Top 5 Difficulties American TEFL Teachers Face

Americans are extremely adaptable, as a nationality. Part of that is because of the culture- moving often, changing jobs and cities- and part of it is the open curiosity about other cultures. Americans love most things foreign. That helps a lot when you decide to become a TEFL teacher and live abroad.
There are some difficulties, however. We’ve come up with a list of the top 5 difficulties you might face as an American TEFL teacher:
 
1)    Living at such a distance from home. Many international TEFL teachers aren’t as far from home as Americans are. U.S. teachers also have higher travelling expenses to visit home, which means fewer opportunities to see friends and family.
 
It’s a huge difference living across the country to living across the world. Luckily, there’s technology like Skype that helps bridge the gap between visits.
 
2)    Dealing with culture shock. It might not be unique to American TEFL teachers, but it can be a struggle. Americans are proud of being from the melting pot, of being tolerant and open.
 
Yet you’ll be surprised at the culture shock you’ll go through, even in countries that are close to the U.S. Strange food, cultural miscommunications and lack of friendliness are usually the biggest complaints from Americans. Look at expat forum boards to find out the typical problems.
 
3)    Being legalized to work in the country of your choice. It’s not fair, but it’s a reality that the United States is extremely strict with immigration. A lot of countries have reciprocated, which means it’s a lot harder for Americans to work legally in some places (more than for the English, for example). You can get through the paperwork, it’s just time-consuming and can be really frustrating.
 
4)    Having the stereotype of a ‘typical American.’ Americans abroad have a stereotype: overweight, rich and ignorant. You will meet some people who dislike you simply because you were born in the States.
 
It can be an uphill battle trying to get beyond the stereotype and getting people to see you as an individual. Instead of getting defensive, use it as an opportunity to show that there is more depth to Americans than the world thinks.
 
5)    Grappling with the language barrier. A typical American studies just two years of a foreign language, and most times when they choose a country to be a TEFL teacher in they don’t speak the language at all.
Not only do you have to get used to teaching and living in a foreign country- you also have to struggle through daily life. Simple things like doing the shopping can be hugely frustrating. Getting down numbers and a few phrases before you go can help a lot.
 
Choosing to be an American TEFL teacher abroad can be one of the best decisions of your life. Being aware of the possible difficulties and preparing yourself for them will help you with the transition, making sure that you get the most from the experience. Thousands of fellow Americans have managed to live abroad successfully- there’s no reason stopping you from joining their ranks.