In my humble few years of overseas living I have noticed a trend in the types of people who end up living and teaching abroad. Some people are totally gung-ho about moving overseas and embrace life to the fullest. Others have one or two hang-ups that make working with them a little difficult. Here’s my list, in no particular order:
Ten Eleven Twelve Types of Teachers Living Abroad:
1. The Party Animal
Usually a younger teacher, this creature of habit shows up to Monday morning classes hungover and full of stories about last night. The Party Animal doesn’t usually last more than a year as complaints from parents roll in when they catch on that Mr./Ms. Animal is more interested in what happens after the school day is over.
Positives: Always knows the coolest places to hang out.
Negatives: Can’t rely on them for any support or help during school hours.
2. The Newbie
“I’ve never done this before,” is the phrase you will hear most often when hanging out with the Newbie. They’ve never lived away from Mom and Dad, left their home country, eaten exotic foods, or ridden in a taxi alone.
Positives: If the Newbie is adventurous, you can get into all sorts of fun trouble with them.
Negatives: Teaching a Newbie the basics of living alone overseas can be exhausting.
3. The Expert Expat
Also known as the Know-It-All, this teacher has been there, done that, and it was better somewhere else.
Positives: Like Hermione Granger of Harry Potter fame, the Expert Expat can help you in almost any situation you get yourself into abroad.
Negatives: Everyone agrees that Know-It-Alls are often insufferable. Beware if you dare to voice a differing opinion!
4. The Retiree
He or she taught in their home country for decades and wasn’t quite ready to settle into retirement. Looking for some adventure they packed up their life and moved overseas.
Positives: They’ve been teaching forever and are usually happy to show you a thing or two that can help you improve your own teaching style.
Negatives: Sometimes old school teachers are stuck in their ways.
5. The Spouse
“I moved here with my husband/wife who works for (insert major global corporation here).”
Positives: Has more than enough money to do some really cool things.
Negatives: May have to leave abruptly in the middle of the school year when their spouse gets transferred. Also, usually has a very busy life outside the school and therefore isn’t available to hang out much.
6. The Mid-Year Deserter
“I hate the food, the people, the culture, the traffic…”
Positives: They usually leave in the middle of the year which allows you to call your out-of-work friend to fill in for the rest of the year.
Negatives: Constant whining, complaining, and overall negativity.
7. The Couple
Married/dating for any number of years; these two do everything together.
Positives: Two friends for the price of one!
Negatives: You often end up feeling like the third wheel when you go out with them.
8. The Runner
For whatever reason: a bad home life, bad credit, a bad marriage, or even a criminal record; this teacher does not want to be in their home country. Often a quick google search will reveal more than you ever wanted to know about their personal or criminal history.
Positives: Usually a pretty decent human being who just made a few wrong choices.
Negatives: May or may not get you arrested for drug smuggling at the border.
9. The Non-Participant
Here you are living in a gorgeous country with a million interesting things to do and all they want to do is sit at home and watch tv shows online.
Positives: They are up-to-date on the latest episode of (insert favorite tv show here) and are always up for a marathon binge of (insert another favorite tv show here).
Negatives: They never want to do anything that involves leaving the apartment.
10. The Lifer
“I moved here ten years ago, married a local, and I’m never leaving.”
Positives: They know the local language, how the system works, and all the local hangout spots.
Negatives: They have a life outside of the small expat community, and it’s very hard to break into.
I forgot one! My friend Mandii was kind enough to write up a description of one of the most annoying:
11. The Missionary
Usually unrelated to actual evangelizing, these people feel a special call to spread their culture, beliefs, and good old ‘Merican/middle class/mainstream/etc. ways to the “others.” They have no idea this agenda is offensive.
Positives: They are really, really nice! They brought all the comforts from home with them, and you can rely on them to bring the really good food to the potluck.
Negatives: They are casually racist and classist all the time, which makes it embarrassing and difficult to spend time with them. This attitude even impacts conversations about students.
I thought of another one!
12. Gone Native
This lovely soul is a blender. Within a few weeks of moving to their new home country they totally immerse themselves in the culture and language. When I was in the Peace Corps Mongolia we used to call this group of people the “Mongolier Than Thou.”
Positives: They quickly learn how to navigate the city, dress like a local, shop local, eat local, and generally BE local. Usually more than happy to share their newly learned secrets with you.
Negatives: There is no one more zealous than the converted. And their criticism for your lack of conversion gets old fast. Not to mention, often their information is incorrect. These folks forget that they are NOT a local, and never will be no matter how long they live here, how quickly they learn the language, or how much culture they absorb. It’s great to immerse yourself in the culture, but you should always remember who you are and where you came from.
Let me know in the comments if I’ve forgotten any (more) stereotypes!