other teachers in it – say, “Mr. Teddy, you are getting fatter and fatter every day!”

Well, I felt insulted and wanted to return a similarly nasty comment, but I know from living in this part of the world for the last 18 years that it was not intended that way and NOR did my 10-12 Chinese colleagues in the room at the same time hear it in the same way that I did with my very sensitive Western ears.

There is just not the same cultural baggage with it.  If you are hugely overweight though – you might find that less sophisticated people in less developed areas might well point at you and possibly even laugh.  But to some degree they might well do that just because you are a foreigner who looks differently than them.

Asians pay a LOT of attention to appearance and grooming and it is likely that you can overcome any attention to your weight by making sure you are always dressed and groomed well.

Funny enough – in Thailand – people will have nicknames like “FAT” if they are overweight – but everyone takes it in good humor and it just doesn’t have the cultural/emotional baggage that it would in our culture.

When hunting for a job – don’t hide it, but do as suggested above, have a sharp professional resume photo (passport type) with you dressed and groomed very well and a nice friendly smile – THAT is 300% more important in this part of the world.

Got it?

TED’s Tips™ #1: I know the Western world likes the “Rebel Billionaire” look and dressing down, but most employers will give stronger consideration to those who present themselves professionally. And that includes grooming as well as dress. From fingernails to hair to a tie for the guys, if you want the job, do what is required to get it.

The BEST EFL Teaching Jobs in China: Government Colleges, Universities and Secondary Schools offer the most reliable and worry-free jobs in China. Click on the Link if you would like to Teach English in China


Semi-retired EFL teacher/teacher-trainer working and living abroad since 1989 in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

2 thoughts on “Overweight TEFL Teachers and Other Baggage”

  1. Hi Ted

    I’ve just spent the last 2 hours reading through all the great info on your website! This is exactly the sort of site I have been looking for – someone who can give a true insight into the world of TEFL.

    I’m just about to start my TEFL journey. Having recently completed a TEFL course in the UK, I fly to Bangkok Jan 11 to look for teaching jobs.

    I have a smart appearance and always present myself very well and professionally in the workplace. However, I do shave my head really short. Do you think this could count against me?

  2. Hi Jim,
    Shaving your head is more of a fashion these days. I don’t think it would be held against you. Now . . . if you head was tattooed all over, that would be a different story!

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