How To Make Friends While TEFL-ing


friends_index1.jpgIf you happen to move in next door to the local version of Joey and Chandler, you’ll be all set. If, however, you are not this lucky but still want to meet a few people while teaching abroad, read on.

The primary place to meet people when you are in TEFL is at work: your co-workers are probably the best path to a good social life, at least at the start. Some teachers end up socializing with adult students — how “okay” this will be with your school will depend on a lot of things. I’ve been out with a few of my students, often with another teacher, and it’s been nice. But beware that things you say or do may well come back to haunt you in class.

In cities with expat communities, there may be regular gathering places — ask someone who’s been there longer than you. You are likely to meet other English-speakers at places like English bookstores or English-language religious services if you attend those. If your social life gets lacking, your ability to approach English-speaking strangers will improve.

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And sometimes chance plays a big role:

I happened to meet my upstairs neighbor when I held the main door open for her one day. She has been teaching at an international school here for the last few years and so was able to introduce me to other expats. There was even another coincidence showing that it really is a small world: we went to university in Chicago and she did some volunteer teaching at a school I’d interviewed at.

It’s certainly nice to have local friends as well — people from the place you’re living in, that is. These could be other teachers or people you meet elsewhere. I’ve found locals and expats to be equally friendly people, but have come to believe that people who already have a regular life in place somewhere are less likely to want to invest themselves in a friendship with someone who is probably going to leave in a year. The extent of this will depend on the situation and is not at all meant to imply you should only socialize with other foreigners.

There’s no secret to meeting people; just keep you eyes, your ears, and yourself open.