If you teach English abroad in China, Korea, Japan or wherever chances are at some point you will feel lonely.
It's also normal at first to feel completely excited about a place. But give it a few months and that excitement will likely wear off. Teaching English abroad is not the same as traveling abroad.
When you travel you can pick up and go when you get bored. There's novelty and that keeps things exciting and fresh.
But again that wears off.
Here's an example from someone's post on Reddit.
"I've been teaching English on the outskirts of Beijing (70km away) for a bit over two months now. One thing that is really getting to me is how few people speak English; I'm the only TEFL teacher in my entire district that I know of.
My Chinese level is borderline nonexistent. While initially I was fine, it's beginning to get to me how isolated I am from everyone else. I'm at a primary school, so I have difficulty with talking to the other teachers in English, and they all have their own lives and families besides.
Has anyone here been in a similar situation? I feel hugely isolated and alone, and I haven't felt happy since I got here. How did you get around that issue?"
Here's another example:
I've now been in Vietnam for 5-ish months. In this time I've made some good friends, and overall I do like living here. However I find myself feeling more and more lonely as time goes on.
Aside from not speaking any amount of Vietnamese, which isolates me from 99% of my immediate neighbours/people around me, I barely see any of my work friends due to distance (many of them live across the city/have other commitments), and overall I just find myself becoming more and more lonely as time goes on. - Meanttobepracticing
You are going to a foreign country where English is not the native language. Many people won't speak it. It's not their main language so you are going to encounter some language problems.
That's just part of culture shock.
Teaching abroad is easier said then done. Everything is going to be different. All of these things will be different.
- The language
- The people
- The culture
- The environment
- Your job
So how do you maintain "happiness" abroad?
Life is challenging and so I wouldn't expect teaching abroad to be any vacation. People have different definitions of "happiness", but in some ways I don't think this is actually different compared to living at home. Here are some ideas for starters.
- Eat healthy
It's not hocus pocus. It's simple. Breath. Focus on breathing steadily and deeply through your nose and set a timer for 5 minutes (start small) and do it everyday because it's a tool to maintain your mind and body. It doesn't matter if you sit or lie down.
Anyways back to the exercise.
You have complete control over your diet and what you do for exercise. They will make you feel better. It's common sense for many, but exercise helps with depression just as much as anti-depressent drugs do.
So are you doing those things now?
Those are the two basics that you need for personal health although you also need some sort of social support too.
So here are some ideas:
- Take a language class or find a language exchange partner so you can connect with the locals.
- Join a gym. Some may be more foreigner friendly than others. There may or may not be other foreigners there. Don't expect them to be like home.
- Start a martial art. While in Taiwan I learned some wing chun, but now I practice judo and jiujitsu and this has been a great way for me to connect socially with other people. And I can find this community pretty much anywhere in the world.
- Dance. Take a dance class.
- Find a yoga class.
- Start a new hobby or continue an old one: play guitar, drums, write poetry, paint or whatever.
- Hike or travel locally.
- Work on your future self. Do you want to teach abroad long term? What are you going to do after? Work on it.
How do you find these things?
The bottom line is that you have to get on a local website in the city that you are living in or search Facebook, Google, wherever and find people locally doing some activities and then join them.
You have to assert yourself and can't expect things to come to you.
I know it's hard.
- In Taichung and Tainan, Taiwan I would use the website Tealit.com and some other sites.
- In Busan, Korea I would use the site Koreabridge.net.
- In Shanghai, I would use the site Shanghaiexpat, echinacities, and other Shanghai sites.
You can try Facebook too.
Does the location matter?
I think it definitely does. If you are a really social and an outgoing person then a larger city might be for you.
Because in a larger city you will have more options for pretty much everything and there will be more foreigners. If you can't live without your comforts a larger city is better, but remember it still won't be like home.
A small city or more rural area will have fewer options and fewer foreigners.