The Dark Side of Teaching ESL Abroad



what's up WWWE to sing with Socrates calm I hope you're doing great let's get into this video I want to talk to you about the dark side of teaching abroad teaching English overseas and this is just gonna be a candid video where I'm just gonna give it to you straight on let me be very honest with you after I lived overseas for 15 years I had some personal things happen my father died family pressures crept in and I had done very well teaching English so I was in a point at a point in time where I could take a break and I could do whatever I wanted pretty much indefinitely so a few things happened I changed as a person in those 15 years and coming back to America I should say going back because of myself America now going back to America was very very difficult for me it wasn't for the reasons that you might be expecting like negative people will constantly chart that you if you listen to them like oh you're not gonna have a follow on K you're not gonna have this with that that's not it so I have a list of them first thing is what's called foreign expert status okay when you get a visa to go teach in most foreign countries they employ you as a foreign expert if you are like me and you are 20-something years old and all of a sudden you become an expert it can honestly go to your head I went from job to job where people wanted to listen to what I said they respected my opinion I have teachers twice my age that were locals coming to me asking for advice like hey can you can you tell me how we do this should I use this or this in this sentence which sounds better and it's a skill it's a need for you and me you can tell exactly which word sounds better but to them they don't know because they're not native speakers and it can be a difficult language so that foreign expert status is really something that it just it makes you feel great because no one really questions your authority and everybody wants to learn from you and just it makes you feel really good so conversely if you go back to your home country and you just start a normal job or you just try to blend in it makes it difficult because all of a sudden people are like oh what does this guy know you know what's what's he what the background is he have for this there are people have been doing this 50 years but like I said when you're employed as the foreign expert that's their take on your ability to speak English okay the next thing is friends I found that when I moved back to the US it was very very difficult for me to make friends as easily as it was overseas overseas you've got a lot of people from the country that you're in that our good hosts they want to make friends from a different country you also have expats and expats love other expats so you'll get invited to parties most people are in a similar boat as you single people a lot of mingling a lot of fun people who want to go travel people who want to do fun stuff right so I went back to America most everybody my age is already married a lot of them have kids and while that shouldn't stop your fun and your happiness a lot of people just had commitments and they didn't have time they or it was just like we were we were too different or you know sign people in my country are generally very focused on work at my age very focused on climbing the corporate ladder building up a retirement or whatever so I found it very difficult to me meet like-minded friends the next thing is money money bills and taxes I got very used to being overseas having free housing hey if you don't know what the statistic is the average American spends two weeks of his monthly paycheck just on housing you go abroad you get your free housing you don't even think about it anymore and then you come back or you go back to your own country and it's like holy moly it's not just the mortgage payment it's everything on top of it it's the electricity bill it's the water bill it's the HOA fee it's the maintenance is this that the other you going to be rent you still could have very high bills I got very used to a lifestyle that I could not replicate in America when I would go back oh I feel like getting a massage today and you hi how much is a massage seventy dollars are you kidding me holy moly I got used to $4 an hour massages and would you look at it how much am i making per hour it was ridiculous oh I just teach English for five minutes and I get an hour-long massage in order to get that hour long massage in America Wow just it was the the word is arbitrage the arbitrage is not there the tax situation just getting slaughtered on taxes as soon as I got back home because I got so used to following the IRS rules filing my taxes as a non-resident with the form 2555 then when I started getting killed what those taxes again it was like damn are you kidding me this is just eating me alive and then when I would talk to people about it people would just look at me like I'm crazy because it's all that they know actually if you tell some people that you don't pay taxes or you even if you say that you do illegally a lot of people I found would get upset or say you're not paying your fair share or you know it never made for a good conversation so that was another issue the other thing is overseas I always have more time to do what I want I don't know what it is but in America I feel like a large degree of my mental bandwidth was always taken up by speeding tickets driving long distances from place to place having to deal with different forms of bureaucracy it just it kept adding up and I just never felt that I have the same amount of time that I do overseas where life is simpler travel is very hard you can travel outside of America there are airlines like JetBlue in spirit that have made it a lot easier over the years but when you're overseas there aren't so many huge gigantic countries like Canada and America so you don't have those long distances between countries so you can get a bunch of stamps in your passport with it quickly if you're European watching this video then I understand that you've probably already been to a lot of countries and it's much more in your reach than it is for us so the travel and the fun stuff having friends who wanted to travel who wanted to do that fun stuff – my life was seriously lacking that and I'm getting asked questions here and there from people like Oh some people that know me in Florida I watched your video and you just look so much happier and your mood is better are you really that happy yeah I really am this is the environment that I feel best in that I thrive in and everybody's different for sure but being overseas you get used to or you come to expect a certain level of stimulation you expecting to be different and exciting and you can learn new things and for me going back to the country that I grew up in it was incredibly boring and I felt like my life was no longer an adventure and there was nothing out of the ordinary not to excite me so between dad and road rage drivers and all of these things that I discussed previously in this video I just came to realize that my life there was not nearly as happy as my life had been overseas so for me that's the big dark side of teaching and getting used to that lifestyle and even worse it's very difficult to find people to talk to about it only other teachers other expats people from before will understand you everybody else will just think that you're crazy or you're trying to brag by talking about how many countries you've been to or something like that so if you're in this situation now is the next battle maybe you are going to go into this situation you're going to become a teacher these are just things to think about and as always I hope you guys are doing great and I look forward to reading comments thanks to everybody who's been interacting and helped him grow the channel it really means a lot and I'll see you next time

47 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Teaching ESL Abroad”

  1. I love this, Ben! Everything you say in this video is so damn spot on, especially what you say about the free time aspect. There are so many hurdles to hop and hoops to jump through in the states.

  2. Feeling displaced in your home country is real! The more you are away, the harder it is to relate and for others to relate to you. Really good issue to discuss

  3. I totally agree with the excitement in life problem man! I just came back from teaching in China a couple months ago and haven’t got over how bored with life I’ve felt since then. Good to know it’s not just me

  4. I know this video is older, but I only just found your channel! I'm really interested in becoming a teacher overseas and I found some of your points in this video struck closer to heart than I thought they would. I was born and raised in four countries as well as my home country and I've always found it hard to be back in my home country. People do think you're bragging and don't understand the way other expats do. I feel more like a foreigner in my own country than I do in others I've spent time in. Too foreign for my home country, not foreign enough for wherever I live – the story of my life.

  5. There is a darker, much darker side, to teaching English abroad which this video hasn´t covered- I may make one

  6. I've been living in the Philippines for about $220 a month. I'm treated like a movie star. Lots of people want me to chat or sit down and socialize with them as I am walking by. The people here have a fantasy view of me and the USA.. thinking I am better than I am and the USA is better than it is. One year here and I have decided never to live in the USA again. I am not living in the Philippines forever- but overseas. Not because I am treated like a movie star, but because I am treated like a human being, a friend, a brother, intelligent, interesting, and enjoyable to hang out with and talk to. I can have fun like this in the USA, but it can be a struggle to create and happens occasionally or sporadically. Here, it is not a struggle. I step out of my house and it is happening. I cannot return to the the American way of life. I have seen better and I choose better.

  7. The cost of living in the U.S. compared to the cost of living when you're teaching abroad is outrageous. No doubt.

    Wages haven't kept up with inflation.

    I lost a lot of weight and was the healthiest I'd been in years when I walked everywhere and used public transit to get around in Korea.

  8. I am starting my TEFL at the end of Dec. I've not chosen my country yet, but I am exploring Asia. Thank you for your video. My direct family does not understand my decision at all, but I already am bored with living here, and don't really see myself with the 401k desk life. Thankfully I have friends here who have taught ESL and are going again next year. 🙂

  9. I just hope I know enough! At the moment I feel like I need to know everything. The downside sounds better than working nights in a County Durham warehouse on min wage.

  10. Hey Ben I just saw your link for a consultation. I'm just wondering what the consultation includes? I'm currently looking for teaching jobs and I would like your feedback on how to make more money /get better jobs and maybe review my resume.

  11. I completely agree with you! I also felt this after studying abroad as an undergrad in Costa Rica and when I was graduate school doing a faculty-led program in Ireland and Northern Ireland! I've also taught abroad and done mission trips internationally and everytime I come home, I want to go back out there, because home is way more boring than being abroad lol

  12. Lol most Americans pride themselves the higher their taxes are. I've always viewed this sort of culture as sickening and entirely against the American spirit, yet, I'm looked at as the weird one! I love my home country but a lot of the people have been brainwashed into buying the 9-5 "lifestyle" and consumerism/tax nightmare.

  13. Ben I just discovered your channel. I’m going through a heartbreaking period right now being separated from my beautiful 4 year old son, because of my bitch x, and your positive solid vibe is getting me thru buddy, so thanks!

  14. I completely understand. I wouldn't say it's the dark side though. I would say it's the best side: free housing etc. . it's great. But I cannot go back to the States and work again. I cannot work under those conditions.

  15. I totally understand, all my buddies at home thought I was just bragging about my life overseas. They could never understand how much different and exciting life is because they themselves have never travelled and lived abroad. Also being back at home can be super boring and why is that? Well it is because we have changed a lot from our experiences while they have stayed exactly the same since when we left.

  16. This video hit home. After being away ten years I feel really different coming back to the US. I've heard it called reverse culture shock and it truly is more difficult coming back to one's "home country" than living abroad. I feel like I went from being in magazines, meeting a king, being asked for my autograph, being a guest lecturer in Beijing to being treated like an invisible person in the US. I understand why you decided not to stay.

  17. Yah man loving your videos. I've been abroad for 9 years. Loved the 3% tax rate in Korea and I'm doing a 14ish% tax rate in China. I remember back in the states, I had a good hospital job and I remember something like 48ish% being taken out! Seriously, I could barely make the $200 student loan payment after the month was up. Now, I'm personally funding my own Roth IRA so the retirement thing?… not an issue (as far as I can see).

  18. Thanks. I understand you.
    I used to work and travel abroad.
    That's why I'm learning from your videos.
    Live the dream for everyone.

  19. I graduated at 24 and went to Colombia to teach English for half a year and didn't make much but it was definitely memorable. I came back the to States prematurely and i have the travel itch again. I'm can't wait to buy Ben's Manual so that I can make some real money!

  20. Ben, I am so glad to find your channel. Great content very informative. I am in the middle of getting my ma Tesol (My employer pay half of it plus scholarship), and your vid are very helpful. I wonder if you could do a video about single parent and issues they have with regards to raising teenager, their school choices, friends, etc. thanks!

  21. Ben, great words of wisdom! I'm 58, I've been back in Canada since 2005 after ten years in Japan. Had some good real estate deals and then some bad. Almost broke, bored and depressed. Until earlier today. I made a decision to pack up and head for the Middle East or South America. Should be out of here in the fall 2017. Enjoyed finding your vids and will watch more. Can't wait to get rid of all my "stuff" in exchange for a suitcase. My itchy feet feel better already!

  22. great video.
    we travelled europe in our van for 6 months, now we are back in England its terrible.

    we are saving whilst in our van, completed a TEFL course and due to go back out again September.

    thank you for your honesty x

  23. Welcome back to the US! Practices here are much different from those in Asia; I can't wait to get back there. How long did it take you to stop haggling with retailers?

  24. LOL I was laughing through this whole video. haha This is another great video!!! I actually had to watch this video a couple of times LOL. This is EXACTLYYYYYYY what happened to me when I returned home from China after teaching abroad. Yes, I got so used to the great life that I was having over there. And I enjoyed the people there too. This is the EXACT reason that I'm planning on going back overseas! And when I came back home, everybody was too busy and didn't really care for doing anything outside of their box (and it was pitiful) and there was really nobody to talk to about my experience and things were so dead. Plus, I came back much more creative, more enlightened, more enthused and with a greater outlook that didn't really fly with some of my stuck friends, etc. Another thing I add is after living in China, I got used to the culture over there, to when I came back home, I found myself in America doing things reminiscent of the culture in China like looking for chopsticks in American restaurant and not knowing why they don't have them, etc. LOL. Man, I can't wait to go back. I just been finishing my degrees and certification and acquired more skills before going. Many people don't understand that me being back here in America feels like a step backwards and things just feels so dead and dull here at least for me (especially in my city). So, now I'm waiting for my passport to come back ( and I hope that they don't take forever to send my passport back), so that I can FINALLY after 5 years later, can be back on the road again! Thanks for the videos!! I've watch many of them and I can relate to a lot of things said.

  25. Another great video Ben, I can very much relate to what you say here. I love everything that you share, you offer such a depth of candid information that is real. So thank you very much. You have inspired me to get out there again and continue where I left off after many years teaching Business ESL in Mexico City. This time, Asia is calling me. Keep up the fantastic work you're doing.

  26. I feel the same as you when I go back. It helps to stay in big cities with diverse populations. I find that helps me be around like minded people with international backgrounds

  27. Hi Ben, I appreciate listening to your videos. I am in the Philippines, and was hired by a local ESL school as a native english speaker. Then the school closed down, in only 6 months. I liked teaching ESL, but can't seem to get anybody else to hire me, any suggestions? Have been looking into ESL certification.

  28. Keep talking about where you've been, where you are and where you're going. It's good for people to be reminded that there's more than one way to live.

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