Black Women in the Global Village

Elaine in Puerta del Sol area of Madrid

Living & Working Abroad

Teaching abroad offers you the opportunity to experience a new culture gain valuable work experience. You get to see the world and make money at the same time. Teaching abroad allows you to become a global citizen.  You will be faced with the challenges of living and working in a foreign country, but you will come out of it a more independent and adaptable person.

Elaine, or Afromorena as she is known on her blog,  became enamored with international travel while in middle school where she took her first Spanish course. Given her humble background, she never thought it was possible to go abroad. Ten years later, after feeling the effects of the recent recession, she decided to throw caution to the wind and pursue a position she discovered as an undergrad. Afromorena became a bilingual teacher assistant in Spain and was able to live in the heart of Madrid for several months.

Now that she is planning a long term move to South Korea, she hopes to take her knowledge from her Spain adventures and apply it to her future move.

Here are her top 10 tips for successfully living and working abroad:

Research! Research! Research!

You would be surprised how little some expats know about the country in which they currently reside. Get a better grasp of the culture, customs, local language(s) and cost of living, because that knowledge will make your life abroad at LOT smoother. The last thing you want to happen is you arrive in a foreign country and realize your dollars don’t stretch as far as you thought they would.

The very popular Christmas National Lottery Sale

Read That Contract!

No matter how long and extensive, you must read and understand the conditions as set by the contract before you leave the country. It is very difficult to break the contract later on and if that does occur, it can negatively impact your future employment both in your home country and the in which country you are teaching. Do not settle for poor working conditions, salary, and benefits, as stated in the contract just to get abroad. Living and working abroad under normal conditions can be quite the challenge, so adding extra stress from horrible work conditions can make your life abroad a complete hell.

Know Your Rights. Know the Law.

Many expats expect the laws of their new country to be the same as their native country. This is a dangerous assumption. Know the tax laws as it relates to you the expat. Know and understand your rights as a new resident, employee or business owner (check Department/Ministry of Labor) in the new country. It may surprise you how certain countries operate in this regard.

A local tapas bar

Keep a “Realistic” Budget

This is extremely important if you are moving with your family abroad and/or moving to cities with high cost of living. When creating your pre-budget, be as realistic as possible. Include any information you attain when researching the cost of living (rent/mortgage, utilities, car/gas, groceries, clothing, and etc).

It is very important to be sure not to exclude any expenses and not include income that is not guaranteed by contract (income from side jobs like tutoring, babysitting, etc).  After your move, make any necessary adjustments to your budget and stick to it!

One of the many street performers in the Madrid Center

Getting Mentally Prepared

Living abroad, especially if it is long-term, can be mentally taxing for anyone. It is better to prepare mentally even before setting foot on foreign soil. Remind yourself why you are going abroad and think about all knowledge and experiences you will gain. Once you have arrived, focus on the positive experiences in your new country and revel in learning about a culture different from your own.

Establish a Network

Networking shouldn’t stop when you move from your native country. In fact, establishing a network of locals and fellow expats will prove to be your life line as you experience life abroad.  This established network can help you navigate through the adjustments of living in a new country whether it’s getting advice about the nightlife or getting help finding additional employment. More importantly, establishing friendships in your new country will help you cope with the headaches of being an expat. You can get a jumpstart on establishing a network before the big move using various social media platforms online.

Become a Social Butterfly

Now is not the time to be a homebody. For a more enriching experience as an expat, join social organizations, clubs, or religious/spiritual centers, participate in language exchanges, or volunteer your time for a worthy cause. If there are particular events or activities that are very popular or considered a part of your country’s culture, join in on the fun! You will score extra points with the locals of the area and you will be making memorable experiences to last a lifetime.

Work Culture

To reduce the likelihood of offending your coworkers, bosses, or clients, familiarize yourself with the local work culture and try to adapt as quickly as possible. For instance, if you notice that the norm of your workplace is to arrive earlier and leave later than office/school hours, then it would behoove you to do the same. Also, get to know the workplace etiquette regarding certain gestures and non-verbal signals, acceptable lunch break activities and times, gift giving, dress code, business cards, meetings, and etc.

Puerta de Alcalá near the famous Retiro Park

See the Sights!

Explore the cities or countries which surround your area. With a bit of time and research, you can plan trips to other countries for relatively cheap, so please take advantage of this. For cheap lodging, you should definitely look into hostels, which are a fun way to get to know other foreign travelers. I used hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com and was able to get rooms as low as 17 Euros a night within Spain.

As far as booking cheap flights while in Spain, I used edreams.net as recommended by a co-teacher, however, you can simply type in your destination and departures cities in Google then add “[cheap] flights” to do some price comparisons. Lastly, some airlines, railways, and bus companies offer specials discounts or passes for students and teachers, so don’t be afraid to research and inquire about those as well!

Safety Matters

This includes your physical safety and financial safety. Don’t let your guard down in your new country, even if it’s considered safer than your native country. No need to be paranoid, just use your common sense when it comes to scammers, thieves, and the like.

Remember to keep track with your credit reports/credit scores and keep tabs of account balances on credit and banking accounts. Identity theft is still major issue. Keep all your important documents in a safe and secure place and make sure to have copies of those documents on hand. Lastly, make sure you register at the embassy of your new country and stay current of events happening in your area.

See the world and return home with the satisfaction of having contributed to a local community and experienced a new culture as no tourist can.

Follow Elaine on her journey to South Korea at her blog, Second Chance Expat.

Have you lived or worked abroad? If so, share your experiences and recommendations. If you would like more advice, leave your questions and comments below as well.

Thank you Elaine for sharing your story with us 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Black Women in the Global Village

  1. I see one every day I take the Forchbahn. She teaches(surely!) at the ICS in my village. Haven’t approached her, but have seen her with some other teachers once on a day off walking around my little neighbourhood. By the way, we’re voting to either keep the ICS(inter-community school) here or banish it to another place. The kids are spoilt, rude and rather entitled little gits!.(thoughts from those-Swiss- who have to serve them…..)

    • Lol at “entitled little gits”. It must be the Southerner in me, because I totally read that as “grits” the first couple glances.

      I follow the Kiki in Switzerland (she teaches in Zurich) blog, and it really got me thinking about teaching there one day! However, if the ICSs are endanger of closing, I wonder what are the other options for foreign teachers seeking employment.

      • Oooooooo, Elaine, do come!. The school won’t be closing, just we, ie, the village where I live doesn’t want to host it any more. As well on the opposite side of the lake of ZH, there’s another American school. Let me find out the name and revert with a link.

        I also follow Kiki. She’s expecting. I dig reading her as she’s new-ish to Swissland and I get a right giggle at her perspective, which was mine then, but I’ve evolved…..a lot……..

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