Having lived in a few countries we had a few situations we had not accounted for! Reading up on your host country prior to moving can make you more aware of natural disasters within that country, but there can be some situations where you can have no indication of problems which could occur. Below I have listed some examples of troubles you may incur.
If you choose a country within ‘the ring of fire’ you will experience earthquakes. In our first role within Japan, we had one major earthquakes. Luckily, in countries such as Japan and Taiwan, the buildings are built to withstand minor and major earthquakes. Some buildings have rollers underneath the foundations, so with the shocks the building will move with the quake. After my first major earthquake, we followed the procedure described to us, go to the smallest room and keep all doors open. Other advice includes stay under a strong table. Do not go outside and wait for further earthquakes (or aftershocks). Our city, Niigata, did not experience major damage but smaller towns and villages did, including a collapsed bridge. We also experience earthquakes quite often in Taipei, but as the city is in a basin they are weaker. A surprise for us after the major Japanese earthquake is that school resumed as normal. Aftershocks were continuing and we often taught in rooms without any tables!
We were living in Egypt at the time of the Revolution. This was quite a frightening time as we really didn’t know what was happening. The internet closed down for a period so we could not find out what was going on. In these situations you can not always rely on your British embassy to support you. When we phoned them we were told as we were not diplomats nothing would be done for us. We panicked for a short while and the only option given to us from our school was to travel to a holiday destination outside of the city. We knew that this destination would be reached via the Suez Canal, which was a unsafe area. We made the decision to leave and I was pleased we did. Booking flights to international destinations from Cairo was difficult. So by chance, we booked to the holiday destination then on to the UK. This was the best choice and I’d urge others in this situation to consider doing the same. Whilst our colleagues had to wait in the international terminal for several days (as flights were not leaving), we went straight through domestic then out of the holiday destination. This was a smart move and if you feel your life could be in danger or you are in a very unpredictable situation, I would advise that you follow your instinct.
We are currently living in this situation and learning everyday. We are so fortunate to be based in Taiwan, a country with no lock down and so far, very few domestic cases. We have always been supporters of wearing masks when sick and although, in the extremely hot summer this has proved more challenging, wearing masks has kept us safe thus far. We follow government advice closely and our school has put in many procedures to ensure we stay as safe as possible in work. I was nervous when the news first came from China, but our school closed in order to get these procedures in place.
This can also cause stress when you first move. It is a good question to ask future employers, how do we find our rental? Where will you stay when you search for a place to live? Also make sure you are clear how much deposit you may need to pay and whether your employer will cover this.
We have had different situations upon arrival:
- Move straight into a school owned apartment – especially on your first international move, this can be a great situation. Your furniture will be there and amenities will be set up. You do not need to think when you arrive, just settle in! Often other teachers are housed within the building and you may have the option to move out after a year. The downsides could be however that you do not choose this apartment yourself, it may be very close to the school (so you don’t have that distance from work) and you could be surrounded by colleagues when you would like privacy.
- Visit apartments with support from a colleague at the school – one placement offered this. You can therefore have someone who can advise you on good areas or ones close to the school. The teacher may be able to support with translations too. The downside to this is that all staff maybe looking at the same properties (limiting your choices) and you may feel pressured to quickly choose an apartment.
- Visit apartments by yourself with an agent – this is what we did in our current placement. We used a school recommended agent. However, whilst he did find us a nice apartment after several days of searching, he sold us it at quite an inflated price. As we didn’t really know what we should pay, we even we pressured into signing two years. After we moved, I ensured I tried several agents and was very clear of my price range. I also only signed for 1 year rental.
- Arrive to an apartment chosen by the school – this is a situation I have heard about with other international schools and also my current, due to COVID. HR sends photos/videos of apartments and the teacher chooses prior to arrival. I actually quite like this idea, as you could have a location you would really like and take the stress away from those first weeks.
- Move into an ex-teacher’s apartment – when we moved to Japan this is what we did. It was excellent for us as we also bought all their furniture plus two cars for an excellent rate! The only downsides may be that you may not like the location or the state of the items bought. We were lucky and our purchases were excellent.
Distance from family and networks
This can be very difficult, particularly when having your own family. You may miss the contact of family, especially in terms of babysitting and time for yourself as a couple. As I have moved to several countries I have made new networks, which can be extremely difficult to leave these networks. My solution has been to get myself involved as much as possible in my new community and begin networking again, organising playdates for the children, for example. A view I take is that I now have friends all over the world and I try to meet up with them on holidays.