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Cultural Pitfalls To Be Weary of When Teaching English Abroad

30 June 2020 | 0 comments | Posted by Deborah Ferguson in Academia

Culture shocks teaching english overseas

2020 is the year of the unexpected COVID-19 global pandemic. Despite this, the Teaching English industry continues to thrive, albeit online for the moment. A quick Internet search reveals several articles listing 2020s top teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) destination. These lists vary, but a few countries stand out as favourites.

In no particular order, these are:

  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • China
  • Taiwan

It is well-known that East Asia is a great place to earn a high income and make significant savings. For some of you, money may not be the top motivator to teach abroad. A change of lifestyle or desire to explore a curious corner of the world is reason enough for some. A new country means a new culture, lifestyle and friends.

Italy, Argentina, the Czech Republic, and Morocco are all dream-worthy TEFL destinations. Let's take a closer look at the various cultural dos and don'ts for each country to ensure more straightforward navigation through these uncharted cultural territories.


  • Monthly salary range: $1000 - $1600

Italy offers TEFLers a dose of la dolce vita (aka the sweet life). Its nickname, Bel Paese, means beautiful country. Italy does not provide the highest paying teaching gigs, yet competition is high.

An endless thread of Italian charm weaves itself through this magnificent cultural beast. Picture yourself lazing alongside Lake Como or cruising down the Venician canals. Do dollars matter in such an exquisite setting? Throw in good working hours, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a reason not to consider Italy.

If you want to make the most of the Italian summer, consider teaching a summer camp. The short commitment is also great for dipping your toe into the world of TESOL. It also gives you the flexibility to enjoy more travels.

Larger cities like Rome have most of the teaching jobs. No matter where you're located, your surroundings will be pleasing. It sure beats finding yourself in a tiny apartment in a smoggy and overpopulated city in the Far East. There's not much of a gamble here on the quality of life!

Star attractions:

  • Venice Canals
  • Colosseum
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa
  • Pompeii
  • Lake Como
  • Amalfi Coast
  • Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
  • Cinque Terre
  • Vatican City
  • St. Mark's Basilica
  • Pantheon
  • Roman Forum
  • Milan Duomo
  • Capri


  • Monthly salary range: $600 - $1,200

If you'd rather be "livin la vida loca", then Argentina might be the place for you. Argentinians know how to turn up the intensity!

Get in on that tango action and bustling nightlife. Explore the colourful barrios, as seen in the colourful Italian-flavoured La Boca. The cosmopolitan capital, Buenos Aires, offers wild creativity and an intense cultural experience.

You don't need a degree, but you will need at least a 120-hour TEFL qualification to get your foot in the door. Argentinians prefer to conduct in-person interviews. Flying out on a tourist visa is commonplace. So is the practice of border-hopping. This way, you can maximize your TEFL adventures in the best that South America has to offer.

There are also volunteer positions which form part of homestay programs. Teachers stay with a suitable local family who host their stay. These unique positions offer a more intimate cultural experience.

Star attractions:

  • Iguazú Falls
  • Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Buenos Aires: The City of Barrios
  • Ushuaia: The End of the World
  • Puerto Madryn and the Valdés Peninsula
  • Tierra del Fuego National Park
  • Mar del Plata
  • Bariloche and Argentina's Lake District
  • Mendoza
  • Historic Córdoba Cathedral

The Czech Republic

  • Monthly salary range: $700 - $1,200

The Czech Republic offers a flexible teaching schedule. It's common to travel to various teaching gigs.

If variety is what you're after, then the Czech Republic beckons. You may teach cute kiddos in the morning and busy professionals in the afternoon.

Work visas are issued once you've already landed in the republic. Here, once again, the trusty tourist visa is your launching pad into the TEFL experience.

Prague is a gem for the TEFL newbie because you don't need teaching experience and there is a huge expat community. Also, things won't get lost in translation as many locals understand English, which is a huge bonus.

The cost of living is low, and there are tons of job opportunities. Opt for an in-person TEFL qualification if you're eyeing this country as competition is high! The chances of getting hired are higher if you interview face to face.

Increase your chances of getting hired by visiting during peak hiring seasons, ie. January and mid-September to October.

Bonus tip: The Zivnostensky visa is your gateway to freedom. Make sure you get one.

Star attractions:

  • Cathedrals: St. Vitus Cathedral, Brno's Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul
  • Bone Collectors - Czech Crypts, Tombs, and Cemeteries (Sedlec Ossuary, Brno Ossuary, Schwartzenberg Tomb)
  • Karlovy Vary glassworks
  • Kutná Hora
  • The Bohemian Paradise
  • Castles: Prague Castle, Hluboká Castle, Karlstejn Castle, Český
  • Krumlov Castle
  • Pruhonice Park
  • The Colonnades and Spas of Karlovy Vary
  • Prague's Old Town Square & Wenceslas Square
  • Prague's Charles Bridge


  • Monthly salary range: $1,000 - $2,100

This exotic location has become a top teaching destination. Tourist to work visa conversions apply here, as in the Czech Republic. What's more, degrees are optional!

The cost of living and salary even out, so you'll most likely break even. You can teach private classes if you wish to save some cash. You'll either teach children or adults for about 20 to 30 hours per week. That gives you enough spare time to soak in the diverse scenery.

Morocco has it all: beaches, deserts, snowy mountain peaks. Busy souks lure the shopaholics out to spend—maze-like streets brim with excitement with hidden treasures around every corner.

When you're all tuckered out, refresh with the locally loved mint-flavoured green tea. You can laze on Tangier's sunny beaches or chill out in Chefchaouen, the Blue City. There's no doubt that teaching in this northern tip of Africa is a unique eye-opening experience.

Remember: Morocco is a Muslim country, and culturally sensitivity will go a long way in this exciting country. For instance, you will find your work schedule greatly affected during the religious time of Ramadan when Muslims fast, so keep an open mind and be flexible.

Moroccans are modest and conservative. Both men and women should pack appropriate attire.

Dress tips for women

  • Long skirts and dresses
  • Loose-fitting clothing such as tunics
  • Cover your rear
  • Forgo the high heels
  • Dress tips for men

  • Longer length pants
  • Collared shirts
  • shorts (optional, but not popular)
  • Star attractions:

    • Marrakesh Medina
    • Oudaias Kasbah
    • Fes el Bali
    • Tangier
    • Chefchaouen
    • Volubilis
    • Bab al-Mansour
    • Ait Ben Haddou
    • Dades Valley
    • Essaouira
    • Erg Chebbi
    • Draa Valley
    • Atlas and Rif Mountains

    Start your TEFL journey

    If you'd like to start your teaching journey in one of the aforementioned destinations, the TEFL Org can help you take your first step with one of their accredited programs too. I recommend their TEFL Taster, which gives you an inkling of what you can expect but still gives you the option to pull out if you find that the world of TEFL is not where your tastes lie.

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    Recommended reading

    If you enjoyed this post and have time to spare why not check out these related posts and dive deeper down the rabbit hole that is education.

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