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It can be quite appealing. You've seen pictures of exotic beaches, majestic mountains, beautiful temples, ancient ruins, delicious foods or you may have heard of the promises of riches from teaching English abroad.

Or maybe it was the media.

Perhaps it was those K-pop stars, that anime, the cat cafes, or that unique culture that appealed to you.

I mean it sounds almost like a paid vacation.

But should you quit your job to teach English abroad?

Here's the lowdown...

Most people only teach abroad for 1-2 years. For most it's not a career. So why is it that they only last 1-2 years?

  1. It's not what they expected.
  2. Everything is different.
  3. They're not teachers. They didn't get into it because they are interested in teaching.
  4. There's no career progression beyond teaching English. 
  5. They have problems with their employers or the people they work with.
  6. They want to do something else.
  7. They get homesick.

1. It's not what they expected

Whatever you have in your mind now about teaching English in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, Costa Rica or Russia expect it to be different.

Things are never as they seem (especially online).

Most of what you know about it is all from the web and most of what you have seen or heard is limited and nothing can compare to actual experience.

Let's say you love Japanese manga and maybe even Japanese food.

That's great, but guess what??? that's only a sliver of Japan. There's so much more to it than what you know now.

Maybe you love Korean food, but what if you had to eat it everyday? Or what if suddenly those other foods you like were gone?

2. Everything is different

The culture is different and it's hard to understand what culture is until you experience it. If you live in a big US city then you could get a taste of it by going to the various neighborhoods.

For example, lets say you live in San Francisco.

You could go hang out in Chinatown for the day, eat Chinese food and talk to Chinese people to get a taste of it. Or maybe you could go to the Tenderloin to get a taste of African American culture. Or maybe to the Mission to get a taste of Hispanic culture. Or maybe to Japantown to get a taste of Japan.

But you are only getting a taste of it.

A little piece of it. 

If you have traveled abroad then you've also gotten a taste of it. Culture is regional. You have culture where you are too even if you live in a small town. It's just more subtle and tough for you to see because you are in it.

  1. The language is different.
  2. The culture is different.
  3. The environment is different.
  4. People look different (and you look different to them).
  5. People have different manners.
  6. Your job will be different.

3. They are not interested in teaching English

One of the main reasons people quit teaching abroad is because they are not teachers or interested in teaching or interested in learning about teaching. They were probably more interested in traveling or paying off loans.

Most of the time all you need is a bachelor's degree in ANYTHING. So anyone can teach abroad, but most of them aren't doing it well. I know because I was there and I can tell you if you invest a little more in training by taking a specialized course or doing extensive research that it will pay off.

Teaching is not easy.

4. They had problems with employers

Some people have problems with their employers and even "horror stories". There could be language problems, cultural differences, contracts not being honored, problems with management, co-teachers or problems with pay. 

Like for example. In South Korea contracted English teachers have to be given severance pay which is about a month's salary in addition to their normal salary when they finish their 12 months. But sometimes dodgy schools might 'fire' a teacher a month or two in advance so that they don't have to give them another month's pay.

5. There's no "career progression"

So some say...

Look don't get into teaching abroad because you want to climb some ladder. Most people get into teaching because they want to teach not because the want to improve their status. Although there are better schools to work in that may hold more esteem than others, but if you are in it for that then you are in the rat race.

And it's not going to make you any happier.

Abroad you will have limited options for employment since you are not native (with their passport) and fluent in their language. 

Here's som career advice on becoming a teacher abroad (what to study in college).

6. They want to do something else

Maybe they were only planning on doing it for a year or two. Maybe they want to go back to school, live in a van or go back to doing something like they studied. 

7. They got homesick

Maybe you will like all the differences, the teaching and not have any problems, but like they say absence makes the heart grow fonder. The novelty of living abroad will wear off. In fact it may wear off in a few months.

Maybe you will miss the food, the environment, your family and friends, or something else. Many people get homesick at some point. It might take one year, two years or five.