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Some people do have bad experiences with TEFL. Was it bad luck or were they just not cut out for it? Probably bad luck and not doing enough research.

I am writing this article with the intent of making you more aware of what can happen in the ESL teaching world. If you're thinking of teaching English abroad you should know that some people do not have your best interests in mind. Some ESL schools (public and private), online entities and recruiters are not fare and honest.

But wait a second...

You don't actually need to know about this. What you really need to know is how to get a GOOD job teaching abroad. Seriously if you follow the advice in that article then I could almost guarantee that you won't have a bad TEFL experience.

Did you find this article by search? Were you searching for horror stories or bad teaching abroad experiences? I know it's sometimes good to know the risks that may exist yet it's better to focus on the positive.

Simply said if you want a positive outcome focus on the positive which is getting a good job and learning and that article up above will get you going with the first part.

You asked for horror stories so you'll get em

Some of the common horror stories are:

  • contracts not being honored
  • teachers not being paid on time
  • teachers not being paid in full
  • teachers being fired on the 11th month (Korea)
  • employers finding some other way to cheat you out of money
  • passports being held
  • recruiters or schools asking for deposits to secure you a job or place

Take negative posts, comments, reviews and forum threads with a grain of salt

Like all reviews and comments you read online you should take them with a grain of salt. Yes, bad things happen, but also know that sometimes the person writing it may be at fault too.

They usually write things in the heat of the moment as well. On one hand they could have made it up and on the other it could be true. You don't know the full story and the person writing it could be out for revenge for whatever reason.

You can find many stories online if you search for "blacklists". I spent about 6 years teaching abroad and I have a few stories too. In this video I'll share a couple with you. The goal here is not to spread bad news, but to just let you know or perhaps make you more aware of what can happen.

  • Here's an updated post on fake and paid TEFL reviews. Many of the reviews you will read about TEFL courses are actually paid for in the form of affiliate marketing. There are fake reviews out there too and there is even one fake TEFL review site too and lots of lies and half-lies in TEFL.

Don't watch this video if you don't like horror stories, jeez

This is my most disliked video. But I don't get it. I actually enjoyed it, but I am apparently in the minority here. Maybe it freaked some people out, but hey this is art - part truth part fiction. You can let me know what you think in the comments below without being a jerk.


As I mentioned those were based on true stories except for the one that I made up, lol. The one that I made up was the one about the roaches.

He was deducting money for taxes, but he never paid them

The first story about the taxes took place in Taiwan in a buxiban. I did after some work, time and help from my new employer get my money back. If she didn't enlighten me I would have never known that I was supposed to get a tax refund. Thanks to her.

The second took place in Korea and in the end I got most of my money back from the recruiter. The public school paid my last check to him. Yep, a public school, I suspected that he signed my name on a different contract than I signed. I went first to the labor board, but they didn't help and then finally I went to his office and heckled him. He did end up paying back about 85% of what he owed me.

Most of the horror stories that you read about in Korea are with hagwons or are they? Here is a post which includes a poll about whether anyone had a bad experience with EPIK the public school program in Korea.

Again if you want to read more about these stories search for "_____ (insert country) blacklist" or "TEFL scams" or "hagwon blacklist" or buxiban blacklist (Taiwan) or "eikaiwa blacklist" (Japan). Most of these stories can be avoided.

Other problems teachers can encounter...

  • TEFL course lies (see below for more).
  • Co-teachers and co-workers can be difficult for some.
  • Recruiters may use certain tactics to sell you a job. A common one is bait and switch. They'll first offer you a job that sounds good and then later switch to a less desirable one.
  • Culture shock. Some people have a difficult time adapting to a new culture.
  • Employee discrimination. In Asia many employers will show a preference for Caucasian, female, younger, etc. teachers. It happens all over the world actually because everyone discriminates on some level. The difference is in the West you won't see a job add posted that says, "Female caucasian teacher wanted" like you sometimes will in Asia, but in the west they are still going to hire who they want to hire.

You can read more about some of the difficulties teachers have in Asia and also get advice on teaching abroad.

TEFL course scams

According to Google a scam means: a dishonest scheme; a fraud.

The dishonesty with TEFL courses ranges from little lies to half-lies to total fraud. Some TEFL providers tell lies such as saying that it is required to teach, you'll make more money with their certificate, get a better job, etc.

But here's an example of an outright fraud. It's called Trusted TEFL reviews & TEFL online pro. The same guy uses multiple fake online identities, attacks other people and promotes his own site. 

Learn more about TEFL course scams.

Remember this

Trying to search for all the bad schools on blacklists is not a very effective way of finding a good job. You may find one that you applied to, but for the most part there are so many schools out there that finding out which ones are "bad" through an internet search is not very likely.

Sometimes even "bad schools" can change hands and then the same is true of so called "good schools".

Don't be a victim

Even if something does happen like what happened to me. You might be able to resolve it. Don't assume that you're in such and such a country and that's how they do things. Sometimes you have to fight to get what's rightfully yours.

So in my case I did have stress and anger especially in Korea, but I did get most of the money back that was taken from me because I fought for it. Had I not have approached the recruiter and demanded my money back I never would have seen it.

The same goes for the taxes. My new boss talked to my old boss via phone and told him that he needed to pay me back or whatever. But I had to go back to Taichung, see my old boss and request it.

So then...

How do you avoid these horror stories???

Here's some helpful advice for avoiding the hagwon horror stories, but actually 90% of that guide will apply to teaching in other countries too. A hagwon is the Korean term for a private academy, but these academies exist all around the world.