Is it in the nature of the job to move to different countries?

Have you ever moved to another country for a new teaching job? If so, what was it that finally tempted you to do it? These were the questions I posed to English teaching professionals on the ELT World forum. What got me thinking was the fact that many of my colleagues have arrived here in Turkey after having taught elsewhere or have moved on to another country after teaching here. I consider Turkey my home and have no intention of moving on, at least not in the foreseeable future, but I ponder whether we as English teachers see it more than being an unalienable right and perhaps even a duty to travel the world.

The nature of the job

It’s sort of the nature of the job,’ declares poster denise, as if to prove my point. ‘I bet just about everyone has… that’s what we do,’ reiterates MELEE. If it really is, then what exactly are we moving to other countries for? Do we collectively have this amazing spirit of adventure or is it a necessity if we intend to follow a TEFL career path. There were several interesting and very different reasons suggested:

‘What tempted me? A full time contract for a university position at a school I knew to be really good… money’s a part of it, but there’s a lot more to it. Here, we teach across faculties, so I’m not stuck teaching the same old courses over and over. I knew some of the teaching team before I accepted the job, and I’m really happy with my colleagues.’


‘Staying in the US wasn’t really a good option, given the job market.

‘Moved from Japan to Chile – my program in Japan was being closed down and I had always wanted to go to South America.’

‘Moved from Chile to Peru – I didn’t like my job in Chile, so I quit and moved up north.’

‘Moved from Peru to Oman – couldn’t afford to stay in Peru and my visa was expiring, needed to save up some money to move back to Peru at a later date to get married, so took a job in Oman.’


The bizarre world of the TEFL expat

Reading these ideas was very enlightening for me, as I came here, got a job and never intended to move on. I’ve often thought that English teachers don’t really fit into the category of expats, as not only do most of us move abroad at the beginning stage of our career, we also in many cases get our first jobs after arriving in a company. Think for a minute; would a banker or a person working for a multinational company decide to up and move to another country without knowing that a secure job was at the end of the move? It seems that we are living in the bizarre expat universe, where the regular rules of expatriatism simply do not apply: we look at the country first and then the job. Consider these statements:

‘In my case I’ve always focused job searches on the place I wanted to go next. The country was the draw and took an acceptable to good job in the country of choice.’


‘I am not recommending this, but every single move I made, I made without having the job first. I went to the country, then looked for the job.’


So, maybe we’re naturally a bunch who leans towards a more adventurous lifestyle than the average person. Maybe some of us have learned the hard way about how employment agencies and recruiters are able to manipulate the situation with young TEFLerz looking for that dream job abroad:

‘Most of my overseas experience has been in Mexico, and, except in one instance, I always found the job once I was here. The one time I was recruited for (and accepted) a teaching position here while I was still in the States turned out to be a big mistake that I still don’t want to talk (or think) about! I’ve also worked in England and Spain (on two different occasions), and in both cases, I found work once I’d arrived, not before.’


Perhaps we still eventually develop the mindset of the traditional expat: we start out on the foreign adventure earlier than the director of the multinational company who finally gets the foreign posting in his mid-forties, but we do eventually learn that sealing the job is the priority. For some of us, this comes through the commitments of marriage and family:

‘I’ve done it both ways – gone where I wanted to go and where the jobs were good. I think was happier when I prioritized the country over the job, but my bank account was happier when I prioritized the job over the country.’


‘I got the job first, then moved.’


‘I look for the job first and then see if the country and living conditions would fit. Having a family really complicates where you work. I took my current job for the job, not because it was in Japan.’


Personally, I like to think we could just be a collective of lost souls searching for our place in the wider scheme of things:

‘I decided I like it here (Japan) and never left.’


Thanks to all that responded to these enquiries. Please feel free to tell me your reasons by commenting on this post.

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2 thoughts on “Is it in the nature of the job to move to different countries?

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