Staying positive as an expat teacher

Helen Back - Acting principal in Hong Kong


Bad day?


The day starts with the hot water service not working, you know that the landlord wont fix it for 6 weeks but it’s the power is out again and you have no credit left on your public transport card, no money till payday. 


You arrive at work with a heavy heart,  email from the Principal’s PA requesting a meeting to discuss a parent complaint, kick the bin and someone’s late curry lunch is all over the floor. You’ve got a full day of teaching and the next email states that you didn’t do your attendance rolls yesterday.


Sound familiar? Expat teaching (any job) and living in another country is just fantastic isn’t it??? What happened to fabulous travel and wonderful life that was in the brochures? The year has settled in, you’ve taught a few months without the beach holiday you thought you would have had by now and you are tired.


That’s real life people! Expat life isn’t all beers and skittles, it’s working and living in another country and with many of the same issues that you had at home but without the language skills and local knowledge that you usually had.


Just because you are tired, annoyed and grumpy doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not working out. It means that life is life anywhere…………or for some….is it?


Are you not enjoying where you are and these days have turned into weeks/months?


Have you given it a fair go or is everything such an effort that you are not enjoying the life that you have chosen?


There is a difference between bad days vs it’s not you.  Step back, have a good look at why you may be unhappy and talk to someone about this. Who knows may be able to make changes to get that loving feeling back.


Talk to friends and try to figure out what is wrong. Or suck it up and talk to your line managers because they will tell you and/or may feel grateful that it's you that approached them. It stings in the short term but you will look back on this conversation and be thankful for their honesty.


Why do I bring this up?


Nov-Dec is the 6 month notice time for the Northern Hemisphere. Your bosses will start asking staff who is staying and who is going. They do this so they can have time to recruit and sort out staffing for August 2018…………yes it does take that long to recruit, interview, reference checks, HR assistance, visas, expat info etc, etc, etc.


Ask yourself the question: am I unhappy with this moment or am I unhappy all the time?


Be proactive and get the answer sooner rather than later. Recruiting is in full swing and if you choose to leave you had better get the CV sorted now! Staying another 12 months is a long time to be unhappy.