• Salah Elbaba

Misconceptions About Teaching Abroad

Teaching abroad is an exciting opportunity, and any teacher who has taken the leap and moved abroad will tell you the same. However, many people assume certain things about the job and the lifestyle abroad. These are just a few of the common misconceptions floating around about teaching abroad:

1. It's a holiday!

No, it's a serious job opportunity and should be treated as such. While these jobs often come with a lot of great vacation time and therefore a lot of opportunity to travel, the job must always come first. We send teachers to top international schools and they expect nothing short of excellence from the teachers they hire. You must put your best foot forward and make a good impression. Whilst working, you will also be learning! Many of these schools put a lot of effort into professional development for their teachers. So yes, you will be working hard, but remember you will be earning enough and receiving enough holiday time to play hard as well!

2. You will need to speak the local language.

Thankfully, no. We encourage our teachers to try and learn some languages abroad but this is more a way to learn about the community and the culture for a bit of fun. In these schools, many of the children speak English already, some will even be the children of English-speaking expats. However, it is important to remember that for many of the pupils, English is their second language, so explanations and patience will be necessary.

2.1. You will just be an English teacher.

Whilst all of our teachers are expected to speak excellent English so as to set a good precedent for their students, you will be teaching the subject you are hired to teach. It would work exactly the same as it would being placed in a teaching position here at home. Some schools do hire English teachers and English as a Second Language teachers, but the majority of our teachers go to be primary school homeroom teachers or subject-specific teachers.

3. It's dangerous!

Wrong again! Many of our teachers (both in the Middle East and China) have reported that they feel just as safe or safer than back home in South Africa. Of course there are always risks when travelling abroad anywhere, whether for work or for holidays, but it is no reason to worry. Not to mention you will be receiving medical insurance and often provided with private transport to and from school!

4. It's difficult for female teachers in the Middle East.

Sadly this is an easy assumption to make, however it is not the case. Women receive high levels of respect, however it may come in the form of behaviours we Westerners may not understand. Male colleagues may try and do a lot for you or come across as overly protective, however this is not to be misjudged as patronising. This is simply how they convey respect for women. You will find the people in the Middle East to be friendly and helpful, as so many of our teachers have found.

It is important for you to remember that you are a visitor in their country and their culture. Whilst they do not expect you to practice or partake in their religion, they do expect you to respect it. So, you should dress modestly, especially at work, and be respectful to their culture and traditions.

5. It's a once-off opportunity.

Definitely not! Yes, many of our teachers just go abroad to build some international experience before returning home. For a lot of other teachers though, it leads to a long, successful career as a teacher abroad. Many of our teachers have gotten married and settled down in the countries they have gone to. Some have been promoted to Head of Departments or Curriculum Coordinators in their schools.

Teaching abroad is what you make of it. If you only want to go for the length of one contract before coming home there is nothing wrong with that. But imagine travelling the world by accepting contract after contract in new countries each time!

Don't buy into stereotypes and misconceptions. Rather go into teaching abroad with an open-mind. Being open-minded helps avoid culture shock and let's you have the most fun whilst exploring new things.

If you have any further questions about teaching abroad, please feel free to contact us:


+27 21 100 3145


+27 21 100 3145

SINCE 2004

With hundreds of teachers placed abroad in the Middle East and China.

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